Thursday, October 25, 2007

Return of the...

Well, I finally did it. I actually did what my blog title says and I became the Big Guy ON a Bicycle again, instead of just the Big Guy WITH a (several, actually) bicycle(s).

My parents came through town on Friday evening. They got in at about 5:00 or so, and we all went to dinner and then just had a nice visit back at the house. They left for their condo time-share week in western NC fairly early on Saturday morning.

My sister came in on Saturday evening. She’d really come to town earlier in the day, but was attending a wedding and only came over after the festivities were over. She stayed the night because she didn’t feel like driving back to Georgia that evening.

So, between the time that my parents left and my sister showed up, we had most of Saturday to do whatever we needed to do. This included minor errands such as grocery shopping and the like, but it also included my escorting Mrs. Guy to see her new personal trainer. It was her fourth visit, and she’s thinking I might want to start using him too.

But that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. I don’t think I’m ready to do a lot of the exercises that even MG was doing. I had tried to go jogging one night last week, but I barely got 20 paces in before I decided that the noise/feeling coming from my shoulder, while not necessarily painful, was not a good thing and that maybe I’d better lay off of it for another few weeks. Where does that leave me? Well, I get in a lot of walking at work, but that’s just not doing it. The Big Guy is just getting bigger.

But then, on Saturday afternoon, came the perfect moment to reintegrate the bicycle into my life. The weather was good (just a little breezy) and the sun was shining. MG was even encouraging me to get out there (which is rare – she usually complains that I spend too much time riding).

I left the house at around 4:00pm planning to ride for about 15 to 17 miles. That was before I realized that my cyclometer wasn’t working. Come to think of it, it wasn’t working well on the last day of the Blue Ridge Parkway trip back in August, which I guess was the last time I rode. So instead of paying attention to how much distance I was accumulating, I just rode.

It was a good ride. I just went on a looping course not too far from my house. My legs were OK, and the lungs were fine. Only my butt complained a little, but it has been a couple of months since I rode last. My only difficulty came on Rather Road with a dog I’ve had experience with before. I thought I’d be fine passing him since he had just started to…do his business…right as I was approaching. Every other time I’ve seen a dog in the process of … doing their business … they have remained committed to the act and not given chase. I suppose there’s an exception to every rule. This dog just jumped right after me as soon as it noticed me. I was going to try the ‘Gatorade-up-the-nose’ trick, but he seems to have remembered that one from before. I ended up slowing down a bunch and letting him run back and forth behind me (while I kept the bottle aimed) and then punching into a sprint that he couldn’t react to. Dumb dog.

I figured out later that I rode about 15 miles (using Gmap-pedometer). Not bad, but very much shorter than my typical ride. Maybe I can get back out on Sunday. Saturday is out, since I’ll be doing photography at the annual local 12 hour race during daylight hours, and then will take over scorekeeping after dark. Maybe I’ll plan on a 20 miler on Sunday.

Right after I replace my cyclometer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Lesson

This morning, when I stopped at a mini-mart on my way to work for my morning dose of caffeine, I stood in line behind a man who was trying to ask the clerk for something.

Gimme a pack of Doornail* Lite 100’s,” the man rasped quietly.

“What?” asked the clerk. “I couldn’t hear you.”

Doornail Lites. A pack of 100’s,” the man rasped again, barely audible over the hum of the fluorescent light fixtures overhead.

“Doornail 100’s?” asked the clerk.

Lites. Doornail Lites,” he choked out again.

“Huh?” said the clerk.

Lites! Doornail Lite 100’s! he hissed, agitated, though barely louder than before.

“Doornail Lite 100’s?” the clerk asked.

The man simply nodded his head and the clerk retrieved a pack of cigarettes from one of the racks behind the counter. The man paid and left quickly, and already had one lit by the time he got into his car.

I put my liquid breakfast on the counter and pulled out my wallet. “Hard to hear that guy,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “I knew what he wanted, but I refuse to make it easy on him. He’s already destroyed his voice with those things, so who knows how long before he’s dead of cancer. The damage has been done, but I guess the lesson was never learned.”

“That’s non-fat creamer in there, right?” he asked.

“You bet.”

I think I like this guy. He’s alright.



*Not the actual brand name, but close enough.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Credit Where Credit Is Due

I went to do MG a favor today. She had to leave town this morning, and I had an early afternoon doctor’s appointment, so I had time. What did I do? I closed an old savings account that she had at a local credit union (not the credit union we use for most of our banking). It’s one we haven’t used for a while, and they’ve started charging us an “inactive account” fee of $1 per month.

It seemed easy enough to do. The credit union was only a mile or so from the doctor’s office, so I just headed over there after I got done. I walked in and said to the teller, “Hi, I’d like to close an account.”

You’d have thought I’d said that I was thinking about cutting off one of my legs or something. She didn’t seem to take it very well and was filled with concern, possibly thinking me mentally unbalanced or something slightly worse.

Teller (with great concern etched on her face): Oh, sir, are you sure you really want to do that?
Big Guy: Um, yes, I really do.
T (with steadily increasing concern): Is there some sort of problem?
BG: Well, no. Not really. It’s just that we haven’t actively used that account for a while and we’re getting charged for that now.
T: But what will you do for a savings account if you close this one?
BG: Well, I actually have our main accounts at another place in Oak Ridge. It’s a lot more convenient for me there.
T: But don’t you feel that you need to have this account as well?
BG: Uh, no, not really. My wife only had this account as a place to keep money from her home side business when she still had one. But that was a while ago, and it really isn’t that convenient for us to have this account here anymore.
[Conversation carries on for a little bit longer, with the Big Guy afraid that she is considering an intervention of some sort, until she finally relents…somewhat.]T: OK, well, I guess that’s it then. You’ll have to write and bring in a letter to the credit union stating that you want the account closed, and it will of course have to be signed and dated.
BG: Do you have a blank piece of paper I could use?

[Big Guy writing quickly]Dear Credit Union, Please allow me to close my account as of October 15, 2007. Thank you, …

BG: Um, do you have a small knife I could use?
T: Excuse me?
BG: Well, you do want this signed in blood, right?

*OK, I will admit that I did not actually have that last little exchange with her, but I sure did imagine it.*

BG (handing over hastily scrawled and barely legible letter): OK, here’s my letter.
T (with a slight scowl): Oh. OK. Let me take this back to the manager so she can check for any outstanding loans or credit card balances.
BG: I can assure you that there aren’t any, but I understand that you have to do it anyway.
T: This will just take a minute.
[BG checks his watch, as he always does when someone says “This will just take a minute”…]

[Time passes. People back in the office area scurry around regarding my ‘letter’ and other paperwork.]

[More time passes. More people scurry.]

[Just under 15 minutes have gone by when…]
T: OK. The manager has gone over everything and your account is now closed. Thank you for your past business and remember to keep us in mind if you need any banking services in the future.

[Big Guy stands there for a moment looking at her.]

[Teller looks back at Big Guy.]

BG: Um, aren’t you forgetting…
T: Oh! I guess you want your money, huh?
BG: Yeah, I guess that would be a good idea.

[Teller counts out money and hands it to the Big Guy.]

T: OK, thanks again for your business, and remember…
BG: Right, if I need any…
[Big Guy allows door to close behind him, cutting off any further exchange.]

All this hassle and time over a lousy $39.63?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Official

OK, it’s now official. Actually, it became official a few months ago, but I’m only just now reporting about it. I suppose that it was only a matter of time really. I could see the signs that it might be coming, but I just didn’t completely connect the dots for a while. But now it’s happened.

My parents have become senior citizens.

Oh, now I’m not talking about mere age categorizations here, or an acquired attitude toward ‘young whipper-snappers’ or anything like that. And they aren’t the type of people who are willing to sit around waiting for each tick of the clock to go by. They travel a good bit. They spend a lot of time with family (more on that in a bit). Dad plays tennis frequently, by which I mean it’s normal for him to play at least once a week even on travel unless circumstances don’t allow it. That’s not bad for a man who’s been around for almost ¾ of a century.

I don’t even mean that it’s because that they are retirees (if MG would let me, I’d retire!). Dad’s retired from several jobs already. Mom and Dad are still known for their recent volunteer work at the hospital back in Kingsport, so I guess that would be something they could retire from as well. I don’t mean that they dress in funny ‘old person’ clothes (you know what I mean, so don’t pretend that you don’t). I don’t mean that they babble on about ‘the old days’ (e.g., blah blah blah, walked uphill to school both ways, blah blah blah). I don’t mean that they’ve joined the Grey Panthers (they haven’t – and won’t be likely to, either).

No, I’m talking about the one sure sign. The one immutable indicator. The one thing that defines and characterizes the culture of senior citizens in this country.

Yes, it’s true. They’ve moved to Florida. Yes, yes, I know (I heard you gasp).

They actually ended up moving into a house in Pensacola that’s only a stones throw from my brother’s house (and no, I don’t think anyone is actually throwing stones about down there). I guess that they could say they only wanted to be closer to their grandchildren, and since MG and I have failed to provide them any that aren’t of the canine or feline persuasion, then south toward my brother’s kids was the only direction left to go.

Still, that could have been mere coincidence that my brother just happened to live there. Maybe they would have heard the siren call and made the migration regardless of that factor. Who can say for certain?

Still, it has happened, and I guess I’m OK with it. At least they aren’t out wandering up and down the beach waving metal detectors back and forth all day and mumbling about how milk used to cost a nickel per gallon. At least I don’t think they are. Could they be? … OK, I have to go call my brother and check on some things now…
______________________________________________________

MG and I went to see Nickel Creek on their ‘Farewell (For Now) Tour 2007’ on Thursday night. Great show. You should travel great distances to a city where they will be playing. And who knew they’d be covering a Britney Spears song? (Sounds better that the original version, but I’m not exactly a fan of Ms. Spears anyway).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

London Calling

Ah, London. My favorite big city. I can’t believe I just said ‘big city’ like that. The term ‘big city’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. OK, it’s my favorite huge metropolis. Or at least my favorite national capitol.

And how many other nations’ capitols have I been to? A few, actually. Washington DC, of course (pretty sad if I didn’t have that one). Let’s see now. In no particular order, I’ve been to Ottowa, Sofia, Amsterdam, Vaduz, Dublin, Edinburgh, Vienna, and (I think) Bonn. Can anybody name all of those countries? No more trivia quiz stuff, so just answer in the comments field.

Anyway, London. We hadn’t really planned on going. We’d been discussing a domestic vacation trip this summer. Then, one day, MG said “Hey, I wonder if we could get to London so you could see the Tour?”

She does love me.

After a little research, we decided that it wouldn’t be a bad idea, so the plan took shape quickly after that. We left on the 4th of July so we could take full advantage of holidays to minimize vacation days taken. Of course, leaving on the 4th means getting there on the 5th, but at least it’s early when you get there (all jet lagged and everything).

The Tour events really started on Friday evening with the team presentations in Trafalgar Square. I honestly am not sure that I’ve ever seen that many people all packed into one space that wasn’t a major stadium. The crowd was huge. HUGE!!! After the team presentation I saw Didi Senft (AKA "the Devil") walking along the east edge of St. James park near the team compound. I wanted to get a photo of him dressed up in full regalia, but he was trying to get away from the following crowds and I guess didn't want to stop long enough to pose for a shot. I tried to get a shot anyway as he moved along, and he did at least smile in my direction, but the light was failing and it turned out badly blurred. When I turned around to go I almost fell over one of the Astana riders. He was trying for a photo of Didi also and had walked up behind me without me hearing him. At least he would have a few more chances for a photo over the next few weeks.

The crowds were huge the next day as well for the Prologue TimeTrial, though it was spread out over the whole of the course, which stared near Trafalgar, came past Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park, back past Buckingham, and finished up headed back over toward Trafalgar again. I was lucky that our hotel was right on the route near the exit from Hyde Park, so I just walked out after a late breakfast, staked out as decent a spot as I could for photos, and just hung out as the crowds started packing in. The nice thing about a Time Trial is that you get to see every rider go by at around one minute intervals. On the other hand, with 198 riders it takes three hours and 18 minutes for all of them to pass by. MG made my day by bringing me back some food at one point (and then went and got some for several of my new comrades packed in around me).

The other side of the coin from a Time Trial is a regular road stage where, especially at the beginning, the peloton is all together and has come and gone so fast you barely have time to register it all. That’s why I like mountain stages, which tend to break the peloton into smaller groups, but England didn’t have any mountain stages. I still had a great time.

OK, that was Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We were there from Thursday until we left Wednesday morning. So what else did we do? Oh, rest assured that MG got her due by having that time all planned out. We saw two plays (Avenue Q and Wicked), went to a few museums, ate a lot of incredibly good food, did a good bit of shopping, and walked through a good bit of London’s park system acreage. So yeah, we both got to have a really good time.

But I got to see the TOUR!!! WOO HOO!!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Windy Stone

Well, it took me a little longer than I’d thought it would to get back to this. Yes, we went away for the weekend. I’ve been fairly busy since we got back. It was a matter of timing, ultimately.

We went back up to Blowing Rock, NC for our weekend trip. We tend to go there for two or three weekends each year. I guess you could say that we like the area. Our reason for going up this time was to attend Art in the Park. Art in the Park is a little thing they do once each month during the warmer months where usually about 100 or more artists (some local, some not so local) come to the community park and set up tents to show off (and hopefully sell) some of their creations. MG and I did our parts to help out. I bought a photo print from a lady named Dinny Addison, and MG bought a hand-made bracelet from Q Evon. MG spent over four times what I did. I guess I have some leeway toward buying a new lens? Or camera body? Or software? Hmm, likely not, I suppose. Still, I hope to maybe get my photography business up and running enough to maybe start going to these types of things as a vendor.

The park was crowed on Saturday, as was the whole town of Blowing Rock, at least in the morning. What we didn’t know when we made our reservations, and what many people at the event didn’t realize either, was that it was Homecoming weekend for two local colleges. We’d passed by Lees-McRae in Banner Elk on our way in on Friday, so we knew about that one. Saturday morning at breakfast (at Knights On Main) we found out that Appalachian State University in Boone was also having theirs. Appy State has a lot going for it right now. You may remember that they are the ones who upset Michigan in football during their first game of the season. Go Mountaineers, I guess.

Every time we go to Blowing Rock, MG will pick up one of the little “Homes” guides to flip through. She thinks she’s found the perfect house for us. Does anyone have $1,600,000 I could use? I can’t exactly promise to pay you back or anything…

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Synopsis

OK, I’ve been silent for a while. Some of you may be wondering what I’ve been up to. Some of you have been asking (a few of you rather vociferously – I guess it’s my fault for letting my email addy out there, huh?). That’s OK. I have been keeping myself occupied.

I think that I was still in the process of painting inside my house when I was last posting on a semi-regular basis. Well, I’m still not done with that. Why not (you might – justifiably – ask)? Well, to tell that story I have to go back a bit further.

Last September (2006) I was involved in a rather ferocious crash while riding on Labor Day and ended up with both collarbones broken. Surgery was needed to realign and hold the pieces of those bones in place while they healed. Apparently one of the fractures on the right side didn’t heal quite right. Sometime in February or March I went to my surgeon for a re-check. That was when we found out that the plate had actually failed at some point (likely in February) and part had shifted, along with the bone that was attached to it. I’d had some soreness in that shoulder, but I wasn’t expecting that.

For that reason my painting efforts, along with woodworking and bike riding activities and other such, were severely curtailed. More about the shoulder later.

In April Mrs. Guy and I went to the 2nd annual Blue Ridge Wine Festival in Blowing Rock. You might remember (if you've been reading along or have visited the archives) that we also attended the first one. It's growing. This year had larger crowds, but it was still manageable and, thus, a blast.

Then, in either April or May, I went with Mrs. Guy on one of her company’s award trips to Cabo San Lucas. That was very nice, but I’m not sure I could easily go back to stay at the same place if I was the one having to pay for it. Yes, we went to Cabo Wabo. No, we didn’t see Sammy Hagar while we were there (though we did hear plenty of his music).

In June, among other things, I helped put on the 3rd Annual English Mountain Challenge bike ride. Not for the faint of heart. I was driving one of the support vehicles, so I got to climb English Mountain several times that day. Good event. You should come ride it … unless you’re scared or something

Also this year I changed projects at work. Not by choice. I was “requested”. I’m choosing to make the best of it.

Let’s see, July…July…what did I do in Ju… Oh, yeah. Mrs. Guy and I went back to London. Why did we go to London? Well, many reasons, but among them was to watch the first two days of the Tour de France (and also the opening ceremony, so I guess it was really part of three days, after all). I write up something about Le Tour in a later post (assuming I don’t disappear into the internet √¶ther again).

For August I did something really special. Uh huh. I had surgery again to replace the plate, along with the use of a bone graft from my hip to repair the collarbone. That was six weeks ago. I’m still in therapy for it (physical therapy, not the emotional kind – though maybe I could use it, too). I am healing, but it’s taking longer due to the graft. And my hip hurts, too. Not from having the bone taken off. No, that’s fine. The pain is from the incision site. You never realize how many muscles you use to do really simple things until you are aggravating them with almost every step.

So convalescence carried me into September (during which I also marshalled and photographed a local bike race), and now we are just barely into October. I have, though, already done something noteworthy for October already. I bought an iMac. This should be interesting as I try to flatten out the learning curve.

All of these subjects will likely be expanded on a bit in future updates. Maybe. Yeah, probably.

So, maybe another post in a few days, though I’ll be out of town over the weekend, so if you don’t see anything by Friday evening, don’t expect anything until at least Monday.