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Upside Down You're Turning Me

5 min read

This past weekend was a long planned Mountain Biking trip to Mount Wood State Park in northern West Virginia (near Parkersburgh). Typically we just ride some local trails so it was pretty exciting to be going about 2 hours out to hit some totally new single track. I woke up pretty early (7am) on Saturday because I couldn't remember what time I was picking Ed up at (9am). Since I was up so early I went to Walmart to get a spare tube and then came back home and had some oatmeal, loaded up the car, and then drove over to Eds. I was still there half an hour early.

At Eds house we filled up our water packs (my house was under a water boil advisory due to a water main break). And then we headed to route 2 to meet up with the other car for the drive up at around 9:30. The drive took 2 hours and then, once everyone was ready to go it was just about noon. At this point I really should have had a snack of some sort but I wasn't hungry and nor was I thinking about food. This was my first mistake of the day.

We started the ride from Mike's mom's house which is in an awesome location about 200 feet from the trail head. We jumped in and started a great ride of short descents and short climbs. The one constant of the days ride is there would be no time spent on flat terrain. Mike has a cool GPS unit and he uploaded the course we rode so you can see all the cool details. The bottom of the page has four tabs (they are really faded so its hard to tell they do anything) but the elevation tab does work and it will show you how the course bounced up and down. It was a ton of fun to ride though I'm not sure I was fully ready for 16 miles of it.

At about the seven mile marker we came out into a place called the Savannah and a really cool, but slightly overgrown, obstacle course was waiting for us. It had neat rails you could try to ride on, a teeter totter, and a long ramped jump. The approaches to many of the parts was really overgrown but we still managed to try a few of the things. I successfully rode onto one of the small rails but had to bail before reaching the second. Ed conquered the teeter-totter and then we each took a try at the jump.

Ed Jumping

This first photo is of Ed making the jump look pretty easy. None of us got very much air but I think Ed may have gotten the most. He also rode down the jump very slowly and amazed me by nothing flipping his bike in the process.

Mike Jumping

Mike made the jump too. He didn't get as much air as I expected but he still did a good job. He also rode slowly over the jump and surprised himself by not flipping his bike.

Gilbert followed and landed a nice jump as well.

Gilbert Jumping

This photo of Gilbert is great. I like this head on angle becuase it makes the jump look a bit more impressive. Though, honestly, I'm not sure anyone's jump was as impressive as mine.

Bill Crashing

I had neither sufficient speed to make the jump nor sufficient upper-body strength to save it at the last minute. Nor did I have the technical skills necessary to ride slowly over the jump without flipping so I flipped. Hard. I landed pretty squarely on my head and broke my helmet in three places. I also bruised my face, shoulder, and knee a bit. Thankfully, that was all. The rest of me was OK - my bike wasn't even damaged. Needless to say I think I'll leave off jumping for a while. (This was my second mistake of the day for those counting.)

After this tumble the other three played around a little more then we resumed our trek around the park.

At the 9 mile marker I was starting to feel pretty worn out and Mike offered me a chance to bail and return to his house. I declined (mistake #3) and kept on riding. By the 11 mile marker I was exhausted. My legs were like jelly and I was hiking my bike more and more often. Steering becomes pretty difficult as you fatigue but amazingly I didn't crash again that day but I sure did come close a few times. At one point I was going so slow I just told the others to keep riding and to put stick arrows at any intersection that I might need directions at.

Near the very end of the ride I was getting a bit of a twentieth wind and I managed to ride for the last mile or so without having to hike but boy was I tired at the end!

Once at Mike's house we all cleaned up and then headed out for some grub at Wendy's. I knocked back a half-pound burger and a chili and Dr. Pepper. I also finished off my big Gatorade bottle that I had started before the ride. My total dietary intake for the day was 2077 calories. It wasn't enough - not by a long shot. If you noticed on Mike's Garmin page his computer estimated we burned exactly 2077 calories during the ride. I was at a net of 0 by the time I had eaten at Wendy's - after the ride. Next time I will not only eat a small snack before we start but I'll bring some granola bars or something to eat on the trail.

Even with my crash and my exhaustion I had a great time. The trails were great and the other three guys were pretty patient with my slow pace. I'd definitely return to Mt Wood for another ride.

Kickball Kickoff

5 min read

Baseball diamonds for some harkens back to halcyon days of baseball glory; bats cracking, star spangled singing, and crowds roaring. For others, however, for others, the diamond is the home for an oft overlooked sport - Kickball.

I have gathered around me 21 teammates to craft the Strictly Business Kickball team of the Jewel City Division of the World Adult Kickball Association. That's right - WORLD. Who knew Kickball was so organized but, as they say, 30 is the new 8.

Our team is one of four in the division. Interestingly enough our division is the only one in the region and thus we are one of four teams in the region as well. I'll explain why that is interesting later but keep Las Vegas in mind.

The opening pitch of the Summer 2009 season were rolled out today and my team played in the second game of a non-traditional double-header. The first game featured the BoneCrushers-vs-Cabell Comprehensive Kickballers. The Kickballers are manned by a hodgepodge of serious kickers who have been studying technique and game video on YouTube while the BoneCrushers aren't nearly as fearsome as their name might suggest. In fact the only thing crushed today were the spirits of the Crushers who lost 5-0.

Our game pitted Strictly Business -vs- The CHAMPs. The first inning seemed to bode poorly for our neophyte team as we went 3-up 3-down. In the bottom of the first the CHAMPs got a runner on base after a booming double and then he was driven in by league president Cara after our first baseman seemed to fall asleep with the ball as a pillow.
There are 11 fielders including the pitcher and catcher and no matter how big your leg is you just can't kick a kickball as far as you think. So, with 11 fielders crowded around it can be tough to find a place to put the ball that will enable you to get on base.

At the end of 1 we were down 1 and things didn't look too promising for us. Lisa, our manager, made the call and I came in from the bullpen to provide 3 scoreless innings of masterful pitching on 2 kicks.

The subsequent innings for our offense went a little better as we peppered kicks throughout the game but by the time the fifth and final inning came around we were still losing 1-0. We were up first and if we didn't score the game would end in an embarrassing shutout.

Our first kicker, Brad, stepped up to the plate and drilled a solid single. He was followed by the top of our lineup - Mike, Joe, Megan, and Me. Mike waited patiently for his pitch and then drilled a deep fly ball to center field. The defense bobbled it and before you know it Brad was rounding third and scored easily. Meanwhile Mike was chugging in for a stand up triple! Just like that we had tied the game and we had a man in scoring position with no outs!

Next up was Joe. He saw a opening and he boomed another kick into center field it dropped in the gap between center and right and he too had a stand up triple. Suddenly we were up 2-1. Megan followed up with a short fly ball that was caught for an out. Then I was up and I kicked a nifty single just over the second baseman driving Joe in and giving us a 2 run lead. It turned out to be all we would score but it was enough.

Our reliever was called in and Tim "Soriano" stepped in and pitched a perfect 3-up 3-down inning sealing the deal for Strictly Business's first win of the season.

My entire team seemed to really enjoy themselves and overall it was an afternoon of great fun and comraderie. Next week we face off against the Bone Crushers and we will totally shift our field positions to make sure everyone is getting as much action as they want. Then, in week 3 we will be playing the only other currently undefeated team - Cabell Comprehensive Kickballers. The sports media is in a frenzy of anticipation for this battle of the titans.

I have to take the next two weeks off so I hope to return to the field with us enjoying a 3-0 season record. If we do start off that well we will be well on our way to being the number one seed in the playoffs - which, admittedly, doesn't mean much with only four teams - but if we can finish the playoffs in one of the top 2 positions we will qualify for the regional championships.

The funny thing is there is only one division (ours) in the region and the top two regional teams automatically qualify for nationals in Las Vegas in October. Thus if we can win our division we also earn a spot in Nationals. I don' know how many of our team would actually want to spend money to compete nationally in Kickball but at least we will have the option.

♫ ♫ Doe, a deer, a female deer...

1 min read



This is a promotional event that took place in the Antwerp version of Grand Central Station for a tv show that is sort of like American Idol but where they are looking for some kind of TV star. I don't really know anything about it but I saw this clip at a virtual-friends blog and I thought it was really cool.

Even though this isn't as spontaneous as it initially appears it serves as a good reminder we should be willing to just let loose and have fun once in a while and not worry about what other people think. Just like this girl when she visited the Great Wall of China. So go on, go out and have a little crazy fun!

Spring = More Mountain Biking

4 min read

Ahh, the fresh air, the warm weather, and - best of all - the increased day light after work adds up to an additional day each week where my friends and I will be riding. Until the waning hours of fall approach we will be riding on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Most of the time we are still riding at Barboursville park because we generally like the trails there. However, I think we will try a few other places as well - including, perhaps a weekend trip to some remote part of the state later in the year.

While I haven't been blogging about it I have still been riding these past few weeks and, this past weekend, the weather couldn't have been better. It was a nice and dry day, no humidity at all, and the thermometer was stuck in the mid 70's. It was gorgeous. Mike, Gilbert, and I headed out to the park but we were running late so we missed riding with Ed. Once we did start, however, we didn't take any prisoners and we attacked the mountain more aggressively than we have before. We went up our normal starting ascent and then circled down and around the mountain back to our starting point. From there we headed back up and followed the "trail of doom" down all the way to the bottom, through "green rocks" and over to the river trail.

At this point we haven't gone much further than we usually do before reaching the bottom but we have changed altitude a lot more thanks to the extra initial ascent and we have ridden much harder going down than normal. I'm not sure exactly what happened but I developed horrible, horrible, horrible heart burn on the way down so I decided that instead of taking the river trail with Mike and Gilber that I would just coast along on the road and meet them back at the top. As I peddled away from them I decided that instead I would follow the road to where they come out of the river trail and join them on the difficult "Devil's Hollow" ascent. Taking the road, it turns out, is a bit faster than the river trail and, undoubtedly, a bit shorter as well. I waited for a bit at the foot of the ascent and then decided to just push on without them. I took my time because every time I started to really push myself the heartburn kicked back in. After one of my many breaks I saw Mike and Gilbert had begun the climb so I finished up and waited for them. After we were all at the top we split up again as they wanted to go down a semi-difficult deer trail, follow the river again, and then go back up the road. I knew my chest wasn't having any of that so I decided to work my way back towards the car.

Of course, my plans change as I ride and I saw a hill that I have never managed to climb before so I made a go at it. I got a bit further but still couldn't complete the climb in the saddle and I had to walk my bike on the upper half. Once up there my heart burn was miserable so I just took it easy and rode on some flat ground until I saw a fun looking descent trail that I hadn't ridden before. It ended in a dead end as a huge tree covered the foot of the trail so I had to blaze my own path until i came across a grassy hill that I was able to ride down to reach a gravel access road. I then took the access road around a bit and up again until I reached the parking lot we started at.

Overall I think I rode about 9 miles. Mike and Gilbert rode about 12; Mike probably rode about 1/2 mile more than Gilbert because Gilbert ran out of water and wasn't feeling too good near the end of their second river trail ride.

One cool part of this ride was that Mike brought his camera and we took some pictures before a short, but very steep, descent. Even though the photos are cool I'm not sure they do justice to the apparent steepness when you are riding down. Hopefully we will continue to take photos and, as we do, I'll stick some more up in this album to share. For the meantime here are three of me as I progress down the descent.

Frosty Morning

1 min read

It has been plenty cold lately and the trees are frozen with thick frost this morning. It's bitter out but beautiful at the same time.

Muddy Bikes and Secrecy Abounds

4 min read

Last friday the weather here hit a balmy 50's and all the water that was, until then, frozen into the ground, melted and created a muddy mess of the local parks. Normally, a muddy mess wouldn't have much impact on me but on Saturday Mike and I were going riding on our normal trails in Barboursville. As it turns out muddy didn't really describe some parts - more like a soggy bog. The main trails in the woods weren't particularly muddy but they were very very slick thanks to wet roots obscured by wet leaves and intermingled by very wet mud. Overall it was pretty treacherous especially considering I'm not very technically adept.

Normally, where we start we have a pretty big (to me) uphill climb along a grassy rise. I have never managed to complete the climb in one go - my legs and lungs just demand a break. However, last week I raised my bike seat about 4" and it made a world of difference for climbing. Previously I was spending a lot of effort just fighting my own body while peddling because my legs never fully extended. Now, however, the climb up the hill was actually fairly easy and I had to force myself to slow down so as to not pass Mike. Granted, when we reached the top I was still winded but my legs weren't dead and I could have kept climbing if necessary. Plus we went a bit higher for our starting point than usual anyway! I was pretty happy.

The downside to all this great uphill climb is my bike is substantially harder to control with me sitting so high. In fact, while going downhill, I felt like I was completely out of control and I continuously faded off the path. Eventually I just stopped myself, lowered my seat, and resumed the ride. From then on out descent was much more manageable. Fortunately bikes have quick release seats nowadays so changing it depending on my goal is pretty easy. Overall it is the best trick I have learned (beside sitting way back on my bike while on a rapid descent).

The river trail portion of the course was incredibly muddy and in fact it is where things became impassable. Mike was in the lead and his bike just sank into the mud. So we turned around and took an alternate course along the river until we reached a geographical area that wouldn't be on the receiving end of the mountains runoff. The trail was still pretty muddy in places but nothing unmanageable. The worst part of the mud was how much energy it sucked out of my legs to peddle through it. Eventually we hit our final ascent (which, again I had not managed before but my raised seat made more possible) and we got back to the car about 2 hours after we started. I think we rode about 7 or 8 miles. While exhausting and, at times, miserable it was still sort of fun. Go figure?

On Sunday I drove up to my dad's house and we resumed work on my secret project. Then, once the main construction was completed we brought it back to my house for the install. We still have some finishing work to do and I have to do some research on a special mechanism to finish it off but it's still very very cool. Heck, even my dad seemed pretty psyched about how it's working out. It's been a cool experience and one, as a kid, I never would have thought I'd have. Once the project is complete I'll tell you what it is and I'll include some photos. I won't reveal everything (maybe) but I think most people who see it will think it's pretty cool too.

My dad lives about an hour away and the weather, while cold yesterday, was pretty clear so getting him to drive down with the project wasn't too hard. On the way to my house the weather person on the radio said there was a chance of light flurries after midnight. At about 4pm it began to snow in earnest and, because it has been so cold, it stuck instantly. We probably had about an inch of coverage on the ground by the time my dad had to leave. Granted, an inch isn't much but it is more than we normally get around here and it was starting to get dark when he had to leave. I felt bad setting him up for such a crappy ride over clunky country roads back to his house. Hopefully he got there without issue.

Back in the Frozen Saddle

6 min read

This past weekend I finally got back out on the trails after a more than four month hiatus from mountain biking. It seems crazy that it has been that long but the last time I was out was a couple weeks before my London trip. WTF?

I received some new tires for Christmas from Lisa's parents that, based on the reviews, were pretty good all-weather tires and it turns out they lived up to their reputation in regards to muddy slopes. It rained ceaseless Saturday and we went out riding on Sunday so the trails were all pretty wet, slick, or boggy and the tread remained mud free all day. My old tires would have been filled with mud almost immediately because some parts of the trail caused the bike to sink in to the spokes.

I had sort of hoped that it wouldn't be so muddy because it was so damn cold out, in the mid 20's, but the mud and rain mixed stayed wet and soggy instead of firm and icy. I'm not sure which would have been better. I do know that the mud was exhausting to peddle through and my legs were dead like they've never been dead before. We went to Beachfork State Park; a park I'd only rode at once before, and I was dreading a huge hill about halfway through the ride. The hill is about 2 miles in length and sure enough by the time we reached it's base my legs were useless. There was no way I was going to be able to peddle up it; heck, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to walk up it.

This left me with a bit of a dilemma because we were about 5 miles away from the car so I could either try an unknown shortcut up the hill, take the main hill path, or backtrack. I really didn't want to backtrack because I would have had to ride through a small river 3 more times and risk getting totally soaked on a freezing day. I also didn't want to go up that monster hill especially considering I remembered the downhill part being pretty tricky and I was in no condition for a really tricky descent. With all that considered I decided to take the questionable shortcut while the other three headed up the long trail.

The shortcut wasn't too bad initially though it was much, much steeper than the long way. However, the trail on the shortcut disappeared a few times. Clearly it isn't a frequented trail by either bikers or hikers. However, I persevered and blazed my own trail a few times until I found a path that looked promising. We had suspected that the short cut and the long trail would meet up at the top of the mountain but I didn't see where the trail I was on would merge with their trail. I had talked to the others before the ascent and we had agreed that if I couldn't find my way I would backtrack so I figured they would know that I would be heading to the car if they didn't find me at the top of the hill. Thus I followed the trail I had found in the general direction of the car.

By this point my legs were feeling a little refreshed and most of the terrain was flat or sloping down so I was riding again. The downhill section I had to actually descend was pretty nice though there were a couple places that would have been much more fun if the weather were better (all of the wet leaves on the trails made traction very questionable). Eventually I found myself on a path that overlooked the trail we had taken out from the cars in the first place so I took another short cut down to it (another fun descent) and then started to backtrack from there. My circuitous route helped me avoid the three river crossings so all I had to do was one small stream crossing and then make it the 4 miles or so back to the car.

Along the trail I encountered a few hikers and 2 beautiful white tail deer. In general it was a nice ride except for the unusual pains I had been experiencing. The first was on the way out. I had tried to cross a large boulder and my bike didn't want to go and ended up crimping my pelvic bone between the bike frame and the handlebar post. That hurt like hell. Then, when I was about 2 miles from finishing my ass started to hurt. Beachfork's trails are criss crossed by a lot of roots and this constant bumping on a very frozen seat ended up really bruising my backside. It still hurts quite a bit today. Finally, by the end of the ride, my legs were pretty damn tight. The cold weather combined with my overall exertion caused my thighs to start to cramp up. However, I stretched out pretty good and I felt much better afterwards.

Overall it was a fun ride even though it was cold (I remained comfortably warm through the ride) and I'm glad I got back out there. My new tires are really nice and I have been reminded that I can't be taking four months off again. All of the gains I had made in leg strength and endurance were lost during my hiatus. Ed, on the other hand, has been riding non-stop and he has gotten a lot faster and stronger. I feel bad that I am holding the group back when we go out.

Speaking of holding the group back when the other three reached the top of their trail and I wasn't there they became worried and decided to split up and look for me. They sent Gilbert back to see if he could find me while Ed and Mike tried to find the trail I might have taken and they tried to follow it. I think they crossed behind me on my path a few times but we clearly took different routes because they saw some landmarks (such as large piles of coal) that I did not. Needless to say their hunt for me extended their ride by quite a bit and I was actually back at the car about 40 minutes before Ed and Mike (Gilbert rolled in about 10 minutes before them). I appreciate their effort on my behalf but hopefully they will just head to the car first in the future and then worry about me if I don't show up :O)

December Catch-up

9 min read

So much was going on in December I wasn't able to blog at all. Now that the new year is here, Happy New Year by the way, I figure I should catch everyone up on what kept us so busy. Technically this story is going to start in late November but hopefully you won't hold that addendum against me.

Emily turned 5 on Nov 26 amidst great fanfare and even greater parties. I'm not sure how many she had but trust me, there were a bunch. Lisa's parents drove down when all the hoopla had pretty much died down and we had one last gasp (well not really the last but I'll get to that later). While they were here we decorated the yule time tree and stood in a circle singing carols. Ok, so we didn't actually stand in a circle or sing carols but it was a nice rockwellian image wasn't it? (unless you have heard me sing then perhaps it was a scary image).

I had to work for the first couple of days of December (making sure to call my mother on the 2nd for her hundredth birthday or some huge number like that; it was also my friend Mike's birthday). On around the 5th we loaded up the family cruiser for a trip to Disney World. Fortunately we only had to drive the cruiser about 1 hour to the airport where we then flew to Orlando by way of Atlanta. We stay at the cheapest hotel at Disney, the All-Star Sports/Music/Movies. Our room was at the All Star Music. If you paid attention 2 years ago you might remember that we stay in a family suite which is really just two hotel rooms merged into one with a small kitchenette. It's perfect for the four of us because it basically has two bedrooms but we don't have to pay for two full hotel rooms.

The last time we were at Disney Emily was sick with some kind of flu. This time she was healthy the whole time and, I think, old enough to really get into everything. Earlier I mentioned the last bash for Emily well it came at Disney this year. We had pre-ordered a cake with dumbo on it saying Happy Birthday Emily and some balloons (free with the cake, sweet!). I had to pick the cake up from the hotel restaurant our first night there. However, I had to wait a while so I sent the girls ahead to the park to get some early rides in. Finally I got the cake and brought it back to the room with five balloons. Then I hustled back to the hotels bus stop so I could get to the magic kingdom and find the rest of mi familia.

Sadly, the cake wasn't really seen that night because, by the time we got back to the hotel, Emily had fallen asleep. It was understandable considering the drive, the flight, the bus ride to the hotel, the ride to the magic kingdom, the rides, the fireworks, and then the bus ride back to the hotel; she is only five afterall.

I'm reluctant to describe our entire week at Disney so I'll spare you most of the details and I'll just stick with the highlights for the girls; the biggest of which was their trip to the Bibby Bobbidi Boutique which is kind of like a beauty parlor for kids. The girls both had their hair done in a Cinderella hairstyle, they had makeup applied, and "pixie dust" liberally coating them. They both seemed to really dig the whole experience and they both looked cool when it was all done. It was weird seeing Emily with makeup on. Shannon has had to have heavy makeup applied before for dance recitals but Emily hasn't; it was really really strange to see her all dolled up. You can see a bunch of photos from Disney if you'd like

Overall, the weather while were there was cold but dry except for the Thursday of our week when it rained hard. We had gone to the Animal Kingdom and we were soaked and cold by the time we got back to the hotel so we spent Thursday afternoon at downtown Disney checking out the shops. We did that all backwards because Thursday afternoon turned out to be really nice. The best thing about the rain in the morning was that the Animals were all out on the safari ride and all of the characters were in one building (which was mostly devoid of guests) so the girls were able to meet 7 or 8 characters without having to wait in line at all. We also got to see a monkey going through dental surgery which was kind of cool. They had just brought in a local dental surgeon come in to do it since the procedure was pretty much the same for the monkey as for a human.

After we got back from Disney I had to work for one week before starting my 2 weeks of holiday vacation. It was the first time since 2009 (our honeymoon) that I had taken 2 weeks off in a row. With weekends that equated to 16 days off! Sweet. For the first four days I called it "Billcation" and I mostly just sat around and read some books. At the end of the four days Lisa was then off work and we celebrated our own little Festivus on Dec 24 where I gave Lisa her big gift, a trip to the Grand Canyon this summer. I went to the canyon while I was in the Army and it was amazing. Lisa hasn't seen it so I think she will really dig it. We will actually be staying in Vegas and my brother and his wife will be joining us which will make it extra cool.

After our little celebration we loaded up the car for a trip to Cleveland where we spent about 7 days with Lisa's family. It is always nice to see them. My nephews are all basically young men now which is a little strange but cool. One night my three nephews and I went to a local university to play some pickup basketball. It turns out I still suck but now I am in such bad cardio shape that I couldn't even make up for my lack of skill with effort. Danny and Chris both tried hard and Pete was doing really well from three point land. We played 3 games of 2-on-2 with Pete and I winning the series. Then we switched to a four on four game where Chris (the youngest and shortest) played much better. He had to guard a really big guy (wide, but not really tall) who was pushing Chris all over the place. Chris didn't back down and even swatted a few of the other guys shots. It was great. Danny ended up getting some seriously nasty looking blisters so he and I sat out after the first game of 4-on-4 so that the teams would be even still.

Danny, Chris, and I along with the girls went bowling one day where I dominated with an avg of 146. We all went again another day with Lisa, her sister Jane, and her dad as well and, while I had the best average (146 again) Lisa had the high score of the week with a 178. She had been using a 10 pound ball and was struggling, she moved up to a 12 pound ball and never looked back. It was really cool to see her do so well. I think she and I need to go bowling more often. We both enjoy it and it isn't too expensive (though for the 17 games our group played plus shoe rental it was over $100!)

The only truly negative part of out time in Cleveland, for me, was that I am now officially burnt out on Hand and Foot. We were playing with 7 people in each hand and that is just too many. We really should have broken out into 2 groups because each game just took way too long.

Once we returned from Cleveland my Dad, Patty, and my brother Chris, swung by and we had a nice dinner and they gave me a really nice Scarf for Christmas. I already had a Liverpool Football Club scarf but it isn't very long and its very red so doesn't go that well with my work clothes. It has been fairly cold and windy here lately so a nice scarf fit the bill pretty well. This one is green and gray striped and is very long so I can tie it on like I saw everyone in London doing so now I'm not only warm but fashionable!

Ted sent us a digital picture frame with about 500 photos of his part of the family on it. That was cool because we tend to harass him about getting some photos. My mom sent me three books I've been wanting to read and I've already finished 2 of them. In fact, over the past month I've knocked out 11 books. I have some serious reviewing to get to over on my book blog. Lisa's parents gave me some new rubber for my mountain bike tires that should help improve my grip. I haven't been out riding in a while but I am hoping to hit the hills this weekend with Ed and Mike (and maybe Gilbert).

Finally, we had a small party for my dad's 63rd birthday the night before his actual birthday. We had paella and apple pie. It was great. Plus my dad had put together a prototype for a secret project we are working on and the prototype was perfect. We agreed to work on the final version sometime in the next couple of weeks and I'm really excited about it coming to fruition. I suppose I'll probably let the cat out of the bag when it is done just because I will be so excited about it and want to show it to everyone! Stay tuned.

Stateside

5 min read

I'm home from my business trip to London. I actually arrived back home on Saturday afternoon, around 3pm or so. However, I was really, really tired at the time which led to me not really telling anyone I was home and to a most unfortunate accident on my part.

The five days after my "day 2" post were pretty uneventful in general. Jason and I worked while Mark and Paul had meetings. In the evenings we would go out for a beer and dinner but otherwise Jason and I didn't really see much more of London. Mark and Paul did get an opportunity to ride on the "Eye" one day and I hope to see the photos from that soon.

We flew out Saturday morning and had to be at the airport by 6am so we had to leave the hotel by 5am. Because of this, and the fact that Jason and I weren't packed, and our plans to go out "boozing" with one of the guy sin London on Friday night we decided we wouldn't sleep until we were on the plane. We left work around 6:30pm Friday and headed to a bar fairly close to the office for our first couple rounds of drinks. Once we were done drinking Mark and Paul headed back to the hotel while Jason, Matt (our London guy), and myself hopped in a cab for the White Chapel area of London to eat at a really tasty Pakistani restaurant named Tayyabs. They don't serve alcohol there but you can bring your own. The guy at the table next to us gave us six cans of Carlsberg to drink while we ate just before he left. About 20 minutes later he reappeared and gave us 8 more cans of beer (Heineken and Fosters). It was incredibly generous of him!

We basically hung out at the restaurant until it closed near midnight and then we headed down to the Leichester square area looking for a pub to hang out in. However, all of the pubs close near midnight and the other two weren't particuarly interested in hanging out in a club. We spent a while trying to find an unoccupied cab for Matt to ride home in and finally bid him farewell at around 2am. Jason hung out with me for about 30 more minutes before heading back to the hotel to pack. I wandered around and checked out the various clubs and side streets until around 3:30am when I finally stumbled into the hotel room. I packed and then we gathered in the lobby for the cab ride to the hotel.

At Heathrow I picked up a bottle of Sheridans Liquor for Lisa. She had tried it on our cruise years ago and really liked it but I have never been able to buy it in the states so I picked up a bottle duty free. I had to stow it in my carry on for the flight to Dulles. I had planned on sleeping for a large portion of that flight but we ended up sitting behind two 3 year old twins who had blast playing and goofing off. Nearly everytime I dozed one of them managed to wake me again. Once in DC, I had to bury Lisa's gift in my checked bag because you can't take that much fluid on a plane.

We had about an hour layover at Dulles before loading onto our small prop plane for Charleston. I did sleep for a good portion of that one hour flight. Once we arrived in Charleston I pulled the bottle back out of my suitcase to make sure it survived (it did!). Then Jason and I piled into his car for the drive to Huntington. Jason dropped me off, I unloaded my bags and my bottle, and then opened our mailbox to gather the weeks worth of mail that had accumulated. In my utter exhaustion I wasn't really thinking and tried to shift some things in my hand to make room for the mail and I dropped the bottle of Sheridans which instantly shattered on the driveway. I was so pissed at myself and full of a great many "why didn't I?" type questions. Why didn't I just take my bags in first? Why didn't I put the bottle back in my carry on or suitcase once I knew it was OK? Why why why? I felt like crap that I had destroyed Lisa's gift.

I collected the mail and then headed inside to wait for Lisa and the girls to get home from Hilton Head. I had a long wait. Eventually I went out for dinner (around 6pm) and then came home and kept trying to stay awake until, finally, Lisa and the girls arrived around 10pm. I helped get the girls to bed and then went straight to bed and fell into a solid sleep for the night only to be woken around 7am to go to church? WTF? I don't go to church. But off we went becuase the service was supposed to be Shannon's schools service. Shannon wasn't involved though and I really don't think I'll be suckered into going back for another one. After my mockery of church participation we came home and then planned on going to a movie (Beverly Hills Chihuahua - which, while lame, was still better than the Astronaut bug movie I recently saw).

London : Day 2

4 min read

Our second day in London got off to a slow start thanks to our late partying the night before. Jason and I both slept until around 10am. However, after that I think we made great use of our time.

We gathered up Mark and Paul and headed on the tube towards the Science museum. While some parts of it were oddly mundane, such as the "Household Materials" section which featured such simple items as tootpaste and baking soda, other parts were fantastic. There was a large section just on math; specifically dealing with calculus and geometry. There was also a nice section on various ships throughout time populated with incredibly detailed models. Some were huge and all were amazing.

We spent quite a bit of time in the museum until Mark, Jason, and I kind of gave up. Right next door was the natural history museum but we didn't really have the motivation to hang out in museums all day. Paul actually started to get the flu or something equally irritating so he kind of wanted to go back to the hotel. However, we looked at the map and saw we were only a few blocks from Harrods so we all decided to head over there and see that part of town.

We hardly spent any time at Harrods at all - maybe 15 minutes tops. We walked through their fine watch department and some of the watches pricetags lived up to the billing. I saw many at the 30-50k pound range; that's the $60-100k range in USD. We walked out of Harrods and there were two Ferrari's and a Mazeratti parked on the curb. Amazingly those weren't the nicest cars we saw. In fact, when we first got off the tube to go to the science museuem a Lamborgini store was just across the street so we swung by and imagined we could take a test drive. In reality we couldn't even enter the store.

After Harrods I thought Paul was going to head back to the hotel but then we realized we were fairly close to Hyde Park so we headed that way, then we were going to load Paul on a train but realized we were close to Buckingham Palace so we went over there.

We couldn't actually get close to the Palace, it is pretty well fenced off but we did get some nice photos of the famous guards. I was a little disappointed I couldn't get close to them though since Lisa really wanted me to get a photo up close. As we were leaving and heading down the main drive up to the Palace we saw a satellite guard shack that was just about to go through a changing of the guards. Sweet. I took some nice photos of the guards and Mark took a photo of me with one.

After our encounter with the guards we realized we were close to 10 Downing Street (Prime Ministers House) so we went there, then we saw Big Ben so we went there. By this point it seemed like Paul would never head back to the hotel but we finally split up. Mark, Jason, and I headed to Westminster Abbey but it was closed for tourists on Sundays so we decided to cross the Thames and check out the huge ferris wheel that is the eye. When we got there we ran back into Paul who had also decided to see the wheel.

Finally we headed toward a tube station and rode back to the hotel where we deposited Paul and then went out to dinner. Dinner was at a pitifully bad "pub" that was really more of a chain restaurant that was like a crappy Applebees. All in all it was a really good day and I think we managed to see an amazing amount of stuff. We still haven't made it to the Tower of London nor have we ridden the Eye but both are still planned for later this week.

I've put up some photos from day 2.