Ouray

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To celebrate thirty-three years, Karen and I hit the trails in Ouray.  What could be better than taking in air from the top of the world?  We spent day one exploring the Perimeter Trail that rings the box canyon.

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We drove up to Molas Pass on day two and hiked between the lakes.  The weather could not have been more perfect with the cooler temps I’d been dreaming about in Texas.

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We discovered our favorite trail on day three when we hiked the Blue Lakes Trail.  The forest road is a bit long, about eight miles, but drivable with a low clearance car.  The trail runs mostly through gorgeous pine and aspen.  It breaks just around tree line for the first lake, catching snow melt in the basin.

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We stopped by Khristopher’s Culinaire one day to say hi to Khris and Janet.  They said the crowds have been great this summer.  I agree, the trails had a healthy number of hikers.  People were pretty good about either wearing a mask, or stepping off the trail if they didn’t.

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I had time one day to hike around Molas Pass with my buddy Rob, who drove up from Durango.  We began on the Colorado Trail and bushwhacked our way up to a high point offering tremendous views of the San Juans.  I also ran into a work colleague in Silverton eating lunch with his family.  We work together almost daily, and had never met one another before.

We ate at several good restaurants in Ouray.  Red Mountain Brewery was good, along with Brickhouse 737.  My favorite dinner was at Bon Ton.  These were my first restaurants since late March.

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A hiking vacation might not seem very romantic to celebrate over three decades of marriage, but we know what we want these days.  This was one of the best vacations ever.

 

The Graduate

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I remember when I discovered Ellie Rose was smarter than me.  She was in middle school.  She’s been reading adult-level books since grade school.

She had her pick of colleges and chose the one known to be the hardest scholastically, the Colorado School of Mines.  She’s interested in epigenetics.

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She’s a girl of many talents.  At NHS, she formed clubs and participated in sports and the student council.  She earned money at various jobs.  She wrote songs on the piano and guitar.  She traveled to Austria and back on her own.

Ellie Rose is ready for the next step in her life.  She graduated yesterday to cap off a challenging time.  We’re excited for her because we know she will become a woman who will move the world forward.

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Carpe diem, Ellie Rose.

Second Edition

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I’m using the three-day weekend to submit my taxes.  I expect to get a return and will need it to buy Ellie Rose a laptop before she heads off to college.  I think back in the day, parents used to buy their kids a car for graduating high school.  Now we buy them a three thousand dollar MacBook Pro.  I really hope I get a nice return this year.

I find joy in doing my taxes when I sum up all my book royalties from Amazon.com.   I’ve made royalties almost every month of the year.  The coolest part is seeing book sales from other countries.  Mostly the UK, but also Germany, Australia, Japan, China, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, and 26.77 rupees from India.  That’s 39¢ I wouldn’t have if I weren’t an international author.

Other writers might find this interesting.  I published a second book in 2019, but almost all my sales were from my first book.  I suspect this is because I handed out a hundred copies of my book at a tech conference in Austin and those techies followed up by purchasing my first book.  That’s exactly what they tell you will happen, and it did.  This is why you will make more money the more books you publish; readers who like your latest book will buy from your entire collection.  There’s a multiplier effect.

Knowing that, I really should work towards completing my third novel.  I’m twenty-five thousand words into it, but paused it to rewrite a second edition of my first book instead.  I believe I had multiple reasons for changing directions.  One was that, with the surge in sales of the first book, I wanted it to be better.  I didn’t have a copy editor for it, not that there were many typos, but I’m a better writer now and wanted to make some improvements.

The major edit, the reason I believe the rewrite qualifies as a second edition, is I changed it from present tense to past tense.  Most novels are written in past tense.  Present tense is rare enough that it can be a bit jarring sometimes to read it.  The book I’m currently reading, The Lying Game by Ruth Ware, is in present tense.  She does an okay job of it but it’s been my experience that past tense allows for more latitude in sentence structure.  It’s easier to write past tense.

That exercise took me a couple of months.  I spent the previous two weekends publishing it on Amazon.  I find formatting text and designing a book cover extremely tedious and I don’t enjoy it, but I’m too cheap to outsource it.  There are always problems.  It took me a week to fix my cover and another to get the formatting to show paragraph indents correctly on the InsideLook feature.

It’s good to go now though, so go out and download a copy.  As part of this second edition, the hardcover is no longer available.  Amazon might try to sell you one anyway.  They like to play this trick where they say it’s out-of-stock.  Trust me, it’s out-of-print.  If you already own a first edition hardcover, consider it a collector’s item.

Saharan Dust

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I’m not usually a pessimist, but until you’re dead, things can always get worse.  And things did get worse this weekend.  You might think I’m referencing the Covid-19 spike here in Texas, but no, that was true last week.  This weekend, the Saharan sands blew in from North Africa.

You can actually see the massive plume of sand extending westward from North Africa toward the Gulf of Mexico in this photo below, as it sails in the Sahara air layer at an altitude of twenty thousand feet.

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Incidentally, mask wearing was much more prevalent this weekend on my running trail. Few runners, but many walkers and bikers.  I can’t say if it was due to the Covid-19 spike, or the dirty air.  Guessing the latter.

The dirty air wasn’t good for running.  I struggled Friday and Saturday.  I had one of my best runs in a long time today though, despite the dust.  A storm front was blowing in and the strong breeze and heavy clouds helped keep my body temperature down.  It felt really good running the fast pace.

I could have run farther today, which would have also been nice, but I limited my exposure to the dust by keeping my run under six miles.  If it’s not the heat, it’s the air quality.  These masks and bandanas are proving handy.

My Day

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I ran seven in the Texas rain yesterday, but I swear to you, I was more drenched today after running four in the Texas sun.  I’ve resigned myself to running shirtless this summer.  I don’t care how many small children fall off their bikes after catching sight of me.  Eventually, my flesh will tan.

It’s Father’s Day and I’m having my way with it.  Didn’t get out of bed until 7am.  Drank coffee.  Read the paper.  Drank more coffee.  Seasoned some baby back ribs and set them on low in the slow cooker.  Drank the rest of the coffee.  Went out for a run.  The girls will zoom me in the next hour to ask how my day has gone.

My day has gone well.

We are the Media

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“The Vietnam War was lost on television” is a phrase attributed to Marshall McLuhan.  We still trusted our news media back then.  More importantly, we were all watching the same channel.  When Walter Cronkite reported on the war casualties, we all had the same numbers.  McLuhan’s point is expressed by another of his phrases, “the medium is the message.”

Today’s medium is social media.  Streaming is interesting, but social media is the game-changer.  I could brush broader strokes and say the Internet, but social media is the medium that allows us to self-publish, and that’s powerful – just ask the President.

I find it ironic, if not pathetic, there is such pervasive sentiment bashing the Media.  Fox News plays to the lowest denominator while MSNBC promotes Antifa.  Zuckerberg should take more responsibility.  We love to blame others.

On the receiving side, we curate our messages by accepting certain friends and blocking others.  On the publishing side, we share posts that appeal to us.  That’s self-publishing.  That makes us the Media.  And we’re bad at it.  It’s fair to say the etiquette is still forming, but until then, stop blaming section 230.  We’re all publishers.  We’re all content distributors.  Own it.

The Hot Runner

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Texas has been in the nineties all week.  The forecast calls for 104° tomorrow.  These are hot days.  Given everything else, I don’t expect the weather to do anyone any favors this summer.  It’s been forcing short runs for me during the week – three to four miles.  I try for eight-mile runs on the weekends, but five miles was all I could endure this weekend.

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I start off fully dressed with best intentions.  Halfway, I’m stripped down, baring my bloated, butt-white belly to feel the breeze on more skin.  Completing a run in this heat is like playing a game of strip poker.  My hair isn’t much better than my stomach.  I’ve been cutting it myself all year.  With Texas open for business now though, I’ve scheduled a tapered drop fade for Wednesday night.  Maybe I can at least look good above the neck.

Lily Mountain Trail

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After my Keurig run, Karen told me to enjoy the Keurig one more time, then pack up.  The Covid’s comin’.  Gear up to hit the trail.  We got as far as Estes Park where we thought we could get some grub.  We were greeted with signs like this, reminding us of just the other week when it was that way at home too.  We were happy with the takeout from Bird & Jim.  And they had a better sign.

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The girls took our flight in stride.  One more road trip for old times, I heard one of them say.  Ellie Rose will go off to the Colorado School of Mines this fall, leaving Karen and me to discover our new normal as empty nesters.  Ellie Rose should be safe in the mines.

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Estes Park did have good food, but we found ourselves surrounded by the Colorado Mountain elk herd that’s been ranging these slopes for eons, or at least since 1913 when the then extinct herd was reintroduced from Wyoming.

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We waited for the elk to fall asleep and made our escape under the cover of darkness.  With the next morning’s sunlight, we found ourselves on the Lily Mountain Trail.

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Karen told us this trail would lead to a new world.  A place free from the horrors of 2020.  She told us we would be happy in this new place.

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When we got there, we saw this.  We knew this hike was the right choice for the Memorial Day weekend.  Karen was right.

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New generations will blaze new trails up here in Karen’s woods.  Summer is coming, calling all of us outdoors, hopefully not like sirens to the rocks.  Wear a buff on the trail.

Runner’s Pandemic Etiquette

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Knock on wood, I’m starting to gain traction with my running routine.  I’m back home for a few days and was worried the altitude would discourage me, but I’ve discovered that if you run slow enough, altitude doesn’t matter.  Damned race director won’t cancel this October’s Boulder Marathon, so I’ve got some training to do.

I’ve been gleaning post-shutdown trail running etiquette that I don’t mind sharing with you.  Seems like most people get why runners would run without a mask, but many are in fact wearing them.  I would tell you this is because runners and bikers are all about the gear.  A bandana is just one more thing they get to wear.

Regardless, the manner on the trail is this.  Runners wear their bandana around their neck, and then raise it to cover their mouth and nose as they pass another runner on the trail.  I’ve experienced this on both the LoBo Trail and East Boulder Trail.  Anecdotal, I know, but that’s what you get from a runner’s blog.

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I wasn’t wearing a mask or bandana myself, but will be for future trail runs.  I’ve been conscientious about wearing one when I go out, it just didn’t seem needed or practical for running.  But a light-weight scarf hanging around my neck, that I only raise over my nose as needed, doesn’t bother me at all.  In fact, it might be helpful to protect my skin from UV rays.  After looking for a Shoes & Brews bandana, I ordered a purpuse-built, all-white, runners neck gaiter.  The new normal will include stylish neck-wear.

 

Keurig Runner

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The uber that picked me up was like out of some Ridley Scott movie.  In the age of Covid, a transparent plastic curtain held up by gray duct tape was all that separated me from the driver.  Viral transmission was too viable for my comfort level, so I squeezed the metal strip on my mask tighter over my nose.

There were less drivers on I-35 than on Mars.  Still, traffic slowed down through downtown where the highway splits into the lower and upper ramps.  It always does.

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The line at security was empty, but I stood behind two guys in TSA-Pre, because I was TSA-Pre.  There was no line at the airport lounge, but unless you were a well-connected woman, you had to order your cerveza take-away.

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I’m on a coffee run for Karen.  She has this thing for Taste of San Antonio.  You can’t buy it where I’m from.  I’ll be back for more soon.

Guitar Hero

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There are three Guitar Center shops in the Austin metro, one right here in Round Rock.  All are closed, of course, so I ordered this left-handed acoustic-electric online.  Their Dallas shipping site is closed too, so it has to ship from California.  That’s okay, I’ll wait.  I’m just glad it’s in-stock.  Left-handed guitars are less available.

I’m mostly ambidextrous.  I write and eat left-handed, but can do both with my right hand.  I play sports right-handed.  I can’t throw left-handed but can switch hit.  I can play guitar right-handed, but it doesn’t feel comfortable.  Finding a quality left-handed guitar at an affordable price made me happy.

I need something new to keep my sanity in check.  I’ve been staying with my mom in Texas since late January and even without the apocalyptic social distancing conditions, I can’t get out much.  I can no longer go for long runs on the weekends.  I work ten-hour days, when I’m not working twelve, in a small office on the phone and computer, and I really need some sort of release afterward.  I like a beer at the end of the day, but drinking doesn’t do that much for me.  If I have to watch any more news, my head will explode.

I never played an instrument growing up, but took guitar lessons before I turned fifty.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it.  I swear, it released more endorphins than distance runs.  I didn’t keep it up.  After a small health scare at fifty-one, I turned my focus to massive running, and later to writing.  A man can only have so many hobbies.

I feel it’s time to turn back to music.  I’m still able to go for some short runs a few days each week, but I’m losing interest in writing and reading.  And at my current weight, running is hard.  I feel like music is what I need to get through these trying days and nights.

Isolated a thousand miles away from my wife and family, music is the cure.  Don’t ask me to tell you the name of songs or bands, but I can sit in a dark room and listen to music for hours.  Playing music will be orders of magnitude more satisfying.

How are you coping?

Snow & Rain

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Our first call of the day was before 6 am mountain time.  We facetime because I can’t get a strong enough signal for a voice call and need to leverage the wifi with a video app.  Karen doesn’t let me see her that early in the morning, so I stare at the ceiling fan while she watches me sip my second cup of coffee.

She said, because it was snowing, she might not walk today.  She often walks while talking over the phone to other friends while they walk remotely.  I told her there is no better time to walk in Colorado than under falling snow.  With no wind and 30°, the snow filters out the sound and you can hear your heart beat in the silence.  I was jealous.

I was also motivated and ran a few miles after work.  In the rain.  It’ll be raining here in Austin for as many days as the weather lady could forecast into the future.  Inside the house, the overcast is dreary.  But out on the trail, man, running in the warm Texas rain rivals the Colorado snowfall.  The rain poured down on me, cleansing me of sorrow and grief.  And the trail, which has been quite crowded on the weekends, was as empty as Times Square.

Karen also told me this am that she’s noticed nature sounding louder with all the cars off the street.  The morning birds’ chirping is deafening.  I reminded her that it is spring.  She stood by her statement, the birds are louder.  I agree with her now that I had my run.  This post-apocalyptic nature is special.  Get outside and hear it for yourself.

 

The Morning After

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Not enough is being written about this story.  I just paid less for a gallon of gasoline than I did my senior year of high school.  Maybe not adjusted for inflation, but this is a running blog.  Go to economist.com if you have higher math expectations.

I also ventured out to the grocer – HEB on FM620.  I was hesitant after all the stories I heard yesterday about zombie hoards butchering one another over diet coke and almond milk. I’m paraphrasing my brother-in-law from his recent experience at the HEB in Northwest Hills.

The shelves were half empty but the masses were absent.  They likely ran out of real estate to store more goods.  I felt almost guilty with some of my purchases.  I tried to make good decisions.  In the end, I hoarded Malbec and after-shower conditioner.  I love how Texas grocers sell wine.  I’ll weather this storm.

Running Through Sadness

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ATX Half

I’ve been running the Brushy Creek Regional Trail for the last four weeks.  Just on weekends as that’s all I have time for.  I target twelve miles by not turning around until I’ve run six.  On more than half my runs, today included, I walk in the final three miles.  An optimistic strategy that I don’t recommend to swimmers in the ocean.

My legs aren’t fatigued.  I am.  Just emotionally drained.  They say it’s mind over matter, and it is.

I try to start back up again and find myself running every other quarter mile.  Conveniently, the BCRT has stone mile markers every quarter mile.  It’s a fair argument that I’m not currently in shape to be attempting twelve mile runs, and that’s okay.  Walking is just as good.  It’s nice to get out.

As you see in the photo above, I recently completed the Austin Half Marathon without walking.  The 9:30 mile pace wasn’t up to my standards.  In shape, I run an 8:00 mile pace for a full marathon.  Still, that run felt really good.

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Mom is on hospice and I’m in Round Rock helping my brother care for her.  I wouldn’t call either of us ideal care givers.  Sorry mom, we’re your boys.

I’ve followed my facebook friends’ similar stories.  My high school friends are all in the same position.  So are many of my friends back at home.  But it’s not about us.  It’s about our ailing parents.

I can’t imagine what mom is going through.  I see it, every day.  I don’t like seeing it – as I said before, it’s emotionally draining.  A part of me is dying with her.  I feel it in my runs where I end up walking.  But I’m glad to be part of it.  To give back.  She raised seven children, much of it as a single, working parent.  I’ve been impressed with her my entire life.

Born in 1933, mom represents the silent generation.  Known for their heads-down work ethic, I’ll never compare.  I hope I’m as strong at the end of my time.  She should be bed-bound by now but continues to shuffle around the house, squeezing the blood out of my wrist as she holds on.  I literally feel her tenacity.  Every day I can spend with her will reinforce my memories.

My wife traveled to be with her when I had to travel for work.  I felt so guilty enjoying my respite.  The king-sized, Marriott bed felt like a vacation compared to my twin bed here where my feet hang off the end.  My sister who lives in the area will begin to help as her FMLA is approved next week.  It’s a family affair.  It’s sad.  And I have to stop writing because I’m starting to cry.

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The ATX Half

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They serve chips n queso after the Austin Half Marathon.  If the 95% humidity didn’t give it away already, that’s how you know this run is in Texas.  This food and drink was in the VIP tent.  I’m a gentleman runner.

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My Imogene Pass running t-shirt struck up a lot of shout-outs throughout the course.  One young lady actually rubbed my back as she passed me and commented on the IPR.  That might have got her fired in the workplace.  I was already a little freaked out about the coronavirus amidst sixteen thousand runners.

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I’m not in the best shape to run a half.  After my experience in Aspen last summer, I expected to maybe walk the last two or three miles, but I felt comfortable the entire course – even on the hills in the final three miles.

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My brother-in-law played with the Rite Flyers at the six mile point along Cesar Chavez.  I’ve run this half before, and the full marathon maybe four times.  Tough course, but one of my favorite runs.