Shanahan Ridge

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Yesterday, Karen guided me on a path south of NCAR, a trail she has only ever hiked before with a close friend. Yesterday was a big day. Momentous.

Turn onto Lehigh St., off Table Mesa, and park at the top of Shanahan Hill. You’ll see a trailhead for the Shanahan Ridge Trail. Crowds were sparse for our noon hour, Thursday hike. The weather was classic Colorado cool air and sunshine.

I can’t imagine what might be on your mind this weekend, but I’ve been thinking about the upcoming snowshoe season.  I’ve been reading my snowshoe routes all week.  Karen and I will target Peaceful Valley trails this season.  

I’ve noted ten of them.  I enumerate them north to south with trailheads along the west side of the Peak-to-Peak Highway.

By the way, Josie, my Uber driver this morning, was from Kingston Jamaica, by way of Florida, then ATL, and now Colorado.  She was smiling under her facemask and has a 4.97 rating.  

While flying Southwest, I outlined the snowshoe adventures for Karen and me this upcoming season.  The ten routes will begin with easy-to-moderate difficulties and novice skill levels, then progress to more advanced, allowing us time to find our trail legs.

Buchanan Pass – Camp Dick Trail, our first route, is rated easy to moderate for novices and is an eleven mile out and back trek that explores the headwaters of the St. Vrain River which flows through our town.  

Our trek will begin easy and sunny, gliding through the Peaceful Valley Campground.  We will cross the Middle St. Vrain Creek twice, once going up and again on our descent.  I’m guessing the waters will be frozen.

Coney Flats Trail is rated easy to moderate. This trek will be similar to our first, following westbound along Coney Creek from the Beaver Creek area, in a seven mile, out-and-back route.  The other Beaver Creek.  

These two hikes will have established our legs for increasing technicality on the next hikes.  If we want, we could take two cars and make a loop of treks one and two, because there is a side trail that intersects the near top of Coney Flats Trail with the Buchanan Pass Trail.

North Sourdough is rated easy to moderate and will be our third route, unless we looped the first two and did them in one.  It’s nearly eight miles one way, but can be broken down into three other treks – all of which would be more pleasant, I think, if we shuffle two cars and hike the routes as loops.

Red Rock Lake and Brainard Lake are rated novice. We’ve snowshoed this several times, so I suspect we will do it only if committed to one of the three spurs that launch from Brainard Lake – Mount Audubon, Mitchell and Blue Lakes, and Long and Isabelle Lakes.

Mount Audubon is challenging as it leads to the top to a twelve thousand foot peak. I plan to skip its seven and a half miles. I’ve hiked it several times in the summer, one of my go-to trails to test friends visiting from sea-level. Audubon’s eastern slopes is where wind comes from. I can’t imagine it being pleasant in the winter. It’s the first though, of the spurs that launch from Brainard Lake, which means you must do the westbound part of the Brainard Lake trek as a warmup.

Mitchell and Blue Lakes are intermediate to expert and also launch their 10K meters round trip from Brainard Lake.

Long Lake and Lake Isabelle are intermediate, located along the Pawnee Trail that leads to Shoshoni Peak. I would love to snowshoe this one.

North Niwot Mountain and Ridge is rated moderate for intermediate to expert skill levels. It’s yet another spur from the Brainard Lake Area, turning south at Long Lake off the Pawnee Trail.

South Sourdough Trail, tucked into the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, is rated novice skill for intermediate difficulty and leads twelve miles south, from the Brainard Lake trailhead that we will have parked at several times in a row for the previous hikes, toward Nederland.

Rainbow Lakes are easy to moderate and lead out of the Brainard Lake Wilderness Area into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. Over five miles round trip, depending where we start, this will end our winter 2021 game plan. We do half this and it will be a good snowshoe season.

American Soap

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If I told you whom I had this conversation with, I’d have to kill you. But this was in fact my conversation tonight. Let me know if you’ve had similar conversations.

This person suspects Trump is faking his corona virus infection. And this person is deadly serious. In earlier conversations, I thought she was mostly joking. And I thought it was funny. I laughed so much harder tonight knowing this person was serious. And this person has evolved beyond suspicion to confidence in her theory.

I laughed so hard on the phone with this person. With everything going on, from the world’s problems to my own dire straights, it felt good to laugh like I did. Seemingly daft conjecture became deeply inane and devolved into plausible supposition on par with a debate on the reality of professional wrestling. By the end of our call, I was left wondering if it was me who was daft.

Tell me what you think. Trump is at a military hospital where he controls the staff as commander-in-chief. The show of white coats on CNN today, failing miserably at transparency, could not have been manufactured back at the White House. Where, I might add, Melania is ducking out of the show. Trump knows he is hopelessly behind in the polls, and can’t possibly dodge that fact he’s responsible for the untimely deaths of nearly a quarter million Americans. What else to do other than become part of the problem he can’t solve by becoming infected himself?

It’s brilliant, except for one small detail, and my brother pointed this out to me when brought into the fray. His administration is too inept to pull off such a clever plan. That is indeed a good point.

And I myself? I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, and this is no different. I do love the fanciful possibilities. If Lance Armstrong was an American tragedy, Trump is an American soap opera. His one true success may have been in reality TV, but the ebb and flow he injects into the news cycle reminds me more of a TV drama.

I don’t know. Professional wrestling is fake. Trump is fake. What are the odds his illness is fake? After I ended the conversation and hung up the phone, I wasn’t exactly sure what I believed, or why I was laughing.

On Reading – the Woman’s Edition

I don’t often read women authors. Except when I do and according to my Goodreads’ history, my last five books have been authored by women. Some of my preferred genres lend themselves to men and perhaps my current trend is coincidence. I suspect I read Rachel Maddow’s Blowout to satisfy my confirmation bias after having weaved Putin’s oil oligarchy into my last novel, Full Spectrum Cyberwar. Her story did in fact support my fictional account. I was surprised when she dedicated part of a chapter to the president of Shell, for whom I served as an usher in his wedding.

I read Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider as part of a writing assignment for my writers critique club. It’s a collection of classic stories from 1939. We take turns in my small group of five male writers to assign exercises to each other on a monthly basis. Sometimes, the exercise requires research, which for me is what makes it fun. Research has always been necessary for my novels and I enjoy that. It’s also essential in my day job as a product manager, and one of the roles I most enjoy.

Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game reminded me somewhat of Where The Crawdads Sing. I think because of the setting; even though it was in the U.K. rather than America, as it was on the coast. There are other similarities in the mystery format. The main characters were all women and it caused me to consider if, on average, women are better at creating female antagonists and men are better at creating male characters. Seems safe to agree to that, but of course some writers are so good they aren’t challenged by gender.

Lucy Foly’s The Guest List is the very first audio book I’ve listened to. Karen and I listened on our long drive to Ouray. It was a great whodunnit for a drive. Each character was voiced by a different actor. That might have been jarring as a read as I suspect Lucy changed the point of view per scene in the text as well as the audio.

Jen Louden is a friend and I’d been wanting to read one of her best-selling books, but I’ve never been interested in the motivational self-help genre. Her latest book Why Bother? was perfect because it’s as much memoir as self-help. I thought once she steamed up the narrative with real-life stories in section two, the book became fascinating. It reminded me of Stephen King’s On Writing, which was as much memoir as instructional. I find the sharing of personal vignettes a successful approach to storytelling. It helps to have lived an interesting life but I don’t think one necessarily has to be Hemingway.

After writing this, it has occurred to me my interest in reading women authors stemmed from making the antagonist in my current novel a woman. Call it research. My first novel was strongly male dominated. My wife gave me grief, and that’s putting it mildly, over the sexist undertones in my story. I was trying to convey a sense of men who travel extensively for their careers. She wasn’t a fan. I corrected that somewhat with my second novel by having the wife of the antagonist tag along during his adventures. I’m comfortable writing from a woman’s point of view. Doesn’t mean I’m good at it. If I pull it off, I credit having grown up with five sisters.

112°

Not really. 112° was the heat index. It was only 103°. That was yesterday. And my run today was only 97°, although it’s 100° now. I would tell you the weather is fine in Texas, as long as you don’t go outside. No wonder I’m so compelled to drink cold beer in this town.

Karen will join me next week, when the temps will start off in the 100s and cool off to the 90s by the end of the week. She grew up in Austin, but has lived much longer in Colorado and likes the change of seasons. Karen is going to melt.

We’ll be staying in South Austin at her cousin’s second home, so we plan to walk each evening on Town Lake which will be close by. I recently visited her to celebrate our 33rd by hiking in Ouray. The occassion for this visit is her birthday. This year has been like having a long distance romance.

I still recall a friend in Mexico telling me decades ago that amor de lejos, amor de pendejos. That phrase has many meanings but essentially, long distance love sux. Hey there, Delilah. But it also feels like we’ve been dating more than married, which is sort of fun. We used to go to the movies together and now we watch NetFlix remotely while texting each other as the show progresses. Love in the time of Covid.

Go Bag

A Go Bag is an emergency-preparedness bag that you pack in advance, but hope you never need.  That description, definition, is plagiarized directly from wikihow.com, where you can learn how to make your own go-bag.  Their advice on what food to pack is ridiculous.  I’ve done enough backpacking to know.  You don’t buy a can of tuna.  You buy these Bumble Bee tuna lunch packs. Depending on your vices, Starbucks Via Instant Coffee is also brilliant.

I watched Sean Penn advise America on TV the other day that we should all have a go-bag ready as part of our pandemic preparedness. He said smart Californians already know this, for when the big-one hits. With all the backpacking, hiking the 500-mile Colorado Trail with A Lo Hawk, aka La Plata, the international travel as an IT hit man, and the Covid-regulated, guest-living I’ve been doing this year, with all that, it’s fair to say I invented living out of a go-bag.

I could tell you how much experience I’ve gained over the years, but honestly, I think most of my efficiency gains are the result of improved tech. I recall the strap to my computer bag breaking as I climbed the stairs to the second deck of a ferry, crossing Sydney Harbour to Manly Beach. It was a quality bag, but no match for the stresses of my network cables and scores of 3.5 inch floppy disks needed for emergency reinstalls of the prevalent operating systems of the day. It’s crushing weight nearly broke my foot. I now carry a billion times more data, at a fraction of the weight, in the form factor of a USB drive.

Nowadays, I carry two MacBook Airs, one work, one personal, an iPad, some adapters and USB drives, and a copy of my latest novel to gift to whomever I chat up on the flight. My current laptop bag has survived under this improved load the last fifteen years. My back is doing better as well.

I’ve been shuffling back and forth between Colorado and Texas all year and virtually living out of a go-bag. While I’ve expanded my real estate on the remote end of that passage, stocking clothes and toiletries, I can sometimes travel with just the laptop bag. I can leave behind most tangible materials, even most of my data is in the cloud, but I find that I still need to carry compute resources – the requisites to stay connected.

But I must say, I feel stealthy when I travel. I have a bit of an imagination and sometimes pretend I’m a spy as I travel through airports. I fancied myself Harrison Ford in Blade Runner during this recent jaunt through ATX. Maybe that makes me weird, but what goes through your head when you travel? Got a go-bag ready for when you have to self-isolate?

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.