Dmitri and the Wallet

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DmitriHow big is your wallet?  Look at the objects on this tabletop.  I bet your wallet is not as big as Dmitri’s is.  I don’t really know his name.  Like any other guy, I was minding my own business in the hotel lobby when I was engulfed by a gaggle of techies attending some international conference for the betterment of humanity.  This guy sits in front of me, blocking my view of equally attractive people, and proceeds to pull out his wallet. Seemingly to make room for, not just one, but two smart phones.

To his credit, he used both mobiles at the same time.  Possibly dueling the same issue that was so important to him that he worked it while his comrades drank voraciously nearby.  Sounded more to me though that he was working some tech issue with skilled subject matter experts on the one phone, to the point he could set it down occasionally, while he yelled at the Help Desk on the other.  The wallet, despite serving as a focal point to at least me, was lost in all this performance art.

If you think it’s bad how I’m making fun of this guy, you should consider how much worse it is for me to take a photo of a complete, non-celebrity stranger, and post it online.  I don’t care.  This guy has earned a role as a European hacker in my pending novel.

Day 3

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Wrapped up my final sessions today for this weekend’s writers workshop.  I swear, the alliteration in that previous sentence was unintentional.  Or maybe the result of so much learning.  I didn’t focus this year on a single area.  Last year I did focus on sessions related to character development and story arc.  I mixed it up this year.

I took one marketing type of course that gave hints on how to write good cover copy.  That’s the advert an Author writes on their back cover for paperbacks, or inside jacket on hardcovers.  A publisher would typically write this if an author has one, but indy writers have to do most things like this themselves.  There is a convention to writing cover copy that I didn’t know about, although I actually followed the rules fairly well on my initial novel.  I write my share of product announcements at work.

I took a course on writing subtext, which is another thing I believe I did well at just naturally, but then subtext does tend to write itself.  The other classes were about character development and story structure.  My most unique class, taught by Diana Gabaldon, was on white space, which is the absence of words.  What to leave out.  And also a bit on the aesthetic quality of positioning words and paragraphs on the page.

Overall, the conference was both interesting and fun.  It’s cool to be with so many others doing the same thing as me.  I’m struck by the large number of writers in their 70s and 80s.  Writing is their hobby.  This interests me, and I take the opportunity to talk with them, because writing is my retirement plan.  It’s a really good hobby because books can require extensive research, which is good for an aging brain.

Another objective of this workshop was to motivate myself to get back into a regular writing routine.  Time will tell but I’m optimistic.  Diana Gabaldon told the story of how she makes time.  Her three kids are grown now but she started writing when they were all under six years of age.  She would wake up at midnight and write until 4am.  She continues this practice today.  I’m simply going to target the evenings between dinner and bedtime.

Day 2

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8am

RMFW’s independent writer of the year for her young adult fantasy, The Rampart Guards,  Wendy Terrien poses with me at 8am for a photo.  “Much too early for a photo,” Wendy said.

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Because writers tend to read, I consigned some paperbacks to the conference bookstore.  Haven’t noticed any sale yet, but I’ve also been aggressively handing out my writer business cards.  Karen and I came back from dinner tonight on the hotel shuttle with a number of attendees of another conference just starting to arrive – the International Open Source Software Foundation.  We joined the crowd in the bar for a nightcap.  One one side, my writers’ tribe, on the other, my tech boys.  I’ve never felt so included.

Day 1

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Diana

I got here in time for dinner.  I could stop there.  Dinner is always good.  I wanted to get here by noon but that didn’t happen.  Turns out, dinner here was awesome.  Diana Gabaldon is a hoot.  I even learned how to pronounce her last name.

Diana gave a motivational speech.  Or it was standup comedy.  It was one of those two things.  She said, “…ballerinas aren’t born on their toes.”  And later on, “…because a man in a kilt, you can be up against the wall with him in a minute.”  I think she was drinking Diet Coke.

I’m also watching the news this weekend, tracking the storm.  Am I the only one to notice how these storms come in across the Atlantic?  They slam into Cuba, then flip off that island like a pin ball up into Florida.  Do you think that’s why Florida doesn’t like Cuba?

I can see how Floridians would get tired of that.  Still, the channels I watch don’t give any details on the fate of the Cuban people after flipping that storm across the Florida Straits.  Anyone know?

 

A Runner’s Weekend

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Gunbarrel Trailhead

I ran six on the East Boulder Trail this morning.  This is a 2015 photo from my media library.  The sky today had nowhere near that visibility.  Good thing the hills are always epic on that run, because there was no view.  I read later that the smoke is pouring into Boulder County from Montana and elsewhere in the Northwest, and some is from a 600 acre fire near Steamboat Springs in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area.  Right where I went hiking a few weeks ago.

I’m hoping for a big weekend of running.  Can’t recall the last time I strung together more than two runs in a row.  The three day weekend gives me a chance.  Keith talked Thursday night about running sixteen on Magnolia Sunday.  More than double today’s distance and three thousand feet higher in elevation.  That will make today a warmup.

Tomorrow will be hot.  The smoke is expected to linger through the weekend too.  Not ideal running conditions, but I feel like I need a good start on training to run Trailfest in October.  I won’t be racing, I plan to mostly shuffle along, but I need to be fit enough to do that three days in a row for a total of nearly forty miles.  I can tell just from running the hills of East Boulder Trail without walking that I’m in decent shape still.  I’ll be ready.

Royalty Check

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I really feel like retirement is just around the corner.  I can taste it, it’s so close.  Just ten thousand or so more royalty checks per year at this scale and I’ll be living on an island somewhere off passive income.  I’m being cheeky of course.  I should appreciate any sales and I do.  As inconsequential as this check is to my overall financial well-being, it felt good to receive this in the mail.  Fortunately, my electronic fund transfers from Amazon are slightly larger and more frequent.

I’m told 90% of all books never return more than $1000 in their printed lifetime.  My expectations are low.  But I am serious when I tell people that this is a ten year plan.  That I truly hope to be earning a low five figure income once I’m retired.  The trick will be to establish a catalog of a half dozen or so books by then.  Becoming a better writer will help too, and I expect repetition to provide those skills.

Toward that end, I’ll be attending my second writers’ workshop next weekend – the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference.  It’s unfortunate timing as my undergrad alma mater Texas State will be in town to play my grad school CU.  I hate to miss that game but this will be worth it.  I learned tons last year.  And that experience was perfect timing as I’d finished my first draft and the lessons learned aided me tremendously with my second draft.

I’m hoping for this year’s conference to kick-start me on my current draft.  I started writing my sequel to Cyber War I in January but stalled out in May when I changed jobs.  I think I can begin to make time for writing again if I just get motivated and focus.  I need to stop drinking in the evenings like Hemingway and start writing like him.  Looking forward to this workshop.

Trigger

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My cousin Dick and his wife Cheryl headed off to Ennis, Montana this morning after spending the weekend visiting us from Ventura, California.  Each year they drive cross country for a couple of months in their 5th wheel RV named Trigger.  The name comes from a beer-drinking encounter Dick had in his youth with Roy Rogers.  Roy kept walking into the kitchen to refresh Dick’s beer because he was wearing his Marine uniform.

Dick joined the Marines, the Reserves at least, at the tender age of 15.  He wound up driving a tank at the end of the Korean War, something he wishes he could still do.  The RV is a modern substitute.  He’s retired after a career leading America’s clean air regulatory agency, although one never really retires after a career like that.  He’s now working with a consortium of concerned scientists as part of the Trump Resistance.  I helped him with his latest PowerPoint.  Cheryl is a reservist with FEMA.  There’s a good chance she will be called up to respond to Hurricane Harvey in Houston, cutting their road trip short.

dick n cheryl

Trigger is now headed north, likely camping somewhere south of Yellowstone.  Trigger’s ultimate Montana destination is Teddy Roosevelt National Park.  Trigger will then wind its way down to visit three of my sisters in the Quad Cities before trekking back home through Missouri to research a graveyard in Dowling.  And who knows, I might catch Trigger again on the trail back homeward to Ventura.

LoBo Trail Closed at Neva Road

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neva road

I was set to run ten this morning but hit this closure at Neva Road on the LoBo Trail.  Sure, I could have continued along the detour, instead I took it as a sign to turn around early under a cloudless sun.  I just haven’t been running much lately, other than for the weekends.  I can feel my conditioning beginning to trend slovenly.  I settled for eight today.  Maybe strategic, knowing I have to run Magnolia at altitude with Team Prospect tomorrow.

I blame work for not letting me run more.  Work is eating into my blogging and second novel too.  I don’t know what writer’s block even is but writing does take time, and I don’t have much of that lately.  Still, the new job is awesome so I don’t mind.

Nothing better than being motivated at work.  I met my dev/ops team in Herndon this last week.  They remind me of my SecIntel team over ten years ago with IBM, before the ISS acquisition.  Both teams count their growth based on the number of PhDs they have on their data science teams.  That approach gives me confidence.  Still, I have a massive running event coming up in October, the Trailfest with 44 miles over three days through Bryce Canyon, Zion and the Grand Canyon.  I need to pick up the pace of my training.

Buffalo Pass

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buffalo pass THI continued my hiking with Rob on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) near Steamboat Springs this past weekend.  We’ve been hiking northbound generally but the most efficient car shuffle for this outing suggested a southbound route.  We hiked two sections southbound, first 15 miles from Buffalo Pass to Rabbit Ears Pass on Saturday, then 24 miles from the Three Island Lake Trailhead to Buffalo Pass on Sunday.  For Rob, this leaves the section of trail between Grand Lake and Rabbit Ears, and the 50 miles of trail south of Wyoming, for him to complete all the CDT within Colorado.  He also he completed the northern half of New Mexico.

moose watch cafe

Saturday’s adventure began at the Moose Watch Cafe for a breakfast burrito and a few donuts.  I ate one of these maple bacon delights, along with something cream filled.

Wyoming Trail

It might be hard to read this sign but it says the Wyoming Trail.  Whenever we were in doubt, and the CDT is nothing if not poorly marked, we followed signs for the Wyoming Trail.  Apparently the section of CDT between Rabbit Ears Pass and Wyoming, is also known as the Wyoming Trail.

moose

Early in our hike, as we stopped to adjust our gear, this cow and her calf sprinted up behind us.  They stopped and acted a bit startled after spotting us, before continuing their trot deep into the woods.  Moose are really just super large deer.  They’re somewhat spectacular to see up close in the wild.

 

lakes

This section of trail consisted mostly of alpine meadows and lakes.  Everything, even the tundra above tree line on day two, was lush and green, like these high mountain daisies I’m standing in here.

parry primrose

I’m not totally certain what these flowers are.  My best guess is Parry Primrose.  Could be fireweed.

Rabbit Ears Pass

Saturday’s hike ended at Rabbit Ears Pass, just south of Steamboat Springs.  We saw a decent number of other hikers, and even more mountain bikers.  Even a few fishermen headed up to those alpine lakes.

butcherknife amputator IPA

To heal our sore muscles after the 15 mile trek, we dined in Steamboat and quaffed a few of the local Butcherknife Amputator IPAs.

camp fire

Despite the very wet ground, we got ourselves a camp fire for the night.

3 island lake TH

We started out the next day at the Three Island Lake Trailhead, 50 miles south of the Wyoming border.  Sunday’s hike was mostly above treeline, but the ground was still more soggy marsh.

first snow

The melt off these snow fields accounted for some of the sogginess, constant afternoon rains for the rest.

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The photo above captures what much of the top of the CDT looks like, fields of alpine flora with very little signs of an actual trail.  You just walk between the drop offs.

snow fields

Other times, you look for the next cairn to guide the path, when the trail is under near permanent slow fields, or like below when there’s not enough foot traffic to carve out a path through the fast-growing grass.

no path

This sign points to a spur trail, Grag’s Trail, that runs behind me.  You can’t make out a discernible trail in the grass, but you can spot the cairn over my shoulder pointing the way.  Our trail in this photo, is the Wyoming trail running horizontal, also without any visible path.

fly agaric top

There were so many photo perfect moments on the trail but for the most part, I simply experienced them without taking pictures.  Like when the team of elite mountain pixies came running past us.  Spaced over a 20 second spread, four unbelievably attractive runners ran by us at maybe a 7 minute pace.  Clearly under 8 minutes per mile.  At extreme altitude.  While they were wearing different racing outfits, you could see they were a team by how uniformly they maintained form, like a peloton in bike racing.

fly agaric profile

Either Rob and I really were passed by a quad of beautiful elite trail racers, or we took a bite out of this hallucinogenic Fly Agaric mushroom growing alongside the trail and imagined it.  After 8 hours, we completed Sunday’s 24 mile trek, this time entering Buffalo Pass from the north, satiated for that moment, hungry now for the next opportunity.

Romancing the Pacific Northwest

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mayflower hotel

Karen and I celebrated our 30th last week in Seattle and Victoria, BC., spending our first night at the Mayflower Hotel.  We took the girls along for a summer vacation.  They spent more time in Post Alley than Pikes Place.

gum wall ellie

I’d never heard of the Gum Wall before, but Ellie spent considerable time researching things to see in Seattle.

gum wall brit

I took the opportunity to market my novel as the platform appeared to offer an inherent stickiness.

cyber war

We did spend some time cruising the market, going back down later at night for photos.

pikes place

We returned to the Market for breakfast at the Crumpet (best coffee ever), and walked from there to take the tour of the Seattle Underground in Pioneer Square, where we learned all about Seattle’s infamous beginnings and below sea-level plumbing challenges.

crumpet shop

After the first night and a half day in Seattle, we took the Clipper Ferry through Puget Sound, across the Straight of Juan de Fuca, to Victoria.  Ellie’s first entry into Canada was by boat.  We arrived just in time to catch the sunset during dinner at the Marina in Oak Bay.

oak bay

The girls roamed around past sundown, noting how safe Victoria was compared to Seattle.  This photo below is of the Parliament building.

parliament night

Butchart Gardens was first on our list of attractions to visit.  We started in a clockwise direction in the Sunken Gardens, where Jennie Butchart first began her garden efforts over 100 years ago by transforming an exhausted limestone quarry.

buchart sunken garden

Photo opportunities presented themselves non-stop as we walked past countless fountains and themed gardens.

butchart fountains

Some of the flowers were so incredible, I don’t have words.  The girls stopped to smell them though.

butchart flower ellie

butchart flower brit

I believe Karen’s favorite was the Rose Garden.  Ellie’s middle name is Rose.

butchart rose ellie

I felt like the Japanese Gardens had some of the best hidden benches for peaceful contemplation.

butchart brit n ellie

Last on our walk were the stately Italian Gardens.  This photo below is of one of the entrances.

butchart italian

We split up for dinner.  The girls dined at the formal Empress Hotel.

empress 2

Karen and I returned to Il Terrazzo and its many courtyard fireplaces, because we enjoyed it so much nearly twenty years earlier.

il terrazzo

The next day was busy with a walk to Fisherman’s Wharf, followed up by a journey to Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown.

fan tan alley

And our return ferry ride back to Seattle for a final night.

Chihuly

Sunday was another busy day.  We started with a tour of the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum.

spaceship

The highlight for me was a tour of the Museum of Pop Culture, where I got to pretend I was in space and Captain of a starship.

star trek 2

It was a whirlwind vacation, three hotels in five days.  Nice way to end the summer.

 

The Sands Casino

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BlackHat is in Vegas this week.  That’s the big cyber security conference for my tribe.  I’m not going, I actually leave for vacation mid-week, but it draws my attention to my novel, Cyber War I.  Allow me to explain part of my story.  I often tell people I didn’t make much up, and it’s true.  I called the casino in my story, the Arabian Nights.  Think about it.

The Sands isn’t actually a casino anymore.  It used to be.  Now it’s the name of the corporation that owns some of the largest casinos in Las Vegas and Macau – the Venetian perhaps being the most famous.  The Sands Corporation is majority owned by billionaire Sheldon Adelson.  You might know him as a prominent GOP contributor.  His elimination of financial support lead to Bush having to withdraw from the 2016 primaries.  His pro-Isreali speech at Yeshiva University in 2013 lead to his casino empire experiencing a major cyber attack by Iran in 2014.

The details are a little fuzzy to me now, but what I recall was he gave a speech where he proposed that the US should detonate a nuclear bomb in the Iranian desert.  So that they would know what a nuclear attack looks like.  Sheldon’s idea of a deterrent.  Iran didn’t find it amusing.  A few months later, Iran attacked Sheldon’s casino in Bethlehem PA, where they obtained privileged user credentials that allowed them to proceed with a major cyber attack against the Sand’s casinos in Vegas.  The week-long attack cost Sheldon well over $40M.  Inadvertently, Iran took down the Active Directory services which stopped them from gaining access to the Macau casino network.  That would have pushed the cost over $100M.

If you read my book, which only an exclusive 100 people in the world have, you’d know this is all fairly transparent.  Sheldon is Sam Sumner.  The Sands is the Arabian Nights.  The larger story of course is based on Iran responding to the US Stuxnet attack against their centrifuges.  And the climax ends at the BlackHat conference.  Even though it took me a couple of years to start my book, I knew I was going to base it off this Sheldon storyline after reading about how his speech at Yeshiva University led to his casino attack by Iran.  Why bother making stuff up?

 

Thirteener

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Brainard LakeWith Zach up from Austin, we thought he’d like to see what Colorado looks like, from the top.  So we hiked up 13,223 foot Mt. Audubon today.  The trailhead starts near Brainard Lake.  That’s Mt Audubon in the upper right of this photo as Zach, Ellie and Brit sit on the bridge rail overlooking the lake.

flowers

The girls tended to stop to smell the roses often enough that the 9 mile round trip took us over 5 hours.

apine buttercups ellie

This photo above shows how close Ellie gets to the flowers for a pic, as she lies among the Alpine Buttercups at over 12,000 feet.

group

The group consisted of Ellie, Brit, her friend Tabitha, and of course Zach – doing his impression of Michael Nesmith from the Monkees.

Brit n Tab

Tabitha’s a hoot.  Tabitha and her sisters are all named for characters from the TV show Bewitched.

backs

This was Zac’s highest climb ever.  He and Ellie contemplated the achievement looking west at 13,000 feet.

splash

As we returned to Brainard Lake, Ellie tried walking to this rock without getting wet.

rock 2

Zach joined her, demonstrating some impressive balance as he walked across the submerged rock path.

rock

Amazingly, they made it without too much water getting inside their boots.

Ed

Pretty sure everyone enjoyed themselves on this hike.  I would say I had the best time of all though.  This was my first big hike in the mountains this summer.  Hope to hike more.

 

 

Still at it

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novel graphic

I’m still at it.  Still writing my next novel.  Being a sequel, there will be more similarities than not, but everything will be different to me.  I have different objectives.  I had two goals with the first book, discovering if I could tell a story, and learning the process of writing and publishing.  I’m satisfied I succeeded at both.  Enough people have given me positive feedback that I told a good story, and having completed the publishing process is inherent evidence of achieving my second objective.  This second book will be an effort to improve in everything I sucked at with the first.

I won’t rush it like the last.  I’d finish it again in six months if I could but this year is different.  I’m learning a new job and I don’t care to ignore my running habit as much this time around.  Not that I couldn’t use a few pounds but I gained ten last year.  Taking more time though should lead to a better book.  Cyber War I had enough typos that I’ve only recently fixed them all.  I think.

Going slower should lead to higher quality but I’ll also use better tools and perform more editing.  Using Evernote for the first book worked well but the font was so small I couldn’t see the errors.  I’m now using Scrivener, which contains the notebook-like features of Evernote but has a thousand times more benefits.  It’s the ultimate writer’s toolkit.

I was happy with the editing I received on Cyber War I but it was limited due to the money I put into it.  I intend to spend perhaps double this time.  And of course I’ll take more time to review and respond to the suggested edits.  My step sister Shirley visited me this last week and told me in so many words I could benefit greatly from more editing.  Point taken.

I’m doing other things differently as well.  I have much more of an outline prepared for the sequel.  It’s not complete, like the first I don’t yet know my ending.  I didn’t have an ending for Cyber War I until I was nearly half way through.  My climax came to me during a run and I immediately wrote it before filling in the second half of the story.  That much is true for this book.  I don’t write my chapters serially.  Like Schrödinger’s cat, I write three or four chapters simultaneously, I even move them around before determining a final position of events at closing time.

I can say, and this is probably why I’m blogging on this topic, that I’ve picked up the pace the last couple of weeks on my writing.  It’s not easy with so many other priorities.  Between binge-watching Thirteen Reasons Why, reading three books at once, learning the new job, and hiding from Karen while she’s on a home improvement surge, it’s hard to do it all.

Trail Tumbles

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Biologist BobTrails will kill you if you’re not careful.  In this photo, biologist Bob examines the skeletal remains of a deer that we ran by just short of two miles on the Picture Rock Trail this morning.  Keith, Joey and I didn’t wait around for the lecture to finish before we screamed up the mountain at a strong pace, that is until Joey stumbled over a rock near four miles and landed hard.  We took the final mile up a bit more conservative.  I should mention that Joey is only in Middle School.  Don’t think I ran more than three miles until my sophomore year of high school.

Bob caught us on the way down with about two miles remaining on our ten miler.  But he took his eyes off the trail and took a spill.  Falling on the way down is generally more painful.  We met up with the two Jens at the trail head to discover Bob’s wife, one of the two Jens, also took a tumble.  I’m guessing the night moves will be delicate in their bed tonight.

Banged Up

The Jungle Trail

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brit & dad

Running hurts.  Not the running itself so much, I enjoy that.  But the recovery.  It’s a pain I don’t mind so much because it’s positive feedback that I’m working out.  But I’ve dropped my mileage this summer, or more importantly I’ve reduced the number of days I run, and that makes my legs more sore in between runs.

ellie & dad

That I’ve been more sore in between runs tells me I’m not doing enough to maintain my fitness.  I could reduce the distance of my runs, but I don’t want to do that.  I enjoy running 8 to 10 miles.  Anything less isn’t worth a shower afterward.  Research suggests there’s no health benefit to running beyond 35 miles per week, but I like the 45 to 60 mile range.  Running is a hobby that I like to put that much time into, essentially 6 to 8 hours per week.  And I think 5 days per week keeps the pain away more than only 3 days per week.

karen & ed

Discovering a new trail will help me run the miles this summer.  Dave explained to me how there’s a trail that branches off LoBo at the softball diamond near the corner of 83rd and Niwot Road.  I’ve never seen it because I turn a few feet before the street crossing to take the unofficial dirt trail along the creek that cuts behind the softball field.  This new spur gives me a 10 miler if I take it up behind NHS.  Ellie tells me the section around NHS is called the Cross Country Loop, and that a heavily-canopied section is called the Jungle Trail.  That’s a pretty cool single track.  Best feature is a strong hill near the turn-around.  Worst part of LoBo is it’s so flat.  This greatly enhances my workout.  I ran it both yesterday and today for a total of twenty miles.

I ran it yesterday, smartly wearing a hydration pack.  Not sure why I thought I could forego water today.  I think I was only planning to run 8 but got lured into running the new trail again.  Dipping my hat in the irrigation ditch helped on my return.  What really saved me from walking though was the Sebestas came up from behind me on their bikes at 7 miles and Dave left me with his water bottle.  That carried me home.

the girls

A couple of ten milers.  A new trail.  And brunch with my girls at the Greenbriar Inn.  The perfect Father’s Day weekend.