Saturday, May 28, 2016

What happens in Vegas....well, you know.

Well....first things first: I'd like to say "Howdy" from Sin-City!

Yep...we are in Las Vegas. Got here yesterday afternoon, and Jeannie's brother John and his sweetie Peggy flew in just a bit earlier (from Virginia).

Las Vegas (Lost Wages)....the original home of decadence and sin and madness and excess. It's beautiful in a mad overkill sort of way. My first thought whenever I'm in town is "if everybody who CLAIMS they 'won' did, this place would be a large trailer-park in shambles. Instead it's the poster-child of wild extremes of excess. I can't even begin to fathom just the electric-bill for one casino/hotel...let-alone the cost of construction and then operations day to day. I'm not much of a I HATE to contribute my hard earned money to their power bill...but I sure like to watch Jeannie win (which she usually does).

Yesterday we went into Wynn, Encore, and the Venetian. After playing blackjack and some Wheel of Fortune slots, Jeannie and John played some craps for a bit (Jeannie had never played craps before) takes a 4 person crew to run a craps table. And for a while it was just Jeannie and John any given moment there was only between $20 and $30 on the table in bets (it's a minimum $10 bet on the table per person). But I guess that's how craps goes...didn't take long before the other side of the table had 3 or 4 guys all placing bets...both Jeannie and John were pretty good at rolling good numbers it seemed, and a crowd gathers when Jeannie starts whooping it up by winning $20. Soon there's bets of all sorts all over the table, and the dice are flying (sometimes leaping off the table). What a crazy game!

Anyway....our babies (both of them) are at home of course. Sophie is farmed out to a friend who is watching her for us, as we didn't want to leave her along with PG (who is still the alpha of the pack). We found out LONG ago that even tho WE are the big-pack-leaders, PG is the "alpha" of the 4-legged pack (or 3 in her case)...however if we go away for too long there is a 'reshuffle' of who's in charge...PG and Sydney had it out LONG ago on one of our trips (surprisingly PG maintained her status as Sheriff). Now that PG is 14& 1/2 years old and only has 3 legs, we don't want to imagine her scuffle with a 55lb bulldog puppy...I think PG would lose fast as Sophie would take her to the ground quick...and that would kill her in spirit for sure. So now that Sweet Pea is running pain-free in the tall green grass with Sydney, PG is truly alone at home for the first time in about 13 years (we have a friend coming over once a day to feed her)...we have doggie-doors and she goes outside whenever she wants for 'business', but I'd bet dollars to donuts that she lies around for the other 23.5 hours a day (which is likely very close to a 'normal' day when we are at work).

But we already got a report last night that PG is doing fine...and ate her dinner all up (we were worried). We'll be here until next Wednesday when we drive she only gas 5 more days to go. As long as she doesn't get sad and go on a hunger strike.

So...ANYWAY...back to VEGAS. Last night we had a 1 night stay in a Marriott Springhill Suites we moved into the Marriott Grand Chateau Vacation Resort for the duration of our trip. I'll only stay here thru Sunday morning, then I'm heading over to Pahrump to spend a few days with my dad, then I'll come back on Tuesday as Jeannie and I are going to our first-ever Vegas show...the Cirque de Solei (there are a few different shows, not sure which one we are going to, but I bet it will be FANTASTIC). We are going to the Marriott Vacation Resort 'buy-in' thing tomorrow morning and they will pay $250 of our tickets for the show (which run over $140 EACH). So after the dust settles, our tickets will cost us $42 for both. Not a bad deal for an hour and a half of our time (and saying "NO" several times).

Here are some pictures...Vegas is always so photographic!

At the Venetian....the 2nd floor has replica waterways of Venice Italy. How cool is THAT!
This is actually ABOVE the casino! 

Here's Jeannie walking down one of the hallways in the Venetian....nope, no money was spent HERE in sirree...boring plain ol' architecture. NOT! 

The view from our Thursday night stay Marriott Springhill suites (22nd floor). The crazy HUGE parking lot in the bottom of the pic is part of the Las Vegas Convention Center. 

Here's a shot of the hotel we are staying the rest of the week in...the Marriott Grand Chateau Vacation Resort....not too shabby...and just about a half block off of the Strip (Las Vegas Blvd). 

 The view from the roof of our hotel (from the pool and Skybar on the 38th floor). Looking towards the MGM Grand, the Luxor, The Excalibur, and New York New York.

 Again from the roof, looking up the strip a bit more, not even sure what hotel/casinos these are. I think the one in the lower right (the funky shaped one, is part of the Aria (but not totally sure).

 Continuing on up the strip (to the east).

 The Cosmopolitan, the Bellagio (in the back), and Planet Hollywood.

And the rest of the view, not even sure what hotel the blue-room building is.

OK....I'm going to wrap this up and go eat breakfast and get on with our busy day.

Happy Memorial Day (weekend) everybody!


Friday, May 20, 2016

Rest in peace our dearest Sweet Pea

It’s with great sadness that I tell you that we took Sweet Pea down to the vet this morning (Friday) to be put down. Last Friday when I went to work things were pretty-much- normal…except that one of the babies had been poo’ing “soup” for a few days…and as of that morning I found some blood in it. I told Jeannie (she has Fridays off) and she monitored things, and turns out it was Sweet Pea. She got her to the vet and they did what they do... ran tests and such, but by the time I came home from work she was lying there nearly ‘comatose’…couldn’t even stand up let-alone walk. That was a VERY rapid decline in her condition from breakfast time. We nursed her thru the weekend and this week waiting to see if there would be any recovery/bounce-back…and there was some…but not much. This morning she turned down all food and I had to carry her outside to potty (again). She could sometimes pull herself up to standing these last few days (it looked terribly painful) and walk, but you could tell it was very hard for her. I have been helping her up into a standing position most of the week. Once standing she would just stand there and gain her composure...eventually she would try to take a few steps...sometimes it worked, sometimes she’d just fall (the rear legs seemed to be giving out).

So…we both knew it was time, and Jeannie got us an appointment at our vet for this morning so I came home from work and we took her down (sadly the vet couldn’t come to our house this time like she did for Sydney). But Sweet Pea was a real trooper as both mommy and daddy had a very hard time on that drive. But unlike Sydney who needed a 2nd dose of the anesthesia to finally stop her heart, Sweet Pea went very quick and easy…she was definitely very tired and done…she had given us her all. We have no idea truly how old she was, but we had her for 12 ½ years now, and we think she was AT LEAST 2 when we got her in late 2003 (she was fully grown and already had a silver muzzle by then...and the Humane Society's best 'guess' was "around two"...but I'm guessing they fudged that a teensy bit because most people want younger dogs).

And so…we imagine PG will be sad over the coming days, as she will surely miss her friend. Jeannie told me PG was standing by the front door after I left to go back to work, and running around looking for her. I know when I came home from work she met me at the car and just looked at me, then peered inside the car. Seems to me she certainly is wondering where her sister/best friend is...they've been buddies a LONG time in people-years, let-alone dog -years! So we'll see how dinnertime goes tonight. PG and Sweet Pea have been eating dinner inches from each other for a LONG time now (we have a three-bowl raised feeder...Sydney was at the right end, PG on the left, and Sweet Pea in the middle). This last week when Sweet Pea wasn't able to charge out to dinner as usual I'd put down PG's and then Sophies dinners and go get Sweet Pea (Sophie eats on the OTHER side of the room...she's WAY to food-agressive to eat next to her sisters...she'd bulll them right out of the way and get their food if we let her). PG typically wouldn't eat until Sweet Pea was there.

Our hearts are shattered once again at the loss of our sweet girl, but we don't regret a moment of our lives with her. We are so VERY happy that she came to US to live and enrich our lives. She will surely be missed, as she was SO very sweet…Jeannie named her right for sure. We have tons of wonderful memories of our SWEET little girl. I know as I type this I terribly miss her sitting at my feet under the computer-desk, where she ALWAYS sat when I was at the computer. She loved to follow me around, and I already miss that SO much.

Here she is not quite a week ago resting peacefully on the baby-bed in our living room. She was NEVER happy to get her picture taken, so nobody but us ever really saw her with any kind of a happy face.

 And this sadly is her last picture, taken just this morning. She didn't eat any of her food at breakfast today, and even declined the twice-daily cheese-blob (with her pills in it....she NEVER declined it before). I think she was telling us it was time. She had another tumor growing on her rear leg (right on the can sort of see it in this picture). She was way too old to attempt another surgery, and we were about to remove her from her pain killer/anti-inflammatory prescription (we'd get her on a diff medicine due to the steroids reacting badly with her current meds) and have the tumor injected with a steroid to shrink it and give her more time. The vet is pretty sure there were tumors on her organs causing her recent rapid decline. We could tell that her usual 'happy to be alive smiling as she prances down to the mailbox' every-day attitude was gone this last week. We hope we didn't wait to long and she was suffering (dogs are known to hide their pain, it's a pack thing), but we had to give her a chance to rebound. It became apparent to us both that it wasn't going to happen, so we made the HARD call.

Many months ago she was having some problems (drinking about a gallon of water a day, and then unable to make it thru the night without wetting her bed) we had her at the vet and she had a bladder infection, and her kidneys were starting to fail. So Jeannie researched it and we started making her food ourselves, using a "kidney friendly" recipe of high-fat ground beef, frozen veggies, brown rice and eggs. She has been doing so very well all these months, we were hopeful that it would just go on 'forever'...of which obviously wasn't going to happen.

Sweet Pea....we miss you more than we can say, and you'll always have a big place in our hearts! Your pain is gone now and you can now run in the soft grass with Sydney. We thank you with all our hearts for your patience and unconditional love for us over your life you so happily shared.

Goodbye our SWEET little girl.You will NEVER be forgotten!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

2016 Tour of California Stage 3 Summit finish

Today I took a vacation day and made my way to the top of Santa Barbara's Gibraltar Road for the finish of the stage. It was perfect climbing down low...there was a nice marine-layer (ie: clouds) over us so it was all overcast and cool, with a light breeze. The climb from the coast is about 3400 feet, but you knock out about a thousand of that getting TO Gibraltar Road. It's a FANTASTIC climb, and is rated in some roadie websites as one of the top ten climbs in the US. They repaved it in the last year so now it's even better than ever!

Eddie and I met down at the coast close to the Santa Barbara Pier (at the end of State Street) and found parking around 12:30pm. We got ready to ride, and made our way less than a mile to the Amgen "Lifestyle expo" (a bunch of tents with nothing really very very little schwag). So we quickly went thru the expo and get started climbing up the hillside towards Gib road.

Of note: the roads in Santa Barbara are ANYTHING but straight and predictable...ESPECIALLY on the hillside that half of the city lies on. And I don't really know the roads that well. And so, to make Greg proud and keep the Chapek family tradition alive, I routed a small group of people on a dead-end climb that we had to backtrack down to eventually get us to Gibraltar Road. It wasn't a huge extra bit...but Eddie wasn't pleased at the extra mileage. I know if Greg had been there (had to work, along with all the other guys) he would have been happy to have extra mileage and climbing. I guess that also runs in the family...I just figure that I got in EXTRA warmup before we hit Gibraltar road proper.

There were groups of people on the side of the road all the way up...some areas not much, others were little TDF style villages. The climb on Gibraltar road actual (once you get up to it) is 10k. At about the 4k left spot there was an Amgen sponsored village area with a jumbotron and live broadcast...looked like a fantastic place to be if you weren't going to the top. But the top was the goal, and quite honestly I had a banner day. I set a new Strava PR on the climb, only it didn't actually give it to me. You see, the finish line was set up just a VERY short distance from the end of the climb even tho I had a "moving time" of 53 minutes and 15 seconds, my "segment" time for the climb was over 2 and a half hours (the entire time I was at the top). And I believe my actual time was even faster than that, as I was routed off the road a good hundred yards from the finish and onto the right side of the barricades, in the dirt (where I had to walk carrying my bike). I bet that took at LEAST 2 or 3 my TRUE (but un-official) PR on Gibraltar climb is now around 50 minutes...sadly STRAVA still only recognizes my old PR of 1 hour and some odd seconds.

ANYWAY...enough on that. Here are some pics I took of the day.

 The only time I put a foot down on the climb was to get a quick shot of the 1k kite. I think the racers would be even more happy to see it than I was (I was climbing great actually and was really enjoying the day).

 Here's my spot at the finish. I'm actually much closer than this shot looks...if you count people along the barricade to the line, I'm sitting at about 15th. The camera makes it look much farther. And as usual, I have a dorky look on my face...(it's so bright I can't even see my camera this shot was 'in the blind').

 Do you recognize the man in the middle/bottom? It's Jensie of course!! He's the man for SURE!

 And here comes the stage winner: Julian Alaphilippe of Etixx-Quick Step.

 And here he is a meter or so from the line, quite happy to be there. Moments later he raised both arms in the air in victory. 

 And here's the man he stole the victory from: Peter Stetina of Trek. He looked to have it locked until Julian jumped over to him in the final kilometer. I was rooting for him to hold on and win...but it just wasn't to be.

And then there were the other hundred or so riders that I didn't take pictures of, until FINALLY the grupetto rolled up to the finish.

Here's the Grupetto crossing the line, almost 22 minutes down from Alaphilippe. I think that is one happy Grupetto to have this stage over with!

And that does it for my ONE DAY reporting on this years Tour of California. Tomorrow they start up in Morro Bay (not very far, about 40 miles) but the start isn't really that interesting, and the finish is all the way up in Monteray at Laguna Seca raceway. I'm only sad that I don't have NBC Sports channel to watch the daily broadcast. I herd Phil's voice when I passed the jumbotron at 4k, was wondering who had the call. But I didn't get to hear who is with it Paul, Bobke, somebody else? Just curious.

Anyway...that does it for your once-a-year roving reporter. It was a nice day, and shy of crashing, I'd have to say any day riding is better than any day working. 

Later gaters!


Saturday, May 14, 2016

It's THAT time again!

Yep....spring classics are in the rear-view-mirror, and the Giro is ALREADY underway! And the Tour of California starts SUNDAY!

I am taking Tuesday off, as the stage ends in Santa Barbara (about 75 miles away) on the top of the Gibraltar climb. I will be THERE at the top for the finish...woo-HOO! Put out the word that I'm going, and only 1 taker to ride with it will be Eddie and I taking the day off of work to watch BIKE RACING!

I'm having a hard time getting jazzed about the Giro, as once again I have NO TV coverage. I was hoping to up our satellite package for NBC sports (cuz they are showing daily stages) but it just costs too much. Sad that I can't get just the ONE FREAKING CHANNEL I WANT without paying for an entire sports package upgrade! I HATE THAT PART of  the TV biz. I've got 300 channels I think, and we only watch about 15 channels out of all of those...the rest are crap flung into the package to fill it so it SEEMS like we are getting something for our money.

ANYWAY...enough bitching...I'll get NBC Sports in July like always. So I'll just have to READ about the stages every day like I do every year.

Cool that Jensie will be here...assume he'll be hanging around at the finish....maybe I'll see him and if I'm REALLY lucky get a pic w/ him...we'll see.

I've been meaning to drop a new post for about 2 weeks now, but it just seems like it's always something...(that's just a lousy excuse...I look over at Bike Snob NYC and he posts really some really good stuff pretty much 5 days a week...he's my HERO for sure! I just don't know how he does it). Fatty has really been slowing down lately (a lot going on in his life...and he JUST got a new job), and Jill (and Beat) have moved to Boulder Colorado (LUCKY DUCKS!!!) ...the view from their house is to DIE for! They are truly in outdoor-sports HEAVEN! I'd never get Jeannie up there even to visit...I've never even been able to coax her to visit when I'm working in Colorado Springs....(and I have MONTHS of work coming up there later this year...likely starting in the August time frame). I'll be shipping out my old mountain bike and leaving it there, and it sounds like we'll be doing 3 weeks there, 3 weeks home...etc etc, until all the work is done.

My work has been quite busy, and as of Monday I'm being moved to a different building/job (my boss calls it "cross training"). Not real happy about it but I have no choice, and it is what it is. He thinks that he can shift us all around to different areas (I work electronics btw) for a few months and then anybody is qualified to do everything. In a perfect world where everybody has photographic recall that would be great. However my 2 remaining brain cells are working overtime just trying to stay I don't have a lot of hope of retaining too much of whatever I learn over the next few months.

But enough on that. Tomorrow. Tomorrow begins the Tour of California! That means SUMMER is right around the corner! Gosh...whatever happened to SPRING? I missed it again!

I'll post more after Tuesday's stage, and hope to have pictures of the finish. Until then...keep the wheels spinning and the rubber side down!