Sunday, August 13, 2017

Light at the end of the tunnel (and my eclipse pics)



So the Tour is over. Boo hoo (no, seriously).

Being as I have nothing to replace it with (on TV that is) I've started riding more, which is a GOOD thing. You see, every year I seem to have a mid-summer slump, my annual riding doldrums, where for whatever combination of reasons (ie: excuses) my fitness declines to an almost embarrassing point. And every year I have to work REAL HARD to get back to where I was around the end of April. I'm in that part of the year right now...my annual 'comeback'. 

I've upped my riding from 2 or 3 days a week to 5 days a week the last few weeks. Before that (just a few weeks ago) I couldn't BUY a PR on STRAVA. If you don't know what STRAVA is, it's a free online site where you upload your Garmin (or any other brand of GPS ride-track), and in a nutshell the site compares me to me (and also everybody else who's ever ridden any portion of what I just rode). A "PR" is a "Personal Record" (personal best). Any ride is (can be) broken down into "segments". Segments can be made by anybody on Strava. A segment can be anything...a climb, a portion of a climb, a downhill, a flat, an entire ride, you name it, it can be a segment (tho there is a minimum distance, anything too short is too difficult to accurately time using GPS). 

Then when you upload a ride-file, STRAVA compares that ride to it's enormous database of ALL segments it contains, and gives you times for all your segments along with any PR's, and also 2nds or 3rds (your personal 2nd or 3rd best) and also 'cups' which is the overall top 8. This overall part is mostly for the REAL riders...they call it the "leaderboard", which is an all encompassing list of 1st thru whatever for every segment...first place is the highly coveted KOM/QOM for that segment, and then it goes down the individuals placings for every person who's ever ridden that segment (note: you only get your best time in the leaderboard...when you set a PR your old one is deleted and your new time is your spot on the board). 

I actually have TWO comebacks every year...the first is right after THE HOLIDAYS. By the end of January I'm typically deep into my 1st comeback. And by February/March I'm constantly setting PR's on rides. That is a good thing. It means that I'm STILL getting faster (which considering my age is an amazing thing!) For a former pro rider it won't be such a good thing...as they'll never again be as fast as they were in their pro career. I think if I were an ex-pro I'd create an alias STRAVA account every few years and start over...considering that as THEY age they will likely just get slower and slower, not faster and faster. But being as I am and always have been a total recreational rider (who got into cycling later in life) I have almost nowhere to go but up (for a little while longer anyway...at least I HOPE that is the case). 

Another wonderful part of STRAVA is that it's much like Facebook (only better)...in similar fashion, you can search for people and then 'follow' them, and then they can 'follow' you (for someone to follow me they have to request it, and then I get to approve or not...so people I don't know or like can't just start following me, and vice versa). So in a nutshell, everybody who is following me will see every ride I upload (unless for some reason I make a particular ride 'private'...which I don't know when I'd ever do that, but during every upload I have the option to make that ride 'private').

On a side note: some Pro's upload their rides to STRAVA and allow us mere mortals to follow them...TJ is one, and Nate Brown of Cannondale is another. I'm following both. Every stage of the recent TDF Nate posted his ride! How awesome it was to look at a pro's STRAVA file for all the TDF stages!

So....STRAVA not only allows me to compare ME to ME on every single ride I do, but it also adds PEER PRESSURE into the mix. Everybody I'm friends with (who is "following me") will see all of my rides. If I really stink up the road/trail, they will see that. However if I have a 'smokin hot' day, they will see that too. And another cool thing of STRAVA is that you can then make comments on other peoples rides (such as "WAY TO GO, you were ON FIRE today!") It's always a wonderful feeling to get nice motivational comments from your riding friends! The other thing STRAVA does on that line of thinking is 'kudos'...which is very similar to a 'like' on FB...you click a button and that person sees you gave them a 'kudo'. Yeah...kudos' are lame IMO...give me a comment or nothing...kudo's are just lazy. If the ride was plain and no real accomplishments were made, then there's nothing to say. But when I do a LONG HARD RIDE, I'd appreciate MORE than a kudo. SAY SOMETHING! 

I don't look at STRAVA every day (but I should)..but after I do a ride and an upload I then go back thru to see what I've missed, and make appropriate comments to my friends. For instance, after today's ride I went back and saw that Fatty, his wife Lisa and my friend Dave Thompson all posted their Leadville rides (and EVERYBODY knows about Leadville, right?) If you're not really up on Mt biking races, Leadville is the Paris/Roubaix of mt biking races. It's 103 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing...AT ALTITUDE (the Columbine Mine road goes over 12,000 feet, and the top is the half-way turn-around-point of the ride). 

The 2017 Leadville Trail Invitational went down yesterday (Saturday, Aug 12th). Fatty and his wife Lisa were SMOKIN HOT (as usual)....BOTH coming in with a total elapsed time of UNDER 9 hours! My friend Dave (who has now ridden Leadville about 4 times I think) JUST MISSED the highly coveted "SUB 9 HOUR RIDE"...he got an official time of 9:06. You get a special belt buckle if you make sub-9. Fatty and Lisa (aka Hammer) did it on Singlespeeds...(AGAIN). THAT alone blows my mind...ONE FREAKING GEAR, and they ride it faster than about 95% of the OVER 1200 people out there. Lisa holds the womens SS record. Fatty WON the SS division a few years back. 

Lisa's son and daughter both raced it this year...her son finished (which is an AMAZING accomplishment for ANY cyclist...if you're riding too slow they'll pull you off the trail). I still haven't heard about her daughter...if something happened (crash, whatever) or if for some reason the system just didn't get all her 'stats'...I've called up her bib number a few times and it doesn't say "DNF" (Did Not Finish), has no finishing time, and it's missing the checkpoint info from about mile 60 to the end. So I'm still waiting to hear about her..she's in college now, and routinely rides with the 'boys' at school, continually giving them a real education about getting 'chicked' (what it's called when a guy gets beat by a girl). 

This was Fatty's 21st consecutive year of racing Leadville, and his 20th finish (he crashed out the year his wife Susan died, which had happened about a week before the race). 

Hmmm..so now I seem to forgot where I was going with this. OH..right...MY COMEBACK! (what a side-track that was, eh?) And so...I've started setting PR's again (HOORAY!). Not as many as I would like, but it's a real mental help to start setting SOME. When you do a few rides with ZERO PR's, 2nd or 3rds, that is really a slap in the face. And everybody will see that you sucked...again. So STRAVA is truly a wonderful motivational tool. Sometimes you just don't really feel it, but then you know that if you slack off, everybody will know that. Nothing gets you more motivation to ride than knowing everybody will see it and be able to analyze it and see just how horrible you did. 

So STRAVA is once-again fueling my annual comeback. Riding 5 times a week is paying dividends fast...by Sept/Oct I will once-be at the razors-edge of my capabilities, setting lots of PR's on every ride. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm headed there fast. And confidence is like money, it takes money to make money....and it takes confidence to GET confidence. When you're down and can't BUY a PR, one fine day things will align and for one ride (or segment) everything comes together and I suddenly get a PR. Getting a PR out of the blue. When you've been in a drought of PR's, it only takes ONE to give you a well-needed boost of confidence. And then suddenly you get another...and another...which totally amps up your effort fueled by confidence. And before long, you're back on that razor's edge of your fitness. 

And that's a REALLY WONDERFUL place to be. 

I'm not there yet, but I think I can see it from here. There IS light at the end of the tunnel, and it was ME who switched it on. I've found my mojo again. 

Here's to you finding YOUR mojo in whatever it is you do.      

Cheers!                 

Quick addition from THE MONDAY SOLAR ECLIPSE. These are the shots I took w/ my cell phone looking thru a set of the eclipse glasses. I took a bunch, but most were just blobs of light...these 3 showed what we saw....they aren't necessarily at 'full' eclipse (here in Calif we only got about 65%). But it was still pretty cool...can't even imagine how awesome the totality zone was (my little bro drove his family from Houston into Nebraska and saw it ALL!).

Anyway...here's what I saw:



 
Keep in mind we had clouds and we only got to see this much briefly as the clouds were moving.  I have no idea why they background is different in all 3 shots...I really couldn't see much as I was using my phone to block the sun as best I could (still QUITE bright mind you) so when I saw a blob of light in my screen I took the shot). And we were sharing the ONE set of glasses with about 15 of us...but still I was very appreciative that one of our guys had a set (I was going to use my cereal box viewer but that was nothing compared to looking AT IT thru the glasses).

Hope your viewing was as good or hopefully BETTER! 7 years from now I'll be on the east coast and MUCH closer to a totality zone (I hope) and will drive to see it ALL myself. At least I hope so. We never know where we'll be in 7 years.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Post Tour thoughts

And it is done. Boo hoo for SURE! Now what am I going to do with all that time?

Here are some of my final thoughts...I'm sure I'll have plenty more in the coming days. Rae, thanks for mentioning that Uran used to ride w/ Sky...wow...I completely forgot! Just another one of those REALLY talented guys who FINALLY went off on his own. They still have at least 4 guys who could be contenders, likely more. Only know of them losing Landa for next year...tho it wouldn't bother me a BIT to have them lose a few more and bring Sky down from the rafters and bit closer to the other teams (that don't have Yankees budget). Froome even WITH the super team this year wasn't unbeatable, he looked quite human for a change! And look how close it was! 29 seconds for TWO guys at the end of Stage 19? And just imagine if Porte hadn't crashed out (and taken out Martin), WOW...in some alternate universe maybe one of those guys won it this year!

But alas, it is what it is and Froome has #4. As to the green jersey and the final sprint today, missing the sprinters Cav, Sagan and Kittel really changed THAT game. Anybody think Mathews would have won those sprints earlier and taken the Green Jersey otherwise? Not so sure the lotto guy (can't even remember his name and I'm feeling too lazy to look it up) would have won today. But hey...they aren't here and his name is forever etched into the record books as winning THE BIGGEST stage of all. Can't take it away from him (well, they CAN if he gives them a reason...they took away a few WINS from other people, some they didn't give to ANYBODY cuz there's like nobody to give them to).

As to the mountains, it was nice to See Barguil in the Polka dots...he really earned that jersey! And winning on Bastille day was HUGE! And then the white jersey to Simon Yates...won by his TWIN brother Adam LAST year? Whoa....that's just CRAZY! I don't have anything to add to that...what are the odds?

And then we have all the crashes. Starting with Stage 1...Valverde. Does anybody else think that Froome MIGHT NOT have won if he was in the race and healthy? He was having a SPECTACULAR year...and w/ Quintana NOT having a great race starting from Stage ONE (pre-tired from the Giro?), obviously V would have been THE MAN to support pretty much from the get-go (he's certainly a better TT'er than Q). Having him AND Porte in the race all the way to Paris? With a HEALTHY Dan Martin? And THEN add in Uran and Bardet?? Oh man, THAT would have been the dream race. All those guys taking turns attacking Sky...I don't think even this super-team could have handled that. NEXT YEAR for SURE!!!!!

OK...I'm tired (gee Matt...why? Oh...you've been staying up LATE watching Tour stages for the last three weeks maybe?) It's time for bed...4am comes EARLY. I can now get my sleep caught up, AND get back to bike riding again....by the end of the Tour ever year I'm always at my worst form for pretty much the entire year...and all my hard/long spring rides and the form I HAD in late April is wiped out from May, June, July's very limited saddle time. So the comeback is on (again). Every year I say to myself "self, let's NOT lose our form this summer...we've worked SO HARD to get it"...and then one excuse after another and suddenly I SUCK in July. But it was fun watching the Tour as always.

OK...NOW I'm off to bed. Goodnight all.

Viva le Tour!

Cheers!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

le Tour, the final 7 stages

Here we are, fully 2/3rds of the way thru this years grand debacle. We've got a very tight grouping of FOUR GUYS for the GC win...29 seconds! That's amazing, and I can't ever remember such a thing since I've been watching. Knowing this means this final week could very well promise some extremely exciting racing! And on the 'glass is half empty' side, boo hoo! We ONLY have 7 stages left! In a blink of an eye it will be over and the PTD (Post Tour Depression) sets in.

I'm still "bach'ing it" as Jeannie is back east on her annual 'girls vacation' (which we both have decided July is a good time for her to do that, as she can't STAND to hear P&P, and for 21 days that's all we have here in July!) So this works out best for both of us...I have unlimited TV time w/ the boys, and she is out having fun w/ friends and family and MISSING the entire Tour...it's a good system!

For a bit of catch up, Cal Fire has our local fire totally under control...I think they're calling it 95% contained, meaning they still have some crews putting out/watching for hot spots, but the rest of the OVER 2 THOUSAND 'boots on the ground' crews have been moved to other fires (about 30 to 40 miles south east we have the Whittier fire which is still going like mad....it's down by Lake Cachuma). On Friday afternoon I could see the huge smoke plume from that fire when I drove out to the base to pick up my muffins n stuff  (it was my 'every other Friday off, and I'm still fundraising for World Bicycle Relief so needed to gather my goodies and put them in the refrigerators for the weekend,  and then go to get groceries at the commissary). On the Alamo fire (the CLOSE on) they had all those ground troops, 5 aerial 'slurry' bombers, and 5 water-dropping helos. It was the biggest fire in California for a few days. I rode my bike on Friday morning on Santa Maria Mesa rd (runs east/west just below the base of some of the scorched hills)...they hadn't yet opened up Tepesquet Canyon Rd (which the fire crossed before they got it under control) but it is back open to the residents to start moving back in.

And speaking of the Alamo fire, here's a panorama I made looking over some vineyards at some of the hills that were burned (this fire burned 30,000 acres). You can see the hills are black starting on the left and going about 2/3rds across to the right, where you can see hills that are still 'brown' and didn't burn. Just a bit to the right of the not-burned hills is Tepesquet Cyn rd that goes north into the burn area (which I hoped to ride but isn't yet open to the public). I'm on Santa Maria Mesa rd (goes east/west) heading back into Santa Maria (west) where I took these pics.


OK..enough on the fires. This weekend I DID manage to replace the entire suspension on my old 2003 Jetta wagon...it has 260,000 miles on it, and the suspension was still stock (meaning that it was LONG GONE). I didn't realize how bad it was as it slowly degrades over time and you really aren't aware of it until you put in new stuff. HOLY COW! I'm suddenly NOT bottoming out on small rocks and dips in the road anymore! But I have to say, what a huge PAIN changing out those McPhearson Struts are in my garage without a lift and a full professional set of special tools (I was able to 'borrow' the spring compression clamps from Auto Zone thankfully, instead of BUYING them). But I got it done..whew! The rear shocks and springs were rather easy in comparison (did those on Friday afternoon). But it's all good now, and I installed a nice Koni set w/ lifetime warranty (not sure Koni realizes that I may take them up on that in another 10 to 15 years when they get a letter asking for free replacement struts/shocks as I hope to STILL have my car!)

Weather is pretty good here of late (summer time).I was able to get in a nice road ride yesterday morning w/ my local Cycle Star crew (Cycle Star is a local bike shop about a 1/2 mile from my house). Scott Clark is the owner and he hosts a Saturday morning ride every weekend right from his shop, where he welcomes riders of all abilities. He really caters to the newer riders, teaching them the basics of group rides as they increase their skills and learn how to ride in a group. He's a FANTASTIC rider (used to race, and is STILL one of the stronger riders in the entire area). The more advanced riders always get plenty of time to 'play' on all the climbs and descents, and we frequently regroup so nobody is ever left in the 'wind'. ON longer rides he always has shorter loops available for the newer riders that aren't capable of the longer distances. Anyway, here's the group photo one of the guys took on top of "Rim Rock", a local 20% grade section (after the stage where Froome lost the yellow the other day he wanted everybody to realize how HARD a 20% grade is, so he took the group on this loop....NICE!).


 I'm 4th from the left. Scott (the owner of the shop and host of the weekly ride) is in the middle, 7th from the left. The guy on my left (in the red/black kit) is Tony G, probably the best mechanic in town (he works over at Main Street Cycles, our local Trek dealer...Cycle Star sells Cannondale and Giant). Tony is a big guy and as such isn't a fantastic climber, but boy, get him on flats, rollers or downhills and he's FANTASTIC! (and on a mt bike he's an absolute DEMON descender!) On our way back into town Tony split the group (as usual) as he can really plow into the wind like nobody's business (he claims it's all 'the bike' as he rides the new Trek Madone aero road frame w/ the sweet Bontrager deep dish carbon wheels...benefits of working at a bike shop). I was one of the guys 'caught out' by his acceleration as our group fragmented, and had to soldier on alone to the next regroup point. Like Aru, I should have been closer to the front, knowing he was going to go fast.


And that's a wrap from here. Time for me to go watch the current Stage (15). Go Bardet and Martin!!

Viva le Tour!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Tour Talk, week 2

Good Saturday morning to you all! It's been a rather tumultuous ride during the first week to say the least. Stage 8 is underway as I type (I'm sitting here w/ the stage on the telly and a nice steaming cup of joe). P&P just talked about the finish of yesterdays stage, "the closest finish in Tour history". They showed the picture they used to determine the winner, and I just don't see how they can say either rider won. The red line looked exactly the same, touching each tire IMO...I personally think it should have been a tie...there's a first for everything. The person Paul talked to said they determined the time difference as .0003 seconds. That's three Ten-THOUSANDS of a second. I'd personally call that a tie. I think BoasHag got gypped. Just my 2 cents worth. And looking thru the 'what might have been' glasses, if BoasHag can get THAT close to Kittel, where WOULD Cav have been? I'd say he'd have won that one by a CLEAR margin. Again, just my 2 cents worth.

So...what's in store for us this next week? Tomorrow is a BEAST of a stage...three HC climbs. Today everybody better be saving themselves...got a huge breakaway today and a mini break from that. Not sure if the sprinters teams will throw away the energy to pull them back or not...time will tell. OK. I need to get back to the stage. Oh...on a personal note, we've got a fire about 8 miles north of us...it started Thursday afternoon and quickly blew up into 3000 acres. Not sure what it is now but the slurry bombers and choppers have been flying and our sky is totally occluded with the smoke, and outside it looks very serene...no sun, just a diffuse brown glow...very odd. And everything has a nice coating of ash...some pretty large pieces too, no wonder fires spread so very easily...large pieces of ash blow so many miles from the fire, how do you stop THAT?

And JD, is this the same Video you put the link to in your comment in the last post?  (I tried to open your link but got a screen saying something about it being ASO property and was blocked).


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4fnxsvaQVA

This is the one Susie mentioned...2 penguins, one passing, pretty darn funny! A very nice animal summary of the entire Cav/Sagan ordeal.

OK. Back to le Tour.

Game ON!

Sunday 7/9/17 update: we have had a fire burning since Thursday evening right outsdide of town. As of Friday morning it was at 3400 acres, Sat morning it was over 6000 acres, and it exploded to over 19,000 acres this morning, and the latest bulletin says it's now over 24,000 acres and only 10% contained. This fire is literally a few miles out of town, and is at and crossing Tepesquet Canyon Rd (which I did a road bike ride on a week ago Saturday, and is chock full of horses, cattle and other ranch animals and families). Here's a few pics from the local news:

 Satellite heat map of the fire as of EARLY this morning (Sunday). It's already much bigger now. You can clearly see the northeast side of Santa Maria. The fire started at the north-west end of the heat-map on Hwy 166 by a car (sparks I gather) and the winds have blown it south/south-east (our standard winds). 

This is a satellite shot showing the smoke blowing early yesterday (Saturday) morning. Santa Maria is under the intense smoke just after where it starts. The promontory sticking out under the smoke as it goes offshore is where I work: Vandenberg Air Force Base. I drove out to the base yesterday morning after it was apparent I was NOT going to do a road bike ride (due to it snowing ash in Santa Maria) and the base was also under the smoke, and there was tons of ash right at my parking lot. So no road ride yesterday at all.

This is a 3d heat-map (same time as the 1st one) showing the roads. The yellow line cutting thru the middle of the fields just below the fire is Santa Maria Mesa Rd (which we did last Saturday), and you can see at the bottom right of the picture where it ties into Tepesquet Cyn Rd (the yellow line going north at the right of the picture). If you follow the rd up the canyon you can see the fire is AT the road, and that was as of 12:30am...so it's likely crossed and is moving fast east/south-east. We've got a LOT of super-dry fuel as we had record rains this winter/spring, and now we have record fuel for what's shaping up to be a HORRIBLE fire season.

I'll update further as the fire progresses. Pretty crazy stuff for sure having a major fire (as of this afternoon the biggest in California) just a few miles from town.

Friday, June 30, 2017

What time is it? It's TOUR TIME!

Yes indeed....it's THAT time again. le Tour de France starts TOMORROW (1 July)! Jeannie just changed our DTV package so we now have NBCSportsHD channel. I was going to go for the NBCSports Gold internet package, but we have DSL (not very high speed) and we've had issues trying to stream video. However it would be nice to have an entire YEAR of NBCSports cycling broadcasts for the price of $39.99. I still might go for that, as it will let me watch the Vuelta in Sept, and all the spring classics next year as the cycling package expires June 30th next year.

But enough on that...on to le TOUR!

I have NO IDEA who to root for, haven't even LOOKED at the teams. I guess I'm hitting this year about as in-the-dark as I've been before the start of the race. I was actually still supposed to be in Minnesota but I was able to sneak out a week early (saved a week of my vacation time) as my mom's sister-in-law flew in the day I left. So I only used all my sick-time (I had 2 weeks).

So. Susie, I see you already have your party-pants on and commented on my old post (as I am SO slow in getting a Tour post up). You've got your guide and are ready to go...good on ya! I'm just showing up with the clothes on my back so to speak. But it's better than not showing up at all, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

OK...it's 10pm and I need to get to bed, as I'm getting up EARLY...why you ask? BECAUSE STAGE 1 IS ON, that's why! And I set the DVR to record the pre-show, and the pre-pre show (there were 2 shows before the stage tomorrow). I'll start getting my cycling fix in a big way. Jeannie will be quite sick of it by next Friday (when she flys back east on a girls vacation)...but after that I have Ca-rte-Blanche to watch le Tour till I puke. And then some.

So...off to bed. Back after the stage (sometime) to comment. Like tax season for the IRS, Tour Time is the busy season for my site of recent years.

Sayonara.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Tour Divide MTB race, furbaby pics, Minnesota calling

Hello...just a quick post before I fly to Minnesota to help care for my mom (TOMORROW morning, EARLY!).  There's a lot going on right now....the annual Tour Divide mtb race is underway...it started last Friday morning with the Grand Depart in Banff Alberta. It's a 2700 mile SELF SUPPORTED ride/race following the continental divide from Canada to Mexico. It has OVER 300,000 feet of climbing. The Mens record was set last year by Mike Hall, (I believe somewhere around 14 days) with a blistering pace of over 200 miles a day! The ladies current record was set in 2015 by Lael Wilcox, and she wasn't that far behind Mikes pace (albeit a year earlier). Nobody this year is challenging either record, but that doesn't mean that some of the riders aren't killing it, cuz they ARE! Here's a link if you are interested:

2017 Tour Divide live tracker

 I love following this race...it's just so INSANE! Most riders do well over 3000 miles as they routinely ride off route to get stuff, such as FOOD and WATER, or a place to SLEEP! (not everybody uses a sleeping bag..some actually plan on hotels the entire way). The fast people ride 20 hours or more a day. On a Mountain Bike! If you go to the link, up top you get the map showing all the SPOT locations of all the riders. Below that you see the altitude profile...looks a teensy bit intimidating if you ask me! Can you imagine getting up every morning after spending 20+ hours on your bike the day before, and the day before, etc etc, and to keep going? With NO HELP? You need something, you ride till you find it. Bike breaks, you fix it w/ what you are carrying or you carry/ride it until you can find a shop (you are allowed that). By the gentlemen's rules you're not supposed to render aid unless it's life threatening (ie: if I am carrying a part that you need, I'm not supposed to give it to you). Anyway....I find it so off the charts unimaginable that I follow the racers...if you click on their SPOT link's you get a quick blob of who they are, what bike they are riding and a bit more. But off to the right you can pick between all the race categories, and if you click on the riders there you get their full bio, including links to their web site if they have one. One of the guys (he's in the top 10 right now) is from Attascadero CA (about 70 miles away from me) tho I don't know him. Still fun to follow a local guy!

OK...enough on that. I have more pictures to post of our monsters.

 Our little darling napping on the top of the couch cushion. She likes to climb UP on things.


Just living the good life.


 Bonding (NOT) with PG. You have to give her points for trying.


 Snoozing in Jeannies good chair.


Now they're playing in Jeannies good chair.


 Oh look, we're just little angels!


 Abbey also likes to climb INTO things. Such as the pantry while Jeannie is cleaning it out.


 Nothing to see here folks, just move along and leave me with all this dog food! And can you show me how to use the can opener before you go?


 Some people call their pets "house plants". Here's Abbey imitating one.


It's like she's part cat sometimes. She loves getting up into the shelves for some reason.


 And here she's helping Jeannie clean the freezer.


 Sophie and Abbey napping ON MY LAP. Two cuties for sure.


Seriously, I wasn't snoring, was I? Really? Are you sure? I don't think I snore...not me.

And that's all the pics for now. As I said, I"m off to Minnesota for a few weeks...possibly 3 (my plane ticket has me coming home on 2 July, but if Mom is doing good I might come home after 2. We shall see and make the call at that time.

I will have my laptop with me, so I'll have connectivity to the world. Wish me luck...it's going to be an interesting trip. 

Later gaters!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day

Well....another Memorial Day has come and mostly gone...I'm still sitting here in a hotel in El Segundo (just south of LAX)...been here almost 2 weeks now. Our work here is almost done...we've finally got the spacecraft loaded into the container...so all that's left is to convoy the container to the aircraft and fly it home. THEN we transport it from the aircraft to the payload processing center and unload it. After THAT it's no longer our worry. Until then we have a VERY VERY VERY VERY expensive vehicle in our care. Of course I make it sound like no big thing to load it into the container, transport it, load it, unload it, transport it again and unload it again. It takes a HUGE crew of people working tons of hours for this all to happen...I'm just a small cog in a big machine.

Meanwhile, Jeannie left the babies in a friends care and flew out to Minnesota last Weds to help care for my Mom, who is undergoing chemo for stage 4 ovarian cancer (which was discovered back in early March). My brother Greg already was there for the first 3 weeks, Jeannie is doing the 2nd 3 weeks, and I'll be flying out on the 13th (I think) of June for 3 weeks. We are doing our best to help our Mom thru this ordeal. The fact that it's spread throughout her body is not a good thing, but other than a cough (from the cancer in her lungs) she was fine all along...it was the persistent cough that brought her in for testing. If anybody can beat this thing it is my Mom...at 83 years old she would tire out the Energizer bunny (seriously). The chemo is having an effect tho....(duh)...so right now she's not the dynamo she normally is...but that's certainly to be expected. Her chemo started a bit over a month ago...the first Friday she does a double dose (2 diff types) then the next 2 Fridays she does a single dose...then taken a week off and start the cycle over. This will go on for 6 months unless her oncologist sees a reason not to.

I've totally missed the cycling so far this year...I was HERE in the hotel for the Tour of California, that went right thru my back yard again (the Tepesquet climb last week). the day before that the finish was on Main Street Arroyo Grande...(15 miles away). And now the Giro is over...pretty much totally missed that...wasn't even reading much about it. Sounds like it was a real doozy tho. I do hope to catch le Tour...I should be flying home from my trip to MN on 4 July, just in time to up our satellite package and at least watch THAT.

The babies are all doing good...Abbey has an ear infection, but other than that is doing quite well. She has consistently gained just a hair over a lb a week. As of Saturday she was 4 months old and weighs right at 15lbs. I'm hoping she tops out a bit over 30lbs fully grown...but we will see soon enough. She is a real terror and just a joy to have around. And Sophie has TOTALLY taken her in as her sister/daughter...they play nearly all the time...and she is SO gentle with her, we couldn't be happier for that!

Anyway...that's the scoop from here. Just trying to keep my lips above water. I should be home by Thursday morning. I start working night shift tonight (working 12 hours...ugh) and will continue working nights all thru the 10th of June when hopefully we are all done with this mission. 

Cheers!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

It's all about Abbey

Wow....we had forgotten how much work a puppy can be. Sophie was 16 weeks when we got her over 2 years ago. Turns out there's a BIG difference between 16 weeks and 8 weeks. Abbey was (and is still) just a baby! Though she's growing up fast...weighed her today, she's now 14 lbs....so she's actually doubled her weight in the last 6 weeks (she's now 14 weeks old, still holding onto gaining roughly a lb a week). IF her weight gain holds with Sophie's (who was 23lbs when we got her, exactly half her adult weight) then Abbey should top out around 32lbs (as I assume at 16 weeks she will have gained 2 more lbs). That's not a bad size, still light enough to pick up...where-as Sophie is well beyond that and feels like you are picking up a boulder.

All is well with the babies, and Sophie has totally taken a role as 'protector/mother' to our little white darling. In fact, just yesterday Jeannie noticed that PG was barking at Abbey as she does whenever Abbey invades her 'space'...and for whatever reason Sophie charged over and made a 'move' at PG, pretty much showing her hand saying "don't mess with my baby". It was interesting...and it got us talking about what would happen if we were out in the yard and another dog came up to Abbey...IF Sophie thought there was any threat we are quite afraid she might just attack...she IS a bulldog and even though she is quite gentle to us and abbey, we're thinking all bets are off if she even THINKS her baby is in jeopardy.

That all said, I have a few more pics before I go (working all night tonight, then heading down to Los Angeles/El Segundo tomorrow night for work...be down there thru the end of May).

 Abbey just LOVES to TRY to play with PG, who absolutely WILL NOT play with her. That said, it's funny how whenever Abbey and Sophie are playing, she will typically be nearby 'monitoring'. Right now PG is throwing iron DARTS at Abbey AND us (as we are allowing it). You may not be able to see it in the picture, but that is TOTAL glare/laser-beams from PG's eyes at me.


 This is more like what we typically see when Abbey comes anywhere near PG...teeth, growling and barking. Lots and lots of teeth. But she's not yet bit her as far as we know...Abbey sure isn't afraid!


 Sophie and Abbey play....a LOT. And many times Sophie will lie down so Abbey can crawl/jump all over her. This is one of those moments...and Abbey takes full advantage of it and goes over the top.


 Another shot of Abbey TRYING to play with PG. And as always, PURE DAGGERS at me for allowing it to continue. Here Abbey is chewing on PG's foot. Moments ago it was all 'teeth'...I think she's just trying to vaporize me with her laser-beams at this moment.


 Being a terrier, Abbey LOVES to hide in/under stuff. Here she crawled under a pillow on the couch to nap. Though you can see she's peeking just a bit (hard to tell peeking from fully open eyes).


 This shot is actually looking straight down on my lap as they are sleeping. You can see how much Sophie LOVES her little baby...one thing's for sure: Abbey doesn't go very far alone.


And my final shot for this post: Abbey SLEEPING with PG (who is SO not happy with the situation). At least, that's what she wants us to think...we secretly think she likes the attention. Jeannie took this shot and said there are burn marks on the walls from PG's laser-beams!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

1 month with Abbey

As of today May 2nd) we've had our Wee Monster Abbey for ONE MONTH! She's been growing at the rate of just about a pound a week...she was 7 lbs when Jeannie brought her home back on April 3rd, and I when weighed her last Friday and she was 10 and 1/2 lbs and I assume she's over 11 by now. We're quite happy with our adorable little baby, but she is so far resisting the house-breaking part. I read up on Bull Terriers, and they are notoriously a bit more 'difficult' to train even though they are quite smart, as they are just so 'bull' headed. She's great in every other way, and I'm hopeful that she will soon pick up the good dooty-habits just by following Sophie and PG around, which she absolutely LOVES to do.

We have Abbey sequestered in the kitchen during our work days, as there's no way she will get the run of the house until she proves she can go outside on her own and do her business. Being as Sophie and Abbey are quite inseparable, we also keep Sophie with her during the work-days. I have put up a temporary wall out in the back yard cutting it almost in half...so PG has the one half via the usual doggie doors into and out of the garage, and Sophie and Abbey have the other half via the kitchen sliding-door-screen doggie-door I made. Then I made another movable wall that blocks the kitchen off from the rest of the house. Each morning before work I erect the walls with Sophie and Abbey in their safe zone, PG is on the other side LOVING IT (she's not really a big fan of Abbey running up to her jumping all over her and in general just being a puppy). But she's never bit or even snapped at Abbey, so we're thankful for that.

Sophie and Abbey play together a LOT, which is so wonderful! We've felt bad for Sophie almost since we brought her home...as she was a puppy ready to play, and PG is quite old and NOT much on playtime (when we first got Sophie we also had Sydney and Sweet Pea, both also quite old). Sophie is now about 2 and 1/2 years old, and is still very much a puppy, albeit a rather strong and large puppy (shes holding at 56 lbs). She's also a mother for Abbey when they aren't playing...she's always looking out for her, cleaning her, and is by her side at the slightest squeak. And when they play, even though Sophie outweighs Abbey 5 to 1, she's never yet even made her yelp...Sophie is in general quite gentle. Even when Abbey gets a total piranha lock on a cheek, ear or even poor Sophie's tongue, she just freezes until Abbey releases...never once snapping or retaliating for what is likely a painful bite with those super sharp puppy teeth! We're constantly amazed at how good they play together, and you can see how happy Sophie is having a playmate!

Anyway, here's a few more pictures from the last 2 weeks.


Here's a snoozing shot...she plays like mad and then just drops into a nap she's so tired.


In this shot I have a bowl of ice-cream (just outside of the camera view). This is MY view as I try to eat my ice-cream...what a bunch of moochers! They all LOVE ice-cream!


 This shot was just this Sunday as I was folding laundry. One moment she was standing up on the towels waiting their turn in the washing machine and peering into the dryer, and when I turned around to grab another armload to fold she was IN the dryer. She's very inquisitive and not really afraid of anything, including the vacuum cleaner! How many dogs can you say that about?

 
 I took this shot just this weekend. Sophie and Abbey were both totally tuckered out from playing and are napping on the couch. Sophie HAD her eyes closed but she heard me turn on the camera and peeked. Abbey is QUITE out of it, sleeping like the baby she is (now 12 weeks old).

 
 A few weeks ago I did a long Mt bike ride to check out some wildflower blooms that were going on out in one of our ecological preserves (I am allowed to bike thru it). This shot is just near my turnaround point, and is called Taylor Springs. The gate is for when ranchers have cattle (on the other side of the gate) so they don't get into the preserve land. That's my bike leaning on the gate, and in the background you can see the pens they have for the cattle (none in there THIS year thankfully!)

 
And here's a self photo I took a week ago when I did another long mt bike ride to check out some more of the big wildflower bloom in our Carrizo Plains. Due to all the rain we had this winter and spring it's been the biggest bloom we've had in a LONG time, and I thought I should check it out before it was gone. These flowers are about waist high, and it smells AWESOME!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Abbey Rose

For those who didn't know, 2 weeks ago we welcomed a new member to our family! Her name is Abbey Rose, and she was an 8 week old Bull Terrier (she's now 10 weeks old). She is growing FAST, gaining just about a pound a week (she was 7lbs 2 weeks ago, now she's 9).

A quick synopsis of HOW Abbey came into our lives: we have been looking for a female Bull Terrier for over a year now. They are rather hard to find, and none were going to be close to us. Then Jeannie (unbeknownst to me) found a breeder in Portland Oregon who had ONE left. She was planning on keeping her to show, but then another litter came along and she decided to let her go. Jeannie had been conversing with her a while, and had pictures and had let her know that we DID want her.

So 2 weeks ago Friday I get an email at work that Jeannie wants to go shopping up in the Bay area (about 4 to 5 hours north by car) with a girlfriend on Sunday. They would spend the night in the area and drive home on Monday. I of course said fine by me (what would I say, NO?) and on Sunday morning she was up early and was gone. We chatted on the phone Monday night, all was well with her 'shopping' (ha ha!) and I'd see her tomorrow after work.

So I get off work and go for a short mt bike ride in town, and get home about 6pm. Lo and behold, our family grew by one! She is the most darling little fuzzball you could ask for! All puppies are cute I admit, but there's something REALLY special about Bull Terrier puppies. Maybe it's the almost black slitted eyes, or the shape of their snout (curves OUT, not down like typical dog snouts). Or the ears? Or the tail? Hard to say, other than she is just ADORABLE! Jeannie REALLY surprised me, and WHAT a WONDERFUL surprise indeed!


Here is a pic of me holding her on the first day.
She's got an amazing personality: fearless and curious. She's not at ALL a whiny baby like some 8 week old puppies are apt to be (I mean, COME ON, she's only EIGHT WEEKS old!) As to fearless, she is NOT intimidated in the LEAST by Sophie, her 2 1/2 year Old English Bulldog BIG-sister (who weighs 56lbs, and is built like a large hunk of ROCK). One thing of note in this pic: Abbey's ears are still not standing up straight. Down at the bottom of this post are pics 2 weeks older and they are now up already. Gosh she is growing SO FAST! Some of the pics below are out of order (by her age) and you can tell by the ears: if they are standing up they are later than if they are folded down).

 Here she's attacking Sophie at her weak spots: LOW areas such as legs are her mainstay. She also leaps and occasionally catches a fold of skin on Sophie's face. Her teeth are pure puppy teeth: razor sharp like little needles. When this happens Sophie stops movement until Abbey releases. Sophie actually is quite gentle with her LITTLE sister!

Here Sophie and Abbey are having a tug of war over a small bone. Abbey always loses cuz Sophie knows her size advantage and uses it. She has pulled Abbey clear across the living room playing tug of war with toy animals or the rubber rings.

Another shot showing Abbey on the attack (going for skin folds, or sometimes an ear if she can get it)

Here you can CLEARLY see her size DIS-advantage. But she doesn't stop trying! That's not actually Abbey's feeding bowl (the middle one). She eats alone off to the side, under guard (by ME) so Sophie doesn't mosey in and steal her food.

Here's out WEE MONSTER after she's taken over PG's bed (PG is the Alpha, but hasn't YET bit or even nipped at the little scoundrel). PG barks when Abbey climbs in bed with her (letting us know her territory has been invaded by a little furry Alien) and then if we don't rescue her (Abbey)PG will finally get up and leave, finding a quiet spot to doze. PG is 15 1/2 years old, and is doing pretty well considering her HUMAN age would likely be over 100!

The WEE MONSTER snoozing. She's a pretty good snoozer typically!

More playing tug of war with Sophie (these are the rubber rings). 

Sophie and Abbey on the couch. They LOVE to play on the couch for some reason!

 Here's our little angel in the park playing. She LOVES grass, as I think all dogs do. Here she's poised to POUNCE on Sophie (who is just out of the picture). Sometimes she seems part cat!


 
 A closeup of Sophie at the park (she's been chasing her ball so her tongue is out just a 'bit').

 And finally, all our Fur-babies wishing you a VERY HAPPY EASTER! 
(you don't want to know how DIFFICULT it was getting this picture...let's just say herding 100 CATS would be FAR easier!)