Biking Begins

I know you have been waiting for the season to begin. I know I have. Me because I need the exercise and this is what I do. You so you can read about what my exploits (yea sure).

It started 5 weekends ago. Each of the first five rides were in unseasonably cold weather. Mid to upper 40s. I was cold from the moment I began to the moment I returned home. Typically I had on both tights and shorts, two shirts, a fleece and a jacket. Unfortunately when you want to be riding 100 in September it behooves you to start sooner rather than later.

The first ride was about 20 miles. I added a little each week. By the 4th week I rode in the neighborhood of 30.

For these first 5 rides I took my mountain bike. I have done this the last couple of years as my traditional warm-up. It normally serves two purposes. First, by starting with the heavier bike with the fatter tires I build up more muscle– I think– and then when I break out the road bike I fly.

The second, and more important,  reason is that I avoid the tyranny of the numbers. My road bike has a trip computer. I am constantly aware of how far and how fast I am riding. In one sense this pushes me to do better. On the other hand some of the pure joy of riding is lost. I curse my inadequacies when I am going too slowly or my legs give out before I complete the distance I intended to cover. It is truly tyrannical. For the first few weeks I just take it as it comes. I can’t judge myself because there are no numbers staring me in the face. I am riding because I like to ride.

This year there has been a third reason to use the mountain bike. It has been wet as well as cold and the wider tires help with traction.

Last weekend I rode twice. First in Philly and then on Sunday I broke out the road bike. I felt fast. Wouldn’t know for sure. The battery went out in my trip computer. I am sure I did close to 40. Weather permitting the first ride in June should be 45. You will find out shortly after.

I guess you already knew that.

P.S. (For those of you who might have read this last night when I wrote it.) Could not wait for June. Rode 45ish this morning.  First half into a strong wind. Felt Like a champion much of the way home with the wind at my back–until the last 3 miles. Ride wore me out. Took a 2 hour nap. Now I am heading for the couch.

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Planes And Automobiles

I always wonder if anyone cares to read my tales of travel woe. If you are one who does not, move on now.

Speaking of moving, I have done nothing but for the last 36 hours. I left my office at 12:45. Went to the airport, flew for 2+ hours to Dallas. Rented a car and drove  and a half hours to Pittsburgh, TX. Went to bed at the Holiday in Express In Mt. Pleasant– did you know that it is booked full every Monday through Thursday?

Woke up early today and had a 4 hour client meeting.  Back in the car to drive 3 hours back to the Dallas airport, waited awhile,  flew the 1.5 hours to Albuquerque, got a new rental car and drove the 90 minutes to Santa Fe. I have a one hour meeting tomorrow morning, drive the 90 minites back, get on a plane to O’Hare, drive home and if I am lucky I am in the house by 6 pm.

Its a wonderful life.

One More Block

I walked an extra block tonight and am glad I did. I am in Santa Fe tonight for the first time.  I am in the midst of the historic district looking for a restaurant. Not being overly hungry I decided on sushi. After awhile I saw a place on the fringe of the tourista area. I decided to walk an extra block to see what I could see.

I came upon Shohko-Cafe. the building was nondescript and that was the nicest building on the block. I had walked away from shops made to look like pueblos to, well, just buildings. I went in anyway.

Nice on the inside. A lot of just people. Just the way I like it. I am guessing that Santa Fe is like that. Kinda casual and eclectic. I sat at a corner of the sushi bar. I had a couples on both sides of me and I could see several of the tables and most of the people sitting at the bar. The food was very good and the people fascinating.

First the food. The sushi was fresh and delicious. The sushi chef, Kuni made everything look as good as it tasted.

The people. There seemed to be a large number of regulars. Several spoke limited Japanese to Kuni and one was fluent. None looked Japanese. Looking around the room The was a gut in his 40s with a black t-shirt and long silver hair in a pony tail. On my right was a couple in their 20s. The young man was some form of artist. Overhearing the conversation it seemed that he works with gold and is a musician. The young woman was telling him of how she wrote about him in her journal. The shared a shusimi combination which looked amazing. On my left was a guy who looked Hawaiian and his date/wife who had curly red hair.  They seemed to know Kuni well.

After they left, the cutest 20s couple took their place. She was slender, long, straight brown hair and was as cute as a bug. He had one of those week-long growth beards and a hat that made him look like a jazz musician from the 1940s. Straw, small, band, brim turned up all around. She was a vegetarian. Kuni made a vegetarian roll for her that was beautiful. We struck up a conversation. He was 3rd generation Santa Febian. He just got back from 3 years in Miami. He liked Santa Fe but complained that there was little to do for twentysomethings. He has been a regular at the restaurant since he was a kid. He knew the woman that owned the restaurant and her daughter who was also working there. Said that this was the best Japanese restaurant in town.

I like a place that through quality food and service has outlasted chains by cultivating a clientele. I like these small moments of interacting with people in the world.

Glad I went the extra block.

One Fine Day

Friday was my third and last day in Philly. I had been on a thousand client calls, given a speech and managed to have dinner with friends. I had needed to stay over an extra night for work because they had a client reception Thursday night and wanted our conference speakers to attend. And yet, I would have found some excuse to stay. On Friday I got to hang out with Sarah, Frank and Charlie at the world-wide headquarters of iFractal.

Sarah and Frank are the founding partners of this HR/communications consultancy. They run it differently than a big corporation. One of the things that makes them and their business special.

On Frank’s blog he often spoke of biking that he and Charlie would do. Often to Falls Bridge or further to the trendy Philly neighborhood of Manayunk. Given my love of biking I had wished for the opportunity to join them. On Friday, the fairy godmother granted me my wish. Here is how I spent one fine day.

Woke up at 8 a.m. How luxurious. packed showered and grabbed a cab across town. The day was sunny and as warm as most any day so far this year in Chicago.

Sarah and Shawn were just leaving for the firm’s favorite breakfast place, Frank was waiting on me. We start to gear up when Charlie walks in. I had heard about Charlie but other than a 5 second introduction the night before , we had never met. He decided he would join us which required going the few blocks back home. In the relaxed way of this day there was no clock to watch or schedule to keep. We rode when we were ready to ride.

The bike path out to Manayunk was beautiful. It follows the river. Unlike Chicago, there is topography that rises from the ground. The path itself was not hilly but some of the scenery surrounding it was. 8 miles out, a leisurely stop for a latte at what I am told is the best coffee place in Philly. It certainly was good. Just before we stopped i got to visit The Wall. This is a street that rises steeply and goes on for a few blocks. I made it maybe 30%-40% of the was before my legs gave out and my lungs began to cry. There is a professional bike race each year in which 10 loops of 12 miles are done and each loop includes The wall. Amazing.

Back to iFractal, a quick shower, some down time and then on to lunch. We went to a place–I think a current or former art  gallery. We sat outside in the sun and enjoyed a very fine buffet. A truly lovely setting. One of the best parts is that they knew Frank and Sarah by name. I need to find and frequent a place where they know me. I would like that.

The next couple of hours we hung out. That is where and when the look of 48Facets changes. It will change again. Watch for it. Unfortunately even the best days end. At 4 o’clock I headed to the airport and my Philadelphia adventure came to a close. But what a fine finish.

Lost In Philadelphia

lost. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved May 26, 2008, from Dictionary.com website

1. no longer possessed or retained: lost friends.
2. no longer to be found: lost articles.
3. having gone astray or missed the way; bewildered as to place, direction, etc.: lost children.
4. not used to good purpose, as opportunities, time, or labor; wasted: a lost advantage.
5. being something that someone has failed to win: a lost prize.
6. ending in or attended with defeat: a lost battle.
7. destroyed or ruined: lost ships.
8. preoccupied; rapt: He seems lost in thought.
9. distracted; distraught; desperate; hopeless: the lost look of a man trapped and afraid.

I had not pondered the many definitions of the word “lost” until the other night in Philadelphia, though only two of the above applied to that evening. It started as Shelly and I left a reception at a hotel and walked our way to Rouge, a restaurant on Rittenhouse Square

Walking with Shelly was like having a tour guide, only better. She noted the points of interest along the way and those that were elsewhere that I should make time to see.  For those unfamiliar with Philadelphia, there are the great historical sights from our country’s fomative moments, places of new culture (i.e. Art Museum) as well as sections of the city where they intertwine.  

We met our friends Frank and Sarah at Rouge. The four of us go back to a former employer. Though they were all in Philly and I in Chicago we had many overlapping interests and got to do some things together that bind you for life around those moments. Dinner as always was great food, great stories and great company.

So back to lost. Definition #8 applied to both my thoughts about Philly as a city as well as my time with my friends. For the evening I stepped out of my usual world and became lost in thought, preoccupied, rapt.  It makes for an exquisite evening.

Then came definitions #3. The weather was pleasant and I chose to walk back to my hotel. It was supposed to be a 15 minute walk, just like the tour with Gilligan and the Skipper was supposed to be 3 hours. Simple instructions. Walk to the corner, Walnut St. Turn right. Follow that to Broad St. Turn left. Find hotel. Somehow I missed Broad St. Earlier in the evening I had been told that Broad was 14th. All the other streets were numbered. Therefore when I started to see numbers in the single digits that would have been my clue except for one thing–I have no short term memory any more. I did not remember that Broad was 14th.

My hotel was across the street from city hall– a massive and ornate building with a statue of William Penn on the top. Hard to miss– for most.  I kind of knew that when I hit the building with the Liberty Bell that I was most likely in the wrong place.  But I forged ahead. At one point I mad it to water. It was time to turn around. Being a guy I chose to figure this out myself rather than ask for directions. I not only made it back but walked through several sections of town I would like to go back and visit. At no time did I feel unsafe.

My 15 minute walk took well over an hour. I went 12 blocks past Broad and 12 blocks back. Finally I was no longer lost.

 

Public Speaking

This past Thursday at  1:30 EST I began to speak. Unlike most of the times I choose to speak, I was standing up in front of a roomful of about 40 people who paid to attend a conference and decided to come listen to what my friend Shelly and I had to say.

We had 75 minutes to inform–and entertain. I made a short introduction, then Shelly did her thing and I followed. There is an old entertainment saying that goes something like, never follow an act with children or animals. Let me add one to that– or Shelly. She is a naturally captivating speaker. Audiences loves her. She comes across as smart, funny and sincere– because she is all that. As she tries to finish, she is being asked one question after another, I stand there off to the side with a growing sense of trepidation running through my brain faster than Marion Jones on steroids.

Before continuing this story lets go back in time. First of all I am an excellent public speaker. To quote Walter Brennan’s character in The Guns Of Will Sonnet, “No brag, just fact.”  Normally I do not worry about speaking in front of a group, I do, however, like to be prepared. I had planned to practice on Wednesday morning until some client work got in the way. I also had been coughing for a week and had dreams about hacking throughout the entire presentation.  And now I had to follow Shelly’s stellar performance.

Good news. It went well. Once I get rolling the only trouble I have is staying focused on what I had intended to say while a thousand ideas are going through my head sending me off on tangents that I may never recover from. Far too quickly it was over. Given time and a locked door I could have gone on for at least another hour or two.  

This was fun. I need to find ways to do it more often.

Jake’s For Philly CheeseSteak

I am in Philly for 3 days at a conference. Tomorrow I give a speech.

While in Philly I had to get a cheesesteak. None of the well known places is near my hotel so I asked the guy who parks cars where to go. He seemed like a local guy. He recommended Jake’s.

I walked the 4 blocks over to Jake’s and immediately sensed that this could be my kind of place. It was clearly a local hangout. Simple decor, a dozen or so tables. And then there was Jake.

Jake was a late 50s white guy wearing a white T-shirt that fit too tightly over a large gut. A 2-3 day stubble beard in the style of an older, crotchety guy– no McDreamy cool stubble, not Jake. A hearing aid was in his left ear.

His voice was low and not loud. When he spoke, he spoke “regular guy”. He did not take the orders, he had employees for that. He did, however hover over his people making sure that they were taking the orders and ringing them up correctly. Every once in awhile he would exhort the 4 guys in the open kitchen, right behind the counter where you ordered, to work faster.

He clearly cared about his patrons (my word I cannot imagine him using that word). As someone handed me my bag, he came over to check out that I had gotten what I ordered. As I waited for my food a long line of working folks came in to order food. This place was a joint in all the best definitions of that word.

The food was solid. Since I avoid wheat, and therefore no roll for me,  I had both a Cheesesteak Royal and some buffalo wings. The cheesesteak was tasty but nothing more. The sauce on the wings though was both unusual and great. It was mildly spicy but unlike anything you would find in Chicago. I am not enough of a food guy to even describe what the sauce was made of. I just know that I wish I had a spoon so I could get every last bit of sauce.

If you are ever in downtown Philly, stop by and say hi to Jake. It’s worth the stop.