Thursday, June 18, 2009

Going to the dentist

I spent almost two hours in the dentist’s chair yesterday morning. I did not start to feel even semi-ok until 1:00pm. What an ordeal! Prep with nasty minty gel, more than just one injection, rooting around in my mouth, grinding here grinding there, drill drill drill, slimy pasty stuff, bite down on this, then that, one more time please and some more bitter stuff, thank you $770.00. In fairness to the dentist, this was for two complete crowns in progress.

Is it any wonder that people have a phobia about going to the dentist? I guess some people just don’t go, maybe I should give that a try. Alas my teeth and the rest of my body do not seem to be on good terms. I’ve had way too many root canals, definitely more than is healthy for any individual. My dental x-rays are scary, it looks the Mississippi Delta in there with all the little canals spreading out beneath practically every second tooth. And one more imminent.

On to more pleasant news. I am down 3.3 lbs this week. Some of it no doubt water weight as I have been sweating it out the last couple of days with the Striders, with first a hill workout Tuesday night and then yesterday running about 5 miles on the infamous (up and down like crazy!) Ho Chi Minh trails at Memorial Park here in Houston. All in temperatures well into the 80's. But I'll take it - haven't weighed in at 155 since probably college days, 35 years ago...

I am waiting for my long-lost abs to make an appearance, I know they are lurking there at around 150 lbs... Last seen in public when I was (briefly) running track in high school in 1970, they are understandably a bit shy to see the light of day.

I purchased an Accu-Measure body fat caliper the other day. Tried it out a couple of times today and my body fat percentage appears to be about 22%. Looks like there is quite a bit of room for improvement!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A trip to the country

Kathleen and I took a short road trip into Central Texas last weekend, to Lockhart, an interesting small country town between Luling and San Marcos, south of Austin. Lockhart is known as the barbecue capital of Texas - it has four barbecue markets at least two of which, Kreuz' Market and Smitty's, are known far and wide amongst Texas barbecue afficionados. While in Lockhart, I certainly did not go around advertising the fact that I'm vegan. For all I know, vegans may not actually be allowed into Caldwell County... Vegan restaurants? You've got to be kidding. The only vegan restaurant in Lockhart last weekend was in our hotel room at the Best Western.

On Friday night, we strolled around Lockhart's famous city square, took a few photographs of the well-known Caldwell County Courthouse, and stumbled upon a local County Fair or carnival, just like you'd see in the movies.

The Caldwell County Courthouse in Lockhart, TX

Another view of the Courthouse

And a final one. The people lining up in the right foreground, was our 'clue' that there was something else going on in town. We eventually boarded a schoolbus at this spot, which took us to the County Fair at the Lockhart Municipal Park.

There are several interesting buildings in the historical area around Lockhart town square.

Other than the rides, a county fair is all about the food... Hot wings and sausage on a stick. Hmmm...

Candy apples, sno-cones, cotton candy - what more could you want.

If you have any small change left after all that food, you can lose it on the midway.

Wager a small fortune on the 'real' pot of gold at the end of the rainbow...

Only to win collectors' items like these super-realistic Bengal Tigers...

If you're a kid, you don't care that the boat doesn't float or can't steer. This is as much fun as a kid can have, especially with his grandparents looking on.

Kathleen and I almost got onto the merry-go-round ourselves, it looked like such a blast.

But first we had to go and get some corn dogs, french fries and onion rings. Just kidding.

The next morning (Saturday 13 June) we raced the Lockhart Kiwanis 5K, which was held at the Lockhart Junior High School a few miles out of town. Kathleen did very well, with both a PR and second place in her age group. My race was ok, but a finish time of over 22 minutes was well off my personal best time. Also, in a race with 10-year age groups, a 57-year old is at a distinct disadvantage in the 50-59 year old age group. Race directors really should get with the program and offer prizes & awards in 5-year increments, right up to 75+. Look around you at your next 5K race - there's a lot of gray out there.

The first dog to finish, and his owner.

Kathleen chatting to a Colorado Springs runner who went to school in the area, at (then) Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos.

The two of us after the race, after some fruit and cookies.

Kathleen accepting her age group trophy - a cowbell - from a race official.

Later that morning we returned to the Lockhart city square for the annual Chisholm Trail Parade. We were baffled at the inclusion of some of the 'floats' such as this cool pick-up truck.

There were many, many traditional floats like this one, complete with constantly waving princesses, and a chicken in the barn.

Yes a chicken. The young women's dresses were as colorful as the backdrops

Pretty much all the floats were colorful but this HEB one outdid them all.

Very very colorful

To the point of making the Caldwell County Courthouse look drab...

There were at least two Men on this float. No wonder the Republicans are in a quandary nowadays.

I always marvel at the guts it takes to appear in public in an outfit like this. Barbecue-loving Shriners.

A parade is not a parade without a clown. This was a parade.

Yet another float with a waving princess, first runner-up & second runner-up.

Making their way past the Caldwell County Courthouse.

This little group in the tuxedos and long dresses were hot. Temperature hot. It was well into the upper 80's by the time they floated around.

I have no idea what or whom this vehicle represented.

Although the driver did look like a sharecropper of some kind

With a goofy hat and a friendly smile

I think this float had something to do with shoes. Nice car!

And then, incongruously bringing up the rear, a parade of Corvettes, including this official Indy Pace Car.
Followed by several other 'Vettes, with one owner impatiently revving the powerful engine.

No blog entry about Lockhart is complete without at least one barbecue photograph. These two Smitty's employees retrieve smoked ribs, brisket and sausage from the smokers in the background and then chop them up into smaller pieces. Smitty's offers 'lean' cuts of barbecue, but judging by these guys' overalls, most of what they sell is definitely not lean.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Photographs from Memorial Day weekend in Florida

No I haven't dropped off the face of the earth - just suddenly got very busy at work - and running more at night, with the Striders. Hence less time to update the blog. Before it becomes history, I have quite a few photographs from Kathleen and my recent (Memorial Day weekend) trip to Anna Maria Island, on Florida's beautiful west coast.

We flew on Southwest to Tampa, picked up a rental car (A Corvette - I kid you not) and hit IH 75 towards Bradenton Beach. For once I would not have minded driving a little further. Had it not been for that annoying GPS voice - "... half a mile ahead, keep to the left and then take a right." Huh?

The Corvette is part of Hertz' 'Fun Collection'. They got that right. We spent as much time in our room as in the car... Sporting a six-speed paddle shift transmission, the ZHZ makes the most of the dual mode exhaust delivering 436 horsepower. Even a half-assed car enthusiast will get a kick out of firing up that baby (it is keyless) just to hear the throaty growl of its 6.2L v8, complete with performance exhaust. Its impressive features are wrapped inside a uniquely packaged Corvette that features Hertz’s iconic yellow and black, colors that have a storied past in sports car history.

No I did not get a ticket but could have, and for once would not have minded. Adjust the lumbar support in the low-slung leather seats, select 'Sport Mode', brace yourself and press down on the accelerator... Better hang on to the steering wheel or you might end up inside of a La Madeleine Restaurant, as a Hertz client did a while ago, in Dallas. Be sure to sign up for the optional insurance. It was a total blast!

The Corvette in which we tooled around Bradenton Beach, FL

Another angle on the Hertz Corvette ZHZ

As for Anna Maria Island, it was just as advertised: 'old-time' Florida, with friendly people, a slow pace, quiet and peaceful with beautiful, family-friendly beaches. Sort of the anti-Miami: none of the glitz, no highrise condos, high-dollar hotels or ripoff prices. Not too many vegan restaurants (how about none...) but I made do perfectly fine with the local eateries including a couple of Italian places, one of which -Da Giorgio - was excellent. We also tried Bones Restaurant (a curious mix of barbecue, Caribbean Island cuisine and some Indian vegetarian dishes) and a Cuban-Mexican joint in Bradenton. All good and reasonably priced.

Other than cruising around in the 'Vette, we spent most of our time on the beach. And what a beach! Fine, clean white sand, nice cool water with pretty decent-sized waves, and all the space in the world to explore for shells, run, fish, sail, surf, ride the waves, play or relax. We even signed up for a local 5K on Saturday morning - Sammy's Run, and it turned out to be one of the best organized 5K's we've ever run. The runners were faster than we had anticipated: we both came in 5th in our age groups. Awards were given 6 deep so we were in luck: hardware 2 weeks in a row!
Part of our 'efficiency' room at Tortuga Inn, on Bradenton Beach. We really liked staying there and we're already planning a return trip. Maybe even a family reunion.

The efficiency apartment had a full kitchen with fridge, stove with gas burners, microwave - the works. We didn't cook a lot (other than my breakfast oats, some toast etc.) but next time we will be sure to plan on it.

Anna Maria Island has several restaurants which sell excellent locally made ice cream. Kathleen is quite the ice cream connoisseur...

Famous St. Armand's Circle between Longboat Key and Sarasota.

The recession has not had much of an impact on the shoppers at St. Armand's. They were out in force. And the restaurants were crowded - especially Columbia, a large Cuban restaurant.

A yacht basin just off Sarasota Bay

This luxury catamaran - 'Africat' - no doubt has a South Africa connection

A restaurant alongside the yacht basin

A pocket park on Sarasota Bay

Kathleen at the Sarasota waterfront

And yours truly

Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island

Late afternoon on the beach

Definitely family-friendly

The dachshunds spotted something interesting in the surf

A colorful beach bungalow

We watched these guys fish for hours and they did eventually catch a few fish.

But mostly they were just casting and reeling in.

These two girls had other fish to fry

So much sand and shells, so little time...

Oh well let's go for a walk

I think I see something...

The sunsets at Anna Maria Island are almost all gorgeous, we were just not around for them, most of the time.

Plenty of action offshore

And closer in. The beach lends itself pretty well to running, especially when the tide is low. Further east on the island there is a 'jogging' trail as well.

Kathleen getting some competition in the shell-collecting game, from a young visitor

Can a kid have more fun than a day on the beach? I doubt it.

Even grown-ups smile spontaneously in a place like this

Thanks to John King for the head's up about Anna Maria Island!