Thursday, January 20, 2011

Alligator Alley

On an island in the sun
We'll be playing and having fun
And it makes me feel so fine
I can't control my brain

We'll run away together
We'll spend some time forever
We'll never feel bad anymore

When the plane touches down at your final destination it's always a good thing. When you spend an afternoon getting on and off a plane still attached to the terminal, wait on a flight crew to arrive and then spend time de-icing and waiting for the runway to be plowed, it's even sweeter. After a four plus hour delay I was really happy to land in Tampa, probably not as happy as half my plane who had endured being cancelled the day before. It wasn't exactly Florida warm when I arrived but it beat the hell out of what I had left behind.

First stop Wednesday morning was the quaint Tampa Bay Downs racetrack. There is nothing I enjoy more than a day at the races, sitting on a bench outside, soaking up some sun and watching the horses run. I think I lasted about 3 minutes or so 4 or 5 times I ventured out. It was in the 40's with wind blowing. It must have sharpened my mind a bit as I had a nice day at the windows.
I got to spend the afternoon with my Uncle John and Aunt Betsy who much like his father, my grandfather, is a horse owner/breeder. I try to forgive them for their undying loyalty to a certain school in Durham that they both matriculated from. However, I will take some solace in the fact that in the 36 hours or so we spent together Duke lost their first basketball game of the season.
After a day at the races, it was a two hour drive south to my parent's home in Venice Beach. I had not seen my parents in almost exactly a year. Way, way too long. I really love their house, love the little pool in the backyard, love sitting outside on the lanai, love seeing the sandhill cranes meander by, love watching the golfers as the play their shots into the green and on one occasion into the house. It is as peaceful a spot as I know. It's a very short drive to the beach. One of theses days I have to come visit in the warmer months and really take advantage of all that is near by....that or just move back in with them...just kidding mom. I am glad this trip was under better circumstances than the last one and happy to report that my father is hanging in pretty well and thanks to his dvr gets to see the end of all those basketball games he would fall asleep watching. We got one Terp win and one bad Terp loss on the trip, but it was sure fun to complain about free throw shooting together again. I wish I had taken a picture of the bed I slept in. It's been awhile since I spent a night in a twin bed. With my feet hanging off, and quite certain I would fall off the first time I rolled over it took me sometime to feel comfortable. In fact I think I finally felt comfortable when I was packing up. As always, I can not say enough about my Mom.
High on my list of things to do on this trip was eat seafood. Now I know that getting Maine lobsters in Florida is kind of defeating the point of getting fresh seafood from the Gulf... But it's lobster and I do love my lobster. We had the The Twin Lobster Shack steam us up 8 of these beauties. They were so sweet and so tasty, just like you would expect lobster to be. Jacky was so jealous of my lobster pic that we did it again when she arrived. So of the 5 nights I spent in Venice, 2 of them were surrounded by these yummy treats. I also had some shrimp, scallops, and grouper while on the trip.

Also high on the list was get outside, enjoy the sun and warmth, and get some exercise. I would love to say I got to play some beach volleyball on a 80 degree day with the waves of the gulf rolling in. But I did get to walk around the net while walking on the beach and collecting some rather cool shells. Just another reason to come back when it's warmer. I did hike the two bridges in town as well. They didn't seem quite as high as the last time I hiked them, and no one stranger stopped to see if I was okay or needed a ride. I consider that to be measurable progress :)

I got to do some laps in the community pool. It was a little cooler than what I was used to but I actually think the mid 80's is a really good lap temperature. Not another soul in the pool area the entire time I was there. Lot's of golfers zooming by in carts but peaceful, serene, and of course musical with my swimmp3 player on.

I am happy to report that I was not in violation of rule #14 when I used the pool. Shockingly there was no explicit rule against open puss oozing lesions, or projectile vomiting. Perhaps rule #14 could just be omitted under the common sense clause.

I spent one day driving 3.5 hours south down to Ft Lauderdale to spend the day at Gulstream Park. I hadn't been to Gulfstream since the late 80's when I was working at Hialeah racetrack. It has certainly changed. Completely rebuilt with a open air mall attached to it, a casino, a simulcast center, and loads of bars and restaurants. The weather was a little nicer, I got a little sun, and I gave back the money I made at Tampa. Spent a few hours that night at the Naples Greyhound track. I used the system of picking dogs that looked like my greyhounds. And even though both my dogs are within 5 lbs of their racing weight they sure don't look as skinny as these girls. The Florida greyhound tracks have all been given new leases on life thanks to the legalization of poker. I can promise you they are not pumping any of that money back into the facilities as they look like they did 30 years ago. Not that the 100 or so people paying attention to the dogs really cared. It was a pleasant night to sit outside and laugh at the people in Wisconsin at that moment. I also made a stop at the Sarasota greyhound track later in the week and so the same exact situation, an overflowing card room and a few handfuls of dog bettors. Not bad though for me. 4 tracks in 6 days is my idea of a vacation :)

The flight home was uneventful. Stepping off the plane was breathtaking as the temperature was freezing and I could see my breath the entire walk up the jetway into the terminal. I am home for just about 3 weeks and then off to Utah for a month. It's going to be a long week listening to Bears and Packers fans argue back and forth. But the NFC championship means only two week until the Super Bowl party. Lots to look forward to. Peace, Love and seafood, Jim

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sunshine State

You gotta grow, you gotta learn by your mistakes
You gotta die a little everyday just to try to stay awake
When you believe there’s no mountain you can climb
And if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time (next time).
Gerry Rafferty

One week into January, forty some bowl games watched, a new football coach at Maryland, a Republican house working hard to accomplish nothing but show, no real snow on the ground, a doctor telling me my knee seems mostly healed and my normal $125 bill costing me zero to hear those words, some really good movies watched, a plane ticket purchased for Utah and hotel reservations for March Madness, and most exciting to me, next week I get to be at my parents' house in Venice Beach, Florida.

So the "lazyman's" ironman triathlon we are doing is almost wrapped up. We have to finish by Monday and happy to report one of us is done and the other two will finish easily. I have 3 miles left to get done on the treadmill. I finished my 2.5 miles of swimming this week. I have a new friend at my gym, the exercise bike. I love it and have been spending more and more time on it. As of today I have done 190+ miles on the bike, and topped out Thursday doing 42 miles. 23.3 miles in 82 minutes and 18.7 miles in 61 minutes. My hamstrings hurt but mot as much as my butt. But truthfully it is a really good pain because it comes from pushing myself further than I ever imagined. This challenge has been really rewarding. I never imagined I would be writing I rode a bike for 42 miles. Thanks to my fellow competitors for inspiring me to keep moving.

I have seen some really good movies recently. I really liked True Grit. I loved The Fighter. And I thought I would hate The Black Swan but I didn't. True Grit is really well done and all 3 leads in the movie do a wonderful job. I was certain that it would be my favorite movie of the year, then I saw The Fighter. It's the best boxing movie I have ever seen. Christian Bale, who plays the brother to Mark Wahlberg's lead, gives the most amazing performance I have seen in a long time. You can pencil his best supporting actor Oscar in right now. And while I hate movies that mix reality with dreams and hallucinations (Inception), I thought The Black Swan did a manageable job of making it work. Go see all of them. My next movie trip is to see The King's Speech and I am really excited for it too.

The NFL playoffs start this weekend and that means only one thing....4 weeks 'til the return of the annual Super Bowl Party, which took a one year hiatus last year due to my Utah/CNBC adventure. And even though there has been a request to pare the guest list by the hostess, if you're going to be in Madison on February 6th, I will make sure you get in :)

I leave Tuesday flying into Tampa. Get to see my old college roommate that night and spend the following afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs watching real live horses run around in circles. I will be in Venice that night at my parents, whom I haven't seen in a year. Very excited. Plus my aunt is flying in and my uncle is driving in, my middle brother is driving in and Jacky is joining us on the weekend. It usually takes a funeral or wedding to get this many of together at one time. Happy that I get to see all family members.

Took today's blog song from the very talented but extremely troubled Gerry Rafferty. Best known for Baker Street, Right Down the Line, and Stuck in the Middle with You, he sadly passed away this week at the age of 63... Big game Monday night, in fact the only NCAA game played in the last month that really means anything. Shame on the BCS, Shame on the NCAA, and Shame on the Big Schools that a playoff still doesn't exist. But I got to root and one team has a QB who shouldn't be playing because his dad thought auctioning his son to the highest bidder was ok. The other wore 12 different uniforms this year. It helps the old budget when Nike writes your university a blank check. So give me the ever changing green and gold and black and white and silver of Oregon. Go Ducks!!! Peace, Love, and Sunshine, Jim

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?
Have you ever looked fear in the face
And said I just don’t care

It’s only half past the point of no return
The tip of the iceberg
The sun before the burn
The thunder before lightning
And the breath before the phrase
Have you ever felt this way?

Another Christmas gone, another new year started. Christmas is always a fun time of the year for me, although for the first time I think I am taller than my Christmas tree. I am going to chalk that up more to a smaller Christmas tree than to an amazing growth spurt.

With the new year comes of course the annual making of resolutions. But let's face it resolutions
aren't exactly the best way to attack the year. I prefer to work on goals for the upcoming year. And if I don't write down my goals... actually put them in ink, then they are just nice thoughts in my head. I think goals need to be specific, measurable, appropriate, realistic, and timely.
So let's talk about some goals for the upcoming year.
1) I want to get my knee properly looked at and I have an appointment to get that done on Thursday.
2) I want to swim in the ocean and play volleyball
on the beach.

3) I want to arrive at the Ridge weighing less than I have ever arrived weighing before.
4) I want to hike Saddle, and not die when I am on that trail.
5) I want to do at least one tri and two 5k 's in Wisconsin this year

6) I want to go on a 25 mile bike ride
7) I want to do at least 25% of the 60 hikes shown in the book above.

So I thought I would give you an update on the ironman competition we have going on. Let me just start by saying this competition has kept me motivated the last two weeks to work out. No conceivable way I would have done all this work and gone as long and as hard I did if not for the fear these two girls were going to destroy me in this challenge. I have done a few things I have never done before including doing a marathon on my stationary bike. It took me 90 minutes and 20 seconds to do this and I did it to kick off my year on January 1st. I am now just over 108 miles into the bike portion of the event. Again let me reiterate that

anyone who does this in a day is super human. I certainly will finish it out this week :)

I hope everyone had a great New Year's. I watched Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper bring in the new year and actually stayed awake just past midnight here in Madison. And I certainly hope you all had better New Year's Days than the Big Ten football teams. Congrats to TCU for proving that you don't have to be in a big conference to play great football and I'm not certain but I think Alabama just scored again on Michigan St. Peace and New Year's Love, Jim