Thursday, July 29, 2010

Will you be my.....Friend? - UPDATED

I decided today to unfriend a whole bunch of people on Facebook. I'm not a big fan of that thing anyway. I post there very infrequently as I don't think people need to know when I'm making a sandwich or that I just took a shower. Which is what most people post. And I really don't care. I'd dump it altogether, but I do communciate with some family via Facebook.

Truthfully, if you want to know what's going in with me, come here. This is where I take the time to actually TELL people stuff I care about. Or don't care about. Like Facebook. But you'll get a little substance along with the little tidbits. Most of the people I dropped from Facebook were former bloggers. They don't comment on anything I put in Facebook, and I never see them here. Granted, there's only like 5 of you left that actually read my blog (which I very much appreciate!). But why bother keeping up to date on people that don't reciprocate? I really don't need a big friend list. So I'll probably keep paring down my Facebook list until the point I don't need it any more.

In some real news, I was actually motivated to write my first letter to the editor today to our local paper. Don't know if it will get printed, but someone put a bug up my butt. The gist of the letter I responded to was that Obama is leading us toward socialism, which will lead to Marxism, which will lead to Communism. That just pissed me off because it showed a total lack of knowledge. First of all, socialism means the "people" own the means of production. Primarily meaning manufacturing. Which will never happen in the US. There's too much money in manufacturing and would require a revolution to change that. Second, if you read history properly, communism was the first step towards true Marxism, where everyone is equal and there are no governments. Lastly, most western European countries, as well as Canada, have far more socialist progams than the US. And last time I checked, they've been democratic for decades. Stupid people can really annoy me.

One last amusing story. I was at Christopher's soccer game tonight and I saw a kid of about six wearing a Metallica T-shirt that said Damaged Justice on the front and Hammer of Justice on the back (with appropriate graphics). I immediately recognized it as a copy of the t-shirts they sold at Metallica concerts during the And Justice For All tour of about 1986 or so. A concert which I and one of my close buddies attended. I found it funny that the band still has that kind of staying power and that this kid probably didn't really have a clue about Metallica. And I bet this kid's dad never attended that tour either. It either makes me old or really freaking cool. I'll go with the latter.

Update: My letter to the editor got published in Saturday's local paper! How cool is that? The kids were impressed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cycling on my mind

As most of you know, I got bit by the cycling bug last year. You know those guys so hooked on golf they're dreaming of the next time they can get on the course and hit the ball? I dream of the next time I can get out and ride and where I can go and which bike would I take.

Next up is a series of Tuesday night mountain bike (MTB) races. They begin next week. Not sure how many I'll compete in, but it will be at least one, maybe two. After my riding at summer camp, I can't wait to get out there again. I even bought new pedals to let me clip my shoes in so I won't lose my footting, similar to what I use on the road bike. You use your entire leg (both the up and down stroke) to work the pedals. Amusingly, when I told Ellen I'd bought pedals, she thought I meant GUITAR pedals. How's that for a turnaround? Anyway, I absolutely LOVE getting on my MTB and tooling around. It's just fun to ride.

However, I've been getting out on the road bike as well. I can go MUCH faster and it's a better workout on the lungs and legs. I'm up to about a 19 mph average so I'm getting there. Not ready to do any road races yet, but perhaps by next year. I need to take the lady on some Sunday morning road rides. She tried one with a cycling group while I was at camp and what was SUPPOSED to be a slow and easy ride was much faster than that. And, they never stopped. She's not up to riding 18 miles at about 13 mph non-stop yet (which is what this group did). If they'd have slowed to about 10 mph and stopped about 2 times, I bet she'd have been fine. So I'll ride with her since I like nothing better than to cruise around with my pretty lady. And ride behind her. VERY nice view from back there, especially if she's got her cycling shorts on.

I have this vision of retiring and then spending weekends in the summer camping up in the Adairondak mountains with our MTB's and some kayaks, hiking, riding, and paddling around. What better way to spend you summer days? Certainly as the boys get older, I'm sure we can do that. I even saw a roof mounted rack on someone's car that carried 2 kayaks and 2 bikes. Just what I'd need! Who knew the outdoors could be so fun?

In some other quick news, the band is getting up to speed again for the fall season. We took a couple of weeks off since the boys soccer games interfered with practice and everyone was just too darn busy. We need to audition a new drummer, prep for a gig at the end of August, and then we begin regular Masses at church the first weekend in October. It was good to get together and play again.

This weekend we're thinking of going to Erie Canal Village in Utica. Their having a Victorian festival and this Saturday looks to be in the mid to upper 70's temp wise and not humid. Given that Ellen HATES when the weather gets too hot, we're going to take a targe of opportunity and go on a day trip. Don't know if the kids will enjoy it. Ellen doesn't care. We're off and they can like it or not. But I think they'll figure out a way to have fun. Pictures will be posted after the event, I'm sure.

Other than that, I'm spending my summer doing the usual things and catching up on Star Wars novels and any other decent science fiction I can get my hands on. I do love to read and summer is for novels that don't make you have to think too much. September is back to school so I need to cram as much in the next 5 weeks as possible! Later kiddies!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Scout Camp Part 3

This is the "final" installment of our camp adventures. Now that I've regaled you with the boys stories, it's time for my own. As you've seen, I got to do a lot of fun things with Nicholas. I didn't spend as much time with Christopher, but he was always off with his buddies doing other things so that was fine. We got to hang out at meals and such so we got some dad and kid time.

My big goal for the week was to ride each day with the cycling merit badge class. I brought my personal mountain bike with me this year (along with my cycling gear). Last year I tried out one of the camp's bikes and while they're good brands, they're not well maintained. And I wanted to see if my bike was up to the challenge. Was it ever!

The merit badge calls for 7 rides for completion: two 10 mile, two 15 mile, two 25 mile, and a 50 mile ride. Given we were supposed to do 7 rides, I was curious on how we would do them in 5 days. The answer, we weren't.

We did a lot of off road riding, but we basically did a ride each day, each progressively longer, that were to add up to the total miles specified by the merit badge requirements. Friday was the 50 mile ride. I wasn't sure I was going to do it or not. It depended on how I felt the other days. We also needed to get our bikes checked Sunday night. I got a big kick out of that. I showed up with my bike (a Gary Fisher Wahoo) and stated I was there to get it inspected. The young counsellor took one look at my bike, tapped another on the shoulder, and said "Do we need to look at that?" The counsellor looked at the bike and me and said "Nope. It's good." It waqs going to be a good week!

The first day was supposed to be a 20 mile ride. Of course, I had my bike computer with me (tells distance, speed, etc). We went through a lot of trails, and my bike held up great in all the terrain. At the end of the ride, I check the milage, and it was about 13 miles. Scratching my head, I asked one of the counsellors what was the deal? He shushed me and said, "No, it's a TWENTY MILE RIDE." Quietly he let me know that since the terrain at camp is hilly (and believe me it was!) that they shave some of the distance off feeling 10 miles through the hills is worth at least 15 on the streets. Far be it from me to argue!

Day two was another 15 (actual) mile ride, followed by a 21 mile ride Wednesday, and a shorter 7 mile ride Thursday. We would have gone longer, but the scout who was taking the merit badge was developmentally challenged and we wanted to make sure he had enough energy for the 50 mile ride the next day. He was keeping up pretty good, but he talked non-stop on our rides and complained quite a bit, though he always came through to finish the ride. Nice kid, 18 years old, maturity of an 11 year old. I was totally psyched for the 50 mile ride Friday but just as I got down to the starting point, it started to rain and we had thunder going on. We had to cancel the ride for safety reasons. Which was disappointing as the midpoint of the ride where we'd stop for lunch was at the base of a waterfall. Oh well, perhaps next year.

Tuesday was the biggest drama of the week. It was a challenging ride off road up and down some tricky hills. We made it through that just fine. The end of the ride was on the road back to camp. Some of the hills we went down were so steep we were hitting 35 miles per hour (yes, you read that right). We were cruising! We were going downhill through a construction zone and the ride leader and an assistant counsellor were ahead of me. We were doing about 25 mph. The assistant counsellor was moving up on the left of the ride leader, who didn't realize he was so close. The ride leader moved left because he thought one of the construction workers was trying to tell him something. I saw it all happen in a flash. The two bikes touched wheels, swerved just a little, and then the ride leader went over the top of his bike. The other bike wiped out. I'm trying to slow down and pull over as I see the ride leader's bike tumbling down the road at me. At all 25 mph on bikes!

Luckily, it appeared everyone was ok. The ride leader landed on his head and literally cracked his helmet. He had a backpack on that took the brunt of the impact. The assistant counsellor was scraped up pretty good and had a sore elbow, but was otherwise fine. The ride leader's front rim was all mangled and the bike was no longer ridable. We were having trouble getting hold of the camp so the construction foreman put the two bikes in his truck and took the two back to camp where they were checked out. Luckily, both were completely fine. The moral of this story, which I will relay to all my scouts every time I teach bike safety is 1) WEAR YOUR HELMET! and 2) ALWAYS announce your self when making a pass. These kinds of accidents are proof of what happens when you don't.

Even though I didn't get to go on the 50 mile ride, I was proud of myselft that I never had to get off of my bike once to walk up a hill. We had some pretty steep ones, and I managed to ride up them all. Beyond all the riding, I got some reading done, some time with the boys, and generally had a pretty good vacation. No pictures of me as I was always behind the camera. By the end of the week, I was ready to come home and it's nice to be back. So ends another scout camp adventure until next year.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Scout Camp Part 2

This was Nicholas' second year at camp. Since he knew what to expect, he was an old pro at it. He had 5 merit badge classes set up, plus there were 2 partial merit badges he could get complete for a total of 7.

The big accomplisment for him this year was becoming a blue tag swimmer. At camp, you need to take a swim test to do water activities. Since camp has a lake with swimming, kayaking, and canoeing, taking the swim test is a good thing. Non-swimmers get a white band (white tag) and are limited to knee deep water. A red tag swimmer is intermediate in skill and can go on a rowboat with a blue tag swimmer and swim in deeper water, but cannot do kayaks or canoes. Blue tag swimmers can do everything. Last year he was a red tag are REALLY wanted to do kayaks so he was really motivated this year to pass. Which he did!

We found time to go both canoeing and kayaking. He enjoyed the kayaking most. It's a lot of fun padaling out on the lake. We even went past our camp and saw some of our troop fishing. He could have done the morning polar bear swim (where you get up at like 6 am and jump around in the cold water) but wisely chose not to. It's not as fun as it sounds.

His other big accomplishment was to earn his archery merit badge. He really struggled with it as you need to get 150 points after shooting 30 arrows (in rounds of 5). It didn't go well for scouts the first week of camp to shoot 6 rounds in a row so they made the decision to add the scores from the best 6 rounds of the whole week. However, come Thursday his best total score was around 100. Not even close. However, there were still plenty of scouts struggling. Additionally, the scouts lost some shooting time due to an emergency.

Based on all of that, the leader of the archery area decided to relax the standard to 120 points on 6 rounds. Come Thursday, he was taking every open opportunity to shoot. I began hanging out with him to encourage him and keep him focused (and not frustrated). By Friday, his best score was about 115. A couple of consistant rounds, and he was at 118. The next open shoot, he was at 119. Then, at the last open shoot, he shot the round that got him to the magic 120. He was quite happy as he really didn't want to take a partial complete for the merit badge.

He had some other trying times as well. The first day there he managed to slip and fall in the lake, getting his shorts and brand new boots totally soaked. I was not happy, let me tell you. However, once we both calmed down we got everything dried off. Having dryers near the camp helped (yes, we actually had shower houses and a washer and dryer available). He had a couple of minor altercations with other scouts (personality conflicts really) but overall he had a great time. Here's some pictures of his adventures:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Scout Camp Part 1

There are a lot of stories to tell from a week at scout camp. I figured I'd break it up into Christopher stories, Nicholas stories, and my stories. Couple of housekeeping items. I've posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook for those of you who live there as well. The weather was pretty good all week. Temps in the 80's. It rained about 1.5 hours Tuesday night and half the day Friday. Clear skies otherwise so not too shabby. Last year was cold (40's) and rained all week. We had 29 scouts and 10 leaders at the camp. Pretty packed. Overall, we all had fun.

Christopher had an easy schedule. He had 3 merit badge classes, including a "throwback" one and COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience). Since it's the 100th anniversary of scouting this year, they offered a couple of retro merit badges, including carpentry. Christopher took that and had to build a bench using only hand tools: saws, planer, and a screwdriver to drive screws (try that these days in the age of power drivers). He had a lot of fun with that one.

He'd been DYING to do COPE but you need to be 14 to take it. Which he was this year. It's a high ropes, wall climbing, ladder climbing, team excercize kind of course. Some things are individual, some are team challenges. He had a blast doing it. I wanted him and another scout go up this giant laddter where each rung was 5 feet apart and you couldn't use the lines on the sides. You needed to work together to get up the thing. He's about 4 foot 8 and so was his partner. I was impressed they made it all the way up!

The other major thing he completed was the Great Canoe Race. He and two other scouts canoed across 3 lakes and had to portage (that is carry) an aluminum canoe between the lakes. It took them forever, but they finished! However, just before they got back, we had a camp emergency where we thought we lost a camper (turned out to be a lack of communication on the part of some leaders). As a result, the asked us all to go back to our camps. Christopher and his crew had not eaten yet as they were supposed to attend a picnic at the end of the race. Well, that just wouldn't do. Myself and one of the other adult leaders did a tag team on the camp councillors and managed to get bag lunches AND taco meals for the boys. We brought it back to camp and they had a feast! It was totally not fair to expect the kids to go hungry.

Beyond that, Christopher did a good job being a leader for the troop. He was one of the oldest scouts and acted as the assistant senior patrol leader (#2 scout in the troop). He showed some good leadership skills. While still being silly and a boy. So who knows, there may be hope for him. Here's a couple of pictures of the goofball:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I'm Back

Hi all! I'm back after our week long Scout Camp. We all had a great time. I've got a lot of stories to tell and pictures to show but today (Sunday) is catch up day. Need to grocery shop, catch up on some work stuff so I don't spend all day tomorrow doing last week's work, maybe squeeze a bike ride in. Lots to do. So stay tuned and you'll get plenty of posts this week.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The long weekend that was

Hope everyone had a joyous Independence Day weekend! We certainly packed it full of fun!

Friday night we hit up a couple of bike shops before they closed. I wanted to get a bike rack for my car and look at a new jersey for mountain bike racing. As an amusing side note, one of Ellen's cousins lives a few blocks from one of the shops we visited. She wanted to show the boys the house and her cousins were there. They live next door to a bar which is highly convenient! One of our neighbors (a whole story in and of itself) is the brother of Ellen's cousin's husband (got that?). So he (the neighbor) happened to call his brother. He hands Ellen the phone and says "Talk!" Our poor neighbor was so confused! When he finally figured out he was talking with Ellen he apologized for calling the wrong number so she finally had to tell him she was at his brother's house!

Saturday was our "relax" day. We didn't go anywhere or do much. Ellen and I took a nice morning ride on a new trail that goes up to the beach on Lake Ontario. Not too long but it was nice. The trail was paved and very smooth. It was nice to get on my mountain bike. She shook her head at me later when I had to take the road bike out on a quick spin as well! But overall we didn't do too much.

Sunday we went over to Ellen's niece's place and spent most of the day there. The have a great place that backs up to a creek. We mostly sat in the back yard and chilled out. The best part of the evening was when a group came floating by down the creek on big foam pads the size of matresses! And they did the same thing last year! There were a few other groups that came flaoting by later in kayaks, canoes, and in inner tubes. The best was the person in a raft pulling a little kid inflatible ring behind them. But instead of a kid, the ring contained a little cooler full of beer! Yes, people, they live in redneck country. Later Ellen's niece and her husband came out to our place and we watched the fireworks our town put on.

This morning was another ride day. Ellen's niece has the week off so she joined us. We picked a nice trail that was mostly shaded and went out around 10 am. That was necessary as it topped out at around 94 today and by 10 am it was over 80 degrees. Ellen and Nicholas got in about 10 miles while the rest of us put in about 15. It was a great ride, but we were a little sweaty by the end. The rest of the day was spent keeping cool. We'll be getting the boys to bed shortly since it's back to the normal routine tomorrow. However, next week we're off to Boy Scout camp for the week so expect some good stories and pictures! I plan on taking my mountain bike up there and get some good rides in.

Hope you all have a good week!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Fat Tire Fool

For those of you that checked my Facebook status recently, you’ll know that I competed on Wednesday in a mountain bike race. Competed may be a bit of a strong word, as I was really competing against myself. It’s the first such race I’ve entered and my goal was to finish in one piece, not actually beat anyone. I also had a target completion time in mind based on the times of some of the other beginners.

It was a little hectic at first as I got there about 5 minutes before registration closed. Between getting out of work, getting ready, and a little traffic, I was seriously delayed. However, I made it in time. I’d never ridden the course before so the first (of 3) lap was more to feel it out. I took it easy and didn’t make too many mistakes. I also had to get around a nice young fellow (looked to be about 14) in front of me so I had some clear room. Once I got going, it was not bad.

The course was a little challenging. I wouldn’t call it hard, but it had some rough spots in it. A couple of the hills I never got all the way up on the bike and had to walk it. There were some mud puddles in the back part of the course that made things slick (more on that in a minute). And some of the turns were tight. One slightly scary part was a narrow trail on the side of a hill that made you feel like you were going to slide off the thing.

However, I trucked through pretty good. I was making good time by the 2nd lap. I slowed down a little as I was developing a cramp and saving my energy for the last lap so I could pick up the pace. On the last lap, I was in great shape. I came through the hills pretty good and the rest of the course was mostly either downhill or flat. I had a couple of mud puddles to navigate and then I was home free. Of course, the last puddle was the biggest. As I’m trying to get a line on the side so I didn’t get stuck in the middle of the thing, my handle bar grazed a sapling and BOOM! The bike slid out from under me and planted me right in the middle of this big mud puddle. I was covered from head to toe on my left side.

After rather loudly using a few not family friendly words and getting my chain back on the bike, I did the only thing I could. Got back on and kept pedaling. Filthy though I was, I finished the race. At a time of about 51 min 30 sec. Most of the beginners were coming in around 45 to 46 minutes (my goal was about 48) so I did pretty good! Unfortunately, I was solo that night as Nicholas had a soccer game so Ellen had to take him to that. Meaning, they weren’t there to laugh their asses off at me covering in mud and take a picture. Sorry!

I was lucky enough to have a hose available to me so I literally hosed as much mud off of me and my clothes as I could, did a quick cleanup of the bike, and rolled home. I used a lot of muscles I never have and was expecting to be way sore, but so far, 2 days later, I’m pretty good. I even tried to do a quick ride through the neighborhood yesterday after I cleaned my bike and lubed up the chain. WOW! That hurt and I felt like I was crawling! So I guess I need a little recovery time. And a nice ride with the Wife tonight. I found out there is another mountain bike series in August and I believe I’ll enter one or two of those races. Cause you can’t let little things like mud and tired muscles slow you down!