New Year in Vienna!

It's been a whirlwind since we got here, but my jet lag still has me up all night. Rats! In spite of that, lots of visiting friends, the zoo, some museums, shopping, walking, eating, etc... .

Anyway, tomorrow we will be having lunch with some friends and then going to Beethoven's 9th Sypmphony in the evening.


Following the symphony we will be at a party until 2011 is wrung in with all the appropriate fireworks - so I won't get time to say Happy New Year before that. So I'll say it now. Einen guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr to all. Or more simply - Guten Rutsch!


We'll be at the opera on Sunday for Il Barbiere di Siviglia (sold out performance!!!).



Merry Christmas from Vienna!!!

The Brown/Starr family would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas from Vienna!! It is 10:30 a.m. Christmas morning and is snowing to make things very festive here.

Kansas City to Chicago to Frankfurt to Vienna was the route we took on Thursday the 23rd which had has arrive at 9 a.m. on December 24th in Vienna. We got settled into our apartment in the 9th District, brushed our teeth, washed our faces, changed clothes and headed out to the Christmas market at the Rathaus in an attempt to stay awake. The sun was shining and temperatures were hovering near 40. After walking just 2 blocks, both kids said they felt "at home" as all of the memories of growing up here came back. Glühwein and Kartoffeln were had by all. A bit of shopping on Kärntnestrasse kept us awake as we were fading fast from the jet lag and lack of sleep. Alexa had to have a hair straightener to run on the voltage over here, and we bought some flowers to take to dinner. We also stocked up on goodies to eat for Christmas day.

Here's the Rathaus at night.


We walked back to our apartment and took a much needed 3 hour nap. After a nice nap, we all showered, got dressed up in our Christmas clothes and headed to the 19th district for Christmas Eve Dinner at 6 in our friend's home (Sima and Ahmad). We celebrated last night with an international and very multi-cultural group of 16 friends here in Vienna. Russia, Greece, Israel, Iran, Austria and the United States were all represented while we shared food, drink, memories, stories and wonderful fellowship. We sang Christmas songs, played the piano, danced and laughed until midnight. Going on only 3 hours of sleep didn't seem to deter any of us and it was an evening to remember. We slept 10 1/2 hours last night before getting up this morning.

Kärntnerstrasse all lit up with decorations...


Another one of our favorite Weihnachtsmarkt in Wien...

Christmas Market at Night

Merry Christmas


Happy Birthday to my Dad!

I want to wish a very happy birthday to my father out in the Black Hills. First day of winter and you are celebrating once again! ;-]

birthday balloons


Burger King - Where's the BEEF? And winter riding...

Tomorrow is the first day of winter and I took advantage of the final days of fall weather to hit the Summerset Trail for some base building. Enough walkers, joggers and cyclists convinced the powers that be to remove the snow from the trail so we could use it through winter. Snow removal is from Indianola all the way down to Summerset road. Beyond that, it's not able to be ridden without great effort as the snow has not been removed. Regardless, I got a 2 hour ride yesterday on the RIP while it was snowing some more. Today, the warm temps had the trail wet, but fast so the same trip was about 75 minutes. I've got the winter riding gear, so I hope they keep the trail plowed in the upcoming winter months as it is much more enjoyable for base building rides as opposed to the basement trainer.

Okay, a pox on Burger King. I rarely eat at a fast food joint to begin with, but today I was running last minute errands up in Des Moines and hit up the BK drive-through. I had thoughts of a nice hot, charbroiled burger in my head and taste buds as I pulled up to order. I got my meal and drove on down the road. I took a bite and realized I had just been handed a bag of fraud. This wasn't a Burger King product. The Burger King I used to know.

Gone are the days of a nice charbroiled burger that we used to call a Whopper. Now, it resembles something that kind of looks like a very thin pork tenderloin that has been pounded to oblivion with a mallet and has sort of an orange/rust color with no charbroiled flavor. It was not hot of the grill like they used to be "back in the day". Now it is some frozen patty warmed up in the microwave as you order it. They might even spray paint on color to make it look like it was charbroiled for a minute or two at some point in the process. It was like eating a big shredded iceberg lettuce sandwich with a little bit of meat (maybe 4mm or 5mm measured in thickness on the calipers) thrown in to keep the lettuce from falling all over the place. Major disappointment. Shame on Burger King!!!!

They used to make a mean burger, but now they are just another corporate fast food assembly line joint that has lost its way in terms of making a product that actually looks and tastes good - not to mention - is hot off the flames. Scratch BK off any future visit list for me. Period. Life's too short to eat such badly produced product. Yuck!

My weight lifting adaptation period ends tomorrow with my final session on the 1st day of winter. I may or may not lift over in Austria during vacation, time will tell. But I will start up with the next phase once I get back.


Wisconsin and Minnesota Announce 2011 Event Series...

WORS 2011 Event Schedule

* May 1 - Iola Bump & Jump; Iola Winter Sports Club, Iola, WI
* May 22 - Crystal Lake Classic; Camp Tesomas, Rhinelander, WI
* June 12 - Big Ring Classic ; Nine Mile Forest, Wausau, WI
* June 25 & 26 - Subaru Cup Pro XCT; Nordic Mt, Mt Morris, WI
* July 10 - Chippewa Valley Firecracker; Eau Claire Co. Expo Center, Eau Claire, WI
* July 24 - Alterra Coffee Bean Classic; Crystal Ridge, Franklin, WI
* August 7 - Battle of Camrock; Camrock 3, Rockdale, WI
* August 21 - Border Battle; White Tail Ridge, River Falls, WI
* August 28 - Reforestation Ramble; Reforestration Camp, Suamico, WI
*Sept. 11 - Treadfest; Grand Geneva Resort, Lake Geneva, WI
* Sept. 25 - Bear Paw Rock & Roll; Bear Paw Outdoor, White Lake, WI
* October 9 - Wigwam MTB Challenge; Evergreen Park, Sheboygan, WI

2011 Minnesota Mountain Bike Series Race Schedule

5/21/2011 (Sat.) Freewheel Frolic Benefiting MORC,
Inver Grove Heights, MN
06/05/2011 Bluff Riders Charge, Mankato MN
6/19/2011 Lifetime Avalanche, Afton Alps MN
6/26/2011 Wheelhouse Classic, Red Wing, MN
7/11/2011 Buck Hill Birch Bump, Burnsville, MN
7/17/2011 Dirt Spanker, Superior, WI
7/31/2011 SingleTrack Attack, Elk River, MN
08/07/2011 Great Hawk Chase, Duluth, MN
08/21/2011 Bontrager Border Battle, River Falls, WI
09/04/2011 Laddie’s Loppet Stage Race, Maplelag Resort, MN
09/24/2011(Sat.) Revolution’s Single Track Escape, St. Cloud, MN


Off Season Weights...

...has begun. This year, I am about 5-6 weeks later than previous years by design.

In spite of my nasty cold, I hit the weights before going to work today for the first session being that it is December 1st.

This is pretty much a post about nothing only intended for me to track where I am and what I am doing.

I complete the first three week block (adaptation) before we head overseas.

Adaptation Grab


Riding through the holiday...

I managed to get out on Monday night, Wednesday night, Thursday afternoon, Friday afternoon and today for some mountain bike rides. The lights at night have been working very well as long as I keep the battery charged up. All that exercise work just to try and keep the weight even through all of the good eats this week. And the "eats" have been good, let me tell you.

Yesterday and today were multiple loops at Lake Ahquabi on the singlespeed. Man, even with gearing of 29T ring and 16T cog, two of the climbs are murder and I have to bail. Maybe if I took the heavy Ardent 2.4's off and put something a couple hundred grams lighter and with less volume I could eek it out on those two climbs, but I'm having fun regardless. It's a bit of the freeze/thaw cycle right now so the riding is sloppy when it's warm and super harsh and fast when it is frozen. I'll ride again on Sunday to make it 6 days out of 7 this week and fight the battle of the winter bulge. I ran over some dog or animal or some poop on the trail today. It's all over the tires, frame, my riding clothes, gloves. I better wash it all off in this afternoon's sunshine and dry the bike.

I hit my January 16th recital music pretty hard this week during the break as well as I had to settle on a good program. I was toying between doing a set of traditional songs from various countries as my next to last group (Danny Boy, The Ash Grove, Shenandoa, etc...) or some opera arias. Well, I'm going with the opera arias. Man music in other words. Grand opera. Full out balls to the walls singing. I will pretty much only get to rehearse with the accompanist the next couple of weeks before we break for the holidays, so I wanted to get the music learned before working with her. She'll be in Ohio and me in Vienna during the break, so not much chance to rehearse.

Plus, I've got two more performances before heading to Vienna as well, and need to work on that material ASAP to get it memorized. The January recital should be interesting as I'll be doing Schubert, Ibert's Don Quichotte songs, Bellini (I Puritani) and some modern, very funny songs entitled "Another Reason I Don't Keep a Gun in the House". They were originally written for a tenor, but I'll eek them out in spite of all 6 of them being really high for me (a baritone). Then I'll end up with a sappy opera aria. Looks to be a 50 minute - 60 minute program, but we'll see how it all times out in rehearsal. I may have to add or subtract a few things.

As usual, with all the riding in cold weather and cramming in as much singing as possible I came down with a cold. I'm fighting it off as best I can, but I woke up at 1 a.m. with a splitting sinus headache. I hope that doesn't mean this sucker is headed into a sinus infection. It's hard to sing with one of those, so I'll do everything I can to keep in good condition.

Off to Hy-Vee to get all of my goodies to make my traditional turkey casserole with all of the leftovers from the feast...


Thanksgiving Week is HERE!!!

Yippie!! A short, 2 day work week this week as we send all the college kids home Tuesday afternoon for the Thanksgiving holiday break. We've got the organic turkey from California in the fridge, all the goodies purchased (made a major shopping trip this weekend), guests invited and the house is cleaned (also a major weekend project). Heck, I even dusted ceiling fans, corners, window frames, picture frames, vacuumed under furniture, got every single dog hair I could find, washed windows, cleaned toilets and on and on. It was like a major spring cleaning - only in the fall.

I hosted my students last night for the "Sing for Your Supper" event. Everyone that wants to eat, has to sing. So fun was had by all as the food and song combined for a very fun filled evening. Antipasti, spaghetti and meatballs, salad, garlic bread, truffles and beverages were all consumed and enjoyed by all. There were 17 voice majors, 1 accompanist, 2 dogs, and of course, the 4 of us. We all packed into the living room using the folding tables and chairs and socialized for about 3 hours. I cleaned up right away to get things back in order for Thanksgiving.

I logged in a few hours of riding this week thanks to my NiteRider lights. I missed riding on Saturday which was nice and dry, but shopping and cleaning were more important that day. I got out for a nice hour and a half yesterday in the misty rain and empty trails. It was very peaceful and temps were way up in the mid 50's. Looks like Thanksgiving is forecast to be a high of 28, so this week should bring some nice freezes with temps dipping to the teens at night.


Off Season Goals...

I've been enjoying the beautiful fall riding thanks to the weather, although the time change requires the use of lights on the bike and helmet if I want to ride after work. Today is the first time it has rained in a long time, so no riding this morning before work outside of walking the dogs in the neighborhood.

My new off season goal for the 5 months between November 8 and April 8th is to drop from 187 (yes, I gained quite a few pounds in the past month or two with some fun eating and my rides being shorter and less strenuous) and whittle my way down. It would be nice to say I want to target the 165-172 I weighed for many, many years when I was running, but time will tell if I can actually get there. That's a tall task, but first things first. My first goal is to get back down to the 180 I maintained most of the summer. That shouldn't take to long with some discipline. Once that short term goal is reached, targeting something in the 170's becomes a pretty serious goal for me. I'm not going to increase my power output much at this age, so I've got to cut my weight to get out of the midpack finishes.

To accomplish that, I've got to pick up my exercise routine again and run a bit of a calorie deficit to slowly chip away at the extra beef I've added. Right in the middle of pumpkin pie season, too!!!!


Football is over....

Indianola had a loss last night in the first round of the high school football playoffs. It was a miserable night for football with 40-50 mph wind gusts, cold temps, rain, snow and both teams on edge. There were a lot of turnovers in the early going with the wet, cold and windy conditions combined with nerves. The boys played really well - especially the defense. Going into this game, we were the lower seeded team with a season record of 4-5 vs. Sioux City East with a higher seed and a season record of 7-2.

We scored first going with the wind. Punts were long with the wind, and very odd against the wind (usually hooked 10 yards or so based on the wind gust). There were a lot of penalty flags thrown, more so than usual. Sioux City scored in the 2nd quarter on a long pass with the wind when somebody on our team missed their coverage and left a guy wide open with nobody closer than 20 yards to him. On our next possession, we had to punt against the wind near the goal line. However, the snap sent the ball way over the punter's head and through the end zone. 2 points for Sioux City. And they drove it down for another touch down to leave the score 16-7 at half. In my estimation, we were trying the long pass way too much when we should have been playing the wind and going for 5 - 10 yard passes. A 40 yard pass is a low percentage chance to begin with, let alone in the wind and wet. For an offensive coach who admitted not paying attention to statistics a couple of years ago, this is one statistic I really wish he had paid close attention to in review of our season and what simply was not working statistically. Odd we didn't immediately adjust for the weather conditions.

Finally, in the 3rd quarter we drove down and scored with the wind again making it 16-14. A short pass and the receiver doing a great 40 yard run after the short pass while avoiding tackles set up the touchdown. You see - those short passes put the ball safely in the hands of the receiver and allows the receiver to work it down the field!!!

In the 4th quarter, we drove the length of the field against the wind using short passes (finally figured it out!!!) and mixing it up with a few runs. It looked as if the Sioux City defensive line was tiring and we were moving the ball really well on this series. We scored, went for the 2 point conversion which we got and pulled ahead 22-16 with not too much time left in the game. After our defense stopped Sioux City, they punted with the wind and the ball sailed over our punt returner's head. I guess thinking it would roll into the end zone and we would have it on the 20, he didn't pursue the ball. Well, the punt team managed to chase it down and touch it on the 1/2 yard line putting us in the hole to get it out of there on our next offensive series. It took 3 downs to get it out to the 5 yard line and we were forced to punt. Our coaches made the decision to take a delay of game which moved the ball 1/2 the distance to the goal line. And they made the decision to snap it over the punter's head (this time on purpose) to give a touchback and put the game in the hands of our defense to hold them for the final few minutes to try and end the game.

Sounded good on paper and our defense was the star all night - so why not? However, Sioux City put together a nice drive just when they needed it the most and ate up what was left on the clock to take it in for their final touchdown with a couple of short passes, some quarterback keepers and a few first downs. They went up 25-22 with 1:01 left. We had no timeouts and needed to drive it from the 25 yard line all the way up the field against the wind for a score to tie or win. Tough to do that. A beautiful long pass down the sideline to an open receiver who had beat his coverage was about 2 yards overthrown. Rats. That was really close. A couple more scampers by the quarterback to get a long pass off again, but he got sacked and we turned the ball over after 4 downs with :04 left. Sioux City took a knee and the game was over. Just like that.

Either team could have won this game and it was an exciting close game - just as a playoff game should be. I felt for the Indianola boys (especially Zack and his fellow seniors who experienced their 3rd consecutive loss in the first round of the playoffs (Waukee in 2008, Marshalltown in 2009, and now Sioux City East in 2010), but they can keep their heads up as they played hard and have nothing to be ashamed of for the loss. No need to put blame on anyone as everyone gave it their best effort on a miserable night for a game. I would just question the decision not to use shorter passes earlier on as the weather dictated that was about the only way to move the ball in the air over the long pass - at least in terms of risk/reward. But that is one of the flaws I would put on the entire season - going for the 40 yard attempt over the 5-10 or even 15 yard pass. And this game could have gone either way. It came down to who had the ball last for the final drive with time to score.

Congrats to Sioux City East and congrats to Indianola for a well fought season. Last year, we beat Sioux City East at their homecoming in double overtime, so these two teams have been pretty even the past few years and in their 3 meetings - either team could have won. We got the first 2, they got this one (the one that matters). ;-)


Weekend Pain Cave!

It's been the pain cave at our house this weekend. Zack started it off on Friday night during the final regular season football game against Urbandale. On a punt return play, Zack managed to put the hardest hit on an Urbandale kid that anyone had seen in years. It happened right around the 50 yard line in front of the home crowd - so it got quite a crowd reaction. The block set up the path for our punt returner to go all the way in for a touchdown, so it was a "worthy" hit in spite of the violent nature of it all, but the kid Zack hit and Zack himself didn't get up. Zack finally managed to stand up, but the other kid was out for a few minutes. Zack had taken a knee hit on his thigh (in the part where the thigh pad doesn't cover), so he fared better than the other kid who needed assistance off the field. Zack was able to play the rest of the game, but he was hobbling. We won the game 33-20, but it was the hardest hitting game all season from both teams and a lot of players were in the pain cave by the end of the game. Zack could hardly move on Saturday. He started to move a bit better on Sunday, but that kind of deep bruise takes time to heal. Lots of ice has been the therapy and he starts heat therapy today. He should bounce back by Wednesday's playoff game against Sioux City East at Morningside College.

I managed, in spite of my ongoing fight with an infection, to head up to Des Moines on Saturday to run and ride in the Dirty Duathlon that CITA puts on every fall. Last year I had one of my college students team up with me in the relay to do the running portion in hopes it would inspire him to get into shape (it worked as he has lost a lot of weight). This year, I had planned on it being a father/daughter event since Alexa runs cross country and had tentatively agreed to do it with me. However, she had also planned to do the Race for the Cure in Des Moines with her friends on Saturday morning. The friends and Race for the Cure won out in the end, so that meant if I was going to do the CITA race it would be all by myself.

All smiles on the starting line knowing what was about to occur...


I've done it solo before in years past, but I managed to do a bit of running those years leading up to the event to prepare. I did no running at all this year which meant it was going to hurt big time. And hurt it did. By the end of the opening 2 mile run, I had managed to slow to something loosely resembling a slow motion jog. I was jogging at such a crawl even I was laughing out loud as I passed the course marshals.

My jog through the forest...


After I swapped out shoes in the transition area and got on the bike, it took me about half a lap on the bike just to recover from the run. Then I rode fairly strong on the bike passing a lot of people that had passed me during the run.

A bit more comfy on 2 wheels...


After 8 miles on the bike, I was dreading having to get off the bike and run the final 2 miles, but I swapped out my shoes again in the transition area and began my slow jog down the hill. I almost wish we had run the 2 laps back to back before getting on the bike because after sitting on the bike for an hour, my running muscles had seized up to the point where I could hardly move. I ran so slowly in the final lap that my heart rate wasn't even up. My heart and lungs were ready for more, but the legs couldn't respond. So I jogged, power walked up the hills, and feigned running my way to the finish line for 2 hours and 11 minutes of pain and torture. It was all worth it though, as the entrance fee money goes to CITA and that's really why I went in the first place.

The pain continued once I got home because I had not received the "wife pass" to do this event. I went on my own accord. Tara had other plans for me on Saturday involving a massive house cleaning. I managed to hobble around the house pretending I was doing something for about an hour before I finally had to lay down and take a power nap. I was awakened by the entire Indianola football team in my basement hooting and hollering in my basement as they were reacting to the Iowa/Wisconsin game. We all had pizza and I struggled to pitch in around the house the rest of the evening. My toes were cramping up of all things.

I awoke on Sunday with legs that felt like they had been run over by a truck and my innards (kidneys and whatever else jiggles when you run) felt bruised and worked over to the point that I dreaded coughing. I took the dogs out for their morning walk with me on the bike. I could barely turn the singlespeed cranks over it hurt so bad. Our usual 20 minute walk turned into 30+ minutes because I was going so slowly on the bike. Back home, and more housework, cleaning, organizing and what not. I also was in charge of smoking two racks of ribs, making cornbread and my special beans for dinner. It was painful just walking from one end of the house to the other and I refused to take any pain medication. I napped off and on between the slave labor, but somehow made it to evening where I could finally sit down and enjoy the Vikings vs. Packers game with Zack.

Here it is Monday morning and Zack and I are both moving a little bit better, but I need at least another 24 - 48 hours of recovery before I will feel close to normal again.

And to think I used to run 10 - 20 miles at a time all the time...


35 year Hiatus from Singlespeeding is OVER!!!

That's right. It's been 35 years since I last owned a singlespeed bicycle. I basically was riding some form of singlespeed bicycle that required grunt pedaling from 1964 - 1975. And quite a few of those years was SS'ing in the Black Hills and Rapid City way back then. I even had a Denver Post paper route where I pulled a wagon with the big Sunday papers from house to house behind my SS Schwinn. My Dad helped me score a welded attachment that was custom built by a welder he knew. The custom piece hooked onto the frame of the bike and replaced the handle of the wagon and hitched in its place. Pulling a wagon load of Sunday morning Denver Posts up some of those hills in Rapid City with a 20" wheeled Schwinn SS was brutal.

I scored a sweet Browning 10 speed road bike that took me into the geared world with a myriad of geared road and off road bikes from 1976 until this month. Let's date me even more with that Browning. I used to head out in the Dakotas on long road rides armed with my Sony Walkman and Spyro Gyra cassette tape. Yup. That was me. I even rattle can spray painted the Browning a nasty orange for some odd reason at the time. Fast forward to 2010 - no rattle can paint jobs in my garage at the moment. ;-]

I had all the parts laying around, so swapped out the Karate Monkey that I bought in 2003 to make it SS for the first time since owning it. I figured tooling around with the dogs twice a day for their walk was a bit overkill for my full suspension rigs in the neighborhood and the commute to and from Simpson wasn't really requiring a big full suspension dirt bike, so why not outfit the KM SS and KISS it. Avid Ti V Brakes and Levers. Check. American Classic rim brake wheelset. Check. Gusset Singlespeed Conversion Kit. Check. (In fact, I have over a dozen of these that came free with a set of wheels I bought a few years ago). Race Face Next LP cranks. Check. Race Face BB. Check. 29T Ti ring. Check. Cane Creek ST Thudbuster and WTB Deva saddle. Check. Salsa 17 degree funky bar (ya gotta have a funky bar for SS'ing, right?). Check. Big heavy Shimano SPD pedals. Check. 2.4 big meat rubber. Check. Big heavy Bonty with Slime filled tubes. Check. Old chain. Check. King headset. Check. Oury grips. Check. 130mm Thomson stem with huge rise. Check. Noodles for the brakes? Who needs them? I bypassed them (at least for the moment) using very heavy duty cable housing that is pretty much as stiff as a metal noodle and ferrules to hold things securely in place.

All I needed was a Surly Tugnutt which I picked up at my favorite shop - Rassy's up in Des Moines. I threw it all together and tossed it on the scale for a beefy 25.08 pounds. Those tubes, tires, pedals, BB, and Thudbuster pork this critter out - but, hey: It's okay. I'm not going weight weenie on it just yet.

KM in the fall

I've been tooling around for the better part of October on this creature rekindling all of my old feelings of riding with one gear, and one gear only (29T x 16T in this case). Stand on hills, coast on downhills, pedal on everything else as best you can.

KM front shot

It's a nice fun diversion, but even with the ST Thudbuster and the big meat tires run at low pressure, this is a kidney bruiser and off roading is for leisurely speeds and recovery time is extended for the beating and the knees. However, the training aspect is good and I can substitute a SS ride on the hills at Ahquabi for a weight training day.

KM decked out SS

I guess it is hard to imagine why it took me until now, after owning the Karate Monkey for 8 years, to finally outfit in a SS kit. I knew I would eventually get around to it, but I guess everything finally lined up to give it a shot as an addition in the bike stable.


IMBCS #8...

I did not race in the final IMBCS event of the year at Lake Ahquabi State Park. I was hosting it and my duties far usurped any chance at racing this year. The few weeks leading up to the race required a lot of trail work and I bit off a little more than I could chew by building some new connector singletrack sections to make the loop longer, more challenging as well as to provide more variety. I was pleased with the result as it provided a challenging loop whether one rode clockwise for the 8 miles or counter clockwise. And considering that the trail could not be ridden pretty much all summer due to the amount of rain received, I have to be admit I was pretty excited about the fall weather turning out so nice for the event. It snowed on the same weekend one year ago, so having it be in the mid 70's to 80's was certainly more welcome. All the downed trees from the summer storms were removed, sinkholes filled, limbs and debris removed, canopy trimmed and the new sections added. Due to the rescheduled date to October 10th, I had to do all of this work on top of working full time and directing an opera. No wonder I ended up getting sick...

Race Day was perfect!!!

I couldn't have been happier with the weather being dry the past two weeks. It got the trails at Ahquabi back into shape and there were only a few mud bogs remaining. No complaints from me about the race with full sunshine, fall colors and a wonderful turnout of nearly 150 racers. We did a high noon mass start and it was amazing to see that many cyclists take off all at once.

I decided I should do the timing this year and quickly found it is not an easy task when using the paper and pen method. Between myself and an assistant (thanks for helping me Melinda Reese!!) - we struggled to keep up with the racers flying by on each lap as we jotted down the times. I believe the event has grown to the point that it now requires chip timing, so I will research that for the future.

My wife played crossing guard at one of the road crossings and my daughter and her friends did the other road crossing near the campground. Jed Gammell and Rob Versteegh promoted the race, got sponsors and had sponsorship prize money and schwag. We had some nice payouts. Registration money went for even more payouts in categories that don't normally get to see $$$ in the IMBCS.

Fun was had by all in spite of the course being really back end loaded with a lot of grunt climbs. I learned from the experience and hope to address some of the growth pain issues for next year. I took some of the course markings down after the race, did more today and will finish up tomorrow.

Thanks to all who showed up to race and to all those that helped with the event. I know everyone was excited to see such a good turnout for an Iowa mountain biking event. Hats off to Jed and Rob for doing such a good job promoting.


Down and out...

I got hit with a nasty bug this weekend (actually started feeling symptoms on Thursday evening) as doing double duty at work, directing an opera and getting Lake Ahquabi ready for the October 10th race got my resistance down. My wife keeps saying "Do you ever stop?" as I have been a super busy beaver the past month. I was diagnosed today (after staying home from work feeling miserable) with a staff infection in my throat. Hence the pain and discomfort I've been feeling since Thursday evening. I have laryngitis because today of it and can hardly speak. Here's hoping the mega-dose of antibiotics kicks in and tomorrow is a better day.


Laddies Loppet 2010 Race Report....

Tara and I loaded up the Element and headed way up north to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota on Saturday for the final summer getaway on Labor Day Weekend. Laddies Loppet was #10 on the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series and it is a stage race weekend event. I couldn't make the Saturday races since Zack had a football game against Valley on Friday night and Alexa had a cross country meet in Pella on Saturday that we wanted to attend. However, it was the cross country race on Sunday that I was most interested in racing.

We made the trip last year and parked ourselves at the The Lodge right on Detroit Lake itself. We decided to stay there again this time around. This year, however, the temperatures were about 20 degrees cooler. I had studied the forecast so we were prepared with the proper clothing. And like last year, Tara brought her bike along for some nice riding around Detroit Lake itself.

I arrived at the Maplelag Resort on Sunday morning about an hour before my 11:00 a.m. event. I checked in and put the timing chip on my left ankle as instructed. I hopped on the bike and headed out to warm up on the gravel roads and a couple of the cross country ski trails to get an idea of what the soil was like. Following my warm up, Tara got the camera bug going to catch me ready to race...

I'm ready

The JET was a bit dirty, but ready to race...

JET is ready

My group (40 - 49 year olds) was the 3rd wave to start and we headed off at 11:04...

And we're off....

Last year we did 2 full laps which proved to be pretty grueling with all of the roots, power climbs and heat. This year, the distance for CAT II's was shortened to 1 1/2 laps (one lap on the CAT I course, and one lap on the Sport/Comp/Expert lap). This meant that times would be all out fast with everybody gunning for the hour finish time.

The 1/2 lap was quick and mostly cross country ski trail with a bit of singletrack mixed in, then we hit the "real lap" which began with the traditional lakeside drop and climb section where the spectators gather for drama...

Lakeside drops and climbs

The lap was just as grueling as last year, but I had the full suspension this year to take on the roots. I managed to tumble down one lakeside drop when my wheel slid out in some mud. I hugged a tree and stayed upright which didn't cost me too much time. The singletrack was hard to really get a smooth groove on in terms of speed since it was so technical throughout. The open XC ski trail sections called for the big ring and was where you could fly until the next singletrack section. It's a fun and challenging technical course that the JET ate up really well. One of my pedals didn't fare so well. I don't recall striking it on anything at all during the race, but noticed this after the ride was over...

Eggbeater Cage is broken

Before I knew it, the race was over. Tara did a good job of catching me as I was flying by and heading into the finish line mashing on the big ring...

Ripping into the finish line

I went through the chute. Got my chip removed from my ankle by a gal, shook hands with a couple guys that I was battling with in the full lap and rolled down the hill to the gravel to meet Tara. That's when I glanced at my wrist watch which said 12:10 p.m. So, from the finish line to the gravel and a couple of visits, I figured my time was sub 1:06. A minute or two later, I saw the timer post up a sheet so I went to check the results. In my category, he only had the top 5 finishers and my name wasn't on it. Hmmmmm....the guy in #5 had a time of 1:07 and change and I thought that was odd since my wrist watch had me at sub 1:06. Of course, I didn't make a mental note of when we actually started, but figured it was at 11:04 as originally planned. I figured I must have been in the group after the first 5 in my category. So I went back to the car, got my recovery drink, changed clothes, loaded up the bike, went to the bathroom and took a look at the lunch fare to see if I wanted to eat there or go back into Detroit Lakes.

I checked the results a few more times hoping more results would be posted, but the same sheet was up there with only the first 5 guys in my division. Tara was itching to head back into Detroit Lakes to hop on her bike and get some riding in, so we left. I napped a bit in the car while she drove, we grabbed some lunch and then headed back to the motel. She suited up and we headed out for two very windy 45 minute each laps around the lake. It was a nice warm-down for me and my legs felt pretty good thanks to the XC race only being an hour and minimal change.

We got back to the motel and I checked the online results and was surprised/shocked/stunned to not see my name any where on the results list. I double checked, tripled checked and reality set in that something must have happened. I called the race director, Jay Richards and he told me to call the timer from Peak Timing, Greg Blasko. I was informed that the rules state you have to stick around post race to make sure the results are accurate. In my case - I had no results and explained why I had left. Lesson learned. Both Jay and Greg were very cool about it and did some research. It turns out I was given the "wrong chip" at registration and Greg was able to piece things together and find my time which was 1:04 and change which put into a 5th place finish. Kudos to Jay and Greg for helping me out and I promise not to leave a race early ever again until I check to make sure my name gets posted. Those are the rules and any protests are supposed to be before the awards ceremony.

We had a nice dinner at the Fireside restaurant which was walking distance from the motel. Walleye, salmon, earth apples, salad, wine and we even split a small sweet treat at the end of the meal. We drove home Monday and stopped at the outlet malls between St. Cloud and Minneapolis. The crowds were too overwhelming, so we headed home after a minimal amount of shopping.


6 Weeks Post-Tornado Update...

Today marks the 6 week point since the tornado swept through our neighborhood on July 23rd. Gayla continues to progress with her rehab work in the hospital. Last week she was walking 200 feet with the walker, tooling around in her wheelchair under her own power, typing on a computer keyboard, using the bathroom and maintaining a very busy daily schedule of therapy sessions. I believe she will be released from the hospital by the end of this month - at least that is the plan. Therapy/rehab will continue for many months following her release, but the direction she is headed is a good one.

The majority of repair work on the home has been completed (new shingles, new shed, new garage door, new basement, new exterior house painting, etc....). There are a few more things to do like get the new fence, finish painting the shed, strip, caulk and paint around the new garage door, get the new AC unit, possibly a new kitchen window pane and a few other tidbits. But all in all, the vast majority of arranging to have everything done, doing the paperwork, signing checks, paying contractors and what not is just about completed. One always wishes they could just have everything back like it was, but when damage occurs and repair work is done, it's really hard to get back to exactly what it was like before.

Below are some photographs of the process.

The white marks you see on the siding is from the repair work done to the siding where debris in the tornado hit the house and caused damage. Some of them small gouges and dents, some of them just a surface cosmetic blemish.

debris hits in rear

debris hits

The front, obviously, didn't get as hard as the back where the tornado was...

debris hits on front

front side debris hit marks

We pretty much had some contractors truck or more out in front of the house for 4-5 weeks as each phase was completed. Basement and shingles were first phase. Shed was the third phase. Painting and plumbing was the fourth phase. Garage door was the 5th phase. And now the AC and fencing will be the final phases in September.

workers in action

The shed arrived from Omaha and the 2 guys from Tuff Shed are installing it.

Tuff Shed guys building the shed

Funny, on the day after the tornado as we were all picking up the debris, several of us got a good laugh as we located part of our shed and read the brand name of it - Tuff Shed. I found it worthy of a photo at the time as we all enjoyed the comic relief...

Tuff Shed?  Ha!!!!

It's "Tuff", but not "Tuff" enough for this...

Indianola Tornado 7/23/2010

We opted to go to a different exterior color. One that would cover in one coat painting to make sure it was covered under the insurance. The color is a darker shade of a very nice green that I found at Mennards. It's called "grey heron".

painting underway

And from the street on the first day of painting...

painting underway

A tree flew against the side of the house, dented things up, knocked the AC over the fence and scratched the kitchen window in the process. I just discovered this the other day and am trying to decide what to do. It may or may not need replacing.

scratched windon from the flying tree

Shed is done (it's painted to match the house now, I just don't have a picture yet).

new shed

Our old one was 8 x 10. This new one is 10 x 16 and we paid the difference in price. Once you get beyond 10 x 15, the city code requires a building permit and special anchors to secure the building into the ground with approval. It was all worth it for the extra storage space. I built all kinds of shelving inside (no pictures yet) which took me a few days at the rate I overbuild.

new shed arrives

So here are 6 weeks hence and things are getting back to normal. I feel like it was "the lost summer" as many things we had planned got shelved. RAGBRAI, a trip to Wisconsin, some other projects I had planned in the garage and basement, and getting prepared for the school year got put on hold. I'll see if I can catch up now...


IMBCS #9 Sugar Bottom Race Report - HEAT Zapped!

Sunday was IMBCS #9 XC race at the Sugar Bottom Recreation Area which is always a very fun race that I look forward to each season. It's where I did my first ever XC race way back when in 2004 after we moved to the states. It was my only race that season as I wanted to give it a try in my effort to stay in shape and drop weight. I had to DNF that first attempt because it was raining and my wheels were packing up with so much mud, I couldn't pedal or keep it on the trail.

The next year, in 2005, I suffered an ankle sprain getting the bike off the top of the van the day before the race when setting up camp in the campground. I picked up an ankle brace at a Walgreen's and decided to race in spite of it. Then I did a huge endo during the race and got a pretty decent concussion - but I finished the race dazed and delirious. 2006, 2007 and 2008 races were much kinder to me and I had a blast racing on the course. Last year, due to the weather conditions, the race was canceled. So it was nice that with all of the rain this summer, things dried out and were in shape for Sunday's race to go on as planned.

The two weeks leading up to the race, summer heat and humidity had tapered off enough that it was pleasant to train and ride. I was doing a lot of work around the house (painting, shelf building, setting up the shed, etc...) and trying to finish up what needed to be finished up before the academic year started at Simpson. I felt rested and ready to go as the final races of the season approach. The weather forecast was for upper 80's to low 90's which didn't scare me as I've been racing in plenty of heat and humidity all summer long with no ill effects.

On the way to race, I took my Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes, drank water and listened to some good music. I arrived at Sugar Bottom an hour before the 12:10 start, got registered, suited up and did my warm up. Everything felt good. I set a bottle at the lap turn to have for the second 10 mile lap, rather than carry it. I knew this race would be longer (around 2 hours) for me based on previous years. I had been in a few races of this length in the season, but most have been shorter. This 20 miler would be the same distance as the Comp Category races in Minnesota and Wisconsin (the category between Sport and Expert). I guess they call it the Glorified Sport Class for those looking for more of a challenge. Knowing the distance and duration would be longer, I didn't have any big plans to really jump off the line at the start, but work my way into the race as it unfolded.

When the whistle blew, we took off much faster than I had anticipated. I quickly found myself fighting the opening gravel climb and fighting myself, but did manage to make it to the singletrack in one piece. Something felt off, but had not made the connection with heat - yet. I recovered in the line and followed along. I was behind two guys for quite a bit hoping they would pick up the pace, but finally passed them to try and bridge up to the group ahead. That left me riding alone for most of lap one trying to catch up. After moving into the north section of the trails in lap one and about 45 minutes into the race, the climbs suddenly seemed daunting. My breathing was labored, heart rate high, and each hill's effort took me right at or into the red zone. Ouch! Thoughts of DNF actually entered my mind as now I could tell the heat and pace had zapped me. I went into survival mode as I approached the turn into lap 2, stopped for my bottle and headed up the gravel climb again. It was much more painful on this lap even though I was going slower. And my stomach did not feel good at all. Whether it was the heat, the GU, the drink mix - or all of them, I had not felt this bad in the stomach all season long.

Lap 2 really was a survival mode and a goal of finishing the race. Because of the high heart rate, any power climb or climb littered with roots would cause me to jump right into "no man's land" as far as heart rate. It became impossible to recover from these efforts, but I forged on. I found myself as the 2nd person in a group of three that were riding with our wheels a few inches from each other. I figured I would just hang with this group and go for a sprint at the line. That plan failed as we came down a sharp hill left turn combination onto one of the wooden bridges. My front tire washed out on the bridge and I fought to stay upright. I over compensated and went off the bridge to the left for a soft, yet upright landing. By the time I got back up on the bridge, clipped in and moving again - the other two guys were too far ahead of me for any real chance of catching back up before the finish line. I tried, but was too spent from the heat and duration of the race. I rolled across the line at 2:08 and change for a disappointing 22nd place out of the 32 of us that started in the CAT 2 Open race. No midpack finish this time, just bringing up the rear. Three guys within a minute's time finished ahead of me, so it would have been nice to not have slipped on that bridge - but that's racing.

I was begging for water afterward and sat down on a picnic table in the shade to try and gather my wits. I saw guys wandering around all smiles having a beer post race, but I couldn't relate. My stomach hurt. I was cooked. I went back to the car, got changed and loaded up the bike. I usually am hungry post race, but my stomach was in too much turmoil to even think about eating. So I drank some fluids and headed on home with the AC on full blast. I was feeling better by 8 p.m., but the whole experience left me thinking and trying to figure out why the heat zapped me so much. I've done plenty of riding in hotter temperatures, plenty of longer duration training rides, plenty of races in the heat this season, but this one zapped me. Live to fight another day is pretty much my conclusion. I started a thread over at MTBR.com about it and have received some good feedback and reports from others who also felt the heat.

Lessons learned....

1. Dump water on my head and body to keep core cooler
2. Pacing in the heat is going to be different, so pay attention
3. Check out Hammer Nutrition Products for their gels and drink mixes
4. Train out in the heat to acclimate (was hard to do the 2 weeks leading up to this since temperatures and humidity were very pleasant)
5. Get over it and move on for the next race ;-]

Tara and I will head to Callaway, MN for the Laddies Loppet XC race where the forecast is for a high of 65 on Saturday and 73 on Sunday. Somehow, I think heat will not be an issue this weekend. ;-}

Now I just need to recover from Sunday's heated effort...


Zack's new wheels....

I took a risk vs. reward gamble on eBay and purchased a prior salvage rebuilt 2005 Honda Element EX for Zack. The car had sideswiped an embankment in Georgia in 2008, was a total loss by the insurance company, sold at an in insurance auction in Georgia and purchased by a guy in South Carolina who likes to rebuild salvage cars. He rebuilt it and drove it for 20K miles before tossing it up on eBay for an auction.

I ended up getting it for $6600. Add on tax, title, license, along with my $190 flight to Myrtle Beach and the expenses of driving it 1300 miles home (2 nights in a motel, 4 tanks of gas, 4 meals) and it came out within our expected budget of getting him a car that can last him a good 7 years or so. I put two new tires on the rear to match the 2 new ones the seller had just put on the car for another $250, had the alignment checked with the computer print out of the 4 wheels for $85 which showed some tweaking to the rear end was needed (two bent control arms) and I replaced the lower ball joint on the driver's side since the boot was shot. I decided to hit the bearings on the rear wheels as well since the noise was not like it should be. That all added another $1000 to the bill, but the car is safe and sound to drive now and in perfect alignment front to rear. Drives every bit as good as my red Element that has never been in a wreck.

Here's some shots of the car after the accident when it was sold as is at an insurance auction sale in Georgia in 2008:

insurance auction photo front side

insurance auction photo rear side

insurance auction full side

Doesn't look too bad, right? No doubt she took a good hit in the sideswipe/embankment hit which always raises concerns. Hard to imagine that the insurance company called it a total loss, but you never know how much the owner complained and pushed for it, rather than repair it. And every state and insurance company operates differently.

The main concern was any crush zone damage or under body frame design with the uni-body of the Element's design. Luckily, the frame was not bent, but some control arms on the right rear wheel were bent as I mentioned above. They tried to bend the metal back, but it is heavy duty stuff and I made the decision to replace for safety and security reasons. The guy I bought it from had a hobby and love of restoring cars that had been through minor accidents and has done quite a few cars over the years - and even a 34' sailboat that went through a hurricane! He made the decision not to do much more with the rear, although he mentioned to me he was surprised how loud it was while driving. Whether it was the alignment or the bearings alone - or a combination, once I repaired all of that it is no longer loud. Even with the open tread Wild Spirit Radial A/S tires, she's just as quiet as mine.

Here are some photographs of Mike rebuilding the two doors with Bondo...

Slow but sure

bondo storm cloud

coming along

bondo dust

it takes time

Mike in action

More bondo

And the finished product...

Maxxis Bravo 750 rear

Black is a very unforgiving color when it comes to showing dings, and you can see Mike did an excellent job of "home shop repair". The experience of having done quite a few of these over the years paid off in his handy work.

Detailed from top to bottom

Finished Right Side from rear angle

Finished Right Side from front

side element wild spirits

I'll probably change the spark plugs this weekend as that service is about due and I picked up the plugs at Advanced Auto Parts yesterday. I changed the oil last week and Mike had the differential fluid in the last 20K, so I'll wait another 10K or so before doing that again. I bought the jugs of fluid and washers so I can do it when needed. In fact, I changed mine in the garage last night and the process was a piece of cake. Zack's Element is really running well and no need to say he is beside himself with his "new" wheels. All said and done, the extra $1000 in repairs to fix the bearings, replace the control arms and lower ball joint and get it in perfect alignment was well worth it.

For whatever reason, it seems that all of our cars are needing tires at the same time. I just put Uniroyal Tigerpaws on the Mercury Villager van for Alexa. I'm getting Bridgestone Dueller ATP's from Sears on my Element next week. Two new NTB Wild Spirt Radial A/S for Zack's Element. And Tara's Mercury Mariner is still on the original tires at a bit over 60K on them and the weather cracking is starting to show and the tread is getting short. So I will start hunting for a replacement set for her as well. Talk about timing!!!! It's tire month here.


Sweet Pain!!!

9 days off the bike was rectified yesterday by a 30 mile road ride on the Dos Niner. The pain felt "oh, so good" as I pushed my way through legs that were turning over surprisingly well, but the effort was mind over matter in terms of the pain. I had to make myself push through it all.

Why 9 days off?

A trip to Champaign-Urbana, Chicago and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina had me gone. I picked up a Honda Element for Zack in Myrtle Beach and drove it home on Monday and Tuesday. 21 Hours of driving in AC had my legs feeling the effects of sitting that long and every time I got out of the car for a pit stop, I felt my age as I stood to unfold myself. Wednesday and Thursday was filled with getting the basement back into shape, yard work and final paperwork of the insurance nightmare of getting the house repaired. Roof is done, basement is done (a bit of touch up painting to do down there). The shed arrives on Wednesday. Painting was delayed this week for whatever reason, but I am assuming the heat/humidity.

Tara and I will go and ride in the benefit race/ride tomorrow. The G88 will be 88 kilometers of gravel on the west side of Des Moines. I will certainly be riding on the casual side of the speed coin considering my time off the bike.

Today, off to Kansas City with Zack to watch the Yankees/Royals game.


Storm Aftermath...

Progress is being made, albeit slowly, on getting things back to how they were before the storm hit. Insurance adjusters, contractors, decisions, paperwork, phone calls, appointments, repair work, etc.... have all been the order of the day since July 23rd.

The front half of the roof has been repaired with new shingles, the back half is scheduled for next week. The carpet was installed in the basement yesterday. A new shed has been paid for and ordered (due to arrive in 2 1/2 - 3 weeks). The exterior of the house will be washed, bleached, repaired and painted starting next week. The air conditioner that flew over the fence will be fixed next week. The last order of business will be the fencing as we had been waiting on our neighbors with their fencing decisions. In both cases, they were told by their insurance companies that they would not get the money unless they installed the same or very similar fences they had. So that means we can stick with our gates and rear fence as they were before the storm hit, but I will wait to have them done until the neighbors fences are installed. No time line on that, yet.

Our dear friend, Gayla Tighe, who was injured in our home after the tornado is recovering in the hospital. She suffered a spinal cord injury and spent the first week in critical care. She had surgery to fuse two vertebrae which was successful. This past weekend, she began moving her legs and this week finger movement is beginning again. Prognosis is 6 - 8 weeks in the hospital with rehab to continue for months beyond. These first two weeks are crucial in terms of what movement she regains as it will set the tone of her longer term recovery. We all remain hopeful, positive and supportive of her recovery.

It has been frustrating in the midst of everything to go through the process. State Farm has been wonderful. Citibank Mortgage has been the speed bump. Due to Iowa law, the checks from State Farm to pay for the damage repairs are made out to the homeowner as well as Citibank. Citibank requires us to sign the the check, send it to them for a total of 7 documents (the signed check, loss summary, W-9 for each contractor, a contract for each contractor, a waive of lien for each contractor, etc...) at which point they will issue us half of the amount of the check. Once 95% of the work has been done, we are to call Citibank and they will send out an inspector to view the work that has been done. If it meets the inspector's approval, Citibank will send us the remaining 50% of the check. So, if you don't have a spare $20K sitting in your emergency cash fund to get the work started with deposits, and paying for things up front, you have to make an agreement with each contractor on how paying for the work is going to be accomplished. Deposit, payment in full at the end. No deposit, payment at the end. 50% up front and 50% at the end. Deposit or no deposit and payment once Citibank releases the moola. And on and on. Pretty much a major catch 22 that still leaves me scratching my head. You can't start the work because you don't have a spare $20K, but Cititbank won't give you the money to start until the work is finished.

The actual tornado took 3 - 5, maybe 7 seconds at most to do the damage. But the weeks involved and energy spending lining all the repair work up are a full time job that requires the patience of Job.

I did manage to slip away for 2 bike races to temporarily take my mind off of the task. My body was in no condition to race at Boone 2 days after the tornado, but my mind needed it. Pretty much the same this past weekend at the Buck Hill race in Minnesota. The mind needed it, but the body wasn't in the same time zone as my mind.

We will pick the final exterior paint color today (looks like we are going one shade darker green than before - unless the final vote trumps that). In the meantime, we have had an additional 4 inches of rain since the tornado and we are all going down to the basement every few hours to make sure the sump pumps are working and nothing else is happening. Looks like 4 days of sunshine starting tomorrow which is nice...


Hit by a TORNADO!!!!

8:10 - 8:20 p.m. or so Friday night, our neighborhood in Indianola was hit by a tornado. Our house was one of the houses that sustained damage, but not as bad as the 6 houses to the west of us. We lost most of the garage shingles, all of our fences, our shed, trees, air conditioner, basement flooded and one of our very dear friends who was at our house visiting was injured and is in the hospital in Des Moines (twisted vertebrae). Had the path been 20-25 feet more to the north we would have lost the entire roof (and maybe more).

Here she is (from a distance) shot by some guys who posted it on KCCI's site:

This is my favorite shot of the Mo-Fo that wreaked havoc on us. I don't know who took it, but they submitted it to KCCI.

Indianola Tornado 7/23/2010

The view from somebody who was in the their car with a cellphone on Highway 92 (highway 92 is about 1/2 mile south of us and the tornado is ripping through our neighborhood as that picture is being taken)...

Visiting the Neighborhood...

Another view from somewhere in Indianola...

Another view...

Three houses to the west of us didn't fare so well...

Three Houses to the West of us...

I'll get out tomorrow morning and survey the damage, but the flood crew is coming at 9 a.m. to attack the mess in the basement. I will get a roofing company here ASAP to plug all the holes in the roof and stop the flooding in the garage. I may have to climb up on the roof and nail down some tarps in the meantime. Lots of clean up to do....

RAGBRAI will obviously not happen for us this year. I'll go get our bikes off of the Team Simpson truck tomorrow morning.

Update from Saturday....

I snapped a few shots of our damage while clean up efforts began, but I didn't get around the neighborhood to take shots of all 13 houses that were hit. It could have been a lot worse on our block, but as you can see, our row of houses had the backyards as a "tornado alley" as it worked through our block. The block to the west that was hit hard lost a lot more as there were 6 houses hit directly.

Cleanup efforts went very well on Saturday. All of our basements had crews ripping up the carpet and getting the blowers going to dry things out. We were lucky to get a roofing contractor and a crew of 5 up on the roof to attack the damage on the west side where the leaks were from the lost shingles. They finished by 4 p.m. Saturday and the roof looks great. According to the contractor, the entire south side still has to be done, but the insurance adjuster will have to approve that after his visit this week. And the east side of the house has some damage that I discovered in the afternoon which will have to be repaired.

The city brought out 4 or 5 large dumpsters (18 wheeler flatbed size) and we all worked together to throw all the debris in the dumpsters. As soon as they were full, they would haul it off and bring in another empty one. Everyone chipped in on the neighborhood effort with chainsaws, muscle, rakes, grit and determination. Young, old, strong, weak - everyone went at it. It's no miracle, you just have to do it and work together. After about 6 - 8 hours, the majority of the mess was cleaned up and hauled away. A big thanks to all that chipped in and helped. And a big thanks to those that brought food, drink, cookies, water, etc... . It meant a lot and helped fuel us through the day.

Our backyard tornado alley action:


Where our shed used to be

Tornado Alley

Pile of "stuff" in the backyard

Crew working on all the trees

More tree damage

West side of roof

Neighborhood Works Together

I found the rest of our shed this morning while I was taking the dogs for a walk. There were 3 sections about a block to the east. And I found one section of our neighbors shed about 2 blocks east.

Ah....the power of Mother Nature.