1/30/12

Spring? Again?

65 today with full sunshine and all I could manage was 20 minutes of recovery riding due to my work schedule. However, that was fine considering the pounding I dished out for myself on yesterday's 2 1/2 hour training ride. Seems like my body needed a recovery day today, so I rewarded it with one.

In spite of that - what a gorgeous final two days of January we have lined up!!! 65 today and tomorrow looks to be 55+. Not bad for the 39th and 40th day of Winter.

I am hoping to sneak in a little bike time tomorrow morning before work to enjoy the weather and fire up the metabolism.

Enjoy the great weather everyone.

1/28/12

Winter continues - NOT!!!!

46 yesterday, 42 today. 58 on Monday, 48 - 54 forecast for most of the rest of the coming week. Ho-hum, such is the "winter" of 2012. Today is the 38th day of the winter season and I didn't even wear a jacket to rehearsal and set construction this fine Saturday. Unfortunately, due to being the stage director for Mozart's Cosi fan tutte at Simpson College, I am working 8 am to 11 pm every day and night which means I am not able to enjoy the outside very much - except for the dog walks.

Look at this Ho-Hum Winter week of weather...


Ho-Hum Winter 2012

Tomorrow I am going for a 2+ hour bike ride to make up for it. I only managed about 2 1/2 hours of training this entire past week - which is not good at all for me, but work supersedes training at the moment. I usually try to shoot for 3-4 hours on the bike as an "off week" during winter, but this week was pathetic. The coming week will pretty much be the same as all of my free time is spent preparing for each rehearsal. Act I down, Act II to go. After this coming week, I should be able to up my miles to the 6-8 hour + range to continue my base building. The good news is the work schedule and stress of directing an opera leaves me little time to eat, so I am dropping weight faster than I expected.

Other things....

Final revision of our Team Kits for BikeIowa.com 2012 look like this:

jersey revision for team

I have yet to see any drawing or rendering of the bibs, but I'm still stoked with the new design. It's very unique for a bike kit.

On tap for tonight - it's off to the Show Choir Dinner Show called "Cabaret". Rehearsal and set building all day tomorrow. No weekend for me until the last weekend in February...

On the good news front...

A former student of mine won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition in the San Antonio district and advanced to the Southwest Regionals where she took 2nd Place!!! She is in the semi-finals for the Houston Grand Opera Studio this weekend. Congrats to Sarah Larsen from Roseville, MN for this. Two of my high school voice students won 1st place male and 1st place female sololist at the Johnston Show Choir solo competition last weekend. Congrats to Zachary Jones and Kaitlin Moews for that. All 3 are very talented and it has been a pleasure to teach all of them.

1/18/12

2012 Team Kits & Winter seems to have arrived...

BikeIowa.com's fearless leaders - Rob Versteegh and Scott Sumpter - have been working very hard on the design of our new cycling team kits for 2012. VERGE was the company we used for our 1st generation of BikeIowa.com kits. Rob and Scott's search this time around for the 2nd generation has led to PRIMAL emerging as the company willing to go the extra mile. They also came in with a very competitive pricing plan which we all approved.

The process has involved a lot of inspiration, back and forth emailing and telephoning with the company for Rob and Scott. Maybe there was a dose of perseverance from everyone as well to iron out a very unique design. Scott had the rather intriguing idea of using a Sharpie design and found some inspiration from this photo of a Ducati decked out with Sharpie art work...

Sharpie Inspiration

Pretty cool - and it stoked everyone's excitement.

PRIMAL sent a fitting kit to the BikeIowa.com team in early January. We had a gathering at the Royal Mile in downtown Des Moines 2 weeks ago to try all of the bibs, jerseys, skin suits, etc... on to nail down exactly what sizes we wanted. I decided to go with 2 bibs, 2 jerseys, and 1 jacket - the same as I have with the old BikeIowa kit.

Rob sent us the rough draft sketch of the Sharpie design from PRIMAL - and we are all pretty fired up about it...

2012 Bike Iowa Jersey Rough Draft

Hats off to Rob, Scott and the PRIMAL crew on bringing this unique kit design to life for us. I think the expected time of arrival to receive the finished bibs, jerseys, jackets, etc... is early April in time for racing season.

Now if I could only find a helmet with a Sharpie design on it...

Winter rolled in yesterday and dropped about an inch of snow in the early morning hours along with providing some howling winds to make us feel right at home for the season. I actually had to shovel a few spots, but most of the white stuff had blown off the driveway and sidewalks by 9 am. We hit the coldest mark on the thermometer for the season early this morning - on this 28th day of winter - with the mercury dropping down to 2 degrees...

Winter is HERE!

Ma Nature just might have plans up her sleeve for the continuation of confusing us. It seems temperatures for the weekend will raise the mercury back up into the 40's.

I will be taking Tara to the Des Moines International Airport at noon. She is flying home to San Francisco to help with some urgent family matters. And today is Tara's Birthday!! I had reservations and a plan for this evening, but the urgency of her trip trumps the celebration. We will celebrate when she comes back from California. Oh well, at least she gets to leave winter for a few days and will return when it is back in the 40's on Sunday. Good, maybe I can turn up the thermostat in the house while she is gone... ;-]

1/16/12

Can a weekend be any more productive?

Wow, that was a productive weekend. I got a lot done, but I feel bushed and in need of some down time. No chance, back to work today.

Friday morning started with a nice hour long, easy bike ride out at Banner Pits before work. There was a light dusting of snow from Thursday and Friday morning as well. I was able to hit Riverside 2 times, as well as Nude Beach and Corner Pocket before loading up and heading back to work. Temps were 13 degrees before factoring in the windchill. My new Spyder ski gloves were very warm and toasty...

New Spyders

I got to lay some fresh tracks thanks to the Thursday and Friday dusting...

Riverside snow dusting

There wasn't that much snow and the 45-49mph winds on Thursday had pretty much blown it all around...

Snow Dust

I was cautious on the trail as the frozen dirt with the fresh dusting on top kept me from going full bore. Still, everything seemed good to go for riding which meant Sunday's planned group ride would happen.

Saturday was a full day of building set pieces in the Simpson theater scene shop under the supervision of Rick Goetz. We started at 9 and finished at 4:30. On tap for the day was to cut and assemble 12 modules that were 27" x 17" x 12" and one bar that was 40" x 40" x 12" with a shelf. We needed framing inside which we decided to rip 2 x 4's to use as framing. Off to the lumberyard to get the 8 sheets of plywood and 2 x 4's, along with glue, screws and paint. A big thanks to Alicia, Lucas, Kenzie, Marina, Jake, Tyler, and Trevor who worked really hard all day and allowed us to accomplish round #1 of work call for the Cosi fan tutte set.

I took our set designer who had flown in for the weekend from Seattle to Centro for dinner on Saturday night where we talked Greek mythology, the Age of Enlightenment, Strauss, Berlioz and all matters art. It was a fun evening with good conversation and excellent food.

Sunday began with our first official Banner Pits gathering entitled a "Pancake Ride". Temperatures were below freezing and we met at 9 am for 2 laps to catch the singletrack before it thawed. 8 of us cycling NUTZ gathered in our winter/spring gear and hit the trails. Lap one was nice and frozen and fast. I went down hard on the pavement after Nude Beach when I hit black ice as I turned into the next section of singletrack. Luckily, I didn't bounce - but just slid along the ice on the pavement. Things started to thaw out during lap two and I finally got 'mad' in lap two and pushed my body out of winter hiatus to start attacking the trail like a race. What a difference! I finally started to ride better than an out of shape old man. Things were sloppy enough in lap two that our bikes picked up a lot of sand and dirt. We all felt/heard grinding from our drivetrains.

We packed up our bikes, formed a wind shield with our cars while Squirrel (Brian Pottorff) started the open pit fire to keep us warm and give us that camp smell of wood smoke. The rest of us set up the food portion of the camp to do our cooking. Here we are cooking bacon (that's me flipping the bacon), sausage, pancakes and enjoying the temperatures that quickly shot up to 50 degrees...

1st Sunday Pancake Ride

What's a pancake breakfast without a keg? Hats off to Squirrel from rolling that bad boy out of the trunk. I joked we should do this once a year during the winter and everyone chimed in "how about every Sunday!!!". Well, it looks like this coming weekend we will see Saturday hit the mid 40's and Sunday is going to be 50+ degrees as well, so maybe....

After the nice ride and pancake breakfast was over, I headed back to Simpson where I met Kenzie, Marina and our set designer Byron at Pote Theater to sand the set pieces we had built on Saturday and haul them over to Lekberg to store them for the opera. That took about an hour to sand them all and haul them across campus.

Finally it was time to shower and catch a bit of football. I wrapped up the day with homemade spaghetti sauce (everything from our garden), meatballs and an evening meeting with the set designer and costume designer to make sure we were all in agreement and headed down the right path with the costumes, lights, etc... . That ended at 9:30 and after I cleaned up the kitchen - I was out by 10:20 for a much needed night of sleep.

All in all, a very productive weekend.

I can't do my planned singletrack ride this morning as it's in the 30's already at 8 am. Good day for some recovery, maybe a spin after work.

1/13/12

Happy Friday the 13th!!!

My daughter usually loves the number 13, however she has had a string of bad luck on previous Friday the 13th's. One year she dislocated her knee and had to be rushed to the hospital. Another, she woke up with a bad fever and ended up having to have her appendix taken out later that day on a Friday the 13th. Last year, we only had one Friday the 13th. This year there will be three and they are all 13 weeks apart. Coolio! Here's to a less eventful Friday the 13th for her (and all of us) today.

Yesterday was close to providing Friday the 13th excitement. The phone rang at 7 am and it was a call from my son. My son's college roommate had been throwing up all night and my son wanted to know what to do. We told him to take his roommate to the new ER here in town. His roommate had to be taken to Des Moines by ambulance shortly after checking in and the bottom line is, he passed 2 kidney stones later in the day. Heck of a 24 hours for my son's roommate to say the least.

Winter?

I walked to lunch at Subway on Wednesday about 12:15 (it's 3 blocks away from the music building at Simpson). The sun was shining, I was wearing a sweater and no jacket as it was probably in the upper 40's. I had my sub and when I went outside to walk back to school, it was gray and the wind was a gale force (turns out the wind speed was 48mph) and the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees. That was a quick walk back to the music building - let me tell you!!! So, on the 21st day of winter, it (winter that is) finally rolled in and we got a whisp of snow in the evening (maybe 1/8th of an inch if you gathered some of it together in a corner). Thursday was another day of howling winds blowing in the 44-49mph range. I had to drive up to Ames to judge their concerto/aria voice contestants and it was hard to hold the red box Element in the lane on I-35. They had a bit more snow up in Ames - maybe 1/2" in spots, but the wind had blown it all away.

We'll be back up in the upper 30's tomorrow and in the mid 40's on Sunday, so winter is trying to bounce in here on us as we hit mid January. Today is the 23rd day of winter. 66 more days of it to go. Can't complain about the first 1/4 of winter, that's for sure. Now I get to use my cold weather gear that I bought. I tried the new ski gloves yesterday on the dog walks and wore my skiing jumpsuit along with the new face balaclava and Shimano winter shoes. I was warm and toasty in spite of the nearly 50 mph winds. The dogs seem to love the cold and are begging to go for walks as of late.

I'll be heading to a voice recital tonight by my colleague at Simpson, and building part of the Cosi fan tutte opera set tomorrow from 9-5 with the set designer and a select group of students. Sunday morning is the 1st attempt at a pancake breakfast ride at Banner Pits. The plan is to ride a couple of laps at 9 am while the ground is still frozen, and then we'll follow up with a tailgate party that will include gas stoves, some cast iron skillets, various batters, and we'll make pancakes for a post ride winter feast. Should be fun - maybe it will even become a new winter gathering tradition. A little more dusting of snow is expected Saturday morning before temps warm up into the mid 30's and sunshine in the afternoon. That should melt any dusting that does take place before the ground freezes up again during the night as temps drop to 21 on Saturday night.

Ah....it's Friday the 13th and exactly 13 degrees outside. I'm taking the dogs for the morning ride/walk. Wish me luck... ;-}

1/9/12

King Freeze meet Queen Thaw!!!

I headed out to Banner Pits this morning about 8:30 for some more punishment and to take advantage of the frozen trails. King Freeze hit last night with temperatures dropping into the 20's to freeze the singletrack which makes for conditions worth riding.

Things were frosty when I arrived...

Frosty Morning at Banner

I buzzed along on the JET during lap one feeling pretty good. By the time I reached the newest section called Corner Pocket, certain corners were suddenly feeling the effect of good ole Queen Thaw as she tickled the trail with direct sunlight. That meant it was time to pull the plug on my ride at the end of lap 1. I rolled over to the car and took a picture of how much soft dirt/mud had collected on my tires in the last few minutes of my loop...

Post ride mud at 10:08 am

Still wanting to ride, I hit the paved trail and rode to Carlisle and back before heading home after banking 2 hours of bike time.

CITA and those of us riding Sunday morning were talking about the freeze/thaw and what kind of ruts we are starting to see out on the trail. Here's an example of some footprints where somebody walked in the afternoon, and then it froze overnight. This was right next to where I parked the car...

Big Foot

There are signs at the entrance to Riverside (on both sides) with the rules about using the trail...

Riverside entrance sign

Here's a close up of the sign where you can see Rule #1...

Rule #1 - Stay Off Trail When Wet

1. Stay Off Trail When Wet.
If your feet or tires are leaving a mark, do not use the trail. Using the trails while they are muddy will damage the trail and surrounding environment.

In the spring and summer after big rains, it's really impossible to ride around central Iowa as the clay mud builds up so fast and furious on the side of your tires that the wheels won't even rotate a few feet or yards into the trail system. It's a no brainer to stop and get out in those conditions. However, the confusion for many during this warm December/January time frame has been the kind of mud that you actually can ride through without too much build up on the side of the tires and the frame, yet the tires and feet are leaving big ruts and footprints in the trail. Not every day, but obviously on some days in the past couple of weeks. I know I got caught out on Riverside one day last week where I hit a stretch that was too muddy to ride. So I picked up my bike and walked through the weeds and timber to get out of there. It was simply not a day to ride the trails, and I took to the pavement instead. Regardless of the season or type of mud, Rule #1 still applies. Mud is mud. Wet is wet. I think things will be much better very soon as some deep freezes are due to hit in a couple of days.

I am not too worried that the current damage is going to be permanent (most of it in Riverside). Once things get tacky yet are still rideable, a few passes will smooth things out in the few rough spots that have developed - especially if some of the fat tire boys get out there on their balloons. There are some pretty deep ruts that have been created in the past couple of days in some spots that are now bordering on trail repair being needed to address those few areas.

Matt mentioned that we should put some extra signs about 100 feet of so into each trail entrance that simply has Rule #1 on it or something that states "If it is muddy, turn back and stay off the trail!" I think that would be beneficial and is needed as the signage I showed above for Riverside entrance is a lot to read and most just cruise past the sign going full tilt without reading. But a specific "keep off if muddy" sign that one encounters after being on the trail for a bit might get a better response - or one would hope. It would take time to get a permanent sign, but maybe a paper plate on a wooden stake would suffice for now to stop the bedlam.

King Freeze and Queen Thaw will continue to rule according to the weather forecast for the next 10 days or so - so it is advisable to pay attention to the temps and don't plan on riding if it is above freezing.

1/8/12

Weekend meanderings...

Congratulations to my daughter, Alexa Brown, and her debate partner, Selena Kraus on their winning of the State Debate Championship yesterday at Ankeny. Way to go girls!!!! Zack and his partner were State Champs last year, so now Alexa gets to wear the crown this year. No wonder I never win an argument here at home!

I took Saturday off the bike (outside of the normal morning and evening dog walks in the neighborhood) after riding for 9+ hours this past week (Sunday to Friday with Saturday being a rest day). Today was the 1st day of "this current week" and I got up early to head out to Banner Pits to join the group ride loops at Banner from 8-10. The ride is that early so we make sure to ride while the ground is still frozen. If you wait too long after that, things start to soften up enough due to the freeze/thaw cycle and that causes trail damage by leaving big tire ruts in the singletrack.

Today was perfect for a morning ride. Temperatures were about 25-30 and the dirt was frozen solid which made for quick riding. About 7 or 8 of us NUTZ showed up to ride bikes early on a weekend morning. My only worry about doing group rides is that the speed can end up being closer to racing if you have the right mix of people. I love to race, but it's a quicker pace than I want to go at this stage of the year in the off season. And sure enough, we were rockin' as Rick Blackford led the pace. My legs gave out in the middle of lap 2 and I had to back off the pace and crawl up the power climbs by the end. It was a good reminder of how out of shape I am for the harder effort riding at the moment. But, fun nonetheless. A good effort like that is not a bad thing every now and then in the middle of base training, but this old man got cooked. I earned my Casey's donut that Matt brought for all of us. And I skipped the post ride beer as it was only 10 am....

I am heading off this afternoon to hear baritone Todd Thomas sing his concert in Des Moines for the Des Moines Metro Opera Guild and then we have a masterclass tonight at Simpson with Gayletha Nichols from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Congrats to Simpsom Alum Abby Rethwisch, who graduated last month from Simpson, and Shannon Prickett, ’09, who both won the Iowa Metropolitan Opera Auditions yesterday in Ames. Both ladies advance to the regional competition.

Ta for now.

1/6/12

Final Weekend of Vacation...

Work starts up in earnest on Monday after the holiday break between semesters. I've been way too much of an internet junkie during this holiday. That will stop in a few days for sure as the wheel starts to grind again. The students arrive back on campus this weekend and now that Zack has eaten us out of house and home, our grocery shopping can cool down a bit. ;-]

I took advantage of the weather the past 2 weeks with riding my bike outside on the trail and on the dirt (well, mud on some days). We broke a record weather-wise yesterday with a high of 65 (normal average temps for yesterday are around 31 degrees). I didn't know if I should go play golf or ride my bike. I rode my bike - in shorts!!! And there were a lot of people on the trail walking, jogging and riding. I wasn't the only one wearing shorts. Today was "only" 54, but I got another 2 hour ride in which brings the total this week to 9 hours, 25 minutes on the bike. Last week was 8 hours, 15 minutes. Not too shabby for the end of December and start of January in Iowa. I think I'll take tomorrow off the bike and hit the weights. Planning on riding Banner at 8 am on Sunday to take advantage of the frozen trails before it warms up and the legs need a rest.

1/4/12

Happy BarMitts-VAH!

That's right.

Yesterday I picked up my Bar Mitts from Rassy's...

BarMittsVAH

Hence - my BarMittsVAH has taken place. I am now an official winter NUT who can ride a bike in the elements with toasty digits along with the rest of the NUTZ in Iowa.

Of course, a true Barmitzvah means one of the commandments in the Jewish coming of age (bar for boy, bat for girl). And yes, we will be celebrating not one, but TWO Bat Mitzvahs in May of this year (Tara and Alexa).

My BarMitts are in!!

When riding bikes outside in Iowa during the winter, my Bar Mitts have now allowed me to come of age for winter riding. Or at least follow one of the commandments for winter Iowa riding: keep thy hands warm. ;-]

I rounded out my winter riding shopping yesterday with a few other purchases...

Warmth!!!

From left to right.

First, we have Wigwam wool socks which feel "oh so nice and toasty" in my Shimano winter cycling shoes.

Second, we have the Pearl Izumi wind/water guard warm winter gloves with gel padding in the palms. P.I. has stepped up their game in recent years as these replace my old worn out lobster gloves that were not as warm as these. I got about a decade out of those, so here's hoping that these new gloves will last me a big 10. These have nice reflector points built in as well to help me be visible in the dark hours.

Third, we have the Bar Mitts for Mountain Bikes. I have yet to try them as it will need to get colder before I pull them out. As usual - as soon as I buy warm winter gear - you know what happens. Yup. The temperature climbs up to 40 yesterday and will hit 60 tomorrow. I can pretty much guarantee we will see some colder weather at some point this winter. Today is only day 14 of winter, so I know it is coming. Although, I am not complaining of the winter weather thus far which has allowed me to ride outside a lot more (like every day!!!) than I had ever dreamed I would at this time of year.

Fourth, the little AnkleBiter pants band that is pictured above the Bar Mitts. I love the reflector strip as well to help with safety/visibility. I've been using a rubber band for so many years, I thought I would treat myself the $2.99 price for a Velcro ankle doo-dad to cinch up my right pants leg so it doesn't get caught in the chain.

And lastly, we have a new pair of Spyder winter ski gloves. My old ski gloves have been sewn together so many times (they lasted a decade), it was time to take advantage of the sale (that would be the "lack of snow ski/snowboard gear sale" that I stumbled opon yesterday).

These items give me plenty of options for the hands and adds to my collection of gear to face the elements.

A shout out to my sister-in-law who had a cycling accident on New Year's Eve. Thinking of you, Holly. She was out on her road bike in California and got caught out in the dark trying to make her way home as the sun was setting. From those that saw her wreck, they say she hit a pot hole and went head over the bars. She landed on her head and initially got up, but then had to quickly get back on the ground. Some bystanders called 911 and she was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she remained for 2 nights. The initial x-rays show fractures in one or two vertebrae in the neck (I can't remember if it was one or two) and a torn ligament. Frankly, she's very, very lucky. She will be in a neck brace and no driving for 6 weeks. Possible surgery on the vertebrae to follow, but no paralysis thank goodness. It could have been a lot worse!

Be careful out there.

1/1/12

Happy New Year!!!....and the past year in review....

Happy 2012 to everyone!

This year was ushered in with us going to a party in shirt sleeves it was so warm here in Iowa at 6 pm. Coming out of the party, the winds were blowing 50 miles per hour and the temperatures had dropped into "We need winter parkas!!" territory.

A recap of 2011 which was all about friends, family, food, and travel.

We started 2011 off with a bang by celebrating in Vienna - not to mention a sleepness night considering the kids didn't get back to the apartment until breakfast time!

New_Year's_Eve,_Vienna

In spite of that small curfew breach, we had fun visiting friends in Vienna for Christmas and New Years. It was nice to get back to the opera house in Vienna and catch up with some old colleagues and friends. The trip was also Zack's senior present that he wanted. Hänsel und Gretel, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Beethoven's 9th, all of our old favorite restaurants and some new, shopping, visiting, etc.... - it was a great way to usher in 2011.

RathausChristmasVienna

Christmas Market at Night

Back home in Iowa, the snow was at record levels for the winter and I was glad to have Dad's old snow blower to help me take on the inches and inches of white stuff that kept falling. In spite of all the snow, I didn't stop taking the dogs for their daily morning and evening walks. I did, however, outfit the Surly with the Ardent 2.4's and used it as my "Snow Monkey" for the walk/rides. They salt and sand the streets so much here that anything else gets ruined - so the Monkey gets winter duties from now on because I don't care if it gets trashed...

SnowMonkeySS

As January unfolded, the kids had some dressing up to do for the annual school sports dance event, so they posed in their outfits before going...

Zack&Alexa

We had 2 Birthdays to start off the year - Tara's in January and Zack's in February. Zack turned the milestone of 18 and we celebrated at the Japanese Steak House before going back home for cake and the post meal party...

Zack's18th

Blowing out 18 of 'em

The month of March was an emotional month as my colleague and Music Department Chair - Maria DiPalma - passed away after an 8 year battle with cancer...

dipalma

We celebrated her life in a glorious way with two events at Simpson that meant a lot to everyone involved. We still miss Maria and it is very visible in terms of the void she left.

April approached (got my taxes done in time this year!!!) and Zack got his senior pictures taken...

Zack senior picture 2

After a long and cold winter with not ideal base training, I started the 2011 XC Racing Season in April with a bit more girth than I have been in previous years. Chunk City for sure!!!! I had 3 events in a row to pedal away the chunk - a race across the river in Nebraska, a race across the other river at Sylvan Island in Illinois, and a race called the Bone Bender in Kansas.

45+ CAT 2 start line

RIPPING it through the trees...

Bone Bender Sweet Singletrack

April also brought the kids high school prom which meant more pictures...

Prom2011

Sibling Fun

On Easter Sunday, our good friend, Gayla Tighe, was featured in the Des Moines Register and on their website about her accident in the tornado and subsequent recovery.

Gayla

This is what April was pretty much like in Iowa as the once every 50 years or once every 100 years rains pounded us week after week...

Weather Right Now

I did manage to perfect my abilities of making pastrami and brisket on the Big Green Egg in 2011...

DSC07698a-1

Pastrami!!!

The month of May was a fun one for me as I went along to Italy with the Madrigal Trip as a Chaperone for the Simpson College students...

Waiting for the Pope's morning address and blessing.

Waiting for the Pope to Bless us...

Trying to drum up an audience for one of the evening's Madrigal Concerts. Standing on a corner passing out pamphlets and trying to sell the concert to anyone who would listen became a routine between our tour guide and myself. Sometimes, we were fortunate enough to draw quite a crowd. Other times, we managed to only convince a few people to come in and listen. The kids sang well regardless...

Working the pavement to get an audience for the evening's concert

Students Lydia Schettler, Jessica Mallow and I in Sorrento before we went out for a night on the town...Sorrento style.

Sorrento, Italy Hotel Lobby with Lydia and Jessica

Sampling Limoncello with some of the students (this is Aimee Allen) in Rome...

Drinking Lemoncello with Aimee and the girls in Rome

Goofing around with Lydia and the white pigeons...

Playing with the birds and Lydia

Listening to Christine Dunn's report in Florence...

ChristineDunnWaxingOnInFlorence

Resting my tired legs in Italy when Marcus Simpson snapped a photograph of me. I think we all walked dozens of miles per day while there...

Resting my tired legs in Italy

The downside of traveling to Italy during May was that I had to miss my son's high school graduation. I missed it by 1 day!! Grandpa Brown and Aunt Becky made it out for the special event. I was, however, home in time for the post graduation party we hosted in the back yard.

Here's what I missed and can only relive it in photographs and stories...

HSGraduate

TheLadiesCongratulate

Gramps&Zack

Mom&Zack

Dad and my sis at the house on the morning of the graduation...

Dad&BeckVisit

Congratulating Natalie Nielsen at Simpson's Graduation along with her teacher, Dave Camwell. We had like 25+ music majors graduate in May which is a pretty significant number compared to other years.

Simpson College Graduation, May 2011

Later that day, I went over to the Lickiss household to celebrate former high school and undergrad student of mine, Erik Lickiss' graduation from grad school at the University of Tennessee Knoxville...

Celebrating Erik's Grad School Degree

The month of May was over, and June brought my XC bike racing to the fore again. I got the JET all ready for the crux of the XC season...

RacingJET

And I monster truck tired the Dos Niner for XC racing as well...

MonsterTireDos

Ah, if you've seen one race, you've seen 'em all, right? Well, here's a bunch from Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois...

Bluff Riders Charge banking the turn

Rolling out at the start on the Dos

I passed this sculpture/creature out in the woods at a race in Manysoda...

Single Track Attack Sculpture in the Woods

Climbing off the beaten path in Wisconsin after being "pushed" over across a drainage ditch...

BorderBattleClimb

I even wore the old MOB kit at a couple of races due to me forgetting to wash the BikeIowa.com kit, or forgetting to pack it...

Great Hawk Bridge Crossing

At a muddy race in Duluth...

Great Hawk Power Grind Corner

Great Hawk Race Start

Monster Truck Tires roll...

Wheelhouse Drops

Border Battle WORS finish line...

BorderBattleFinish

I blew my rear hub on the Cyclocross Climb at Sugarbottom right at this moment...

Snap

Crackle

I had to DNF, but Sterling was able to rebuild my rear hub at Rassy's, so it's golden for a few more years!

The summer continued and we had the most organized garden that I can remember...

OrganizedGarden

Unfortunately, the rains wiped us out yet again taking the basement. That's 4 floods in 5 years, so it was time for a permanent solution. That involved jack hammers, major construction, addition of an internal drainage system, additional pair of sump pumps, digging up the yard and a refinance of our mortgage to pay for it all. Basement under construction was a nasty mess...

BasementUnderRepair

It's all done now and we should be flood free going forward from the heavy 50 and 100 year rains that seem to be coming every year now.

Summer brought fun as well as a torn up basement. Alexa and the gals had a "girls night out" for her 16th birthday which began with non-alcoholic mimosas at our house...

Girl'sNightOut

Non-Alcoholic Champagne Toast

I hit some RAGBRAI in July to take on the day with 66 hills...

66 Hills on day 5

Talk about a great crowd this year...

Crowded!!

I found myself in the driveway once a week doing what seemed like non stop bike cleaning from all the muddy racing...

Prepping the JET for a race

One that wasn't too muddy...

Single Track Attack Race Grind

Alexa posing this summer before going out on a date...

Alexa

Summer gave way to fall and the school year started at Indianola as well as Simpson. So our household was back to the usual academic routine. Zack entered Simpson as a freshmen voice major. The fall opera was cast for Die Fledermaus and Zack was cast as Frank. Tara began new speech therapy school assignments with A.E.A by working in Indianola and Milo (as opposed to Indianola and Truro).

At the conclusion of one weekend's choreography rehearsal for Die Fledermaus in late September, I had not bothered to shower as I was going over to Joel Hade's for a guy's night of grilling and drinking. The wives were all headed to Des Moines for dinner. Or so I thought. Instead, it was a well kept secret 50th Birthday Party for me and I was clueless it was being planned. Everyone else in town knew, including my students and colleagues, but me. Well done Tara, kids and everyone involved!!! I remain surprised to this day.

Live music, as well as my voice students were there and did a skit/parody, my colleagues, my neighbors, my friends, etc... all joined in for a night of fun at Joel and Deb's house. Thanks Joel and Deb for hosting!!! Everyone was dressed up, but me. The one day in the year I chose not to take a shower, and it's a party for me. That's why I'm there in a ball cap!!!

50thCake

50thFriends

50thStudents

My colleague, Jamie, and his band provided the music...

50thMusic

50thBand

50th&Neighbors

It was a great evening of food, fun and fellowship to mark the big Five-0! Thanks to all for such a great surprise.

Next up was my hosting of the Lake Ahquabi bike race dubbed The Mullet Fall Classic. We had a record turnout of 155 racers this year and fun was had by all in the perfect 80 degree temps in October. This picture is me handing out 1st Prize to the 3 hour Marathon winner, Eric Brunt from Kneebraska.

HandingOutMulletFirstPrize

CITA teamed up with me and really did a great job of trail work, hosting the beer garden and providing post race food. It was a perfect year-end party for the Iowa XC Mountain Bike racing scene. I hope I can whip up some nice weather on October 7th this year as well....!!!!

I convinced, forced, coerced my daughter Alexa into doing the Des Moines Dirty Du with me. I thought a father-daughter event would be fun. She thought otherwise. She did the run portion and I did the bike ride. Due to opera rehearsals, we had to do the beginner race earlier in the morning and since it was Alexa's first, we qualified (sort of). She was not happy, but did it for her old man's sake (with a little convincing from Tara)...

DirtyDuWithAlexa

AlexaPostRace

Hey, we won 1st place in the Duo category and came in 2nd place overall. That changed my daughter's attitude and she was astounded. Hopefully she will do the event with me again next year now that she has the bug.

Alexa and the girls for homecoming 2011...

Homecoming 2011

It was back to staging rehearsals and the performances of Die Fledermaus which went off really well in Pote Theater. The entire cast and crew did a marvelous job and along with my new colleague, Bernard McDonald, opera at Simpson was taken to an entirely new level. We plan to keep it there.

Here I am posing with one of my favorite student singing actresses out in the lobby - Alicia Suschena - after one of the performances. Alicia played the role of Adele and was really funny. Everyone did a great job!

PostFledermausWithAlicia

We flew out to San Francisco for Thanksgiving and had a blast with the inlaws. The kids and I saw Carmen at San Francisco Opera and had a fun night out on the town. We had a big family get together Thanksgiving Dinner in Burlingame (at the home of Tara's Aunt). All the cousins were there and it was a really meaningful evening to hold for the sake of tradition. I think it will continue as my generation and our kids all want it to continue.

I rented a Cannondale Jekyll for some biking in the East Bay (Diablo and Briones). I had a bit of a hard time keeping the front wheel down on climbs since the bike was too small for me and had a super short stem...

2011-11-26 Jekyll in CA

2011-11-26 Jekyll size L

It was a fun bike, but I needed about a 130mm stem instead of a short 50mm stem.

I scored some Specialize Roval wheels just before Thanksgiving. Once the Rovals arrived, they went on my RIP to change the performance of that bike to a more XC speed machine...

Roval Trail SL's on the scale - 1520g

Took a pound off of my RIP9

This bike is going to be fun to run at some races in 2012!!

The semester wound down and a much welcomed "recharge the batteries" vacation took place after a very busy fall semester. We drove out to Rapid City on the 22nd of December for my nephew's wedding, my Dad's 85th, and Christmas.

Zack, Alexa and I hit Terry Peak for two days of skiing on actually very good snow...

Skiing Christmas Vacation 2011

I had a very productive few days at the end of year as I prepare to direct Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. I've been studying the translation we are using and coming up with staging ideas for the opera.

In addition, we hit the basement store room for a cleaning and reorganization. Most everything had been jammed in there after the flood this summer, so it was time to clean it up and get some organization back like it was. I simply didn't have time this fall to take it on, so now it is done and we enter 2012 with a clean slate. All the "honey do list items" for 2011 were completed (except I never got the garden tilled under due to fall rains). Oh well...

Temperatures have been warm this past week. Because of that, I ended up getting 8+ hours out on the bike on dirt and pavement. Days with temperatures of 61 degrees, 49, 52, 54 - unbelievable!!!

New Year's Eve 2011 had me puttering with bikes in the garage since it was in the upper 50's. I swapped out the Maxxis Ikon's on my I9 wheels to a 2.25 Ardent LUST up front and a Raven 2.2 in the rear to use for racing. Normally, I change tires so often I don't ever get Goobers in my tires from the sealant. The Ikons, however, had been mounted for months and months. So when I took them off yesterday, I ended my year with quite a pair of Goobers that had formed to show off...

A pair of Goobers!

The CD case, along with me holding the goobers in my hand help show the scale of these suckers!!

We went over to Nancy and Hugh's last night for homemade pizza (made by Chuck Tighe) and had fun visiting with Gayla, Chuck, Nancy and Hugh to end the 2011 year. We actually were awake through Midnight. Of course, the kids came home from their celebrations after midnight and I don't think we got to sleep until 2 a.m. .

All in all, a fun 2011 filled with travel, food, family, friends and moving forward in life.

All the best to everyone for 2012.