Day of Remembrance...

Today was the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

We watched a 38 minute video from the National Holocaust Museum in D.C., reviewed the major themes, and symbolism in Spielberg's Schindler's List, and reviewed the first 1/2 of unit one in our class for Thursday's upcoming quiz.

We took a walk to Römmelgasse 8 here in Schorndorf to view 7 Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks) memorials in front of a the house where the Guttenberg family lived. 7 of them died in death camps (6 in Auschwitz). 2 of them were children age 10 and 12. The information about this family was known, so these particular Stolpersteine had all of the information - names, birth dates, when they were apprehended, what camp they were sent to, and what day they died. This family was persecuted due to being members of one of the targeted groups by the Nazi's - Sinti and Roma (gypsies). This group was thought to be sub-human, criminal, vagrants, and treated the same as Jews were in the quest to purify the German race based on the pseudoscience of the Nazi Ideology.

Then I let the class go on their own for lunch as I wandered into the regular Tuesday market to get my lunch...


After I had some lunch, I stopped by yet another Stolperstein in town that was of a young girl who was taken away in the T-4 program by the Nazi's and was killed at Grafenegg. That program targeted mentally and physically handicapped people as being not worthy of living in the negative eugenics campaign.

The day marked the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau...


Heidelberg, Germany...

Our travel plans for Saturday, January 24th included an early morning departure to visit Heidelberg, Germany. We left at 8:14 AM and arrived in Heidelberg around 10:30. We boarded the bus and headed to the famous Heidelberg Schloss, took the Bergbahn up the hill to the Schloss, bought tickets for the guided tour and were underway with the tour at 12:15 PM.

A few pictures to capture the experience. In the snow, cold, and conditions with taking pictures with gloves on and my iPhone - you get what you get. For anyone interested in seeing more touristic and professional photography, just click on THIS to see the beauty of Heidelberg.

Looking down from the Schloss to the Aldstadt portion of Heidelberg...


Looking down on the Neckar River from the Schloss...

Of the three largest wine barrels in the world that existed, one remains, in the Schloss that held 220,000 liters of wine. Water was not consumed back in the day due to potential death from contaminated water, so a lower alcohol content wine was the daily drink by man, woman, and child. Here is the remaining huge wine barrel...

After the guided tour, we ate at a restaurant in the Schloss which in retrospect was not a good choice as it took more than an hour for our food to arrive. I had hoped to allow 1 - 2 hours of free time in the Aldstadt for the students, but the slow service for lunch took away most of that.

While we were having lunch, as had been forecast, the snow started to fall. By the time we made our way down the mountain to the Neckar River and turned around to look back up at the Schloss, the scene had changed to this...


Upon our descent, we immediately went to our second scheduled visit for the day at a very unique museum: Dokementations - und Kulturzentrum Deutscher Sinti und Roma. It is the only museum in the world that is dedicated to the 500,000 Sinti and Roma (or the politically incorrect term we often use and hear in the US: gypsies) that perished during WWII's genocide known as the Holocaust. I had a special interest to see this museum because, even though things have become better in historical documents, accounts, and literature about the Holocaust in the past 20 years to include more mention of the Sinti and Roma, it still pales in comparison with other groups that are focused on in the study of that period. Our latest edition of the textbook we are studying does a better job of mentioning the Sinti and Roma, but doesn't go deep enough. I felt going to the one and only dedicated museum in the world for it was going to be quite an experience for me - and the students.

And it was!

After our tour of the museum, the man who had greeted us and issued us the audio guides said there was someone he wanted to introduce to me. The man introduced himself and asked who I was, where we were from, and what we were doing. So I told him we were from Simpson College in Iowa, why were in Germany, and what we were studying. He wrote all of this down on a sheet of paper. He started to explain to me that his grandfather and great uncle were survivors of the war, and that is father was born one year after the war was over, but that 13 family members had been murdered in Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, and Natzweiler camps. His father has 6 children of which he was one of, and the father - Romani Rose - became a civil rights activist and is the Chairman of the Central German Sinti and Roma. He explained that is why this unique museum was located in Heidelberg, and not Berlin for example. He asked why I was teaching a class about the genocide. I explained that my mother-in-law and her siblings were survivors and we talked, and shared stories. Then he said he had a present for me and went into another room, only to return with a 200 page book edited by his father entitled "The Nazi Genocide of the Sinti and Roma".  It is filled with German documents, stories, and pictures solely devoted to telling the story of the Sinti and Roma. Much of what we saw in the museum is in this book, so I feel like I was inheriting quite a special document.

Regardless, we visited a little more and he invited us to come back for a subsequent visit, with lectures, and even to meet some more people if we were interested. The museum has no entrance fee, and upon his gift to me of his father's edited book - I asked if he would accept a donation. He refused and would not accept it. I was moved by his passion, his stories, the way he looked into my eyes and shook my hand. It was an experience and moment that I find hard to describe, but suffice it to say there was almost a pleading, a suffering, and a request to tell the story; share the history; and be a link in the chain. He didn't even have to say that to me, it was if we both understood looking into each other's eyes, and the handshake that this was the responsibility. Or the gift.

Needless to say, I left the museum perhaps on a different level than the students, but certainly emotionally moved as I headed down by myself to view the Neckar River, the Aldstadt and try to absorb it all in the time we had left before catching the bus back to the train station.

The old bridge in Heidelberg that crosses the Neckar River...


The entrance to the bridge on the Aldstadt side has a famous sculpture of a monkey, The myth is, if you rub his coin you will have good forture, if you rub his hand you will one day return to Heidelberg...

I felt guilty touching the coin as I felt the experience I had encountered an hour prior in the German Sinti and Roma museum that my fortune had already been found, touched, blessed, enriched by meeting and hearing all about the Rose family. So I placed my hand on the coin more in a move of thanks for the day's adventure, and chance meeting.


Ribeye Steak in Germany!

Today marked the two week point for my time here in Deutschland. Having had pork, lamb, chicken, pork, fish, fish, fish, salads, pasta, pizza, pizza, pasta, fish, pork, salad, salad, cereal, pumpkin, potato, pumpkin, leeks, potato, pumpkin, pizza, etc....I had not had any beef yet. I guess the craving altered my evening plans tonight.

After work today, I helped my hostess take down her Christmas decorations outside before walking the 30 minutes to the gym to hit the weights. On the way home from the gym, the plan was to stop at the store and get some turkey or chicken to bake for my dinner. However, I spotted a restaurant that I had heard about, but had not yet located until tonight. It's a Mexican restaurant, and they also have steaks. Lust, gravity, desire, hunger, post weight lifting buzz, Black Angus craving - all led me through the front door of the restaurant called Joe Peña's.

The decor was nice, lighting was cozy, and the place was empty when I arrived because it was early yet for the German dinner hour.


Even though the place was empty, all the tables were reserved. I sat at the bar and went for the 300g Ribeye steak medium rare with salad, and grilled veggies.

Tara - you know I just had to pull out the iPhone to snap a shot before I dove in...


It was just what the Doctor ordered! YUM!

Tomorrow we are off to see Heidelberg where we will tour the Dokumentations- und Kulturzentrum Deutscher Sinti und Roma, and the Heidelberg Castle.


Out of my way!!!

Cultural Observation for today. Whenever I holler out at the walkers on the bike trail, it doesn't seem to have the same response as it does stateside. Maybe I am being too polite with my Ich bin auf der linken Seite.

I will next holler out a simpler....Fahrrad Links!!!....to see if I get a better response from the walkers. And there are a lot of walkers - which is good to see here in Germany.

I may have to buy a bell as I have heard a few others with the ting-ting of a bell. However, I'm moving along in the 14-18 mph range and coming up on people in winter hats and coats which might be part of why they are not responding to my calling out. Oh well...life could be worse. I will figure out the trail etiquette in German in due time.

I didn't feel any muscle aches today from the gym session last night. That's odd since I worked it pretty hard after nearly a two week layoff from weights.

I figured I had better take advantage of no rain or snow today to get a 90 minute Zone 2 effort in while the getting was good after work, and before the sun set. It is now setting at 5:01 pm rather than 4:48 when I got here two weeks ago, so I am getting a little more leeway on the afternoon side. I discovered a nice 3.7 mile climb up the mountain behind the house I am living in which will be a nice workout when I take it on.  Coming back down the hill should be a nice screamer!!!!

Here was today's post-work training ride...


Schorndorf to Beutelsbach and back. I worked up a good appetite and ate some bread, cheese, and turkey cold cuts in my loft digs as there was no point in going out or cooking tonight. Tomorrow night is our first pizza night. I'll try to get a quick spin in after work tomorrow and before the snow starts on Thurday evening (forecast is for 1 - 3"). Looks like we have an upcoming week with snow just about every day which is going to land me in the gym on the spin bike until everything melts and the bike paths are clear again.

It is winter after all, and the first two weeks have been relatively warm and mild. At least I got to break out the winter jacket today which I was wondering if it had been a mistake that I brought it along. However, temps were in the 30's and I enjoyed having it.


Cultural observations...

This is pretty much a post simply to keep my family abreast of life here in Germany. All is going well, we have started classes, and the routine is well under way. I do have plenty of administrative work for the program going on the side that is requiring tending to, but it appears to be at a level I can manage at the moment.

Fears have been removed and I am speaking and doing everything in German just like the old days.

What's been new this week?

I joined a choir last night along with 4 of the students. The choir is called the Schorndorfer Kantorei which normally is about an 80 voice choir made up of members of the community and region. Last night, for the first rehearsal in 2015 there were more than 100 that showed up. We were introduced as the Americans joining the group and got a warm welcome from everyone.

I joined a gym today called Clever Fit. They usually only have one year contracts, but I explained my situation and why I was in town to the point that they are letting me do a month to month plan while I am here. I only need the weights and machines, but the compromise was that my fee would include everything at this fitness center - weights, trainer, cardio, massage, tanning, drinks, showers, classes, etc... .  From my Facebook post about the experience today...

Cultural Observation: A German Gym (Fitness Center) is just like it is in America - except everybody totally stares at you in Germany. Non-stop! On the other hand, gym etiquette is much better in Germany for everything else (beyond the staring). People obey the rules, put their weights back, wait their turn for the machine or bench, are very polite, and people talk to each other. Thumbs up on the experience! But the staring....is sorta creepy and odd compared to the Midwest gym scene.

We had our first snow today since arriving. It didn't stick in Schorndorf itself, but just up the hill the mountains are covered and the trees look beautiful.

We eat at one restaurant on M-W-F. Tuesday is our "roving day" and today we went to an Italian restaurant (Italian owners and cooks) called La Scala. The pasta - as one would imagine from a true Italian cook - was great!


We will rotate through 2-4 other restaurants on our Tuesdays as it was a group decision to do that. Thursdays, I will simply give money to the students so they can eat somewhere on their own for lunch as every Thursday at 5 PM we will have a Pizza Abend which has been a tradition for the Simpson Schorndorf program. That way, I'm sure that everyone is getting 5 good hot meals a week. Part of the experience for the students is culturally for them to try new things - including food. One student ate pumpkin (pumpkin soup) for the first time in her life yesterday. Several had never had oil and vinegar on a green salad before and didn't finish their salads because of it. The owner pulled me aside and asked if there was something wrong and what could he do about it. I told him not to worry that the salad was excellent. I suggested perhaps we have the dressing on the side so the students can regulate themselves what goes on the salad and how much of it. He said that would be fine.

I turned in the forms and purchased the monthly local transportation cards yesterday. Tomorrow we go to the Police Station to register that we are living in Schorndorf and pick up our forms to apply for our Visas. I bought train tickets for our Saturday trip to Heidelberg, and for the next two weekend trips as well including a trip to France.

A few of our dates and arrangements got ironed out at the Volkshochschule for some upcoming events we will do with our host families. A joint trip with the host families, a presentation evening where we will present photo projects and do some singing/performing for them, and a final good bye/friendship evening in April before we go. Everyone is very nice here which I'm not sure what I was expecting having lived in Vienna. I have had nothing but positive experiences with everyone I have met and dealt with during these first 2 weeks. That certainly makes for a more pleasant transition and experience thus far. Maybe it's still the honeymoon phase so to speak.

That's it for now as I must prepare tomorrow's lesson plans a bit more thoroughly based on how the first two days went.

Bis bald...


Adapting to life in Germany...

Coming up on the end of my first week here in Germany, I can talk about some of the adaptation issues I have been coming to terms with the past few days.

#1. Walking everywhere. This I remember well from living in Vienna for many years. Walking about an hour a day is no big deal if you live in Europe, but it has been a bit of big deal for my legs to adapt to the amount of walking. Today was day 7 of being here and the shins and legs are trying to adapt with their morning stiffness and reality of adjusting to all of the walking. No wonder I remained slim when I lived in Vienna - the walking burns a lot of calories.

#2. I had to buy a wine opener as my hostess did not provide one in my loft apartment, so I went shopping yesterday and debated between getting a Swiss Army knife with a corkscrew, or just getting a normal corkscrew. The Swiss Army solution was nice, but pretty expensive. I settled on quite a unique little pocket corkscrew that travels well and is very form-functional. It works well and I think it looks pretty darn cool...


I took the group to our first lunch at a restaurant we will be eating in quite a bit the next few months...


It's under new ownership by a man named Luigi Greco. He is young, energetic, Italian, and will take good care of us between now and the end of April for our lunches.

#3. Jet Lag sucks for me! I've dealt with it since 1990 on a regular basis. No matter what I have tried over the years - it always takes me a full week to adapt. Last night was the first night I slept normally from 10 pm to 5 am. I am hoping tonight, after a 75 minute Zone 2 bike ride and a full day with the students to make it a few minutes longer tomorrow morning. Who knows?

#4. The language has bounced right back for me after not having lived in a German speaking country and using it every day since 2003. I was worried the first few days, but here at the end of week 1 and all is coming back at a good rate of remembrance. I've moved beyond functional to actually doing quite fine.

#5. One can choose - as a leader - to be a Den Mother, a guarded Paternal figure, or a mix of both to guide the experience of the students. I think I am in the "mix of both" category, but certainly will try to "be all that I can be" to the group of 11 that are here.

Today, we took pictures for our monthly rail/bus card, visa, and anything else we might need. Those that wanted to get a SIM card for their phones to be able to use their US Smart Phones here in Germany got set up. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed as we talked about their host family experience last night to make sure everything was going to be fine, had lunch, decided on a meeting point for tomorrow's day trip and got everyone home on the right bus or train.

Saturday day trip #1 tomorrow to Stuttgart to see the Art Museum, the new shopping city, walk the shopping district, and choose a ballet as well as an opera performance at the State Theater to purchase tickets. A lunch thrown in there at some point as well.

Monday will begin the official classes from 9 - 12, and 1:30 - 3:30. I've got a few miles to go with my syllabi in the next 48 hours to say the least...


Jet lag is always a beast that wreaks havoc on my sleep cycles, so I thought using exercise this time would help curtail it.

It is a bit warmer than traditional this week in southern Germany. I jumped on the chance and used the nice weather as an opportunity to hit the bike. I traveled 14 kilometers over to one of the neighboring towns on Tuesday by riding to Weinstadt.


It was a wonderful 59 degrees outside with sunshine, and very little wind. This made for a pleasant 1st journey. I only stopped for 2 photographs as I wanted to keep riding and get back to the house in time to do some work.

The rear Arkel rack came with extenders to have the rack 4 inches lower than it is shown in these pictures. Once I got back to the house, I put the extenders on and that lowered the center of gravity. It also made for a much easier mounting and dismounting process to swing my leg up and over the rear rack and pack.

Did the ride help curtail my jet leg? Nope!

Wednesday's pleasant start to the day weather wise gave way in the mid-afternoon to huge rain showers with thunder and lightening. The high was only 46, but I got my first trip to Aldi in to purchase groceries. I arranged for a few more things for our visit, then had lunch with my host, her daughter, and grandson. A second trip out and about in the early evening was a nice hour walk as I bought some coffee, fresh bread, garlic, and avoided getting rained on since I timed it perfectly.

Did the walk curtain my jet lag? Nope.

It will be back in the 50's on Thursday when I pick the students up at the Stuttgart airport and bring them to Schorndorf where they will meet their host families. Friday will be our first day of classes, and Saturday is our first weekend day trip.

Now, to see if I can get some sleep...


Arrived and settled...

I had a safe schlep from one continent to another. No surprises outside of one suitcase arriving with the zippers all messed up as it appears TSA didn't take their time to zip it back up properly after they inspected it. It was an easy fix involving sliding the zipper all the way back around to the other side which was too much to ask the authorities to do - or so it appears as my bag was hand delivered through the heavy baggage door, dropped on the floor where all of my stuff dumped out on the floor for all to see!

Here's where home base will be the next 4 months...

Upon arrival Saturday afternoon, my hostess mentioned to me that it was the 80th birthday of Sherrill Milnes and she had just heard an hour radio broadcast highlighting his career. That broke the ice as we launched into a discussion about baritones. This and a glass of champagne to welcome me to her home was how it started, followed by homemade pumpkin soup, a 2 hour visit in German, and a trip to the grocery store.

I managed to stay awake until 7 pm - then slept for 9 hours.

Daylight is 39 minutes shorter here than in Iowa, so it is dark until about 8:13 am here, and is dark at 4:48 pm making for a shorter day. It's 40 degrees this morning at 8 while I type this and get ready to make some breakfast. Heading to 56 by Tuesday which might be a good day to assemble the bike and check out the local riding.


The journey begins...

Loaded to capacity, but wheels to roll through it all...

Travel Time!

Now I know why I've been lifting weights so diligently for the past 3 months. To schlep all this luggage from here to there today.

Text books, materials, supplies, clothing, stuff, bike - it's all in there but will cost a small fortune to transport. I can't upgrade to use iBooks as OS Mavericks and Yosemite do not work with Simpson's security software as of yet without some workarounds that I was advised to avoid, otherwise I would have been about 10 books less.

One thing is for sure, today's travel should wear me out lifting, pushing, and hauling this consortium of bags.

Auf Wiedersehen!


Packing it up....!

My obvious over-thinking-it-all about which bike to bring along and how to carry things on the bike for the commute has been solved. I spoke with an avid cyclist in Stuttgart about the weather as well as what there is and isn't for me to ride around there. He was quite blunt about which bike I should bring based on all of the information. He owns a singlespeed, geared mountain bike, and road bike as well - so knew exactly the bikes I was considering.

Now it comes down to seeing if I can fit my gigantic bike into the Serfas travel case today. I took the lid off to take some internal measurements, walked away to watch an online video of packing the bike in a Serfas case, and when I came back into the room - I found Max wanting to go with me...


I went with the Arkel rear rack and a Switchback 2.0 commute bag which seemed simple, easy, and can move from bike to bike.

The Randonneur Rack (jives with my carbon post on the road bike)...

The Switchback 2.0 commute bag will hold my laptop and books...

The company was great to deal with and my shipment should arrive today, if not early tomorrow morning. I ran a lot of errands yesterday to tackle my "to do before I go list". Haircut, new procurement card, credit and course number discussion with the Registrar, accounting talk about cash for starters, stopped by State Farm, had a meeting with a local graphics/printing company for IMBCS, picked up the letters for the students' residency permits, started setting everything next to the suitcase that is supposed to go in the suitcase, shoveled snow, and then I ran out of energy and took a nap. Today's "to do before I go list" somehow managed to get longer, but doesn't involve quite as much running around. Lots of phone calls, typing, and printing - perfect for a day with -30 to -40 windchills!

After I woke up from the nap in the late afternoon yesterday, I had an FTP test on tap to set training zones to begin the next leg of base training. First, however, I took the dogs out for a walk while I lumbered through the 7 inches of snow on my version of a FAT BIKE - my Karate Monkey with the 2.4 Racing Ralphs. Every winter, I am always surprised how well it cuts through the snow for my dog walking needs.

Getting back to the house, I suited up for the FTP test. I will admit, leading up to this, I had done some pretty good training in month one (December) of base, lifted plenty of weights and felt out on the bike after 2 days of rest that I surmised had left me in pretty decent shape for the test.

December and January look like this...

December 2 - rode 24.6 miles for a duration of 1:34:32
December 4 - rode 5.57 miles for a duration of 00:33:43
December 5 - rode 5.58 miles for a duration of 00:32:00
December 6 - rode 29.3 miles for a duration of 1:58:20
December 7 - rode 23.2 miles for a duration of 1:37:48
December 9 - rode 23.2 miles for a duration of 1:35:30
December 10 - rode 18.4 miles for a duration of 1:09:27
December 12 - rode 23.7 miles for a duration of 1:29:50
December 13 - rode 17.4 miles for a duration of 1:11:19
December 14 - rode 27.5 miles for a duration of 2:07:46
December 16 - rode 18.3 miles for a duration of 1:21:53
December 17 - rode 18.4 miles for a duration of 1:14:00
December 18 - rode 21.5 miles for a duration of 1:05:00
December 19 - rode 17.4 miles for a duration of 1:57:11
December 21 - rode 40.3 miles for a duration of 2:42:13
December 23 - rode 20.4 miles for a duration of 1:00:58
December 25 - rode 22.9 miles for a duration of 1:40:08
December 27 - rode 30.7 miles for a duration of 1:38:58
December 28 - rode 43.3 miles for a duration of 3:03:53
December 31 - rode 20.9 miles for a duration of 1:04:58

December Totals: 452.55 miles -- 30:39:30

January 1 - rode 8.3 miles for a duration of 1:05:00 (mountain biking)
January 2 - rode 17.3 miles for a duration of 1:49:32 (singlespeeding)
January 3 - rode 31.2 miles for a duration of 2:24:56 (foundation road miles)
January 6 - rode 20 miles for a duration of 1:03:58 (included FTP test to set training zones)

January Totals: 76.8 miles - 6:23:26 hours

I did the required extended warm-up of 30 minutes with some intervals on the bike and included the all important 5 minute blowoff period, followed by recovery before starting the actual test. The warm up and 5 minute blowoff prepares you to get a more accurate reading when doing the 20 minute FTP version. Off I went into the test and was happy to see that I matched my best FTP test from all of 2014. Not a bad way to begin 2015, but I'm sure it has a lot to do with my carrying over fitness due to the time and effort I've put into December and January to this point. Heart rate was a bit higher, but I attribute that to having two days of rest from cardio, and having somewhat of a busy, stress filled day leading up to it.

After the test, I managed to cool down and finish up in Zone 2 while watching the news. Tara made some wonderful stir-fry which we all really enjoyed for a late dinner. I don't remember too much after that, but did wake up at 2 am which is typical after running a high heart rate at race effort.

On tap for today due to my poor night of sleep: a NAP!


ATP 2014 numbers...and am I destined to be a Singlespeed commuter this year?

Could it be? Could my commuter, get-around-town, grocery fetching bike, trainer, fire road adventurer, and all around winter slop set of wheels in Germany be my Karate Monkey singlespeed?

Plus side: No worries of drivetrain issues, or rim braking surface in winter slop. Perhaps the Surly Karate Monkey is not the most attractive bike to thieves compared to my other two possible bikes (carbon Roubaix, Dos Niner with Roval carbon wheels). My Dos Niner frame pack fits the Karate Monkey, along with the gas tank, and my saddlebag so I could haul my essentials to and from the job, as well as carry an umbrella, rain gear, bike lock(s), spare whatever along with my messenger type computer bag that I could carry over the shoulder. Or a more universal solution such as the Burley Travoy? Or an Arkel Randonneur Seat Post Rack and one the Arkel bags that attaches to it? I'd probably have to go back to a straight post instead of the layback to handle the Arkel rack attachment system. However, the measurements look like it just might work fine without a post swap.


Without the saddlebag...


Cons: no gears to shift to for any steady state training I can squeeze in during my off hours. There are miles and miles of paved biking trails and that leads back to taking the road bike. Perhaps the Surly Karate Monkey is too unique for that part of the world and would attract more eyes and attention than a road bike would.

Commuter bike for January - April: this is the week to figure it all out. Take a bike with me and pay the airline charges. And if so - which bike will serve my needs the best and not get stolen overseas. Or if I don't take a bike with me, and make arrangements in the other side of the pond - what will I end up riding? I will need to haul groceries, my computer and teaching supplies, music, perhaps a duffle as well on extended trips. Burley seems like a sound, if not overkill solution to handle the entire trip and all of my needs...

My bikes are too big and tall for it as shown, so I would also have to get a rear rack to be able to mount the hitch onto which sort of defeats the purpose. So nix on the Burley. Arkel looks to be the most painless, compact, and lightweight solution, even if I'd have to swap out posts which is no big deal as I have a Thomson straight post. However, I like the layback because the XL size Surly bike needs the long stem and layback for me to be in the best position on the bike. Measurements do look like it would work either way. If not, it back to a Timbuktu Messenger bag - or my Kensington Saddle Bag. It will all work out whatever I choose as I have options.

In the meantime, I have plenty of things to do this week to get ready to go. My to do list grows by the hour, and I am trying to be as productive as possible throughout each and every day to get things done on that list. Tomorrow is a huge day for me to get things done as the Simpson Campus opens up again, so I will be hitting the library, office, registrar, business office, and tackling my list.

ATP Final Tally for 2014

My goal was to only add 10% over 2013 hours. I shouldn't say "only", as adding 10% is a tall order at my age. So my 2014 target was set on 477 hours. As you can see, I was only about an hour, thirty-eight minutes short of the goal. That's close enough to call it good.

2104 ATP by Month

And the Training Peaks monthly breakdown of the year...

2014 ATP


Saturday Road Ride...

I don't how many times this fall and winter I have said "this is probably our last good road ride before the weather turns" only to have Ma Nature bounce back with another opportunity. Yesterday was such a day as Tara announced we were doing a 30+ miler after she got back from walking the dogs in the morning reporting to me that it was beautiful outside. 8 weekends in a row I've been able to log some nice mileage - each one with the thought it could be the last chance.

Yes, I have endless hours of work and preparation that I am doing for my semester, packing to do, chores around the house, and the IMBCS 2015 season to finish ironing out some final details before my trip. However, not wanting to miss yet another last opportunity for a good road ride had me suit up to join the wife for some Saturday sun and pavement.

Off we went as we both settled into a nice leisurely pace which was fine with me considering the singlespeed workout the day prior. The sun was shining, and we stopped on the Summerset Trail for a photo or two...


I managed to dress just right for the 36 degree temperatures, as I was comfortable the entire ride. Not too warm, and not too cold.

It was a very relaxed pace as we rolled the 31.2 miles in 2:25 which is about 30 minutes longer than we usually do that ride in warmer months. However, it was very enjoyable to be out and about on the bikes together and laughing about this one probably being our last good one. Who knows? Maybe Ma Nature will surprise us - or Tara, rather. I'll have temps in the 30's - 40's where I am going for January/February allowing me to get out for some rides if I can just figure out the bike situation (bring one along, rent one there, borrow one there, buy a used one there.....).

Today we have about an inch of snow that fell last night, and 4 to 5 more inches on the way. So that may have been the last good one for quite some time in these parts.


Me having Singlespeed success today - WTF?

In a typical male cyclist scenario, I own enough bikes to justify a divorce. In fact, I own 4 mountain bikes - a Niner Jet 9, a Niner RIP 9, a Salsa Dos Niner, and a Surly Karate Monkey. The Niners are one too many and the 2nd one came as a result of a recall on the JET 9 when the company offered a RIP 9 at a steep discount while we waited the 8 months - or whatever it was - for the company to redesign and fix the problems of the JET 9 at the time. The Dos Niner is a crash replacement frame from my first Dos Niner race bike. And the Karate Monkey was my first ever 29"er purchase back in 2003. After 10 years of the original, I upgraded to the newer frame - and, well - there is no amount of explaining my way out of this one. "4 bikes too many" would be Tara's comment. And she's got a point.

Well, low and behold, I do ride all of them. However, they have all in the last few months broken down. One by one, that is. The JET 9 needs a new rear derailleur installed. The Salsa Dos Niner recently got a new rear derailleur, a spoke replaced, a new chain - and now needs a new cassette - as yesterday's ride, as beautiful as it was out at Banner kept having the chain jump on the old cassette.


I had to bail in the middle of my 2nd lap at Banner Pits as the chain would simply not stay in a gear. I did see a raccoon that didn't survive the New Year...

Today was just about identical in terms of weather - frozen dirt to enjoy. The Dos Niner was out of commission. The JET needs a new cable to install the new derailleur - so it was out. I reached for the RIP and saw that the rear wheel was way out of true. Low and behold, the Light Bicycle AM rim has finally given up the ghost as one of the spokes/nipples pulled through the rim after several years of use. So the RIP was out.

That left me with only one choice - the Karate Monkey singlespeed bike which I have not ridden all fall or winter. I had to add some NoTubes sealant in the tires since it had been many months that I last did that, and they were dry inside the carcasses. After piddling around doing that, I loaded up the bike and headed to Summerset State Park for my 3 full laps I have been doing at Banner as a benchmark to prepare me for the COMP category this season in the IMBCS.

OK. So I only had one gear. And the dirt was frozen, hard, and fast. I've read things about how cold dampens an athlete's performance at Velo News. I wasn't expecting much due to the cold, me without gears, and no suspension in the rear of this bike whatsoever.

I was running the big fat Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.4's and the front wasn't really holding air as well as it should (needs to seal up). The trail was nice and frozen, there was no wind, and things were quiet and peaceful out at the park today.

Normally, my routine this past fall has been to warm up with lap one, then push it on the 2nd and 3rd laps to build my racing endurance for that distance. I've done the 3 laps on my Dos Niner, my JET, and my RIP. The Dos has been the fastest in the fall 3 lap training runs mainly because I really like how that bike flies out at Banner. I think because of the singlespeed, and the hamster spinning required to keep moving, I shot out of the gate today at a little closer to race pace heart rate than I usually do on my first lap with a geared bike. All the weight lifting I have been doing the past 3 months was being put to the test muscling this bike through the trails, and up the steep climbs with the gearing I was running. At the end of lap one, I was - surprisingly to me at least - about 3 minutes ahead of my usual 1st lap. WTF?!!!

Off I went on the 2nd lap and realized that to keep the flow on a singlespeed, I was working a lot harder which had my heart rate getting pretty near full race speed, but it felt good. Even the grunt climbs that had me out of saddle to give it everything I had seemed to be working. I was quicker on the 2nd lap than the first when I rounded the bend and launched into my final lap. Now the legs were feeling spent on the short steep climbs as I burned a lot of matches in the first two laps, but I kept at it. I wasn't able to go as fast as I can on a geared bike in all the flat, connector sections. Lap three had me at my tether, but I couldn't get the heart rate up quite as high as I did in lap 1 and 2. I felt like I faded a bit in this lap no matter how hard I tried, but was only 37 seconds slower than lap two. Not to mention, I had lost enough air in the front tire that I was riding at 15 psi instead of 24 that I started with which was causing some dabbing issues in spots. However, all three laps were fairly consistent, and my finish time was quicker than my last 3 lap full suspension training run out there. It's a bit of a toss up in terms of being a bit quicker than my Dos Niner (where I usually warm up a bit slower on the first lap than I was able to with the one gear).

WTF!!!!??? Me - on a singlespeed - turning one of my best 3 lap times on a cold winter morning at Banner Pits? Say it isn't so! None of the laps matched my fastest lap on the Dos Niner (was shy by 2 minutes), but they were consistent and gave me a great leg workout. It was a nice substitute for skipping my leg session at the YMCA today.

I would spend some more time on the singlespeed this winter to get the burn of such a great workout, but I'm off to the other side of the Atlantic pond next week. So it is not to be. And this result was only due to my 3 other mountain bikes being out of commission at the moment.

Color me curious. At least I will sleep well tonight after the effort. I may have to take the bike out to Ahquabi to see what kind of lap time I can turn on the singlespeed.



Happy New Year, Happy New Look, Happy Anniversary...

First of all, Happy New Year to all friends, family, and - as Doctor Falke says in the prologue to Die Fledermaus - "others". We got together with our circle of friends over at Chuck and Gayla's to ring in the New Year. Tara snapped a shot of us us before we started the wonderful meal.

Tara suggested a few pictures to update here on the blog, and move away from the dark black look to a brighter blue look. So here it is - a fresh new lighter look for 2015. May the year be full of challenges, desires, wants, success, problem solving, fun, family, friends, work, and of course - plenty of hours on the bike!!!!

December 30th was our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We had a major turning point in our relationship this summer, and at my 53rd birthday Tara asked me to marry her all over again. So we renewed our vows in a private ceremony on December 30th in downtown Des Moines that was officiated by Fritz Wehrenberg. We met Fritz at Simpson where he served as the college Chaplain for 4 years before his retirement. He was our first choice to conduct the ceremony.

Fritz's wife, Jennie, snapped a few pictures of us during and after the ceremony. Here we are after saying our vows, exchanging rings, being blessed, and of course - for me - shedding a few tears...

The four of us then went up to our suite in the Des Lux hotel where the staff had set a table for 4 with linens, cheeses, and a beautiful bottle of wine that was an anniversary present from our good friends Tina and Jon Hade, and Deb and Joel Hade. The wine was wonderful! The cheese was wonderful!

After visiting for an hour, we all parted ways and Tara and I made our way to our anniversary dinner a few blocks away. Goofing around at dinner, I attempted to take a selfie of us (Tara hates selfies), and caught her cracking up over the whole scenario...

We followed up the wonderful evening with breakfast at Gateway Market where we visited for at least an hour, and came out feeling refreshed, renewed and ready to take it one day at a time for many years to come.