Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vacation Days of Mine

It's official...I'm on vacation.  Hence, there's a ton of stuff happening around the NWH (New Wayward Home) that leaves but little window for blogging.  The first couple days of time off are always busy but gradually, the reality that the phone isn't going to ring sinks in and I can slow down.  Unwinding takes time.

To get the non-working party started, I parked my last 12"-to-the-foot-scale toy train for two weeks on Saturday morning and promptly dropped off the radar.  The railroad and I manage to get along pretty well on most occasions but at some point, I have to step back and completely break from operating trains or I'd probably become somebodies lab rat in a padded room somewhere.  I know a couple of actual lunatics who want to work through their vacations every year and I pray regularly for their eventual recovery or quiet removal from the property before they become a danger to themselves and others.

Old guys like me can only put up with the day to day madness for so long and then something has to give.  That something is me because the railroad, like the juggernaut that it is, will blunder it's way along without this particular minion and never even blink.  Vacations are really subtle reminders that the carrier can get by just fine without you cleverly camouflaged as a couple weeks of rest.  Be that as it may, the time off is mine to burn and burn it I shall.  God help them when I get old enough to have four weeks at a crack.  If I took all that at once, I'd have to go back to engine school when (if) I came back.  That's how seriously I take forgetting all things RR when I'm off. 

This go-round I do have to think about my ever-insistent employer to some extent though because I find myself spending a fair amount of time 'captaining' a bike team in their name.  Between a long-overdue hack-down of the lawn, assorted to-do list missions around the NWH and environs and some competition deck-lounging, I've been chewing away at a checklist of backlogged priorities on that project.  It's turned into something of a monster.

But first, a little background.  Anyone who's been around me for more than about two minutes knows that I ride bicycles a lot these days.  I took it up a few years ago when I realized that my sit-down profession was turning me into something about the shape of a turnip.  My sudden change from outdoor calorie burning activity to sedentary, almost motionless lump with the same appetite cost me about four waist sizes.  Photos from those days are most depressing.  A change was in order.

A worn out big-box women's hybrid that was laying in disrepair around my shed suddenly found itself being oiled and prepped for abuse by a fat guy.  It was the most incredibly ugly greenish-blue ever created, didn't fit, barely shifted and the brakes were pretty iffy but the tires held air and we were off.  Breathless, gasping circuits of a block or two soon turned into loops measured in a couple of miles.  Combined with a crew hotel that was equipped with a treadmill and a determination to back away from the buffet without taking prisoners to eat later, I started to find my old self beneath the pudge.  I discovered off-road riding at some point and thereafter treated my beater like the mountain bike it most certainly was not which only hastened it's demise.  I rode in snow, mud, dirt and even back out on the blacktop when I could overcome the embarrasment of being seen on the most hideous, gender confused bicycle in four counties.  I figured out that I was pretty much hooked.

The hybrid finally succumbed to an overdose of broken cables, bent rims and a bottom bracket that digested itself into steel filings and square ball bearings.  I began searching Craigslist for a suitably cheap replacement but my wife came to the rescue before I could make a move.  That Christmas brought a shiny-new Mongoose with suspension and fat tires and suddenly the Murrey was history.  The 'goose was real steel and weighed as much as a small car but everything worked and I was rolling again.  I rode the thing to destruction in about a year.  Talk about loving something to death.  I went everywhere my strengthening legs would take me until the New York road salt dissolved the freewheel and deraileurs into rust powder.  I found trails and roads just out of sight around the next corner and saw more countryside in my own backyard than I ever knew existed.  My weight and blood pressure continued to decline and there was no turning back.

Things progressed from there as things seem to do and I found myself aboard a much-used but much-loved 80's vintage Trek road bike.  I found out what it meant to go really fast with those little tiny rear cogs and skinny tires surrounded by aluminum frame.  It felt like flying.  Somewhere in there, I turned 50 which was duly reported in this post and a new hardtail mountain bike came to my house to live.  I was almost back down to my fighting weight and the miles under pedal-power were starting to scare me.

Then came the new blue and black Trek.  That Father's Day gift changed a lot of things again and the road stretched out much further.  Our first Tour de Cure went under the tires as a result of all the prior leg work and Century Rides became something other than fantasy.  People around me got used to hearing about 3 digit mileage and some even stopped looking at me like I'd lost my least sometimes.  A few even bought bikes, tagged along and fell into the same trap that caught me so unawares.  Frames, clipless pedals, drop bars and gear ratios became common subjects of conversation among us in the peasantry rather than an arcane language spoken only by people with French names and silly looking, short-brimmed caps.

But back to today.  As usual, I've wandered off my subject and now there's things to do, people to meet, rides to take.  The Team Captain story will have to be part II of this post so stand by and if the stars line up right, I'll hit the keys again before too long.

Or not...that's what a vacation's all about.

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