About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Monday, August 31, 2009


I like the autumn. That doesn't make me special. Lots of people like the autumn. It is a beautiful season and I regret I've never lived any place where I could see the flaming colors in their glory. In the autumn, the sun and air become lighter, fainter. The outdoors feels different and one senses at every level that things are changing. Autumn comes on the heels of my birthday, so I view it as the beginning of a new year. Even though my calendar still says August, I went to a "Harvest Festival" yesterday with the Badger . . . yes, things are changing.

In a quiet spell, I spent maybe a few moments too many reflecting on "what are you going to do next, Limes?" For as the autumn marks the beginning of some new things, it marks the close of others. I feel a bit unsettled. The landscape is a bit wiggly for a person who prefers everything so very solid. It wiggles with both promise and concern.

This summer a loved one and I learned to actually talk about things rather than commit lies of both omission and commission in order to make sure all the explosive topics remained completely swept under the rug. We're not heroic or admirable, in particular. We didn't decide to learn this new way of relating with one another. We were rather forced to it. Detonating explosives is risky business, as one can be terribly hurt or annihilated. But taking those risks, working them together, surviving the detonation, taking great care to remain committed to the love shared and to not hurting the other . . can land a pair in a safe place that is new and different. New and different can take awhile to absorb. Each step taken tentatively. Make sure the ground holds. OK. Take another step.

Many cycling races have bumped off many potential camping forays into the desert. But the racing season is ending and the autumn makes the desert tolerable for camping . . . until it makes the desert intolerable for camping at freezing temperatures. I am strongly drawn to taste the way the coffee is just a little different when made on the cookstove and to be wakened in the dawn by howling coyotes. I long to wear my really good boots to hike, see the petroglyphs I know so well, poke around near the abandoned mines to find treasures that not many people would recognize as treasure.

I have a new friend who came to me in a twisted, winding way but I got brave and mature and behaved more sturdily than I felt and that landed me this new friend. I knew within a couple of weeks why this person was put into my life. The way it happened was sparky and spiky and is not to be told. But the reason I was sent this person, and the effect on my life of having been paired up, is profound. Meeting one person affected my relationship with another. This new friend has given me the extraordinary gift of listening to me, paying attention. It happened that I had a birthday last week. Many e-mails were exchanged about "the birthday box". When it arrived, I was completely stunned with its many, many beautiful and carefully selected offerings. For it was clear to me that this friend understands what is meaningful to me, and selected gifts for me with that understanding. On Saturday came Birthday Box #2 and I continue to be amazed at how two people who are open, honest, willing to be good to others . . . can connect. Deeply. Even if "unusually".

Anyone who has read me knows how strong, how confident I am in my work. "I have the best seat in the house," I've been known to say a time or ten. But that has a new slant, as well. For David has another new enterprise that opened for business this morning. I have always been kept in a cocoon - dedicated to only the one business I manage for him. "Don't ask her where the pens are kept, ask somebody else!" he's been heard to snap at workers from his other ventures. "You don't see her. She's not there." But the new undertaking is large and more heavily populated and I'll be helping him in ways to manage it. Still in the comfortable cocoon. Still the best seat in the house. Doing new things. Change. David Bowie: "Ch-ch-ch-changes . . . "

I have a tremendous need, desire, longing to make some of the pretty, lovely, delicous things I know how to make. I have been so silent, so dead, so cold for so long. But I find myself in the closets and cupboards and storage bins, touching the materials, the supplies, the implements, the machines . . . I have set myself a loving challenge ~ one item by September 26th, another by October 14th, and the most important one by October 22nd. I believe I can do this and it will move my personal, human agenda forward. When I went into one closet to look at crafting materials, I spotted a favored sweater not worn for many months. I feel good when I wear that sweater, because it looks nice on me. Just a small part of the cobalt blue sleeve was peeping out from behind other things . . . it won't be very long before I wear that blue silk sweater again in another autumn in my life.

Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse

In my ears right now: "In My Life", the Beatles. It was dedicated to me specially, by someone special.

Something that charmed me: That Harvest Festival was the best "woman spend money" I've attended in a long time. I got more wonderful and fun and funny things, both for myself and others. Reminder to self . . . .

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Skull Valley II ~ The Badger's Revenge

Race day - up early. The Badger is quiet. Not unpleasant, but very busy in his head. We have certain luxuries this time. I flirted outrageously with the 90-year-old motel clerk the day before and got us a late checkout. We can return to the room after the race and the Badger can take a real shower before our long drive home. The free continental breakfast was decent. We always carry our own good coffee. No rain to deal with. Let's go!

About half way to Skull Valley, he muttered, "I wish we'd left a little earlier." When we pulled into the road where all the cyclists park, it was clear that this year's event was much better attended than last. I finally parked illegally and let him out to get ready and to warm up. He rolled away and it was very close to his starting time. I didn't know if he'd get back to me with the answer to the $64 million question. He did! "Limes, no personal follow vehicles this year. Just ride on out to the turn-around and I'll see you there." I was disappointed about that, but remembered he told me last year, "Your maiden voyage is the best it will ever get. I've never even heard of personal follow vehicles in a road race."

My 27+ mile drive was fairly uneventful, but I was watching the course carefully. At the starting line, I noticed far more racers in his 50+/60+ group than had been registered earlier. The finish line and 1 Km marker were highly visible and there were flags and banners that hadn't appeared last year. The road had been cleared of much of the rocks and gravel left by the previous day's storms - a good thing. I drove slowly, I sang poorly but loudly and I watched racers. I watched the Prius getting 100 mpg for part of the drive and pondered that. Maybe because of the increased number of competitors, or maybe for no good reason, I saw a lot of flats happen - official neutral cars pulling over to assist the unfortunates. Way too close to the turn-around, on that sharp descent, there was a crash with several broken-up bikes in the road, cyclists down, and one young man banged up and bleeding pretty badly.

This time, the turn-around was well marked, manned by plenty of volunteers, showing multiple orange cones. Still so narrow the racers weren't going to get through by very many more than two-by-two. I had to roll quite a way in order to park the car and position myself for the water hand-up. Finally I spotted a large wash I could run in while handing up. I tucked the Prius away, got out, stretched, felt the sun . . . . there weren't too many people crowding me. I'd left the biggest group behind. Farther along in this wash was a really young woman with a lot of water bottles at her feet. She was a race volunteer and would hand up to anyone who needed water. It's been said that Limes could talk to a dead snake and the snake would talk back to her. It's also been said that Limes has never met a stranger. I moseyed on over . . she's a 22-year-old triathlete from Tucson and her boyfriend was riding in the race. I told her about the Badger, we spoke of cycling in general and I told her about my walking and why I do it. It would be fair to say we were simpatico!

She didn't have to watch for anyone. Her boyfriend wouldn't come by for a long time as his race was more than 80 miles. I needed to pay attention to time, because the Badger had reminded me how fast the first half of this course is. I watched her handing up water and she nailed it every time. The problem was her delivery method. "Ummm, excuse me, Grasshopper, but why don't you run when you hand up?" "Oh, I was taught to do it this way." Her form was to grasp the bottle with all 5 fingers across the top - leaving the cyclist more bottle surface to grab. She held her arm out straight, but loose. When the cyclist grabbed, her arm was pushed forward - she didn't resist the movement. And she was delivering 100% of the time. "Well!" thought I.

He announced his approach by bopping me with his empty from across the highway as he descended. It hit my knees and rolled away, but I can read "Pro-Cyclery" upside down and in motion. I quickly asked cutie Tri-Ath if she'd hold one out for him, too, since I didn't have a good track record with this. "Sure! Tell me what he's wearing." When the pack took the turn-around I spotted him from quite a distance. I had him picked out! I was going to do it cutie Tri-Ath's way and if I missed, she wouldn't. The only thing wrong with that plan was that nobody clued in the Badger on his bike. "Run, Limes, run!" he shouted. To my mortification, I couldn't run. The hill was right on me. The car blocked me. He was swooping down on me. I tried Tri-Ath's way and he missed it. I noticed her hand was empty but she wasn't happy - someone else got it.

Running for the car, I quickly came up on the pack and I saw him strong on the climb. I knew he was setting the pace - it was obvious. He was out of the saddle and unlike during some parts of last year's race, he was not hanging with road toads. He was leading this pack, on his feet in the pedals and he made me think of a mighty warrior. I got choked up watching him. In the year that had passed, he went from very little confidence to "come on, I'll lead this parade!" I could see it. I didn't have to hear him say a word.

I drove ahead and picked a good spot to park so he'd see the Prius first. I went far ahead of it on foot and picked a section of highway where I could run like the wind when I saw him. When they came into view I started to run slowly, arm extended. I could hear them approach and I ran faster. I heard a racer say, "Let the man through, he's being handed up water." I knew they were giving him his propers for pulling them up the hill! It's hard to run and hand up water when one's throat is constricting from emotion, but I did this. I could feel the rush of air from his bike and he masterfully grabbed that bottle. "Good one, Limes! Thanks!"

There wasn't much left for me to do now. I got in immediately behind the official follow vehicle for the 50+/60+ and stayed on its bumper for a lot of miles. I saw the team shenanigans the Badger blogged about and realized he wasn't going to be able to turn the race into the scorcher it could have been if there had not been so many resistors. OK, so be it. He remained strong, on the front, often setting the pace. He and another racer worked together and looked like skilled young men showing the others how to do it. It happens that there were continual flats and breakdowns. The official vehicle pulled off a lot. I'm rather big on community service, so when the vehicle pulled off, I stayed behind the pack with my flashers blinking. When the vehicle came back to the pack, I immediately let it in and returned to "regular citizen". The driver waved and nodded at me repeatedly. He didn't give the appreciation the sheriff's reserves showed last year, but I took it that he was pleased with the teamwork.

Until he wasn't any longer. The finish line was within view. I ducked my head a little to watch the Badger fly across, no errant red car threatening him this time. He easily had first in his category. I saw it for myself. When I straightened up, Mr. Official Follow Vehicle hung his head out of his window, looked back at me and bellowed,"This isn't a spectator sport - you're making it dangerous on the road for the cyclists!" Huh? I guess my little head dipping beneath the steering wheel freaked the man out, and I felt truly chastised. I maintained good balance - no smart-mouth - and drove to the meet-up area.

Quickly we zoomed into Prescott, the Badger showering while I decamped us. We stopped for a sandwich and headed back out toward Skull Valley. The hosting club was still packing it up, and the Badger was able to get his official placing and his trophy plaque. And that's when the driver of the official follow vehicle spotted me. He came over to give me the (gentle) business. I was respectful, but held my own. I wondered why he was apparently so happy out on the road to have my assistance, but now was spanking me in front of the other organizers. All of the organizers insisted I had been no one's personal follow vehicle in 2008, because that was never allowed. The Badger looked at the old gent who told him in '08 that he could have a personal follow vehicle, but said gent looked at the ground and remained silent. Brown eyes looked into blue eyes and said, "Let's get out of here and go to the place we live where everyone is full of b.s. and no one tries to deny it."

Driving home, I could see him start to sag. "Want me to drive, Badger?" "Oh, maybe after awhile." "Want to just go on home after you drop me, Badger, no dinner together?" "OK, maybe. You won't feel badly?" "No." "What about your birthday presents?" "You could come in for 5 minutes, never sit down, and watch me open them." "OK. I could use your bathroom, too." "OK, Badger. It was a great weekend!"

In my ears right now: "This isn't a spectator sport . . . . " Um, it is to me, home dude.

Something that charmed me:

Matt's Contributions

So, home dudes are kind of getting into this blogging thing, as long as I will read the posts and point out the fine points. But each of them has picked up on saying "L-i-i-i-imes . . " when they radio me. When I hear that, it's like a sweet, invisible grin. We're sharing a laugh, sharing fun, while not in one another's presence. When I read my post aloud the other day, Matt said, "Limes, that's just like listening to a story!" "It is a story, home dude! Telling one's experiences is sharing the story of life and how it affects oneself." "You do it good, Limes." "I thank you, sir."

Friday, I brought the Badger's car to work. Vicente was to detail it. Home dudes were to clean the carpet and upholstery and apply stainguard. The Badger has nearly driven the tires off of that Prius going to and from races.

Around the Badger, a certain aura has developed. Matt asked for a photo to be posted and dedicated to him. The Badger acquiesced. Home dudes listen to me tell of his many exploits and adventures. They think the Badger is the coolest old homey because of his cycling and other aspects of his life they've heard about. His magic car was admired and appreciated by all. Limes got to show off quite a bit during the day. "Damn, Limes, you can't hear a thing!" "Limes, how can it get 100 mpg even for a moment? Is that legal?"

In the top photo is Matt hand scrubbing the Badger's floor mat in 108 degrees of heat. It is his third time scrubbing it, because this floor mat is thrashed. The young man walked up the stairs several times to show me the progress made on this one floor mat. He radioed me repeatedly to jawbone about a particular spot on the upholstery or a speck on the carpet. "Matt, he knows he waited too long and he knows it can't be perfect. We know you're doing the best that can be done." He cleaned that car so well, that to continue would have caused permanent fiber damage. He cleaned all the plastic panels with tanner to get out the accumulated sunscreen and other debris. He cares about the quality of his work. He cares about doing a good job for Limes. He cares about doing a good job for old home dude.

Today we have a very full schedule (we're thankful!) and home dudes were about to set out for a very long day that will reach 110 degrees. They are all careful to carry enough water and sports drinks to keep on their feet. They work hard. Matt was grinning, holding something behind his back. "I have something gangsta for your blog, Limes." He showed me his half gallon of Minutemaid that will only be the first of several. I didn't immediately catch on. "Made with Real Limes, Limes!" Ha! And then he proceeded to tell me how I should Photoshop it and frame it and monkey with its resolution . . . yes, home dudes are kind of getting into this blogging thing.

In my ears right now: Still Emmylou Harris singing Crescent City. I guess the needle is stuck in the groove. And Matt wouldn't understand that reference.

Something that charmed me: I am surrounded by a very diverse group of people. We differ in age, gender, interests and many core values. But there is a common thread I love. "If it matters to her, then it matters to me . . if he cares about it, then I care about it." It's a beautiful thing!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Same Old Tune: Communic8ing

People who know one another very well communicate in many more ways than verbally. Body language speaks volumes. A sudden change in the way a person usually operates can tell a story. But for me, there is nothing more compelling than all the different levels of information that can be exchanged through "the look".

My mother has virtually no sense of humor. She doesn't care for comedy and she doesn't get jokes. I don't think I've ever seen her toss her head back and just howl. Conversely, Cousin and I can be just plainly irritating as we roar and carry on. Mostly when others look at us oddly while we're amusing ourselves, we kick it up a notch. But I recall a dinner out at a restaurant when I was the advanced age of 48. Cousin and I were particularly hilarious with our bellies filled and we'd gone on for some time. My mother made eye contact with me, and I withered.Communication through "the look". Cousin didn't wither. Her aunt's facial expression didn't mean anything to her. It rolled off her back. I, on the other hand, was calling myself all the words and names I knew my mother would use if she'd verbally lit into me. "Limes, stop it, you ________. You're attracting attention."

A different view of communicating through "the look": Amber began competing in martial arts tournaments at about the age of 8. She sparred with adult men. Martial arts was Ex's thing, certainly not mine, but I supported it. He insisted that she be able to physically defend herself against attack from a young age. Martial arts did many good things for my daughter, beyond simply making her a pretty tough chiquita. This was one proud mother, and after her performances, I was prone to hugging, kissing, tearing up and babbling. It came to pass that she didn't want me to do that any more. It embarrassed her. I developed a "look" that spared her the hugs, tears, kisses and words, but still got my message across. I know this because when I threw her that look, she still blushed bright red! Oh, yes, she knew what I would have said and done if I hadn't used the "look".

Mother Badger was a third grade school teacher for many years. She still could call upon "the look" today! Folks, I'm not an 8 year-old boy, yet I know she could make me evaporate in my P.F. Flyers if she turned it on me.

So, I'd carried a little gift in my purse to Arizona and I wasn't exactly sure when to spring it on the Badger. The night before the race when he wasn't too preoccupied? The morning of the race when he would be preoccupied, but I'd feel snitty because he wouldn't be as gushingly grateful as I wanted him to be? After the race, when First Place was his (because I had no doubt)? Unlike myself, I did not pre-plan the gift-giving to death. I decided to just wait and see when the moment presented itself.

We were out on the highway. I'd just hoofed 5 hard up-and-down miles in considerable heat. The Badger had done a strenuous 29 in the saddle and on the pedals, preparing for the next day's race. He'd faced down buzzards. I'd found animal bones and garnered concern from passersby on the road. He pulled up to the car. "How'd you do, Badger? Good ride? Ready for tomorrow?" "It was really good! I'm ready."

And then we went to some other place to communicate. His arms moved first. He extended them. He was going to put them around my waist and hug me. But a fraction of a second after moving his arms, he got the "look". I am bilingual, so I read both arms and face. He felt strong and hopeful. His confidence was running high. He was happy to be right there, right then, on his bike, in his jersey with me for his support team. He intended to take that first place the next morning and he'd learned that sharp descent didn't scare him any more. The sun felt good on his skin and there are just some people you can hug even when you're sweaty. Hence the arm action.

The light came on for me! This was the time for the gift! I jumped out of his reach, dug into my purse like a badger, and came up with that box and its offering wrapped in purple tissue paper. I said, "Here's a little tribute, Badger." He opened it. He liked it. He said home dudes were right to give it their approval. He wears it every day. Even when he's indoors in a meeting, he can glance down and see his bicycle chain around his wrist. I wish I'd presented the gift and taken the proffered hug. Sometimes I get a little impulsive and miss out on an opportunity.

In my ears right now: Dead Flowers, Rolling Stones version. I missed another opportunity! I could have taken dead flowers and presented the Badger with a wreath at the finish line. Dang.

Something that charmed me: He fiddled with that bracelet a little, establishing the right look. "Too much on the same arm with my watch, Limes?" "Yes, probably too much, Badger." "Maybe I could intertwine it with my 'Live Your Dream' bracelet I wear in races." "That would be cool, Badger."

Skull Valley Redux ~ We're Ba-a-ck

The Badger didn't get behind on his writing, so he's long since posted his telling of the Skull Valley Race 2009. I'm going to take just a slightly different approach, because - after all - for me, it's not about the bike.

I have had the good fortune to take many road trips in the company of the Badger. This is something we do well, whether our destination is a campsite in the desert, Daughter Badger's wedding, Mother Badger's home, a vacation at the beach . . . it simply doesn't matter. When you put the two of us in a car, there's going to be some fun. Yes, he always forgets at least one important thing. Yes, I always overpack. Yes, the car inevitably groans from the weight of its contents and looks like adolescents have taken over in a coup. And we have fun! We solve the world's problems in the ways we know would work. We laugh irreverently at some things that probably should remain sacred in the view of most decent folks. We rail at the things that outrage our sensibilities. And suddenly, we're just there. We can while away some miles.

Last year's drive through hell to Prescott with no air conditioning was a dim, grim memory as we set out under gray skies, looking forward to temperatures 20 degrees lower than what we "enjoy" at home. Because we set out early in the morning, we served no sentence in stopped-dead traffic over the Hoover Dam. Soon we were in Arizona. "Bathroom needed in Kingman, Badger!" "OK!" It was after Kingman that he spotted the dead badger in the road - the first badger in any condition of health that he'd seen since leaving Wyoming. After he commented on it, we both got a little hinky about that omen, brown eyes looking into blue, a little alarmed. Then the rains came. And came. And came. The Prius has a perky little icon that lights up to say "We're hydroplaning and I'm trying to correct it!" I didn't care for that icon much. It rained so long, so hard, from a sky so gray that we missed the turnoff to Skull Valley and went far out of our way (which we didn't know until later on). The Badger, not known for tolerating nonsense, began to get crabby about not being able to ride the course that afternoon. There were pools and rivulets of rain all across the desert floor. Surely the course would be in bad shape, too.

When we exited the highway, we were stunned to see a small, old settlement of houses and a few tiny businesses. What the heezy? Last year there was nothing between the highway and Skull Valley. How could an old settlement spring up in a year's time? We're pretty quick on our feet, though, and soon realized we'd become not lost, but diverted. "Limes, what did you do about feeding us lunch?" "Not a thing, Badger. This is your rodeo." Uh-oh. We were on our way to a l-o-n-g, strenuous ride and breakfast was a l-o-n-g time gone. "I have one Clif bar in the car, Limes." "You eat it, Badger. You'll need it more than . . . general store on the right, Badger!" We walked through a creaking wooden door into the oddest emporium. An ancient commercial business space was outlined with some 50 small coolers one might expect to dispense soft drinks. There seemed to be a little tiny bit of everything imaginable for sale in the place, from ant poison to diapers and white bread to Kraft mac 'n cheese. Except that we couldn't find anything we were willing to eat. Not one diet anything in the place. Coke and Pepsi have a sure market if they over-produce their fully sugared concoctions. No produce. Not a fruit or vegetable to be found. We finally landed on a meager meal: turkey jerky for the Badger, string cheese for me. The clerk had me go back to one particular cooler to determine the price of the string cheese for him. He was unfamiliar with putting a purchase on a debit card, but came through with flying colors. As we walked out the door, the Badger and I snapped our heads to look at one another. "Did you see . . . . ," we said over the top of each other. For behind the wooden counter of that store was the oddest sight. If the local citizens want to buy Tylenol there, or Advil, it is purchased in tiny packets of two tablets. Toiletries and sundries are available in small, hotel-freebie-sized containers. But also behind that counter were about 5 gallons of really bad, cheap wine for every man, woman and child in the county. More wine than the law allows . . . as they say.

We arrived at the race course to sunshine, dry roads, pleasant temperatures. The Badger needed to ride part of the course, imprinting that sharp, fast descent to the turn-around point. I needed to drive the course to remind myself of the landmarks and check out where I'd hand up his water. "I'm off, Limes." "No. The Prius does things I don't understand. I need a primer." He taught me the ropes and pushed off for 29 miles. I drove to the turn-around point and a little beyond. It's a tight, narrow space to manage a pack of cyclists. Narrower than I recalled, even. I drove back to the place where we'd agreed to meet after his ride.

I had choices. I could read. I could listen to music. I could take a nap. I could put some extra miles on my feet for the day. Hmmmm . . . extra miles. I was in the mountains with some steep rollies at hand. I walk on flat ground every day of life. Walking hills would be different. There's only one highway with no turnoffs nearby. I'm wearing the red Nike shirt - he can't possibly miss me if I'm walking between the car and the direction from which he'll approach. The decision was easily made. There were even mile markers on the highway for me to measure my progress. The shoulder isn't very wide, but neither am I. I set out on foot with plenty of water and the car keys. What happened in the next hour is interesting to me. I am not sure I think it would happen where I live. No fewer than four vehicles stopped and the drivers asked me if I needed assistance. It amused me a little. I think I look like someone who walks on purpose. I wear the cool girl pants and very serious shoes, and - hey! - I'm just out for my walk. Why couldn't these people figure out I'm doing my walk? Of course, it probably seemed an odd location to find a lone woman hoofing it fast in the heat. I'm not sure I'd experience the same thing if I were walking, say, in Red Rock. I think drivers there might just plow me down and not notice the bump as they ran over my body. I enjoyed scoping all the roadside debris and found an interesting bleached bone that still had some sinew and hide attached. I did not enjoy seeing rabbit roadkill.

The Badger pulled up minutes after I completed 5 strenuous miles on foot. "How'd you do, Badge?" "Good! I'm really ready for it. I felt good enough to ride a little longer than I'd planned." Out near the crossroads to Bagdad (Arizona, not Iraq), he'd been treated to the sight of a large flock of buzzards. "They probably heard there's a race tomorrow, Badger. Mmm . . . cyclist! A little stringy, but the bones are good to peck." We jumped into the car and headed for Prescott . . . . .

which turned out to be infinitely easier to get around in than last year. Maybe simply because we'd been there once before, but whereas we'd had a terrible time navigating it in 2008, now we were like natives. I'd Googled a different place for us to stay than the official race motel and it was certainly a cut above the typical race weekend dive. It had faux art deco furniture! And a fully loaded kitchenette so we could dine in if we chose to do that. It was clean and more than serviceable and cost about what was paid for the dive last summer. The Badger soaked his bones in epsom salts for awhile. Then, "Limes, didn't you say you wanted some shops?" Yep. Limes always wants the shops! And the Badger's always good enough to do that for awhile. We went to pick up his racing packet at the dive that was last year's and this year's official race motel. Yep, my little faux art deco place was a way better deal. We headed for Prescott's historic Whiskey Row.

Whiskey Row is old, kind of charming, picturesque. Courthouse Square had live music playing across the street and the Row itself is a mish-mash of crappy souvenir shops, rather serious art and artisan offerings, coffee houses, and saloons. Lots of saloons. Many saloons with lots of alcohol being served. The streets teemed with people ranging from tourists to children to locals to faux cowboys to patrons of those lots and lots of salooons. We first encountered a young woman sitting on a bench, sobbing and screaming into her cell phone at someone. People were giving her wide berth. Yow. From her vicinity we veered sharply into an indoor collection of lovely little art shops and a wonderful used book store. Moving on down the row, we spotted the souvenir shop that housed the badger who had met with taxidermy. I saw this one, folks! He looked a little bleary. A little worse for wear and tear. Trip treasures were found in that shop and carefully carried home. We finally landed in a most interesting artists' co-op displaying the creations of only local artists. As we are launching a line of the Badger's photos for sale, we carefully studied how other artists present their wares. The place was a find - paintings, decorative gourds, every manner of jewelry, woven articles, cards and more. We had a good time.

Strolling back to the car, he spotted a likely looking Mexican restaurant. "Limes?" Yes to Mexican food, any time! We enjoyed a good meal. He had wine. I had iced tea. I felt a little funny. I felt a little bad. I felt really bad. I needed to put my head down on the table. "Oh, no, Badger - was that real sugar I put in my tea?" It wasn't. "Oh, Badger, I'm going to get sick right here." He asked if I could get to the restroom. I couldn't. "How can I help you?" The color was draining out of my face and I was feeling awfully low. It was about to get embarrassing. And the good man stayed with me. Some would have bolted. Just as quickly, the spell passed. "Let's go, Badger. I'm OK." Not sure what that was about, but I wouldn't like to go through it again in a public place. We made a grocery market stop and headed to our home for the night.

Just to prove we really do know how to have a good time, we ended the day with a bang. One begins operating the Prius by inserting a chunky black object (that resembles everyone else's car remote) into the dash. Embedded within this remote is a small, oddly shaped key. The key is removable, but it takes purpose. It does not easily slip out of the remote. In fact, he has never removed it from the remote since he owned the car. One just doesn't. He'd left something out in the car and I offered to go after it. I went down the stairs to the car I'd operated all day long and now understood, reached out to open the door . . . no remote. Funny little key, but no remote. Back up the stairs. "Badger, where's the remote?" Keystone Kops comes to mind. Down the stairs into the black night in the pines, looking for a black remote on blacktop. He had a weak little flashlight. Nothing. Back up the stairs. Tear into the room and everything we'd brought into it. It was found with relief, finally. When he carried his bike upstairs, he must have jostled the key loose because his hands were so full of things. We each allowed it had entered our heads, although neither had uttered it: "How many days might it take to get the necessary item to Prescott, Arizona?" Because that car can be entered, but not driven, without the clunky black object.

Our neighbors arrived at the room next door about the time our heads hit the pillows. They were not partying or behaving objectionably. They were simply talking. Four of them. We could hear every word, and I swear, I could hear them exhale. My sweet lord, the acoustics! I turned our A/C down to 60 and we suddenly had white noise. It would be a frosty night, but no voices in our heads. Damn, there's a race tomorrow. Be at peace. The charlie horses hit my feet and legs about the time I stumbled on the white noise solution. For I am not used to walking 5 miles fast in mountainous terrain. Damn, there's a race tomorrow. Be at peace. I only got up about 14 times to do stretches. And then we slept.

In my ears right now: Emmylou Harris singing Lucinda Williams' "Crescent City". It's a favorite. Emmylou nails it better than Lucinda does.

Something that charmed me: Four drivers stopping to see if I needed assistance. I don't think that's so common any more. One man took pains to say, "This is my wife right here beside me." Taking care not to alarm me. There are still good people in the world who would help a stranger.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The 2008 Skull Valley Race

Yonder comes the Badger, very fast, to give me the startling news that I am no longer a running water bottle hander-upper, but a personal follow vehicle driver. Yow.

So, regrouping, I'm driving alternately fast and slow along a highway in Arizona. Sheriffs grin and wave. Cyclists are giving it their all. I'm singing ZZ Top pretty loudly and poorly: "She don't love me, she loves my automobeeel." The course is 27 miles out and back. It's hilly, with some respectable grades at different spots. There are some good technical turns/descents in it. In some locations one feels as if one is in the desert. In other spots, it's decidedly mountainous. Still other places feel like a combination of mountains and desert. It's warm and humid - lots of cloud cover and raindrops early in the morning. Remember, we have no A/C in the car.

I got pretty brave, pretty fast on the trip out to the turn-around point. This was the honeymoon phase. I zoomed way ahead of the pack, got out and waited for them to catch up to me. It only took one surprise for me to learn which side of the hill to stand on if I didn't want to be startled to death when they approached! Every time I let them catch me, I could see the Badger was still in the pack. At the crest of the first long climb, there were 7 of the 50+ still together. All the 60+ had peeled off the back. The Badger was the oldest in the 50+ group and he was in it strong!

Finally, I decided to head for the turn-around point. With all the volunteers and support team members likely to be there, I wanted to get the lay of the land and set myself up for my duties to be performed. I needed to put myself on open land on the side of the highway he'd be on after the turn-around. He'd spot me as he approached the turn-around and he'd know where to find me after he made the turn. I drove miles and saw cyclists who were in categories that pushed off earlier than the old dudes. My odometer suggested the turn-around point should be near. I saw no gaggle of volunteers. I saw no tent. And then suddenly, it came into my view. "It" was one small orange cone, one woman dressed in colors that completely blended in with the landscape, and a few cases of bottled water. I've seen garage sale signs that caught the eye better than this turn-around point toward which men would be hurtling downhill at maybe 35 miles an hour. On bicycles. A young man was seated on a picnic cooler on the side of the highway where I intended to position myself. I stuck my head out the window. "Oh, say it isn't so!" "I'm afraid this is it, lady. A lot of racers went down already because they can't tell this is the turn-around and they're flying downhill at it."

The honeymoon was over! I parked, got out and began to pace, a bottle of water for him in each hand. No way to let him know. About the time I thought they should approach, I looked up the hill and they came into view. Still 7 of them! He was still in it. As they came closer, I could pick out his red and gold. I witnessed things happen that I didn't have words for then. Believe me, in the ensuing year there has been much discussion about "why did you . . . ?" and "what happened when . . . ?" I now have words for the events.

The Badger did not see the turn-around until he was nearly on it. He was the 7th of 7 and he was in his biggest gear, flying. He managed the tight turn, braking hard, but had to unclip his left shoe in order to balance himself and remain upright. I am no cyclist, but I knew instinctively that he took that turn harder, sharper than he would have wanted to. The woman with the water bottles managed to hand one up to him, which was fortunate, because I did not deliver my bottle to him. Mine skittered across the highway as he grabbed for it. I know he saw disappointment in my face because he said, "Don't worry. I got one." This while he was shifting furiously to get into a climbing gear as the leaders were already attacking the climb. He and two others got dropped. He was still 7th of 7. The last thing I heard: "Limes, follow me. Stay close." I ran for his discarded bottles, picked up a few that didn't seem about to be claimed by anyone else, and got in the car. The next 26-27 miles were where I learned everything and also learned that I knew a lot, from listening to him. For years.

No more figure eights around the pack. I got behind him and stayed no more than 50 feet away for the rest of the race. As we took off from the turn-around, we climbed sharply. I saw him join up with number 6. He caught him! I saw them join up with number 5 - they caught him. For the next 27 miles, a race I understood unfolded before my eyes - because I'd listened. For years. On the climbs, when the others rose and his rear was still in the saddle, I knew they were working harder than he was. While he worked hard and pulled numbers 5 and 6 up the hills, they sat back on his wheel. I knew what I was seeing. These guys were going to be satisfied simply to have finished the race. They were no longer racing. I saw the Badger try to tempt them into forming a pace line. But no.

As the miles went by, I shot very poor pictures from inside the car. They are not good photography. They simply show him working at it for miles and miles. They are very dear to me. I wondered why he stayed with the two road toads, not understanding that the rest of his pack was too far ahead for him to catch. I perfected the art of handing off a water bottle from a moving car on my first attempt!

My odometer told me we were fairly near the end. I saw the 1K marker. I knew he was going to finish the race, which was stupendous in and of itself. I spotted the canopy over the finish line. We were just about done with this rodeo. Then I saw the red car drift across the yellow line. Straight toward him. He was starting his sprint finish, going for fifth position in his category. Perhaps his jaw was already jutting out. Or maybe that red car made it jut. It occurred to me in my automotive cocoon that the Badger just might . . . . . no, he blinked first and took 6th.

As we hung around waiting for the results to be posted, I saw it again - he was gregarious. This made me realize how happy he was doing what he was doing. All the way back to Las Vegas, it was, "Limes, I'm going again next year." "Did you see when . . . . ?" "How about that racer who . . . ?" I was proud of him. And I was proud of me.

On the Monday I returned to work. David and the home dudes couldn't wait for me to get settled, offer the photos, and tell the story. "Limes, how can home dude do that?" "We were thinking about him at the time the race was going on." Thanks, homes. Everyone left the office, finally. David came out looking pretty serious. "Limes, did you think he really might have faced off that car in order to take fifth?" "David, it occurred to me that he might. Badgers are not known to tolerate nonsense. Especially at the finish line in a sprint."

In my ears right now: Queen. The Badger doesn't like them. Here's my dedication ~ We Are the Champions.

Something that charmed me: "Limes, I'm going again next year. I'll do ____ differently. I'll attack that hill coming out of the turn-around way differently. I'll practice that descent the day before . . . ."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blogging Slacker

Mother Badger e-mailed me a nudge, saying "exciting posts, but how did it end?" She refers to last year's race for the Badger at Skull Valley. And she's right! I need to put the period on the end of that sentence.

However . . . . . we just came back from the Skull Valley Redux, I've celebrated a birthday, and am a little slammed at work (that's a GOOD thing, as August has been pathetic).

Anyway, readers, here's my placemarker. I'll be back before 24 hours pass. I'll post the final writing about last year's race, and my thoughts about this year's trip to Skull Valley, AZ. Can't wait for the next one to come!

In my ears right now: Benson and Bloomsbury singing their little hearts out.

Something that charmed me: Landing that bottle of water solidly in his hand on my second attempt, while running uphill on a pretty steep grade. I'd let him down back at the turn-around. I zoomed up ahead of the pack. I knew to park someplace where he'd see me long before I handed it up. It just happened to be a stretch of highway that was challenging. But I did it! I came through.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Race Day, Birthday, OK

We had to be up early because the race course was not close to the official race motel - go figure. "Happy Birthday, Limes!" "Thanks for remembering, Badger. You'd have been forgiven if you spaced that today." I knew the look on his face. He was very busy in his head. I went to get us the crappy free coffee and continental breakfast, leaving him to dress, fill water bottles, tweak his bike. "Hey, Badger, they've got oatmeal, too. Want some?" "OK." "It's raining, Badger." "OK."

As we toted everything out of the room to the car, we passed many other cyclists and support team members - everyone getting ready to head to Skull Valley. On my seat in the car was my birthday offering, "Limes" written on the envelope. We picked our way through Prescott checking off our personal, internal lists. Mine was pretty easy, although it scared me. After the start, drive out to the turn-around point (about 27 miles) and wait, possibly for a long time. The turn-around point would have a big tent, be clearly marked, would have tables and lots of water and volunteers. "You won't be able to miss it, Limes, unless you take some wrong highway." OK. Not likely I'd do that. It was pretty straight and clear. Pre-select a place to run where I wouldn't be crowded by other people and he wouldn't have to contend with other cyclists trying to get their water. He'd throw off his empty water bottles which I would gather after doing my new "run, hand up bottles, don't topple the cyclist" trick. OK.

We arrived at the road near the starting line and joined a throng of cyclists and supporters. It was cool, gray, drippy - not like August in the desert, although it was August in the high desert. For two people who are avid communicators, who seek each other out to tell things to, we got pretty quiet. He was deep in race preparation mode. I know when to leave him alone. The Cervelo was removed from the car. He checked the tires and added some air. He put on his cycling shoes - black Sidis. He checked everything twice like Santa Claus. I was so wound up I got very busy snapping the 50 or so photographs that make up the collection called The Race. They show a very preoccupied man about to go out for a race. He was 58 years old. He hadn't raced since 1989. "Limes, I'm going to warm up. I'll come back for a moment before I go to the starting line so you can decide when to head for the turn-around." "OK, Badger."

Although I was surrounded by people talking, laughing, getting their bikes ready to go and was in a picturesque little dot on the map that invited photography, I suddenly felt very solitary. I thought about how solitary he must be feeling and that made me feel sad. The cheerleader can stand on the sidelines dancing, shaking pom poms and yelling "Boom shacka lacka" and that's all well and good . . . but finally the man has to mount the bike and go do it alone, in competition with others. It put me in mind of how many things he has accomplished in his life by going after them completely on his own - it is part of the attraction. He wants human warmth, affection, admiration, love . . . but he functions well on his own, doing what he needs. It makes certain types of women feel very protective. I got busy arranging all the "stuff" in the car. The Badger is disorderly - I'm freakishly organized. I put all the extraneous nonsense in the back and took pains to set out the water, my camera, cell phone, purse, iPod, book and sunscreen in an array that pleased me. I planned to go to that turn-around point and put a few miles on myself on foot. Maybe read a little. I wished I had brought coffee. Although inexperienced, I had a picture in mind of how I would do this. "Housekeeping" made me feel a little better and my tension began to ease . . . . . until I saw him.

He was pedaling toward me at an amazing pace. He didn't have to say a word for me to know that something was up. I know this man. His face spoke volumes. "New shit has come to light," was written all over him. This was not a "cruise on back to say 'bye". He was carrying news. "What?!" I thought. "What's wrong? What did we forget? Is there something wrong with the bike?" As he slowed the bike I ran toward him, proving that I can run. I managed to keep my mouth shut, to allow him to spit out whatever important message he had come to deliver. When he did so, I wanted to run in the opposite direction.

[Panting from exertion] "Limes, I've never heard of this anywhere, ever. I can have a personal follow vehicle! You can stay right with me. My tools and spare wheel sets and gear sets will be right at my fingertips! You can hand me up water from the car as often as I need it!" I froze. Bambi in the high beams. I believe this will go down on record as the one time I truly had nothing to say. "All you have to do is remain behind the official follow vehicle and don't piss off the sheriffs - there are a lot of them." Thought I: "Personal follow vehicle driver. Now I was wrapping myself around that run, hand up thing pretty well. I don't know about personal follow vehicle driver." I managed to say nothing deflating to the Badger, but if he'd been less excited, he'd have surely read my face as clearly as I'd read his. Abject terror would be about right, I think. "Come on, Limes, get in. We need to get to the starting line. I'll be right ahead of you!" Knees quaking, I got in that Honda and headed for the starting line.

Some of the categories had already started. The Badger and the other codgers were among the last to push off. The area surrounding the starting line was filled with racers, well-wishers, sheriffs on foot blowing whistles to direct traffic, sheriffs in SUVs. I saw the official race follow vehicle. I pulled in behind it. Apparently the Badger was the only racer in his group to have a personal follow vehicle, as the line consisted of the official vehicle and mine only. We started to roll - the cyclists off first. A woman sheriff windmilling her arms in the middle of an intersection asked, "Are you following?" I said I was and she said, "Good! Our reserve sheriffs are a group of really great older guys and they don't know about these races. Show them the ropes!" She spoke into her radio. Oh, boy. Limes is identified as a veteran! In the know. Oh, no!

I learned something about myself right then, right there on my 56th birthday. I had to figure out something important to someone I care about and I had to do it all by myself. No one to ask. My feverish thoughts threatened to burst my throbbing head, but then I did figure it out. I had carte blanche from those sheriffs. I only had to stay behind the official follow vehicle. No other rules to box me in. "Think outside the box, Limes. Cast off the shackles that bind you to doing only the things in your comfort zone." I could pass up the whole pack and drive miles ahead, get out, wait for them to catch me, and learn that way. I could overtake the pack and pick out the Badger whenever I wanted to. I could look at his face and he'd see me in the car. If he wanted water, I'd zoom ahead and be waiting for him. He was easy to pick out in the red jersey with the gold hammer and sickle. And I had a long, long course to test my skills. Pretty soon I was a cat doing figure-eights around the ankles of that pack of cyclists, sheriffs and official follow vehicle. I got so comfortable I played the music loud and sang along with it.

In my ears right now: Pachelbel. I have a CD entitled "Pachelbel's Greatest Hit". It's the same piece, rendered by some 20 different artists or groups.

Something that charmed me: The number of Yavapai County reserve sheriffs who gave me my "props" that day. They grinned, they waved, they wiggled their eyebrows like Groucho Marx. One saluted. They helped keep the Sunday drivers away from the cyclists. They allowed me to do whatever flitted into my head to do. Because I was the woman who knew how these things were done!