March Muster MS150 Ride

Another day closer, the March muster meeting was held yesterday for Team Wood Group on their campus.  At this meeting the much anticipated jersey uniform was distributed.  I am so excited to have received this!  The jersey is a really cool bluish grey displaying a graphic of a cyclist with the Houston skyline on the front and the back with a cyclist and the Austin skyline, it has the company name and logo and red accents.

The final information was given about the plan for the team.  My decision is to leave with the team at the company campus which is about 9 miles from the Tully stadium start.  I want to be a participant in the team photo.  New pieces of information included that volunteers will wash our jersey’s and setup the bedding for us in the team tent.  Also new info is that we are having barbecue for dinner and What-a-Burger breakfast food for the morning at the over night stay in La Grange.  It will be nice to recognize some familiar faces at the stops for lunch and dinner even though I don’t work for the Wood Group.   Socializing is coming slow as there are not many women on the team.  The coordinators are women and they are friendly.    It will be nice to have someone account for me in the sea of people at the event since I am solo.

We had a speaker, Lisa Sailor,  who has MS, describe her experience living with the disease. She mentioned that just three days ago after at least 20 years a new drug was FDA approved called Ocrelizumab which targets the primary state of MS which is about 10-15% of patients according to STAT in a recent article.  Although reports are saying it’s not the cure, the medicine is showing that there are measurable results in the positive direction. (slow progress).  My son asked if you can die from MS?  You can, however most people live an average life expectancy, handicapped.   Even though I don’t personally have family with MS, my mother lives with a severe handicap effected by nerve damage.  And although it is not auto-immune, I still have hope that even if she is not categorized in a lump group of people with a common disorder, the effects of the damage can somehow be repaired with new medical technologies discovered from research like this.

My bike journey began with a bucket list and turned into something that I am happy to be a part of for other reasons.

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March Muster MS150 Ride

Tour de Houston

Tour de Houston is part of the MS150 ready to roll series.  It’s a cycle ride that begins at City Hall and loops to the south east of Houston and ends in south Missouri city,  then the ride goes back the same way to City Hall. You could choose 20, 40 or 60 mile distances.  There were three rest stops at about 10 miles apart (so the turn around at each one gave you the 20, 40 or 60 mile distance depending on the one you go back from).  Your $40 entry goes towards restoring parks sponsored by Apache Corp.   The ride began at 7:30a.m. and they had police controlling the intersections.  On this ride I took the road bike with the clip in shoes.  This would be a good test to see if I can handle the stops and the crowd.

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I would say there were at least a thousand people there (the news reported thousands).  After the multiple warnings about road hazards (expansion joints in the road) and to remain in the right lane we began.  The first thing I noticed was that the road changes quite a bit from smooth to pretty rough.  Immediately I saw people with flats (that was quick), I was able to maintain a speed between 16 – 20 mph.  The scary thing is that there were multiple wrecks, I saw at least 5.  Two or three so bad the ambulance had to be summoned.  We rode through the spectrum of economic communities in Houston from the uber rich to poorer communities.  All while hearing the calls, “Slowing”, “Rolling”, “Crack”, “Car back”, “Stopping”, etc. (cycle lingo)

Starting early in the morning I knew I would need sunglasses and noticed I really didn’t have a place to put them.  And it’s important to put on sunscreen which I forgot.  If you are ever training for a long cycle ride, I found it useful to have trained outside (rather than spinning indoors).  One person commented that the headwind was kicking butt.  This is a challenge I face every time I ride around the 2 mile lake.  The wind can almost blow me off the road or slow me down to 8 or 9 miles an hour.  I didn’t even notice it during this ride.

There were ride marshalls riding along and checking the path to make sure people were safe.  They would call SAG (support vehicles) in case a rider needed assistance.  I didn’t need to stop at the first two rest stations.  After passing the second one at 20 miles, I had met a milestone. I have never cycled in one sitting past 20 miles.  I was really happy to keep going.  The scary part for me was after that 2nd stop, the crowd thinned out and at a few points I didn’t see any other cyclists ahead of me.  Then came the stretch of road that was two lanes.  So you are riding with other cars (to me that is too close for comfort).  Added to that I could hear gunfire from some massive gun range and started to worry about a stray bullet heading my way.  This was for a good couple of miles.  At the end was the neighborhood and the last rest stop (and turn around).  Surprisingly the port a potties were clean!  And you could wash your hands with a portable hand washing station .  That and grab a “Kind” bar and you are on your way.  I was worried about leaving my bike unlocked at the bike stand.  I did bring a chain and noticed no one locked theirs.  I thought it would be so easy to select a “new” bike and head out.  You only wear your number on your body, your bike isn’t numbered like it will be in the MS150.  Luckily, my bike was where I left it and I completed the last 30 miles.

Afterwards I was surprised that I wasn’t sore.  I do think I was dehydrated and it effected me weird!  I felt like I had no sleep.  But then again, I did get up early and didn’t sleep soundly the night before.  Only this lasted into the next day.  This was a good test to indicate, I can do this!  It’s only 20 more miles to equal the 80 miles in the 1st day of the MS150.  It took me 4 hours to do 60 and would probably take me another 1.5 hours to do 20 more.

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Tour de Houston

Texas Adventure Awaits

I want to go to Big Bend so bad!  This is my west Texas dream, to explore the Chisos mountains and the Rio Grande. My problem, I can’t find anyone who will go!  Why?  It’s such an amazing place!   Last Sunday it was cold, in an effort to pass the time I decided to plan an adventure.   It would be great if the family would go, and just the mention of this trip doesn’t spark interest to any of them.  To sell the idea, I thought I would put together a Power Point presentation complete with pictures of where we would stay, what we would do, eating options and a sample itinerary.  Considering my company, I picked easy options at the park.  You can hike, swim, ride horses, raft, etc.  Big Bend is 9 hours from Houston (640 miles), this is my first hurdle.  No one wants to be in the car for that long.  To me driving is a mind vacation in itself.  You can listen to music and not have to do any critical thinking.  You can fly 1/2 way there, but you still need to drive 4 more hours.  (and the plane ride is 1 and 1/2 hours).  Adding in driving and waiting at the airport, you might as well drive. Never mind the expense of flying!!bigbend

My plan is to go for 4 days.  In spending the time to actually plan this out, I learned a lot! First, where to stay.  If you are a real adventurist, camping is ideal.  When the kids were young, I could get a way with camping and they would think that is fun!  Now not so much. Terlingua is a ghost town that is 8 miles from the park entrance.

It’s noterlinguat like you are going to find your chain hotels there, so I would call places to stay there boutique hotels.  On our California adventure, I learned that unique hotel options can be a hit or miss.  Fortunately with the internet, you can read the reviews, good and bad and at least have some decision making criteria.  There is a lodge inside the park, but I really wasn’t interested in staying there.  The ghost town has some restaurants and shops.  And I mean, it’s ghost town…how cool is that?!

 

Next, what to do.  Big Bend is 1,252 square miles.  The Rio Grande is in the park and separates Texas from Mexico.   I actually found more information about distances on Google maps than the park website so that I can plan a day.  I read that there is a waterfall in the park, hot springs and found some information on trails, their distances and degree of difficulty.

Noting the options, their locations and the distance between them, I think the Window is a must see.  It’s located near the lodge which is a great starting point.  They also have a trail to the balanced rock that looked pretty cool too.  It does say it’s a 6 mile rough road driving to get to the trail head.the window

To get to the waterfall and the spring is a little more time consuming, something I would definitely do if my party was up for it.  I picked trails that were easy to do and less than 1 mile round trip!  They say to go when the weather is cool, in Texas ? Really?  That can be hard to hit, because it can be hot and cold in one day!  Summers are very hot, so I understand that planning a trip in the desert during the hottest months is probably not a good idea.  You really have to be acclimated and be diligent about hydration and if you are not used to that you can get really sick.  Another must see is the Rio Grande.  Santa Elena Canyon is the trail for that.riogrande

I think two days at the park would be good.  Then we could make our way back to a couple of towns that I’ve heard are interesting.  We could stay in Alpine and then go to Marfa. These towns are really in the middle of no where.  I love the history of these little towns, established by railroad workers, cattle drivers and past home to some miners.  It is a cool reminder of different times with different challenges.  Love the history!    Being that these places are in the middle of nowhere, the skies are really dark!  And there are these Marfa ghost lights that I want to check out.  So my goal is to make this happen!

 

 

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Texas Adventure Awaits

Spring has sprung

It’s hard to ignore the fact that it is and will be raining all day.  It seems unfair to someone who lives for being outside.  Last week, determined to get my 20 miles in on the bike, I completed my goal in the rain and suffered a flat that had to be fixed away from home. That was the first time using CO2 cartridges.   Not chancing that again today, I am determined to do a little rain gardening.  The weeds have been really bad and the one cold snap that wiped everything out has created a ridiculous amount of trimming.  Over the last month and 1/2 I have been chipping away at a mountain of a project.  There is definitely an improvement and it may not be perfect.  It will look better with mulch.

Below the foxtail fern was cut back all of the way and is starting to come back.

The bougainvilla along the fence below looks like deer antlers,  They had to be cut all of the way to the ground. From the picture it doesn’t look like there is much work.  However, it took multiple trash cans full of branches and I’m still not done!  They are piled behind the garage.  The firecracker bush pictured below left is completely brown.  It was cut all of the way down and it is growing back pictured right (looks like a weed, but it’s not!)

This is the first year I’ve had to cut the Oleander back to the ground as well as the Esperanza.  By spring we usually have some flowers, it’s going to be a while.  The bottle brush normally are in full bloom, but the freeze this year really harmed the plant.  I’m not really sure if it will once again be healthy looking.  Sometimes hardy plants, like the oleander suffer from the severe heat and then a freeze and never return back to full health. They look half dead half healthy, not pretty!  I spent hours one year pulling them out and then replanting new ones.  The flowers are so pretty.

So what is blooming?  I planted some begonias (pictured below with a snail friend)  They do well in the spring and early summer then look like asparagus in late summer with the Texas heat!  The trees that lost their leaves are leafing out.  And we are in the middle of the annual pine pollen dumping.

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Bluebonnets the Texas wildflower are in bloom as well.  They are so pretty on the side of the highways in between cities.  I am looking forward to the shades of brown turning into green with splashes of color.  And for the rain to take a break!

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Spring has sprung

Stitch Fix

I gave my husband the gift of a personal stylist.  The men in my house don’t like to shop, which is great for me and my daughter because we more than make up for that (her more so than me)!  I’ve never been one to pick out clothes for my husband, however one day he went to work for business casual Friday and I thought maybe he could use some options.  I’m definitely not a serious fashionista, but I have noticed over the years the look of Friday business casual has gotten too slouchy.  Maybe this is more comfortable, however, my husband is trim and honestly the baggy un-tucked shirt look just doesn’t look good.  Just because you get older doesn’t mean that you can’t find something comfortable that looks nice, especially for work.  I really am not one to talk, I throw stuff on and look like hell when I walk out the door.  If it was for work though, I would make an effort to be more put together.

Internet marketing has gotten good, somehow a company matched me with Stitch Fix because I have done some online searching for personal stylists.  I thought my husband might find it interesting.  Recently, he traded in his 80s white tennis shoes he wears with jeans for colored casual shoes and this was a moving moment for the family.  Instantly he no longer looked like a middle aged Michael J. Fox from the 80s.

The one thing I didn’t like about Stitch Fix is that you have to make a commitment to ordering without really knowing the full process.  When you setup a profile, it asks for a credit card, and you can’t go beyond that until you do.  You do say how often you would like a delivery.  I decided that we would do once a quarter.  When you setup your profile, you list your age , sizes, price range and you pick from pictures of outfits that suit your taste.  You also pick out patterns and colors that you like and what to avoid.  The first outfit I requested was something for business casual.  It takes about 10 days from the time you place your order to get your “surprise”.

My husband opened his gift after a short explanation from me on what it was.  He was willing to take a look.  In the box came 3 shirts, a pair of pants and shoes. Two of the shirts were button down long sleeve and one was a polo short sleeve.  The pants were casual and olive color and the shoes were casual grey lace ups.  A card with the items pictured in outfit scenarios (in color) came in the box with a descriptive note about the items and how to wear them.  The examples had clothing like jeans that weren’t included in the box to show you how to incorporate the items with your existing wardrobe.  You keep what you like and send the rest back (free shipping) within 3 days and you pay only for the items you keep ($20 charge per item for your stylist). That’s it.  He kept 2 items.  Sweet.

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Stitch Fix