Monday, December 04, 2006

Jeff's Take on eliminating excess Bowl Games

Florida and Michigan can go back and forth on who should play in the national championship on Janaury 8. I want to argue about which excessive bowl games cna be eliminated. Because I'm like that. Anyway, there are 32 games now, probably twice as many as there should be. Sure, a bowl game is a nice reward for a good season, a vacation for friends and families of the program, a road trip for fans to have a blast, extra weeks of practice, you get the picture. But you do not need 32 bowls, sorry. Too many mediocre teams are making postseason trips, making this a prime example that sometimes too much of a good thing may not be good. Besides, I can't watch all of these games, so it's time to stop the insanity.

So we're going to cut as many of these games as we can, we'll figure out how to get some of the schools in non-BCS conference in there instead of 6-6 teams from BCS schools at some point. It is assumed that the January 1 and BCS Bowls are not going anywhere, so I won't talk about them. Let's begin with the rest:

POINSETTIA: San Diego is a wonderful city and prime vacation destination for sure, but it does not need two bowl games. Especially when final exams are still winding down at many schools. Adios.

LAS VEGAS: Before the holiday, during the last day of exams, it doesn't matter. People will ALWAYS go to Vegas, maybe even me someday. This one's a keeper just because it's Vegas.

NEW ORLEANS: This is meant to be a fun post, but this entry is more serious. Normally a very minor bowl like this would be amongst the first to go, but the New Orleans area can use any infusion of cash that people travelling to the game and two teams can bring. Make sure the Crescent City does not need to shell out a dime and keep their second bowl game.

PAPAJOHN'S.COM: HUH? Their pizza is overrated, and they already own the naming rights to Louisville's stadium. No bowl game for you, go work on improving your decent but unexceptional pizza. Go to Santarpio's in East Boston and/or Basil Doc's in Denver if you want to learn how to make the really great pies.

NEW MEXICO: The New Mexico Lobos are 6-6, and are in the Mountain West Conference. Not to bag on the MWC, but a powerhouse league it ain't. This game shouldn't exist yet. But if someone provides me with the opportunity to cover the game in between skiing at Taos and Angel Fire, chillin' with people in Santa Fe, and eating killer chile, then the bowl comes back in style.

ARMED FORCES: Bless our armed forces forever, but they can sponsor the Liberty Bowl. Here's why: Fort Worth could not even sell out this bowl game when the very entertaining Boise State Broncos were playing Texas Christian. The latter is located in Fort Worth. Not only does this bowl break in the cutting board, but Fort Worth is banned from applying for another bowl game. Ever. Forever.

HAWAII: I thought Sheraton used to sponsor this game. It's weird to see an 8 pm ET kickoff and sunshine on the TV. I don't know why, since no one ever goes to this game unless Hawaii is bowl eligible, but I guess we'll keep it. Wait, I need something to watch on Christmas Eve night!

MOTOR CITY: Finally, a Michigan school playing in a bowl in Michigan. This one survives because I'm in a good mood and it's a short trip for one team. But it's on probation.

EMERALD: Did this used to be the Silicon Valley Classic? Or the Diamond Walnut? Or the game that ESPN2's feed kept getting lost two years ago? I'm sick of asking about this game, see you later.

INDEPENDENCE: Are the casinos in Shreveport-Bossier City cool enough to keep people around? Will a lot of the tourism dollars help hurricane-damaged areas recover? If so, keep it. If not, trash it.

HOLIDAY: San Diego keeps this gem of non-January games. Not only does it have a reputation for putting on a first-class event for everyone involved with the game, the game itself almost always goes down to the final minute. Chris Fowler or someone at ESPN calls it the best non-January 1 bowl game, all things considered. His word's good enough for me. Supreme Keeper!

TEXAS: Texas has brisket, South Padre Island, and Mark Cuban. It does not need this game, and neither do we. This one's toast, and not Texas toast, as soon as Rutgers leaves the stadium.

MUSIC CITY: I have to work that afternoon so I'm indifferent. You're one 34-3 snoozer away from being told to take a hike. And not to the Smokies.

SUN: I have been told by people who have traveled to this game that Sun Bowl (stadium) has a gorgeous backdrop against the mountains near El Paso. And the game itself produced two onside kicks that were run back for touchdowns one year. And that I'd like to visit El Paso someday. Keep it!

LIBERTY: Memphis, Elvis, Ribs, Beale Street, Graceland, and the name of the game! In the name of Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, all of our armed forces personnel, and veterans, keeper! Regardless of our stances on Iraq and other political happenings, we can be proud of what they do. This game stays forever.

INSIGHT: The NFL N needs to learn to put the starting time of their games on their initial commercials before they need to broadcast this game. We don't need to watch it, either.

CHAMPS SPORTS: Are you kidding me? Even if it doesn't conflict with finals at UVA this year, this game sucks. Orlando has a January 1 bowl anyway. It's a small world without this game. A smaller one with it. Buh bye.

MEINEKE CAR CARE: Charlotte sold out this game the first time it was played. It still draws decent crowds. Navy is a bowl-worthy team too. Keeper. I don't think there are any Meineke Car Care centers near where I live, but they can still sponsor it.

ALAMO: Usually a very close game, always seems to get teams with large travelling contingents. It can stay if it wants to.

CHICK-FIL-A: Like the Falcons, this game used to draw 3,000 people in the old Fulton County Stadium. It now has a reputation for being a great show. It's in Atlanta, but not a pro sports event. Therefore, it will bring people to the game, both local and travelling. Makes the cut.

MPC COMPUTERS: BOISE! BLUE TURF RULES! For the blue turf alone, this one stays in the lineup and always will. Besides, Boise is supposed to have killer mountain biking and hiking.

As long as the game outdraws a Maple Leafs scrimmage, it stays two years. Just kidding. I'll let this game have a shot.

GMAC: Not that I know what GMAC is off the top of my head, but I guess Mobile as a community really supports this game. I'm confirming that with Nico, but it's a keeper.

Damn that was long. Sorry for any spelling mistakes.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

An Open Letter To Fox Television

Dear Fox Television:

You are not even competent enough to be considered an embarrassment to the digital arts, or whatever TV is called. We do not watch New England Patriots football on your network because we want to, we do it because we have to twice a year when we host NFC opponents, unless a game gets shown on NBC or ESPN. At least pretend you want us to watch your network.

I'll give you some pointers on how to get us to want to watch you. First, show the damn field, not 800 shots of the sideline, people's heads, you name it. Second, if you have the need to put the cameras on a player on a bench, put some of his stats on the screen so viewers can see what he has done today, not too many advertisements for your next game or more than one for your next garbage show. We care about our game right now, thank you very much, not some stupid show that most of us would not watch even before you pissed us off with incessant over-promtion of it.

Third, stop showing the commentators in the booth every three minutes, show the game. We do not care that Vasgersian is in the broadcast booth, we care about what is happening in the game between the Patriots and their opponents. We remember Vasgersian was an XFL announcer, that is bad enough, we don't need shots of him every twenty minutes. Fourth, When a play warrants a replay, hurry up and get the replay on the screen, not a shot of the back of someone's head.

Finally, at least attempt to display competence in your camera angles and presentation of plays as they develop. We want to see what happens as each play unfolds, but missed at least a half dozen plays today because of your overall cluelesseness. We understand if someone fakes out the entire defense, and the camera crews in the process, once in a while. But today's overall presentation of the New England Patriots - Detroit Lions game was an embarrassment to television. If the Billboard Music Awards ad appeared one more time my head would have exploded.

Please do yourselves a collective favor, and watch how rival network CBS produces telecasts. They focus on the field, put meaningful statistics on the screen in between plays, and keep advertisements for non-football things to a minimum. They seem to want us to watch their network, unlike you.

Get a clue. I will give you one and only one thing over CBS: Beasley Reece has never appeared on your network. At least not that I am aware of.

Jeff Patterson
Patriots Fan

Monday, October 23, 2006

Baltimore is very cool

I know. I checked. I've realized that I don't get to the cool city 50 miles north of me often enough. Yesterday I took part in the Tour du Port, a bicycle event through Baltimore. I took the 21 mile trip, which went through all the neighboorhoods mentioned by the link above. People say the Inner Harbor can be a little too "touristy", a sentiment which I tend to agree with, but it's still great to ride or walk through there. Canton and Fells Point were super cool to ride through, the former being a revitalized waterfront neighboorhood, the latter reminding me of the cool things about Boston, Maryland style.

The one not terribly cool part of the ride was through Dundalk, but the tour route took us through not-yet-revitalized old warehouses and boarded up taverns, then through a semi-suburban run of the mill neighboorhood. After Dundalk came the real jewels of the bike ride. I arrived at Patterson Park, and believe me after I biked up the hill, I knew why Baltimore won a ranking of America's Fittest City! Just bike, run, walk, rollerblade, whatever up that hill enough times and you'll get in shape in no time. After Patterson Park came Brewer's Hill and Little Italy, both great little sections of town with old school architecture (Little Italy) and new row homes just past Brewer's Hill.

Federal Hill and Fort McHenry were next upon us riders after a little trip back through Inner Harbor. Looked like great neighborhoods with lots of tradition, especially Fort McHenry. Plenty of places to walk to, grab a beer, or whatever, not just on this part of the route but on most of it. I ended up at ESPN Zone to watch my beloved Pats cakewalk past Buffalo. Service was good, view of the game decent considering I was the only Pats fan I saw there, but I'm glad I ate elsewhere where appetizers only cost $8. The only improvement for the day would have been more and easier to find bike racks; I found the city to be otherwise very bicycle-friendly. The Aqaurium is somewhere I will get to when I get back up to Baltimore.

In summary, Baltimore is very cool, somewhere I see myself going back to many a time for many a reason. Inner Harbor was enjoyable, but many other neighboorhoods were even better. It's called Charm City for a reason. Even though I have only been there four times, Baltimore is one of my favorite cities to go to. I recommend it to anyone who likes walkable neighboorhoods, new urbanist revitization, history, beer, less pretension than say, oh I don't know, Washington (I live here so I can rip on it at will, I like DC if you know what I mean), and waterfront vistas. Charm City, baby!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mountain Parks, Security-induced closings, helicopters, roadside hiking, and Frederick

Yesterday, I decided I needed to go hiking somewhere. With the Patriots being off on their bye week, it was the perfect time to get in an all-too-rare hike. So off I went to Catoctin Mountain Park and adjacent Cunningham Falls (MD) State Park. After making the 75 minute drive from Alexandria to Thurmont, I learned that a big part of the park I was planning to hike, with a decent amount of climbing and vistas, was closed to "provide security for the president and secret service." Okay, I know have a pretty good idea where Camp David is, and someone was there over the weeeknd. Before the FBI or anyone else comes after me, anyone who went to the park that day and found out about the closing could figure out the rough area of where it is in the Maryland mountains just by knowing the state and looking at a map of what was closed. Sometimes I hike to get away from everything Washington, or even DC; more on the differences between the two separate cities they really are in a future blog entry. No escape yesterday, with the helicopters hovering overhead for about an hour while I was trying to hike to a vista, which I finally found.

No problem, that part's supposed to re-open at 2 pm if not earlier, I can just get it later in the day. Right? Wrong, because I hiked down to a stream, back to Catoctin's headquarters building, and across to Cunningham Falls Park. While climbing to a rock called Cat Rock, I realized something that I should have known, being an East Coast native. This thing is, it is tougher to hike really quickly in the more humid air and ground consisting of a lot more jagged rocks, tree roots, wet leaves, et al in the east than people think. With some exceptions, in Colorado most of the trails, at least at the foothills level, are a lot smoother, oftern with ground so dry it feels like dry, soft rock. In hindsight, I find I was able to get speed going a lot quicker a lot more often out there, and I can't hike as quickly as I thought I would be able to on the "tame" eastern hills. Or at least I need a reason to explain how I climbed over 3500 vertical feet over 7 miles in under 3 hours last month on Pikes Peak, but would have to cut this trip short since it was already 3 pm and I had an hour of hiking left to the top of the next little hill.

Since I didn't want to be hiking near dark, or in the dark, I hiked about a mile or so on the side of the road on the Cunningham Falls side of the park (Maryland 77 divides the big park into the two parks) to get back to my car around 5 pm. I probably had until about 6:30 pm until it got dark, but I took a look at the park map and realized I had a lot further to go to hike everywhere I wanted than I first thought. So, like Willie Nelson, I was on the road again. This part was shorter than I thought it would be. It was a good thing that I cut the trip short: When I got back to the parking lot, I ran into the Outreach Coordinator at the REI that I work at. He mentioned that the temps in the park would drop 15-20 degrees as soon as it got dark. That's all I needed to hear to know I made the right call. Normally I like the cooler weather, but I'm trying to chase a cold, not catch one. I can always hike the other half of Catoctin and see the falls another time. Thanksgiving sounds good.

Hiking on the Patriots bye week has been an unofficial tradtion I have kept, since it gets me outdoors and into some fresh air, among other things. This trip almost did not end well. I decided to take some back roads out of the park instead of US 15, which I found to be very dangerous with the take a left and cross a 55 mph semi-divided highway after just a stop sign, no lights road. I saw a sing next to my house which I think metioned that if you steal anything from our dog, you will be shot. I totally understand caring for your animals, but that ain't something I see in the burbs near the city, either.

Now comes the part that didn't go well. Frederick is a mess traffic wise. Very difficult to make a simple turn off US 40 because of the traffic patterns, I can't explain it. In a nutshell, I went to a Chinese Food Buffet restaurant because I was really hungry; I'm just feeling better 24 hours later. I had to go to four gas stations to find a working air pump for my tire (thankfully on Wednesday I will have the slow leak fixed).

Before I go, useless fact of the night, courtesy of Crack Lite, I mean Versus (formerly ONL). Tonight the last two Stanley Cup Champions are playing, Carolina and Tampa Bay. This is the first time two American-born coaches who have won a Stanley Cup have coached against each other in the same game. That is at least a lot cooler than the Johnathan Cheecho sitting on a surfboard, he's just here to remind us the hockey season has started commericals.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Welcome Back, NFL in New Orleans!!!!

I freely admit my apartment got a litte dusty during parts of the U2 / Green Day performance, and when the New Orleans Saints took the field for tonight's game. A very emotional night for many of us, including those like myself who do not have ties to the city. I still get shocked when I see all of the pictures of what Hurricane Katrina did to the Gulf Coast Region. Living in New England for nearly twenty-eight years, Colorado for four, and Northern Virginia for the last five months, I have only lived through two realatively weak (Category 2 at strongest) hurricanes, and can not even imagine the havoc a storm like Katrina could wreak. Therefore, I cannot even imagine what the people who lost their homes, posessions, loved ones, et al are still going through. Words cannot express how I feel for them, and am rooting for the entire region to come back in a big time way.

It is great to see the National Football League back in the city of New Orleans tonight. While from what I have gathered, the city and region have a very long, difficult road to recovery, and really need to build up schools, fire, police, and overall infrastructure before anything: Football serves as a rallying point like nearly nothing else can. These people need things to cheer about and get behind. Few things bring thousands upon thousands of people together with a common cause like football. Not to mention the visibility the city will get from tonight's game, and that NFL games will pump a lot of money back into local economy (think hotels, restaurants, and bars).

Speaking of visibility, I will stay off the soapbox other than to say I feel it is totally appropriate to mix the reality of the storm-caused devastation and the resulting long, hard road to recovery with the celebration of the Saints' triumphant return to their home city. The large ESPN audience (I will go ahead and predict their largest ratings ever will come tonight) will see that while the Saints' return is a start, there is still a lot of work to do to rebuild the city. The Saints and their economic and psychological boost are both awesome, but let's not pretend New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Region have recovered to pre-Katrina levels yet. It's going to be a long, hard road, but the car's on the road and is ready for a ride. Send some thoughts, prayers, and money their way to help the continued recovery. I know I will.

Commentary on commentators: many have wondering why Tony Kornheiser was hired to join the Monday Night Football broadcast team. While he's known for being a sarcastic smart-ass who like to rile people up, he has been nothing but utmost, pure class tonight. From his thoughts on his tour of the city to his general game commentary, he has reminded viewers of the reality of the situation in the context of tonight's game.

On a more lighthearted note, the fans are getting into the game to the point where they're booing the Falcons kicker, and ex-Saint. Rock!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pikes Peak Busted! Denver is as great as ever!

Part One - Getting Ready For the Hike

Remember my entry called Pikes Peak or Bust? Well, I have returned from my annual charity Pikes Peak Challenge hike. And I busted it! Finished the 14 mile, 7400 vertical feet, trip in 8 hours hiking (breaks not counted) time! Most important is the journey to raise money for the Brain Injury Association of Colorado, but it definitely felt great when I finished in light snow.

I would like to begin from the beginning of my vacation. Thursday, Sept. 7: After scrambling to get everything done at work and at home, I made my way to the Metro to get to BWI via a MARC Train. My trip could have unraveled before I even got on the plane. First, the Yellow Line had major backups due to a train breakdown. This caused the trains to be rush-hour packed and then some. The next problem was completely my fault, as I got off the train at L’Enfant Plaza out of habit, as the last few times I took Metro I got off there. Oops, two stops early so I needed to get another Yellow Line Train to a Red Line before making it to Union Station with two minutes to spare.

The MARC Train was a pleasant, quick trip to BWI, which is a million times better than Dulles Airport. Easy to get around, short security lines that are organized (yes Dulles I am sucker punching you), and overall quite clean and inviting. Both flight segments were typically uneventful, read a magazine, try to sleep but pretty much fail at that, blah blah. I did walk right past USA Softball pitching standout Cat Osterman at DFW Airport, so that was interesting. The Colorado Springs Airport turned out to be a pleasant surprise: 2 minute walk to baggage claim, then 1 minute to rental cars and the respective lot. Small airports like Springs and Manchester, America’s Best are really cool to fly into after dealing with the Logans,O’Hare’s, and Dulles of the world.

Friday, Sept. 8: Time to do an acclimization (sp) hike and see some old Victorian Buildings that are now limited-stakes casinos in Cripple Creek. The drive through Ute Pass then south to Cripple Creek was scenic like most mountain drives in Colorado are. The 4 mile hike I did through Poverty Gulch on the Gold Camp Trail was fairly uneventful, but had some old mine remains for sights (I left my disposable camera in my rental car and am trying to get it back). I only huffed and puffed for breath once, at the very start. This was encouraging because I really needed to go on this acclimization hike, coming from sea level and all. The town of Cripple Creek rests at just over 9,500 feet above sea level, the hike took me just around 10,000 feet. Going into this trip, I felt that even though I don’t live in Colorado anymore, I was actually in better shape this year because of more focused, more intense, midweek training. This short hike helped confirm that and got me ready for the big hike the next day.

That night was the pre-hike dinner and rally. They give you tips to get ready for the hike, a brain injury survivor who is hiking tells a story of their recovery, which is the most inspiring 10-20 minutes of the weekend. Very riveting and quite emotional to hear this year’s speaker, Rick Hughes, who has done some amazing hiking and skiing stuff since his recovery. I met him briefly the next day, he is a great person as well. After hearing about what these survivors had to deal with, I will not complain about a sore hip or leg at mile 12, that’s for sure.

There was one potential trouble spot, the weather forecast. Pretty good chance of thunderstorms, so we were warned there was a chance we might get turned around before the summit. I have no problem with being told to turn around if the weather is dangerous, regardless of the hike. From experience, I have nearly learned this weather lesson the hard way via severe thunderstorms, once on Mount Washington and once in a foothills park west of Denver. Better to be safe than sorry. For this hike I try to get six good hours of sleep with a 3 AM wake up call and 5 AM start time beckoning, but I barely get it. Can’t wait to hike but am also nervous since it’s by far the longest, most challenging hike I do all year.

Part Two - The Hike

Wake up call, get dressed, eat breakfast, no problems. I even get to have M&Ms as part of the breakfast since I need all the sugar and energy I can get to hike nearly 7,500 vertical feet. No morning coffee, since that can help to dehydrate you. This can turn into an issue as I am a certifiable caffeine addict, to the point where I can develop headaches if I do not have coffee or team within an hour after waking up. I would get a headache later on, but for a different reason.

I start hiking a fairly steep stretch at the start of the Barr Trail, beginning at 6,700 feet and remember why I was told last year that the start of the hike is great for getting your heart rate up and the rest of your body in gear. Mine definitely went up, but I did not have to gasp for breath at the beginning of the hike. This was huge because it made me feel like my midweek conditioning, weekend hikes/bike rides, and acclimization (sp) hike the day before really paid off. Barr Camp is halfway through the trail, and basically halfway there from a standpoint of vertical feet gain. I made it in three hours, a kick-ass clip of over two miles an hour. When I first started hiking in 1998, I could barely hike fairly flat parks near Boston at that rate. This was close to 4,000 feet climbed at the quick pace.

While last year’s Pikes hike was extremely rewarding, one thing I would have done differently is not spend 45 minutes there while refilling water bottles, eating a 9 am lunch, using the facilities, you name it. This year it was get water, user facility, stretch, eat, put on sunblock, and go! 25 minutes this year. Why is this important? I’ve found that if I take too long of a break, it takes me a lot longer to get going and feeling strong again. Being too (relatively) idle slows me down for a long while, basically. While I most definitely was not under a time schedule, hikers had until11:30 to get to Barr Camp before the cutoff (for safety) time and I was back on the trail before 9:00. I didn’t want to be on the mountain forever either.

The one fairly non-descript part of the trail is between Barr Camp and A Frame Shelter. Just a multitude of switchbacks. All I’ll say is I started getting a headache around mile ten or so. UH OH. This was a lingering concern, coming from sea level less than 48 hours earlier. But I knew how to get through it without disrupting the hike: drink more water to hydrate even more, then drink my 32 ounce Gatorade at A Frame. Bingo! Headache gone.

A Frame shelter is 3 miles from the summit, but with 2,400 or so vertical feet or so from the summit. Thankfully, it was still sunny because once you get here, you’re past treeline. Wide open, beyond gorgeous views, but very exposed views at that. There is ZERO protection and/or shelter from the elements once you wander above treeline. To top it all off, you cannot tell if there are dangerous clouds coming from the other side of the mountain from the A Frame area. But with the warming sun, onward! 3 real tough miles ahead, but this is all about the journey and the cause.

I’m getting tired at this stage but with the headache one, it was time to make the move towards the summit. I think I had more conversations with more people between 3-1 miles to go than the rest of the hike put together. Everyone’s getting so tired that they don’t hike as far without slowing down, hence they talk more. Talked to a couple who just moved to Colorado from Iowa this summer, and were hiking their first 14,000 foot peak. They were doing very, very well. Another couple was from Colorado Springs via Minnesota, others were local area hikers. I didn’t get to what I call “Five steps, stop, four steps, rest” territory until was maybe one and one half miles from the summit. This hit a bit later in the hike than it did last year, so now I really knew a lot of the spinning classes paid off!

Thirteen miles down, one to go, but here come the darker clouds!!!! About 20 minutes earlier I decided to just keep my ski cap on even if the sun peeked through the clouds. It had started to get chilly so I put the cap on to keep heat in around my head area. No headaches, but needed more water nonetheless at this altitude to keep on keepin’ on. Everyone was slowing down their pace by this point, regardless of fitness and hiking levels. I was just hiking as quickly as possible without pushing myself to the point of risking injuries or cramps. But it wasn’t very fast!

There are staff volunteers at every checkpoint of the Pikes Peak Challenge. Some checkpoint volunteers have fun gimmicks to make people laugh. At the one-mile-to-go marker, keeping in line with the summer movie scene, one of the volunteers dressed as a pirate, all the while reciting pirate lines. He was funny, my “we have a weather situation, nothing to do with me of course” Johnny Depp imitation, not so much. D-. From one mile to one half mile to go, you lookup at the Summit House and think you are so much closer than you really are. Ouch! Walk. Stop. Ouch. Drink Water. Repeat.

Speaking of one half mile to go, I get one last picture taken of me pointing to the summit (I’ll get these developed as soon as I can). I had to ask the El Paso County Search and Rescue officer if I had time because as I approached this checkpoint, I heard the infamous Emergency Broadcast System buzz alarm. The thunderstorms were for the Black Forest area, northeast of Colorado Springs, since Pikes is on the far southwest side, bingo! Onward again after the picture.

The last half mile was agonizing from a physical standpoint, but otherwise beyond awesome. Realizing I was a half mile from completing this hike, and thinking about all of the heartwarming stories about brain injury survival, adrenaline kicked in. There is one final set of steep switchbacks called 16 Golden Stairs. Some of these switchbacks look exactly like stairs, some do not, but everything is tough at this point. Finally, after eight hours of hiking time, the end of the hike appeared at the last switchback. I made it! Two years in a row!

Now for an emotional moment. Everyone gets a medal presented to them at the end of the hike. The presenter was a brain injury survivor from Oklahoma who has hiked the trail before. I met his son at one of the checkpoints, he drove all the way from Stillwater, OK to volunteer for the event. Another brain injury survivor received his medal right before I did. When him and his wife received their medals, it was very difficult for me not to start crying. This was the most heartwarming moment of the vacation for me by far. When I received my medal, I was congratulated by the presenter. I turn congratulated him and then some. Him and others are the ones that deserve praise, not me. What he went through to get to where is he today, hiking mountains like this, after his injuries, was far, far more daunting than my hiking Pikes Peak, heck anything I have ever gone through. Just seeing everyone who has survived some of these horrible injuries is what will keep me hiking Pikes Peak annually, for the Brain Injury Association of Colorado, until I either die or cannot physically hike it anymore. Should the latter hit, I will volunteer for the Pikes Peak Challengein another way.

I need to give a big shout out to all the Pikes Peak Challenge Volunteer staff, and the El Paso County Rescue. I cannot even describe how hard they work to make this event happen.

Part Three - Denver

I spent the final two days of my vacation back in Denver. While I enjoy the D.C. area, I did not realize how much I also dearly miss Denver until I went back there. Great weather: sunny, 70s, great seeing friends. Great beers from Flying Dog at Blake Street Tavern while watching my beloved Patriots kick off the season by coming back to beat Buffalo in a typical AFC East struggle. The Scottish Porters are as tasty as ever. I saw a lot of my old friends in Denver (Al, Will, Art, Greg, Sheryl, lots of the REI crew, wish I could have seen more of you), went to Pete’s Kitchen, My Brother’s Bar, and the REI Flagship store, all three must-hits when you visit Denver, especially the last two. My Brother’s have the greatest wax paper burgers on the planet. Normally I would never pay $8 for a double cheeseburger, at My Brother’s I don’t even blink before paying it.

Check out The British Bulldog at Stout and Broadway if you’re a soccer fan. Great pub just east of downtown. Kick-ass beer specials, and not just at the Bulldog or Blake Street, should you choose to drink a few beers, which I like to do once in a while. Tons of recreation opportunities that I will really miss come February when it’s 43 degrees, gray, rainy, and four hours away from snow that sticks. Finally, it’s the total vibe and atmosphere of Denver that I miss. Should D.C. not work out after a couple years, I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going. I won’t bore you with details of my flight home. That and I don’t want to get RSI.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Are the Pats that good or are the Redskins that bad?

Before I begin, I am watching Guatemalan soccer on GolTV, and am intrgued by something: in what does not look like a stadium with a lot of covered seating, few if any fans are seating in the first 10-15 rows. I've always preferred to sit that many rows up as opposed to the front row at sporting events. The reasoning is simple: I can see better many rows back.

Anyway, I usually do not put a lot of stock in what happens during NFL pre-season games. Not even the third one, which is a close to a regular season game as you get in pre-season; the starters go far deeper into the game than in the other ones. But I could not help but think about the replay of last night's Pats-Redskins game. New England completely dominated a supposed-to-be-playoff contender from start to finish. Washington never even advanced the ball past New England's 20 yard line until the final minute against the third or fourth team defense. Very poorly taken penalty kick in the soccer game.

Without even really opening up the offense or defense, the Pats looked like a Super Bowl Contender. I don't know what the Redskins looked like, but I have seen at least parts of their three pre-season games, and I have not seen anything that tells me they will win more than three games without a drastic change in form come September. The offense sucks ass, I know Clinton Portis is out but they look pathetic. The supposed team strength, defense, has key guys out but looks bad all things considered. Lots of diving in the Guatemalan soccer game. Pre-season ain't the real thing, but the chicken little the sky is falling wing of Redskins nation has some merit to go along with hysteria. As a Pats fan, I'm encouraged but in no way think they will win 30-3 or 41-0 every week. BTW, Pando, formerly of MLS' Los Angeles Galaxy, received a yelloe card for throwing his arm in a guy's face while jostling for a ball.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Forgot to salute Curt Schilling and David Wells

You both did your jobs this weekend. Stellar pitching performances for both of you. If that is Wells's last high-profile start (wtuh his health you never know), he went out like a champion. Manny did his job too until getting hurt today.

The Leg Press Machine Paid for the Red Sox sucking

I was one frustrated person today, from the Red Sox' complete ineptitude to things I shouldn't discuss here. Drew Bledsoe just got a first down on a quarterback sneak. Reggie Bush has only touched the ball once since the game started. The ESPN feed is a mess. Even Terry Glenn has a TD catch.

Back to me being frustrated, it was a very long, very miserable day. Until I got to the gym. Gold's Gym in Alexandria is phenomonal. Great staff, plenty of cardio and weight equipment, and many free classes with your membership. The leg press machine really paid the price for me being pissed off. Bledsoe gets sacked, I still like Drew for what he did with the Pats. Leg press is one of six exercises I was given by a personal trainer for a workout (you get six one on one sessions when you join Gold's). Put 420 pounds on the machine, lifted that mofo 60 times! I was impressed by how I attacked that machine, and probably could have had a few more reps but did not want to overdo things and miss my spinning class because of it. The weights plus spinning felt good, as it should after a miserable day.

With the Red Sox season being over, I can devote all of my sporting attention to football, after saying that Jason Varitek should rehab for next year and forget about this one. Trot Nixon should come back for the final weekend so the fans can give him a final sendoff, as he likely will not be re-signed. The ESPN feed is still messed up. At least I don't feel like a bad fan for not bothering try to go to any games in Baltimore in September.

A serious Thank You to Joe Theismann for mentioning that while the French Quarter is back and running, a lot of New Orleans is not. I just feel a lot of people need to be reminded of that. I plan on donating some more money this year to continued relief efforts.

Now, to talk about the other kind of football that I like. I am really looking forward to seeing some friends and some live soccer on Saturday. It is my understanding that D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy have a very spirited rivalry. I have not seen it in person since 1999 MLS Cup. A lot of people here (myself included, and I am practically a netural MLS-wise although I would call New England my favorite team if a gun was put to my head) are still pissed off at Landodn Donovan for his World Cup performance or lack of. It will be a charged atmosphere on what looks to be a humid Saturday night, I look forward to it. Will be fun.

Drew Bledsoe, pre-season or not, is kicking ass tonight. Finally, the Southwestern Chicken Salad I bought at Safeway for dinner was excellent.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Exorcist Steps are fun ... now I really know ... more fun than the Red Sox

The Sox did get 2 runs in the bottom of the first as I type this and are ahead 2-0 for now. What's disappointing more than anything is not just this weekend, but all the games they pissed away against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Kansas City Royals of the world. Win most of those and they're possibly still in first place, even with the collapse of the pitching staff. Yes, they have injuries, but so don't most other teams out there, including the Yankees. They don't seem to have the killer instinct the 2004 team had. But the Red Sox are not fun right now, so let me move on to things that are fun.

The last two Sundays I have run up the Exorcist steps six times in succession, with a jog around a 2 block by two block part of Georgetown in between each stair run. I thought about going for a seventh or eighth time but didn't have any more energy in near 90 degree, very humid weather. I walked around the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal afterwards, followed by some more walking around NW DC. Mostly around some Embassies and the outer part of the Dupont Circle neighboorhood. The first Embassy I randomly saw, you may ask? Venezuela, on I think 30th Street NW. Just thought that was odd, given the current political climate.

Schilling tosses another scoreless inning, other than a fairly high pitch count, he's kicking ass so far.

I ate a late lunch at a great little sandwich shop at 20th and P Streets called DC Hot. $3.95 got me a great Kansas Roast Beef Sandwich, much better deal for the money than you'd get at COSI or Panera Bread (no disrespect, I like Panera).

When I got in there, the owner (I think) asked me what I wanted to order. As soon as I told him, he asked me if I was from Rhode Island. I guess I still have the New England accent even after 4 1/2 years away. New Englanders ask me all the time where I am from, it's all good. Being from Massachusetts, we naturally discussed the painful times for the Red Sox. I'll go back there for sure the next time I am in the area.

2-0 after 2 innings.

I'm starting to find cool places to hang out, cool bands to see, and other cool fun stuff as I'm here for longer. Red Sox going into a rain delay. F***, this CANNOT be a long one, Bonnie Berstein just said they are expecting hail and heavy winds, but that it will only last 45 minutes or so. Even so, F***, that ain't chance of showers like was reported earlier, and Schilling needs to stay in this game. OTOH, the weather report Bonnie Bernstein got is crap, I grew up in the Boston area, I think I saw hail twice in nearly 28 years.

Back to the cool things. On Friday night I went to Kingstowne Town Center, a family-oriented shopping plaza in suburban Alexandria. The attraction was a ska band from DC called The Pietasters. While definitely not the demogrpahics they are used to playing in front of, a good time was had by all, even the little kids were dancing. Now watching NFL preseason, Peyton Manning is out of the game. Good, I hate that tool. His backup throws a pick that Seattle runs in for a touchdown. Next.

In short, finding more cool things to do for not a lot of money is a good thing that I've become pretty accustomed to doing. It's one of many things that makes life fun, and easy on the limited budget. Cool shots of downtown Indy on NBC, I really like that downtown. The next time I find cool, inexpensive stuff, I'll write about it.

Little more than 2 1/2 weeks until Pikes Peak!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I kicked The Exorcist Steps' Asses

In the tony Georgetown section of my new city, Washington D.C., is a semi-hidden gem from movie fame, The Exorcist Steps. Right across the Francis Scott Key Bridge and the Potomac River from Rosslyn (Arlington), Virginia, is Georgetown. Directly west on M Street is a nondescript Exxon Station, and some steps with a stone arch. Didn't look to be anything more than a set of stairs to some townhouse building, but I knew better.

Metro Sports D.C. describes these steps as the best stair workout in the area. I still kicked the steps' asses, three runs up them, with a few minutes rest in between. The first two thirds of the steps were not overly rough, the last third took a bit out of me, but I won today. Next time I go to Georgetown I'm going to run them 6-12 times like Metro Sports recommends. When that next time is, who knows. Georgetown has its good points, what little of the campus I saw was very beautiful, and the harbor is okay. And the next time I go there for food and drinks, I'm going to Mr. Smiths because the waitress said hi to me when I walked by. But the bad: no Metro unless you want to walk over the bridge from Rosslyn, parking is every but as hard to find as it is in Boston, not to mention that people drive through a very crowded stretch of town like they're on the freeway. Heck I thought there was going to be 40something accidents in the hour plus I was there. Maybe I'll go Saturday morning, or next Sunday, because I want to kick the steps' asses again.

In other news, I'm getting out and around D.C. a bit. I started a part time job at REI in Baileys Crossroads yesterday. This will help me pay off my credit cards, meet some new people who do a lot of the beat myself up stuff I do (hike, bike, ski), and increase my outerwear knowledge. I remembered how tiring a six hour or more shift there can make me tired afterwards. I had forgotten about that, since it had been four months since I worked there in Denver. I also went hiking on the Cabin John Creek Trail in Montgomery Countty, Maryland, today. 12 miles or so, somewhat flat, but some hilly stretches too, all right near the Beltway and I-270. My friend Sachin was right, you don't have to leave the Beltway to find some good hikes. Other than a mile or so of sidewalk walking, this hike was a quality one. Guess how many other hikers I saw all day? TWO! At a street crossing. I couldn't believe a trail like that so close to town didn't have more traffic.

And yeah, NFL preseason starts tonight! Not that I'm paying all that much attention to tonight's game, or any of them until the third preseason week.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Boston as a tourist, World Cup, John Grisham, and Pirates

Lots to cover today. Last weekend I took a day off to give myself a four-day weekend. I had decided a couple months ago to head up to Boston for my first ever visit as a vacationing tourist. I moved from Boston to Denver in April-May 2002, as you may know. For many reasons, largely vacation limitations, the only times I had been back to the Boston area were three weddings (one as a guest, two as a member of the wedding party) and for the Christmas holiday. I say this past weekend was my first tourist trip because, as beyond honored as I was to be at the weddings, those are not vacations. You are running around like crazy, as you are when going home for Christmas. I consider both instances to be fantastic times, but very hectic times, not vacation ones. Therefore, at 10:10 am on July 1, 2006, I landed in my native Massachusetts as a tourist for the very first time.

Being a soccer fan, I needed to watch the England-Portugal World Cup quarterfinal. I tried McGanns, a soccer-friendly bar, but it was tough to find a seat, which I wanted because I'd be on my feet for a lot of the weekend. I ended up at Boston Beerworks near North Station / TD Banknorth Garden. The beer was a good as I remember it being. Ran into a French supporter there, who I immediately told that they had no shot of beating Brazil. Good thing I had to leave to check into the hostel then take a train to Lowell, MA, or I would have had to eat my words and buy more beers.

In Lowell I met up with my two best friends from high school, Chris and Ryan. Whilw waiting for Ryan to arrive, I see Zdeno Chara highlights on New England Sports Network's Red Sox pre game show. Before I could figure out why they would do this, the Bruins actually spent some money on a quality free agent (6 foot 9 defenseman, and one of the better ones in the game to boot). That pleasant surprise was met with a better one when we were eating dinner. Ryan's wife is expecting their first child in Janauary. WOOOHOOOOO! Both my friends are doing very well.

Sunday I walked to South Station through Copley Square and Back Bay, with a nice breeze accompanying me. I mention that because it felt like a 60 degree morning, and the air does not move in DC. I took the train to my friends Sean and Theresa's house in Plymouth, which as the link will tell you, is a lot more than a few historical sites on the waterfront. It's now a city of 60,000 and growing fast. The party was great, old friends, beers, burgers, the only regret I have is being too tired to stay up past 11:30. I am really freaking old, and/or I was just so tired from the daily grind catching up with me that I would have crashed at the same time with or without beers. I vote for both.

Monday I went down to Fenway Park, I had not been to a game there since 2001, and not to the area since the winter after that. The area around the park looks a lot better, the Landmark shops down Brookline Avenue look better than ever. The famous Cask and Flagon that is right across the street from Fenway got a lot swankier than it used to me. Most of the changes are good, but you do have to take the bad with it. Right underneath the park at the corner of Landsdowne and Brookline is the Game On Sports Bar, maybe the most upscale sports bar I've ever been to. Reminded me of Avalon meets big screen TVs, especially the downstairs. Liked: Pad Thai with Scallops. Despised: The Special was $22! Now if the Sox make money off of this venture it's all cool. But while the Pad Thai was good, it was only worth half of what I paid for it. Lesson Learned, and I realized that I missed the bowling alley that used to be in the same location. The price of success I guess, but if I'm in the area anytime soon I'll eat and drink elsewhere, I can't throw down $22 on a meal too often.

Monday night was a blast, back up to Lowell to get to my hometown of Dracut, MA. My brother (Deputy Fire Chief in Dracut) had to work, but my sister-in-law and two nephews were home. Went out for ice cream at an ice cream stand I hadn't been to in ten years, then swimming in the pool. A great reminder of how much fun running around in a pool to create w "whirlpool" was; everyone was very glad I came to Dracut for the evening.

Tuesday, flew home, the US Airways shuttle terminal was EMPTY. I know it wasn't a business day but I never figured there would be so few people travelling. I got home just in time for the Germany-Italy semifinal to get entertaining and the storms to roll in. Tomorrow Italy and France play for the whole Cup. As big of a fan as I am, I realize tournament finals are rarely asthetic classics. I'm expecting 0-0 tomorrow, with Italy winning 4-3 on PKs. Of course I will be watching.

On the plane I figured out a new interest: John Grisham novels. I've only read two, The Summons and The Broker, but both held my interest to the point where I couldn't wait to pick the book back up again. His endings are a bit odd, but the books have more twists and turns than a Colorado foothills back road. I need to go to the library to get more books. Maybe today or tomorrow.

Last night I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean with some friends. I hadn't been to a movie theatre and who knows how long, theatres have changed since then. Stadium seating, semi-reclining seats, you name it. The movie was pretty good, albeit a bit long. Interesting tidbit: the trailer preview for next year's Transformers movie got the biggest reaction on the night.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

All Right, 90 degree plus heat, Beat It!

And stay away for a while! It's not August yet! A four day wave of 90 plus degree temps and DC's notorious humidity hit us from Sunday to Wednesday. It was not a lot of fun, especially since it kind of hit us out of nowhere. I usually like to keep my energy costs low by only using the AC or heat (in the winter, rarely) when I have to, and for short periods of time at that. Couldn't get away with that earlier this week, it took a bit to cool the apartment enough so I didn't feel like I was in a damp, humid blast furnace.

I take solace that on Monday the pool at my apartment complex was open, it is closed for repairs after being open for a mere one week. I take more solace from the hike I did on Sunday. There's a section of the Applachian Trail near Purcellville, VA called the Roller Coaster - sorry I won't pay for the full description. I woke up too late to complete the full 14.6 mile hike to the Trail Center and back. But a through hiker told me the part of the trail I didn't hike didn't have much to look at, so I stuck with my 8 miles or so. I will say this, while I hiked most if not all of the roller coaster, it did not feel like I hiked 4800 feet of total elevation gain. The only thing that made the hike tough was the heat and humidity. Maybe I've been hiking for many years now and some things don't seem tough anymore. Or was the heat making me think not so straight even though I obviously did not drink any alcohol?

Today's hike will be in Black Hill Regional Park, MD. Supposed to be 2000 feet of total elevation change, and is only about 30 miles from me, maybe 40 with the Beltway. I can handle that trip even with gas prices at their current levels. The Black Hills of South Dakota this won't be, but I will enjoy the hike nonetheless. I need to get in as many miles as possible before the Pikes Peak trip in September. No heat today and I may even get to test out my new raingear!

Other fun stuff: Get a chance to see Jonathan Coulton perform if you can. This guy is hilarious, Paul and Storm were really good too. Coulton does the funniest version of Baby Got Back, totally acoustic. I know, I saw the show in Vienna, VA last weekend. I'll go back to see him again for sure. Check out his website if you haven't already.

Other notes: No more drinking beer at Wednesday night sporting events. Not worth the trouble of feeling like garbage the whole next day. I am old.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

How do I change the About Me section

I just want to make it look a little neater. Maybe change my name from maryjanejeff (For those who do not know, I take my blog name from Mary Jane Mountain at Winter Park, CO) to Jeff. Definitely change the location to Alexandria. Put a space in between Name and Location and my name and location. Either I'm a dumbass or I can't figure out how to change this?

In other news, I'm getting out and riding my bike more and more, joined Gold's Gym since there are two of them on my way home from work and no Bally's are, and am still tired all of the time.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Pikes Peak or Bust?

A lot of people settling the West in the 1800s probably said Pikes Peak or Bust. I am kind of saying it, kind of asking it. Why? Well, I am an avid hiker, even though I won't get a chance to hike very much this summer with gas prices. Also, I enjoy the DC area thus far, but while there are places to hike nearby, 1700-2000 foot vertical gains 30 minutes from the city there ain't.

Therefore, to train for a hike I plan on doing in September, 4 months from today in fact, I am going to need to get really creative in my workouts. Last year, I summitted Pikes Peak for the first time as part of the Pikes Peak Challenge to benefit the Brain Injury Association of Colorado and Memorial Hospital's Think First For Kids Head & Spinal Cord Injury Prevention programs. This gives me an opportunity to accomplish several things of interest to me: raise money for a great cause, get outdoors in one of the most scenic places on earth, hike, and get my butt kicked while hiking. 14 miles, over 7,000 feet of vertical gain, and a summit over 14,000 feet, and I have a great challenge ahead of me. However, after listening to stories last year of what brain injury survivors have to deal with, I ain't complaining, especially not on the last 2 or 3 miles, the only time I really struggled with the hike last year.

What will I do to train for this? I've begun by putting in 20 minutes on a stair climber each time I go to a gym or my apartment tower's fitness center. I increase the level of workout nearly every time, and will soon start adding minutes to each climbing session. Tonight I put in 18-20 miles on side roads and the Mount Vernon Bike Trail. This trail goes to George Washington's Estate, but you have to earn the views of Mount Vernon. The last 3/4 of a mile features a fairly steep climb that rises out of nowhere. Both times I've ridden down this far, I've gotten my butt kicked. That's why I ask if it's Pikes Peak or Bust. But if I take advantage of the long days and make the bike ride a couple days a week and increase the intensity of my stairs workouts, I should be good to go. On top of that, I'll walk even more places than I already do. Every little bit helps.

I have the vacation time, the motivation, and have a free flight available to me (although I may save it for ski season), so why not? I'm going for it. By the way, click on the above link to Pikes Peak then click on photo gallery. I'm in photo 9.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Where have you gone, Dwight Eisehnhower?

That may be a strange question to see on this blog, seeing as my political leanings, especially recently, are towards the liberal/Democrats/Green Party/progressive POV, and Dwight Eisenhower was a conservative. But, while driving across the country to move, I stopped in Abeline, Kansas for a rest break. Knowing the Eisenhower Library and Museum (scroll down the page and click on the Exhibit was in Abeline, I decided to make a short detour. I missed the video that is shown near the gift shop, which I wish I hadn't, but did walk around the grounds a bit.

You may miss it driving down Fourteenth Street, Abeline's "main drag" if you didn't know it was there. But that may have been by design, as Eisenhower was a humble man from a humble background. I walked into the house where he, his parents, and five brothers grew up, it amazed me. Why? Truth be told, the whole house has barely more square footage than my apartment. It was tiny, albeit two floors. The whole family worked their asses off for everything they had.

Did you view the exhibit yet? It explains what I was getting at in the title. While a conservative, Eisenhower was tactful, diplomatic, and astute enough to realize that the Cold War would not have been won by carpet bombing any communist target of choice. He realized that peace was the objective, and worked to achieve it. However, when peace was not possible without conflict, he knew how to target those who attacked and threatened the United States, kick ass, and take names. Also, under his direction, a fair amount of the groundwork for many Civil Rights enjoyed today (until recently) was laid down. One potential negative caveat was the Red (Communist) Scare, but it seems to me like he used high, high level diplomacy to avoid us and the Soviets bombing the crap out of each other. I don't even know if the assclown that's in the Oval Office today even knows how to spell diplomacy, or even level. I think he can spell high though.

In summary, considering I never paid a ton of attention to politics until a few years ago, I was amazed at how Dwight Eisenhower rose all the way from very humble, modest roots in central Kansas (it's as dusty, dry, and desolate as people say, definitely a place that breeds toughness) all the way to the Presidency. Maybe it's just today's pay millions to play political culture that makes me think it would be tough to rise from a working class background to being President (I don't give Democrats a pass on this). But I was amazed at how modest the entire library complex was, it fit Dwight Eisenhower's legacy nicely. Although I would have disagreed with his conservative stance a lot of the time, I would have greatly respected him, and probably have been very proud to call him my President. He warned us of a lot of the dangers facing us today, I only think that if he were alive today, the USA would be a lot less partisan and the key debates would not have been hijacked by those that do so otday, and we would be focused on those who caused us harm.

Camden Yards Was Kind of Fenway South

I went to the game on Saturday, April 8 to see for myself if Camden Yards was Fenway South. It was, sort of. I was expected the Sox fans to be a lot more boisterous than they were, but there were still more of them than there were Orioles fans. A 90 minute late delay at the start, 40 or so degree weather, and a somewhat slow moving game may have all contributed to it. Both my friend Ian and I were late because of construction on the Baltimore / Washington Parkway so the delay helped us a bit.

The game itself moved rather slowly for a 2-1 game, but I enjoyed it a lot. Curt Schilling looked as close to his 2001-034 dominating self as he's been since then. One run in seven innings, I'lll take that. Mile Timlin was okay in the eighth, Jonathan Freaking Papelbon rocked in the ninth. The only negative was Wily Mo Pena, who swung at 6 of the 7 pitches he faced for two strikeouts. Maybe 2 of those were strikes, and I may be generous with that number. He wasn't even coming close to making contact. Why the hell did we trade Bronson Arroyo for this clown?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Settling in Virginia: So far, so good! But it's not August yet.

I figured now would be a good time to update my blog, seeing as I just got back from a 16 mile or so bike ride down to Mt. Vernon and back (George Washington's Estate, I only rode until the end of the bike path) and need to chill out a bit. I have settled in Northern Virginia, and now work in Lorton, about a half hour south of the Capital Beltway. I seem to be making a good impression there, and am drawing praise already for my efforts. That is always good to hear for obvious reasons.

Anyway, earlier this month I drove from Denver to Alexandria, VA to relocate for a new job. I won't bore you with excessive details, but a cross country drive is always interesting.

Tuesday, April 5: I don't get out of metro Denver until alomst 4 pm, so I didn't get too far into Kansas before deciding I didn't have the energy to drive 100 miles to the next town with a few hotels. So I stayed in Colby, KS. At least the Super 8 was clean, and gas was only $2.50 or so.

Wendesday, April 6: The longest day of the trip, I decided I was going to try to get all the way to Terre Haute, IN. No particular reason behind picking that destination, just Orbitz showing chear hotels. Larry Bird did go to college there, but I wasn't stopping at the campus just because of that, so I wasn't too disappointed when I only got as far as Effignham, IL.

I'm actually going to talk about Kansas for a paragraph, please don't run to antoher web site. :) I figured if I would get pulled over for speeding anywhere on this trip, it would be Kansas, with it being flat, hot, and dusty. Yup, I got pulled over somewhere near mile 220, I am very lucky that the state trooper only wrote me a warning. He asked me where I was going, when I told him I was driving cross country he was cool about it. Whew! Especially since I have no speeding tickets since 1995. I stopped in Abeline, 20 or so miles east of Salina, to rest for a few minutes and to visit the Dwight Eisenhower library, museum, and boyhood home. More about that in a future entry.

Missouri: Gates BBQ in Independence, a KC Suburb, rocked. But what the hell is the deal with their county roads? M, EE, B, V, randomly selected letters, what a mess. I wish I had gotten to St. Louis a couple hours earlier so I could walk around the Arch and the new Busch Stadium. But I didn't. I can't comment much on Illinois since it was either dark or pouring rain when I was there.

Thursday, April 7: I caught a nasty cold in Indianapolis. 40 degree plus driving rain plus I only had a sweatshirt on = bad decision to stop and wander around a bit. Actually, not a bad decision, Indy has a very cool downtown. You walk under an old warehouse turned into a bridge, and you're in an old-school downtown with lots of cool, tall buildings moxed with some new, chic, offices. The north? side of downtown ends with a traffic circle with a memorial dedicated to Indiana's Civil War particiapnts in the middle. I enjoyed my brief stay in Indy, wish it could have been longer. Drove to Morgantown, West Virginia, which was okay. I wasn't expecting a tunnel through Wheeling, but it didn't look like I missed much but a couple of steep hills on the sides of I-70 and I-470. I-79 from Washington, PA to Morgantown reminded me of a foothills road in Colorado more than an interstate.

Friday, April 7: Only 3-4 hours of driving left, exactly as I intended, so I could arrive in Virginia, get my apartment keys, and unload my car before rush hour. I-68 through Western Maryland was a pleasant surprise, very picturesque, or it would have been if it wasn't pouring rain. I saw more rain on this trip than I'd see in Colorado in eight months. 40 mph speed limit too on an interstate, through Cumberland, and old mill and river town. The only other time I'd seen a speed limit under 50 mph on an interstate was Glenwood Canyon, CO. The rest of thr drive was uneventful.

I've been here a bit more than two weeks, and am happy so far. I live a mile from the Metro system, close enough to walk but not too close that rents skyrocket. My commute to work is 14-15 miles each way, more than I would like, especially with gas prices. However, I am going against the traffic on Route 1 (until the 30,000 or so people are tansferred to Ft. Belvoir) in both the morning and afternoon. Also, I decided that living right near work, in Woodbridge , Dale City, or even Lorton, would really limit my social life (I have one? ;). I'd be too far away from everything I like to do in my spare time, too far away from the city, you name it.

I went hiking at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland last Sunday, and really enjoyed getting out in the outdoors to relax and get some exercise. I won't be able to hike as much here as I did in Denver because of travel distance and gas prices, so I appreciate every opportunity to hike even more. But I can still go from time to time. The trade off of less hiking and skiing for a permanent job opportunity, a chance to further build my career with the same company, and be a 90 minute flight away from my family? I'll make that trade and am glad I did, even though Denver was fun. But ask me how glad I am to be here in August when it's 95 degrees and humid for the 41st straight day.

Monday, April 03, 2006

No More Hammer, Thank Freaking God!

While making one final cruise through the Big Soccer boards before closing up for my move, Dave posted some of the best news I've heard in a long time. tom delay is dropping out of his district's Congressional race in Texas ( This is great news! No more of his shady backroom dealings in too mnay places to mention, no more golf outings on taxpayers' dime (at least not by him), I could go on for an hour but I need to pack for tomorrow's move. At least the Hammer is no more, I won't speculate as to what is next other than I see him facing some sort of criminal charges very shortly.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Is Camden Yards Really Fenway Park South?

I will find out Saturday, and maybe Sunday, as I attend the Red Sox - Orioles game(s) at Camden Yards. I have been to Camden once before, I saw Seattle beat the Os 1-0 in a classic game in September 2001, Cal Ripken's last season. I love the ballpark, even though getting out of there was a big-time clusterf*, just below the old Foxboro Stadium on the clusterf list (I have not been to Gillette Stadium so I won't comment about leaving there).

Now, as a lifelong Red Sox fanatic, I cannot wait to see my team in Camden Yards. I understand that so many Sox fans either live in the area/travel from New England to the games that they turn the park into essentially Fenway Park South. Jim Rome had a half segement devoted to this last year, when David Wells got a standing ovation after leaving the game, even though he was the visiting team's starting pitcher. This will be the first time I experience a Sox-Os game in Baltimore for myself. I'm looking forward to it and then some. Although I must say as a baseball fan it's sad to see what mismanagement has done to the Orioles franchise. The Oriole Way doesn't exist anymore, that's for sure.

Moving Again: All Good Things Must Come To An End

For the 2.5 people who actually read this and probably know this anyway, all good things must come to an end. I moved to Denver in May of 2002: having lived in Massachusetts for all of my 27 plus years of my existence, I needed to get out on my own. Denver had what I was looking for, tons of skiing and hiking to do in my spare time, a pleasant climate, a mellow vibe, and it was a lot cheaper to live in then Boston. That last point came in really handy while I was trying to get back into the IT industry.

I did eventually make my way back into IT as a Market Systems Analyst until my market was consolidated. That's all I feel comfortable saying on a blog other than this happened weeks after I moved into the current apartment. Shit. I was able to land a temp job with the possibility of it going perm, but....

I got an email one morning from another market in my old company. Again, I don't feel comfortable saying too much, but I received, and accepted, an offer to move to Alexandria, Virginia to take my old job in a new, much larger market. I leave Denver on Tuesday afternoon after the movers leave and I take care of some final business. It will be a sad momemnt when I drive the legendary Colfax Avenue on the way out of town. However, it will be a very happy moment when I pull into Alexandria on Friday.

In a nutshell, I'm looking forward to returing to my east coast roots, although it will be tough to leave Colorado. I have a bigger and better opportunity awaiting me in Virginia. I won't be able to hike and ski as often, but if gas gets close to $3 again this summer, I'd have to practically give up hiking anyway. But you have to give up something to get something in that giant give/take relationship called life. I am relocating to take a job that I have worked and feel comfortable with in a much larger area than before (I consider it a promotion because of the market size). My family is doing cartwheels (figuratively), and I'm glad I'll be a 90 minute flight away from them as opposed to an oddesy that almost always involved circling Lake Michigan to land at O'Hare Airport for a stopover. The only regret I have about Denver is I spent too much time living on the fringes of suburbia and not enough time in city neighboorhoods like here. But I'm leaving a good situation for a better one, seeing as I had no guarantees of permanent work with benefits in Denver.

Finally, before you tell me Alexandria is a suburb, the Huntington Metro station is a mile from my apartment so I can be a city boy in 20 minutes anytime I want. :D

Thursday, March 02, 2006

NFL Owners Break Off Talks To Extend CBA

As a diehard New England Patriots and NFL fan, this is not good. The NFL is my favorite of all sports, but with the talks broken off to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) past 2007, there's big trouble on the horizon. A new dealine of 12:01 am ET tonight has been set for talks, but said talks are not scheduled. This is not good. First, the salary cap remains at ~ $95-6 million instead of the projected ~ $102 million. While I normally have little sympathy for millionaire athletes who have to take pay cuts or lose jobs because of cap constraints, I feel differently regarding most NFL players because their contracts, unlike other sports, are not guaranteed. The local Denver Broncos already had to get rid of three key players, including the very popular, very productive Trevor Pryce. Mike Anderson, who was still the starting running back, was cut too. Many teams are going to have to cut a lot of good players, and a lot of them may not get back in the league. I saw on ESPN yesterday that the Pats may have to cut Rodney Harrison, which scares the heck out of me.

Second, the latest word from the airwaves is the NFLPA (union) will vote to decertify, forcing an uncapped year in 2007. Not only does this likely lead to an onwer-induced lockout in 2008 after the CBA expires, but a salary cap could never be put back in once it's taken out. The cap has really helped out the NFL IMHO, it lets everyone play with equal rules. Now of course some big-market teams can generate a bit more local revenue than others, but they cannot spend millions more than others to essentially buy Super Bowl contenders. Every team has a chance to compete in the NFL, which makes it a special league.

Without a cap, I am very concerned that the NFL will turn into Major League Baseball, which I will publicly admit I might not have followed closely anymore if I had not had the Red Sox so ingrained in me after spending my formative years in Massachusetts. We don't need another baseball, every team and every market can compete in the NFL with a competent front office. Basically, as long as your manangement wasn't incompetent schmucks along the lines of the Arizona Cardinals or the 1990s Cincinnati Bengals, you can make at least a playoff run every few years. With no salary cap, only ten or so teams have the local revenue to spend at will, even with revenue sharing.

As to how all of this affects the Patriots long-term, I have a different take than you would think. Now The Krafts are certainly "big market, big bucks" owners who could spend at will and perhaps stockpile talent galore. Houston, Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia, Denver, Chicago, Cleveland, and the two New York teams if they get a new stadium, all fall into said category.

However, I don't necessarily think the Patriots would be big beneficiaries of an uncapped, free for all system. IMHO a huge competitive advantage for the Pats has been their ability to work contracts within the cap. They have done the best job in the league of creating an all for one, one for all, team first environment. While they would have more money than most franchise in a free for all environment....I am not certain that in said environment, where the $$$ can be earned anywhere, New Enlgand is quite possibly nowhere near the top of most players' destination wishes. Now they still have the recent winning reputation, but I don't see New England as attractive as say, Dallas, and many other markets, in this free for all. The media doesn't help the situation in New England either. While they will never be as virulent as they are with the Red Sox, lots of athletes don't feel like doing with the ill-tempered, "we're the story" New England media, and justifiably so, all things equal.

In short, this is not a good thing, for my team or for the league. Something may still come out of talks today, if they happen.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Finally moved out of the old apartment

It took me three freaking hours to clean out the old apartment (cue BNL song referring to an old apartment). Of course I was only planning on it taking half that long, and the maintainence guy at the place told me on Monday all they look for is a good effort after I told him I'd make a best effort to clean everything. I think the old place looks damn good except for the stove, and I even tried to clean that.

Finally, all the stuff is in my new apartment, so it can take me two weeks to put everything away. This one has 100-120 less square footage and no balcony, but I filled my car's gas tank on my Monday lunch break. Even after two trips this week to the old place, 10-15 miles away, I still have nearly 3/4 of a tank left. I like not having to fill up every week already. Not to mention the other fun stuff I talked about in a previous blog.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Yoga on hold for now

I have been thinking of taking up yoga for a couple months now. I need to get in better shape than I currently am, Wish I was more flexible, and want to engage myself in activities that will help me relax and focus more that I currently do. Therefore, yoga naturally popped into my head. There's a couple of studios right near me too. Hafta yoga been suggested to me, then power yoga. I need to do a lot more research on it before starting classes. Well, I'll have time since the "Gutt Buster" (abdominals bascially) class I went to last night kicked my ass so badly that I know I'm months away from being in yoga shape. That will give me time to start getting prepared, save some money for classes, and work towards starting something like this.

Beginner Yoga! Yeah. Suggestions appreciated. Off to another abs class tomorrow.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I moved, well almost, and it's Super Bowl time!

There's a reason why I haven't posted much recently. I moved to Northwest Denver, in the up and coming Highlands area, this weekend. Well, almost, I still have some clothes, a nightstand, and most of my cleaning stuff in the old apartment. I'm hoping to get down there before Thursday to finish the moving out job.

I love the new neighboorhood, check out what's right out my backdoor! Highlands Square rocks! If I need to eat good stuff, I have it right here. Coffee? Two great places right here. If I ever drink alcohol again, two great bars right here. If I make good on some threats :) to take up Yoga, there's a yoga center right here. This reminds me a bit of my old Davis Square stomping grounds in Somerville, MA, all that's missing is a light rail/subway stop. Not only that, but I'm just a short bike ride away from this and that park.

Super Bowl: I've changed my prediction on this game about thirty times. I really don't know what to expect, so here's my final answer: The team with the highest number under their name when the clock reads 0:00 and the quarter says 4 will win the game. I'm in a smart-assed mood today.

I'll post more about possibly taking up yoga in the near future.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I guess this is my second round playoff preview

Seattle 34, Washington 6

While waiting for the Pats game at Blake Street Tavern in Denver, I chatted with some Redskins fans at the bar. We were all intially outraged that sean taylor got a penalty but Michael Pittman didn't for hitting taylor in the head, then were furious at taylor once we saw the spitting evidence, then watched the game. I had no rooting interest, but as happy as the Skins fans were to win, the sentiment was "Seattle's gonna kick our asses." I concur. The Seahawks can score on anyone, and even the Redskins' stellar defense will give up points to them. The Redskins' can't score unless they get turnovers, which Seattle won't give them. Blowout all the way

New England 26, Denver 20

I really hope the Pats can pull this off, seeing as the Broncos are the one team in this otherwise fantastic city that I can't f*****g stand, and I've been a Pats fan my whole life. I can say with confidence that with Seymour and Bruschi back, Denver won't run at will on us like they did last time. And as well as Jake Plummer has played this year, I'll take Brady over him 365/eternity in the playoffs. Add that second corner Darrent Williams will only play in nickel coverages, and the Pats will be able to move the ball through the air. If Corey Dillon shows up so Kevin Faulk can be a 10 carries a game / change of pace / screen-catching pass, we'll run the ball enough to win.

Indianapolis 34, Pittsburgh 17

I simply cannot see the Steelers staying with Indy for four quarters. Other than Polamaulu (spelling), the secondary is very suspect, and if Ryan Diem can come back and play, Indy has the two tackles to keep the pass rush at bay. The Colts won't do it all with finesse, just balance.

Carolina 12, Chicago 9 (OT)

Or Chicago 12, Carolina 9 in overtime. I can;t fogure this one out, besides that points will be real tough to come by. The Panthers are more playoff-tested, and have many more offensive options. Okay, Steve Smith, only one of the best two or three receivers in the game. So I guess they're my pick.

Friday, January 06, 2006

First Round Sort Of Playoff Preview

Tampa Bay 20, Washington 17:

Bucs are at home and will slow Clinton Portis down enough to prevail in a close one. No Mike Alstott 2-point conversion controversies but the host Bucs can run the ball, control the Redskins passing game, and will prevail in a nailbiter.

New England 23, Jacksonville 10:

My beloved Pats take over the contest late, as the defensive front seven asserts itself like it has been late this season, mitigating the tall receivers vs. small DBs advantage the Jaguars have. And let's not forget that Tom Brady is our QB. And Bill Belichick is our coach. Pats prevail in a physical contest even with their battered secondary.

Carolina 26, Giants 24:

I can't figure this one out, but Jake Delhomme has been there, done that, come playoff time. The jury's still out on Eli Manning AFAIC. Two evenly matched teams, but I see a late John Kasay FG winning it for the visiting Panthers.

Pittsburgh 23, Cincinnati 20:

I can't really figure this one out either, but the Steelers are more epxerienced come post-season time. I realize the last three opponents of their recent hot run were Minny, Cleveland, and Detroit, but the Steelers went back to their type of football. That smashmouth offense and just enough defense to win does the trick here.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

What I missed in the NFL Today

A lot of the Pats' starters did not play very much. They lost. But I NEED to see the highlight film of Doug Flutie dropkicking (kicking the ball after it hits the ground) an extra point.

The Just End The Seasons, I mean Jets, can't even lose when they're supposed to. They screw everything up. Ah ha!

The Reggie Bush Bowl between 2-13 Houston and 3-12 San Francisco went to freaking overtime. Oy vey. I feel for the people that went to that game. Houston lost so they get the #1 pick in the 2006 draft. San Francisco couldn't have gotten the #1 pick with a loss, something to do with strength of schedule, but that's besides the post.

I don't have Mike Tice to pick on anymore. He got shitcanned less than an hour after the Vikings game today.

Dick Vermeil coached his last game for the Chiefs. I'll miss him. Seriously. Maybe his showing emotion/crying is over the top, but I'll always take a guy who cares that much about his craft.

The playoff matchups are now set for next weekend. In the AFC we have #6 Pittsburgh at #3 Cincinnati (early prediction: still not sure), and #5 Jacksonville at #4 New England (Pats 20-10). In the NFC it's #6 Washington at #3 Tampa Bay (no did Mike Alstott get in the end zone or not controversy but the Bucs win 20-17), and #5 Carolina at #4 New York Football Giants (don't know yet).

How far will the Pats go? I'd be a lot more confident about Super Bowl prospects if Rodney Harrison could play.

Purple Skies, Bumps, and bad I-70 traffic: 2006 off to a surreal start

Okay, I was really excited to go skiing this morning. I usually like to be at the Morrison Cut by 6:30 am to beat traffic. The Morrison Cut is an interchange on I-70 that has cut rock formations on the south side of the highway, hence its nickname. It's also the exit you take to get to Red Rocks, the greatest outdoor ampitheatre ever. I didn't get there until about 6:40, but no traffic worries yet, seeing as it was New Years Day, which rarely draws huge skiing crowds. The Eisenhower Tunnel was a different story. Traffic up there sucked going to the mountain and sucked even worse on the way home, even if I didn't get there until over two hours after the ski area closed. I took my own sweet time getting to my car, getting my coffee, and finding part of a windshield wiper broken off.

There were a couple inches of fresh snow on the ground when I got to the ski area, which is always a good thing. My giddyness was soon tempered when I dropped one of my poles just after getting on the chairlift. I had to ski down a fairly tricky run with one pole, only to almost not find it. After that near mishap, the day was fantastic. Lots of good snow, fun bumps, little crowds (at least in the back bowls I was skiing), and even talked with a snowboarder from Yukon Territory, Canada. And did I mention purple skies?

Yes, purple skies, and I wasn't in a Jimi Hendrix style haze. A front was coming in from the west. There was some blue sky in front of it. Now, most fronts that move across the high altitudes in the Colorado mountains (9-12,000 ft above sea level at the ski area) turn the skies gray and drop a decent amount of snow. The area where the front is gets a bit of fog as well. But the sky to the west of me, a mix of blue and a nasty front, was purple. I swear. Not gray, or even black like a real bad T-storm would give you. Purple. I wish I had a camera. It was tough to concentrate on skiing to be honest because I wanted to look at the sky because it was so surreal.

Not being able to concentrate almost bit me in the ass on my last run. While I wasn't looking at the sky anymore, I was very tired and not on top of my game. I ended up going over a three foot rock that serves as a ramp to jump off of. Fortunately, I landed okay (I don't "huck jumps" so this was new and unintended for me) and got to the bottom of the mountain. Note to self: Don't try for that last run at 3:59 when I'm real tired, or next time it could get ugly.

The traffic on the way home sucked like it always does on I-70. Stop and go in the tunnel itself. I saw two SUV/Ford Broncos, obviously not driven by Al Cowlings, flipped over in the I-70 median after spinning off the road, before I even got to the tunnel. These people think they're freaking invincible in those big autos, and subsequently drive way too fast (35 was about right for these icy roads). I see this far too many times, hope they are okay, but it scares me to see crashed like that casued by little but excess speed and careless driving.

Surreal, but fun, way to start the new year.