“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” - Albert Einstein

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Make Big Money in Real Estate

I've discovered the secret to getting rich with real estate. You've probably seen ads on TV late at night telling you how you can become a real estate millionaire if you will just buy the book, CDs, DVDs, etc. They make it sound so easy to do.

But if you really want to make money in real estate you should follow this simple formula.

1) Buy some books or to to a training event. Learn the language of real estate investing.

2) Use your knowledge to buy a couple of investment properties. Don't worry if you don't make a lot of money on these, because the real money will come later.

3) Steal or borrow ideas from the books you're reading. Collect some of your own stories as well.

4) Start teaching real estate investing seminars. (Once you get here the money starts flowing.)

Last weekend I was at a real estate seminar. The price was low, and I figured they would be selling "advanced" training. But I figured I could pick up at least a few ideas from the "intro" class. The presenter didn't convince me that he knew much more about real estate investing than I do. Granted, this is a topic I've studied for a few years. But the "advanced training" package was offered at the "discounted price" of $14,000. Then it hit me--this is where the real money is to be made in real estate.

I've heard that only a small percentage of people who take such courses ever put the knowledge into practice. The people don't buy a real estate course, they buy hope. The promise is that if you take this course you can get wealthy investing in real estate. And they make the whole thing sound so easy. But I've found that the learning is the easy part. Putting it into practice is the hard part. Tony Robbins says that the old quote of "knowledge is power" is inaccurate. Knowledge is potential power. It is only in the application of knowledge that you realize the power of it.

I want to be a person who takes action. I don't need to spend big bucks on a seminar to do that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day - Poverty

Blog action day is organized to get thousands of bloggers weighing in on a single topic. This year the topic is poverty. I know we've all been touched by infomercials or missionary presentations showing underprivileged and hungry children in some third world country. Often these presentations subtly lay on guilt to get us to open our wallets and give to whatever cause is being advertised.

Sometimes we find out later that a good portion of our money went to administrative costs. And in some nations the thugs in power often seize donations for their own use. The risk for me is that I can be cynical and grow hard hearted about the real problems of the poor in the world.

I've heard some say that what is truly needed is the spread of freedom in the world. Dictatorships and socialsist countries exploit their populations and care little for their people. While this is true, there aren't many practical ways we as individuals can change the politics of a third world country. But I think we can be involved to make a difference person to person.

There are organizations who are doing practical things such as digging wells. Our church sponsored 2 wells this year. There are also small missionary organizations doing what they can to give aid directly to the poor around the world. And I came across an organization that works to spred entrepeneuership around the world. Individual donors can make micro loans to people around the world who want to start or expand their own home business. The organization is Kiva. I've not done a thorough investigation of the organization, but I have to say that I like the concept. To me this seems to be a way individuals can work to give people a hand-up rather than a handout.

As an additional note, I'd like to see church groups develop some program like this. Think of what it could mean for local churches in these countries if they were the source for small loans to help people become self-sufficient.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Good Wine, Bad Wine and Laguna Beach

Rob & Elan went with us to the Mastermind Conference this year. We were challenged, entertained, and inspired. Each of us left with ideas and plans we want to impliment when we get home. Even our entertainment was inspiring. I'm not a fan of opera, but I could listen to Paul Potts sing it because his love for it comes through when he sings. Another inspirational performer was Patrick Hughes. He's blind from birth and in a wheelchair, but he plays piano and trumpet. He has ambitions to be an ambassador to a Spanish speaking country.

The day after the conference we headed out to the wine country of Temecula valley. The first 2 wineries had good wines, and we sat outside and had cheese and crackers with a bottle of white wine. Someone at the second winery gave Rob a discount card for a tasting at a new winery a few miles away. We had just enough time to get there before they closed. Their wines were amazingly bad. We were given 6 tastes for $10, and we had a 2 for 1 special because of the "generosity" of the man at the other winery. Rob and I kept tasting in the vain hope that the next wine might have some redeeming qualities. But their best wines only rose to the level of "not as bad as all the others". The Merlot tasted as if it had been infused with extract of oak wood. Brenda and Rob said they had the bad taste of the wine still on their tongues the next morning.

We drove up to Laguna Beach on both Thursday and Friday. Laguna Beach is town of artists and galleries. The Sawdust Art Festival is on the edge of town. It featured art of various media--painting, pottery, glass, metal--as well as live music. We bought a Raku ceramic pot. We then went down the street to another art festival. This one had an elitist feel and the works were much pricier. We noticed that much of the art also leaned to the bizarre and weird. We couldn't see ever wanting to hang some of these "far out" pieces on our walls. The following day we went to the only public winery in Orange County. The wines were good, but there was no place to sit and savor a bottle. We spent the afternoon exploring the galleries and shops. We had dinner at a place called The Beach House. We ate on the open-air deck 50 yards from the ocean. The breeze was cold, but the view was amazing.

The combination of good food, good wine, and walking in the surf is a sure way to restore your soul. It will be hard to wait a full year before going back.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Almost First Century

We were all flirting with heat exhaustion. At the 50 mile mark I had made the turn that led to the loop for the 100 mile ride instead of the "safe" 70 mile route that almost everyone else chose. Now my odometer said 85 miles and I estimated I had only 2" of water in my last bottle. The heat index was at least 105, and the two young men who had recently passed me pulled over to sit in the shade of a tree. I pulled up and asked them if they had any idea where the SAG stop was at. They said that they too thought we should have seen it by now. I rode on, hoping it wasn't too much farther. Another 1/2 mile and I saw it. The workers yelled out "thirteen" as I pulled in. That was the number of people still left behind me on the road.

I knew I had to spend some time and cool down, but I also knew time was running out. We had to be done by 4 pm. Of the handful of riders at the SAG, four of us were going for our century ride. And we'd picked one of the hottest days of the year to make the attempt. The next SAG was 10 miles, and it was the lunch stop. After that we had 8 miles to the finish. Several of us quietly confided that we'd been having chills out on the road: a warning that heat exhaustion was nipping at our heels. But so far we had kept it at bay by downing more water and sports drinks.

As I got ready to head out, Joe rode in and announce he was done for. A few miles down the rode, Vince pulled over and signaled a SAG wagon that he needed to be hauled in. I pushed on. The slight breeze was blowing about as fast as my uphill speed. The result was that when I expended the most energy I had absolutely no breeze. The hills and the heat took its toll. I made it to the final SAG. My odometer said 94 miles, but I new I was done. I knew I didn't have another 8 miles in me, even after a full meal. I was satisfied with my ride even though I didn't get a full century. My average speed was 14.5 overall--a record for me.

Today, the day after, I've been thinking about why I made the turn to go for the century even though I knew the risks and the toll the heat would take. I believe there is something in each of us that wants to push the envelope and see if we've got what it takes to be more and do better we ever have before. This drive leads some people to embrace extreme sports and other adrenaline-inducing activities. It breeds entrepreneurs and adventurers and probably some missionaries. Most people find less extreme ways to dare themselves, but I think we all have the need to occasionally get out on the road and see whether we've got what it takes to go where few others choose to go. Even though I didn't make my first century I'm content to have ridden to the edge of my physical limits. I'll be getting in shape for the next time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Zucchini Pizza

This summer our dinner are improvised at the level of the TV show "Who's Line is it Anyway". Sunday dinner is a good example. Brenda had set out chicken breasts for us to grill. But after getting home from the Royals game and having had popcorn and an after-game sundae (thanks to a Royals score in the 7th) we weren't all that hungry. We put the chicken back in the fridge for another time. I got out my garage-sale bread machine and got it started on making pizza dough. When Brenda came back in the house she asked, "But what are you going to put on it?". I said, "How about if I grill some onions and peppers and cut up some zucchini?" She didn't think that squash on pizza sounded very good. I thought it was a creative way to use up some of the abundance of zucchini from our garden.

I was starting to think about "Plan B" and how I could avoid making a trip to the store. After a few minutes Brenda announced that she had searched online and found a recipe for zucchini on a pizza. Being the typical male I didn't look at the recipe but proceeded with my improvisation. The rules are simple: use only what's in the fridge, pantry, or growing out in the garden. The result was a surprisingly good pizza. Here's what I did:

I followed the recipe for pizza dough that came with my bread maker, but I added a teaspoon of Italian seasoning.
I cut up green peppers and onions and cooked them until the onions carmelized.
I slice zucchini and fried it in butter until they were browned. I ground pepper on the slices as they cooked.
I spread out the dough and drizzled on olive oil. I then put on creamed cheese and sort of spread it out on the dough.
I placed the onions and peppers around the pizza and laid on the zucchini like pepperoni.
The cheese I had available was the Mexican 4-cheese blend, so I put on a good layer of that.
I then went to our herb garden and got some fresh parsley and basil. I put on a little parsley and then laid on the basil leaves to almost cover the pizza.
I baked it at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

The result was surprisingly good. We could only eat 2 pieces. We've got leftovers for tonight.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thoughts from 2008 Tour de France

I started following the Tour de France in 2004 when Lance Armstrong won his 6th tour in a row. It seems like such a simple thing. A bunch of bike riders see who can have the fasted overall time. The best man wins. But it is much more complex than that. I'm still learning the language and the strategy of the race. The winners of the race and the winners of each daily stage get the glory and attention. But they never get to that place by themselves. They can only reach the podium of victory through help from both their team members and their competitors.

Two days I've watched a lone rider break away from the pack within 10 miles of the finish line. He rides strong and fast and develops a commanding lead. He seems to be in position to win the stage for that day. Both times the lone rider was overtaken by riders working in a group. The instance that made the most impression on me was seeing the lone rider be eclipsed by a group of 3 competitors working together. The lone rider had to fight the wind on his own. The 3 competitors took turns in front to break the wind. The cooperated even as they competed to win the day, and they were able to go faster working together than any of them could have on their own. When they got to within 500 meters of the finish they then sprinted to the finish, and may the best man win. The lone rider finished far behind them.

The winning rider also relies on his team for support. The term used to describe the team's role is domestique, meaning "servant". They drop back to the team car and get water and food for the leader. The cars can't drive up through the pack of riders to get to the leaders so the domestiques ride up and back. The domestiques also work to break the wind and provide a "draft" for the leader. Sometimes they sacrifice themselves by breaking away from the pack and forcing other teams to expend energy to chase them. The role of leader and domestique can switch sometimes. For example, in 2005 Lance Armstrong served as a domestique for George Hincapie in some of the classic one day bike races, because they were more important to Hincapie and less important to Armstrong.

No matter who we are or what we accomplish, we should never forget that we didn't get here on our own. There have been "domestiques" all along the way who gave of themselves to make our way easier. On the other hand, we need the grace to stay quietly in the background and rejoice when those we have served get their moment to shine. It's more difficult to acknowledge the role of our opponents and critics in our success. As the writer of Hebrews says, no discipline or hardship is pleasant at the time, but both our character and our success are forged in adversity and struggle. Not many can be world-class bike racers, but all of us can learn from them. May we all have our times to stand on the winner's podium.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On a Plateau

Competitive athletes peak. Amateurs plateau. I've never peaked, but I've plateaued many times. A plateau in geology is an elevated, level piece of ground. You have to exert some effort to get there, but once you do, it's flat and easy going. A performance plateau is much the same. You expend the effort to get in shape, lose weight, eat healthy, etcetera, but after some success your subconscious tells you that you're "good enough" and you plateau. You never know how big the plateau is or how long you can stay at that level. But usually you end up going down the other side and wind up about where you started.

Sometimes accomplishing a goal can cause a plateau. I did that years ago when I set a goal to get in shape and run a marathon. I accomplished my goal and stepped onto a plateau. I kept running for several more years, but I gradually did it less and less. The plateau ended and I went back to my old, out-of-shape self.

As I said goodbye to folks I'd met on the 2008 BAK, I asked if I'd see them again next year. Many of them answered "yes". After a few days of rest, I got back on my bike and set in my mind that I'm getting myself ready for next year. I'm not taking any chances on seeing a plateau here. I'm setting a goal to participate in several other bike events as well.

Now, I just need to apply this to all the rest of my life. Hmm.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Saturday - Horton to the Missouri River

The consensus in our group was that the accommodations for the tenters were primitive enough that we were truly camping. Tent city was set up in a low-lying area below the public swimming pool. We were to use the pool's showers and toilet. (No plural for the toilet--there was only one.) After a shower and a short dip in the pool I decided I'd walk the 4 blocks to the school rather than use these facilities again. I heard reports that the toilet plugged up sometime before morning.
Horton was our lunch stop for the BAK last year. I visited a store I found last year called "The Electric City Emporium". They have an assortment of odds and ends, from tools to party supplies. I found a figurine of a turtle playing an accordion. It's perfect for a "white elephant" gift.
I met up with some of the group I met last year. They were on their way to dinner & I went with them. We found a hole in the wall cafe. It was called "The Hole in the Wall". The food was pretty good. I took a risk and ordered steak. You never know how talented the cook is. Can he cook your steak the way you ordered it? It wasn't overdone, so I was pleased. "Medium rare" usually gives the cook a wide enough target to hit.
Back at tent city the night was noisy. A band played a few blocks away, making it hard to get to sleep. At 10:30 I heard the singer say they were going to take a short break. I thought, "I've got about 15 minutes to get to sleep before they start up again." But someone must have given them the word to turn the volume down. They were much quieter in their second set.
At 4 a.m. I woke up to an owl hooting. It was a pleasant way to be awakened. I hiked to the school to shave. I found that there are no lines for the toilets and sinks at 4 a.m. When I got back to my tent I decided to sleep a little longer. We only had 28 miles to the Missouri river. I didn't need to get an early start. Suddenly a dog chorus let loose a howl like I've never heard before. It sounded like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, that is if the choir were made up of dogs. I was glad it only lasted a minute or so.
BAK provided breakfast for us: Chris Cakes. They bill themselves as "pancakes with attitude". They specialize in tossing pancakes. When I went back for seconds I merely held my plate and the woman tossed 3 pancakes from 8' away and hit my plate perfectly with each one.
The Missouri river was a flood stage so the city of Atchison said we shouldn't go to the river and dip our tires in the water. Most of the riders did it anyway. I'm sure they were worried about liability issues if someone happened to fall in. The water did look treacherous, so we were careful.
A lot of people talk to me as if they think biking across Kansas is a long, slow trip. But when I get to the end, the week went fast. I'm glad to be home, but part of me feels as if it was over too quickly. Even traveling at under 15 mph I find that there are a lot of sights I miss. As I say goodbye to folks I'm sure I'll see a lot of them next year. There will be a new roads to travel, new sights to see, and new people to meet.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Friday - Sabetha to Horton

After riding 155 miles in 2 days, I expected the 47 mile for this day to be easier. I didn't feel as if I had to push myself. There were plenty of hills, but they were manageable. Even though I took my time I still ended up at the lunch town by 10 am.
Hiawatha was our lunch stop. There was a SAG on the west side of town. I got my water bottles filled and went in search of an early lunch. It had been years since I was last in Hiawatha. I had forgotten how dreary a town it is. It seems to be a town without a soul. The business district looked bleak and utilitarian. No cafe nor restaurant was to be seen there. I found a Sonic, a Subway and Pizza Hut on the far edge of town. It was too early for Pizza Hut to be open. So I ordered a hamburger at Sonic. I figured I could take the risk because whatever I ate would be burned up before it had a chance to give my stomach fits. My usual term for Sonic burgers is "gut bomb". I later found that I missed a great cafe just down the road from the Sonic.
I had read about the Davis memorial in our route guide. John Davis built it for his wife, Sarah, who died in 1930. Eleven life-sized Italian marble statues depict the stages of John and Sarah's life. I found the memorial a very sad place. John must have loved his wife because the memorial shows his grief at losing her. But none of their statues show them in close proximity to each other. The depiction of them as a younger couple has them sitting at opposite ends of a bench. The others have them looking at each other from opposite sides of their graves. I was left wondering what they had really been like. The memorial was built before John's death. Why had he arranged their likenesses in this manner? I wished I could ask him.
After more miles of hills I had a 2-mile downhill run into the town of Robinson. Here was a main street with soul. Businesses on main street were well past their heyday, if they ever had one. I saw riders coming out of one of the buildings with "bomb pops", frozen sugar water on a stick. I went inside and saw that this was not quite a grocery store. It wasn't even quite a convenience store. There was on shelving unit running down the middle of the store and a couple of freezers and coolers against the wall. It was a place to buy milk or eggs when you ran out and didn't want to make the drive to Hiawatha or Horton. A woman was at the checkout counter "scooping" ice cream out of a square cardboard container with a fork. I stepped up and asked for an ice cream cone as well. I asked her, "How much?". She said she was asking for 50 cents but that people had been giving her a dollar. I told her I'd give her a dollar if she piled my cone high. She asked me to hold the box while she dug with the fork.
I sat on the curb and ate my ice cream. I chatted with others who had stopped and watched riders go on by. I didn't expect it and it seemed an unlikely place, but this was my moment. When I think back on BAK 2008, this is the moment I'll remember first: eating ice cream on the curb of a bucolic little town no one ever travels to. I think this is the real joy of riding the BAK, encountering these moments, however fleeting, when everything feels right with the world and you can just be in that moment and nothing else intrudes. These moments are blessings to be savored and remembered.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thursday - Washington to Sabetha

The BAK followed Hwy 36 for much of the route this year. As we got farther east the traffic increased. That often meant hugging the 18" of asphalt to the right of the white line as traffic whizzed by a few feet away. Some drivers don't even bother to move to the far side of the lane, so you have to pay attention. This resulted in less looking at the sights unless I pulled over and stopped.
Marysville was the first town, 22 miles distant. I planned to stop there and see a few things of interest. A youth group had an ice cream sale and I stopped for a bowl. It was home made and very good. I stopped at the Pony Express museum. It was poorly done and not worth the time nor the $3. The Koester house was my next stop. The yard is a beautiful sanctuary filled with statues and featuring a fountain. The house is a Victorian style filled with period antiques and decorations. In the back, by the carriage house, I found an old bicycle. The brake worked by pulling a lever that pushed a rod down on the front tire. I saw another museum as I rode out of town, but I had 50 more miles to go and had to pass it up.
Lunch was in Seneca, another 25 miles away. The winds and hills took their toll and I started to bonk about 6 miles from town. I pulled out a ziploc bag of trail mix and ate most of it. That gave me enough energy to go on. There was pie for sale on the west edge of town. I decided to eat dessert first. Further into town a civic group had bierocks for sale. I had 2 and was still hungry. Vallentinos pizza was next door so I went to the buffet and had 4 slices of pizza, a chicken breast and mashed potatoes and gravy. I was finally satiated.
Sabetha, our overnight stop, had music and food downtown. They blocked off the streets and shuttled us from the school. Again, I ate well. I burn about 3600 calories a day, so whatever I eat is used up in a hurry. Some have said that this tour should be called "Eating Across Kansas".

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday - Beloit to Washington

Our modern lifestyle insulates us from the effects of nature. My travel journal last year was filled with entries about the terrain and the wind. Driving a car, these are not big factors. But when you are self-propelled, these become front and center in your life.
We had wind in camp at Beloit. It blew dad & mom's tent hard enough to snap one of the fiberglass poles. I'm glad Jay had a backup tent. It was smaller, but we were able to keep dad & mom from having to sleep in the car. We moved the Expedition and the trailer to provide a bit of a wind break and watched as a thunderstorm skirted by off to the south.
The wind blew hard all night and was still blowing in the morning. We faced our longest day of riding: 84 miles. Our first leg went north to Jewell, so riding with a 30 mph tailwind was a breeze. I was glad to see a woman selling cinnamon rolls at the edge of town. I hadn't eaten enough breakfast so was hungry. I ate two. We turned east and everyone struggled with the wind. Our lunch stop was 65 miles out, so I made sure to stop at the SAGs and eat. I also had trail mix and jerky with me.
Lots of people SAGed in after a few miles of facing the wind and the hills. Vans and trailers stuffed with bikes passed me on the road. I realized the wind had less effect on me when late in the afternoon I was passing people. I rarely pass people. But the wind wore everyone down so they were riding slower than me.
I arrived at Washington to find a note on dad & mom's car saying that we were advised to all sleep in the gym. There were storms coming with hail and damaging winds. These were the storms that brought tornadoes to Manhattan and Chapman. Dad and mom had secured a place for us on the gym floor.
After dinner we went to the parking lot to eat the pie and dad & mom had purchased that afternoon. As we sat in our chairs enjoying the strawberry/rhubarb pie, some of the boy scout troop came with a box of pie slices, selling the leftovers from dinner. He walked up to our group and said, "Do you want to buy some pie?" We told him we already had pie. Josh told him it was strawberry/rhubarb. The boy replied, "Wow! That's a lot better than what we've got. All we have is apple and cherry." We all had a good laugh.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Statistics

Here are the stats I kept for the week:

Total distance ridden: 502.87
Total time on the bike: 40:20:12
Average speed: 12.4
Maximum speed: 36.5

Tuesday - Smith Center to Beloit

Our lunch stop was in Cawker City, home of the largest ball of sisal twine in the world. Other cities have balls of rubber bands, yarn or string, but Cawker City has bailing twine. Frank Stoeber's effort to save his scraps of twine back in 1953 has become the central attraction for the town. Businesses are named along with the twine theme. But when I hit town I was more interested in the quality and quantity of food to be found there.
I passed by Jay Bird's Chicken & RV Park on the way into town. It looked like a dive, so I asked a pair of riders exiting whether the food was good. They said it was. I stated my intent to ride on into town and see what else was there. They informed me they had done the same thing.
I parked my bike next to a 6' plywood sign with a painted on chicken that looked a lot like Foghorn Leghorn. As I entered the building I was sure the health inspectors in Johnson county would never allow such a place to operate. It wasn't dirty, but a back window had been put in and the 2x4 studs were never covered over with sheetrock. On my right was a wall about shoulder high. I looked over and directly below were chicken pieces sitting in a tub and covered with breading. A man about my age ran the cash register and cooked and took care of filling the salad and food bar in the 12 x 16 dining room. A young man worked the grill. They both handled the pressure well. Of course, we were used to waiting. We often overwhelm small town businesses who aren't used to the kind of crowd the BAK brings.
The fryer was bubbling with hot oil and full of chicken. The owner informed us that white meat was 20 minutes from being done. Several of us told him we would wait. We stood off to the side and talked among ourselves and with the new people coming in the door. Finally our white meat was cooked and we received just the chicken on our plates. We had to serve ourselves the side dishes of green beans, mashed potatoes & gravy. It was the tastiest lunch I had the whole week.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Norton to Smith Center

Every so often the perfect day comes along. It was 53 degrees when I woke up this morning at 4:30 a.m. The wind was light from the west. I hit the road shortly after sunrise and quickly decided that I needed another layer. I went back for a long sleeve cotton tee shirt.
Before I knew it my odometer said 4.5 miles. The tailwind was pushing me along. The hills were easy, and the downhills seemed longer than the uphills. The soft light of the morning sun gave a glow to the hills, trees and valleys. After a few miles of hills, Highway 36 came alongside a railroad track and was level for 15 miles. All of us breezed along with little effort.
I realized I was going to roll into Phillipsburg waaay before lunchtime, so I stopped often and took pictures and enjoyed the beauty of the land.
Phillipsburg is known as the cow/calf capital of the world. They have a lot of cow/calf pairs in that area. I didn't particularly notice any in the fields, but they say that this is true. At the west edge of town is a museum and reconstruction of Fort Bissell. The fort was a stockade built by the townspeople to be a sanctuary in case of Indian attacks. It was not a military fort. The buldings were filled with historical artifacts. I was surprised that all of their displays were just laying on tables and touchable. I picked up some items to get a better look.
I tried unsuccessfully to find a place in town offering the Phillipsburger, a special hamburger recipe shared among the restaurants in town. Several church groups had set up food stands in the square on the courthouse lawn.
The afternoon grew warm with the sun beating down in a cloudless sky. I rode into Smith Center by 2:30, set up my tent and enjoyed an adult beverage.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

State Line to Norton

We arrived at St. Francis in the late afternoon. After unpacking the trailer, unloading the bikes, and setting up tents, it was evening by the time we headed out to the Colorado border, 12 miles away (according to the map). Jay Maske and his family are with us and sharing expenses for the transportation. All of us figured on an hour trip out and back and so didn't think more than a bottle or two of water would be needed. We didn't count on the uphill climb all the way to the border, nor the headwinds. By the time we reached the border--14 miles by our odometers--we were almost out of water. At least the ride back was downhill. But after a few miles we found that we were in the zone old folks talk about that is uphill both ways. I was pedaling uphill and looked in my rear view mirror and it appeared it was uphill in that direction as well. We laughed, nursed our remaining water, and rode on. We rolled into town and found a Pizza Hut and chowed down.
The first two days of the BAK we settled quickly into the normal routine: ride, eat, ride, eat, eat, sleep. I'm making new acquaitnences and seeing friends from last year. Atwood and Oberlin have interesting museums. It has been nice having dad and mom drive our trailer to haul our gear. Last year we were all at a 2-bag limit.
It's interesting to see how the towns we visit react to all of us. Most of them don't realized the impact 800 people have when we roll into a town of 1200. We are like locusts. We come, eat everything in sight and then move on to the next town. Some of the restaraunts have handled the crush calmly. Others have been quite frazzled. Pictures, stats and more details will come after the ride is over. I'll post more updates as time permits.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Knowing the Times

Long ago in a galaxy far away . . . . I think it's a safe bet that Star Wars will go down in history as part of our culture's list of great stories. It's a good story and exciting to watch. A & E channel did a story on the making of Star Wars. I don't think I'd ever realized how ground-breaking a movie it really was. One line from the show hit me and stuck with me. As part of the deal Lucas made with the studio, he got the rights for all the merchandising associated with Star Wars. The commentator said, "George Lucas knew the world was changing. The movie studios hadn't realized it yet." Lucas made many millions from the sale of Star Wars merchandise.
I had forgotten that Star Wars was born in the late 70s. America was recovering from an unpopular war, facing double-digit inflation along with high unemployment. Pessimism was high and the future was uncertain. But Lucas saw what others could not or would not: that he could tell a story that would be compelling and fun and that people would love. The success of Star Wars was even beyond his imagination.
I would never suggest that our society is in the kind of malaise as we faced in the 70s. (However, I do think Obama would make Jimmy Carter look like an effective president by comparison.) But I sense that we may be at the place where people like George Lucas will find opportunity and hope where others see doom and gloom. Jesus chided the Pharisees because they couldn't discern the signs of the times. While the media is saying that we're even short of hand-baskets for everything that is going to hell in them, I want to be one that sees the great possibilities others won't.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Riding through the woods on a summer's eve.

Robert Frost would have found more to ponder had he stopped by the woods 6 months later. My favorite time to ride the bike trail is just before dusk on a summer evening. The woods come alive as the sun begins to set. You never know what you might encounter.
Tonight, as I came to the top of "the hill", I passed a snake lying in the path. The markings looked like that of a copperhead, so I stopped to check. It was indeed a copperhead, the first I've ever encountered in the wild. I hadn't passed anyone on the trail. I doubted anyone would be in danger of stepping on him, so I left him to find his own way back into the brush.
I stopped at a bench further up the trail and watched the sunlight fade in the valley below. As I headed back I saw a man walking the same path I'd ridden a few moments earlier. "Did you see the copperhead?", I asked. He told me he'd almost stepped on it lying in the middle of the trail. I decided I should do some snake wrangling and keep any other evening walkers from getting bitten. I grabbed a long stick and rode along like a modern knight on his way to a joust. The copperhead in the middle of the trail was not the same one I saw. He was smaller and not in the same place as the one I encountered. I stopped a safe distance away and touched his tail with my stick. He coiled and faced me. Since he wasn't going to just crawl away, I swept him off the trail with a gentle swish.
As I headed back down the hill a large owl glided over my head with a whisper of his wings as he passed.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Glossary of BAK terms

I hope to be able to keep this blog up to date as I ride the BAK this year. For the non-bicycle touring readers I've included the following definitions of terms :

bent a contracted form used to refer to a recumbent bicycle. Riders of bents are called “bent riders”. This term is an oxymoron, however, because “bent riders” ride in a reclining position while riders of upright bicycles (DF or diamond frame) ride bent over.

bonk – to run out of energy. This condition usually happens from lack of carbs when the body runs out of fuel. It is similar to marathon runners’ experience of “hitting the wall”.

Canus Chaseus - a small dog only interested in trying to bite your tires or any dog you can outrun. Not to be confused with the Canus Biteus which is a dog fast enough to catch you and wants a piece of your leg.

captain – the lead rider of a tandem bicycle.

century – riding 100 miles in a single day.

chamois butter – also called “bum butter”. A salve used to help DF riders cope with the chafing of their “bum” on the saddle.

cleats – special shoes with metal inserts to snap into clipless pedals. Cleats and clipless pedals lock a cyclists foot to the pedal enabling him to pull up as well as push down. The foot is unlocked by twisting the heel to the side.

clipless pedals – special pedals made to lock in bike shoes with cleats.

cold – the water that comes from the showers.

crash – falling to the ground while riding your bicycle. Opinions vary as to what constitutes a crash. Most agree that any road rash, bleeding, or bruising as a result of falling is a pretty good indication that you did in fact crash. However, if you fall while barely moving and don’t have any marks to prove it, you probably didn’t experience a crash.

DF – abbreviation for a “diamond frame” or “upright” bicycle.

drafting – riding close behind a rider or group of riders so that they break the wind, allowing you to maintain the same speed as the lead rider with much less effort. To accomplish a good draft you must ride with your front tire about 12" behind the rear tire of the rider in front.

flat – a word non-Kansans use to describe Kansas if they haven’t ridden a bicycle across it. Flat is what Kansas residents use to describe a bike tire with no air.

gym rats – people who sleep in the school gymnasium.

hot shower – a mythical legend told by long-time BAK riders. Some veterans claim to actually have experienced one of these, but the claims have never been proven.

overnight town – town where BAK spends the night.

paceline – riders riding in a tight line so that the person in the lead provides a “pull” or a “draft” for the riders behind. Air resistance is the greatest barrier to speed for a bicycle, so riders in a paceline expend less energy and go faster. The members of the paceline usually take turns “pulling”. The disadvantage for riding in a paceline for the BAK is that you only get to see the rear tire and butt of the person in front of you.

pie – premium fuel for all BAK riders.

pulling – taking the lead to break the wind and provide a “draft” for a rider or riders behind.

railroad tracks – if you don’t ride across perpendicular to the rails, see “crash”.

Rashus Ouchem - the pain that one experiences for many days when one does not wash all the soap out of their riding shorts.

saddle – what a rider of a DF bicycle sits on.

SAG – rest stop where you can get water and snacks. The most common explanation is that it means “support and gear”, but it could originate from the posture of tired riders when they dismount their bicycles.

SAG in – to ride the SAG wagon to the next overnight town.

SAG wagon – vehicle that picks up riders who are unable to go on because of being too tired, injured or experiencing mechanical breakdowns.

seat – that the rider of a bent bicycle reclines on.

stoker – the rear position on a tandem bicycle: also called rear engine, rear admiral, she who must be obeyed.

tent city – what the green space around the school or community center in the overnight town becomes.

toe clips – bicycle pedals that have a plastic or metal bail allowing the riders toe to be held to the pedal, allowing him to pull up as well as push down. Not as effective as clipless pedals and cleats.

wheat field – large restroom facility. This definition applies to any field of tall crops.

wind – air moving from Missouri to Colorado. Not to be confused with “tailwind” which is air moving toward Missouri.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Second Breakfast

It's hard to ride for a couple of hours without breakfast. Last night Brenda suggested that we make crepes for breakfast. I told her I needed to eat something before my bike ride but that I'd make them when I got back. So today I had first breakfast and second breakfast. I found an easy recipe for crepes online and we've become hooked.
Here's the recipe:

1 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg white
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
sugar - tsp. optional

Put the milk and eggs into a blender. Blend for 15 seconds or so until froth forms on the top. Add flour and sugar and blend a few seconds until smooth. Cook in a small to medium omelet pan on med. high heat. Butter or spray the pan with each crepe. Pour a few tablespoons of batter and tilt the pan in a circle to spread the batter thin.

We put either ricotta cheese or cottage cheese inside along with strawberries or other fruit.
It is a great second, or even first, breakfast.

Exceeding the Speed Limit

It's not often I get to exceed the speed limit on my bike. But my training route takes me to a hill that has an 8% grade. When the wind is from the north I can hit the speed limit of 35 MPH on the way down. With a slight tailwind or a clam day I can exceed the speed limit. Today I hit 41.3 MPH. I don't think I'm in danger of being pulled over for speeding, but it sure is a fun ride.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why Are Bicycle Riders So Unfriendly?

Hard-core bicycle riders are easy to spot, once you know what to look for. The skin-tight clothing reveals that they look to be so thin as to seem not much wider than the bicycle they are pedaling. Their clothing is covered with the names of bicycles costing several thousand dollars. You usually see them hunched over their handlebars, staring at the road ahead as they keep a steady rhythm of pedaling.
What I've learned about these folks is that they are typically unfriendly and standoffish towards other bike riders. Motorcycle riders usually wave at each other when they pass. There's a certain camaraderie shared when you encounter another person willing to take the risks of riding a motorcycle in traffic. Not so with the hard-core bicyclist. I always wave as I pass. If they even deign to look my way, the most I get is perhaps a finger raised. But even that much is unusual. Last week I waved at a pair of fellow travelers as they rode by in the opposite direction. They merely stared at me as they passed. I had to laugh at the encounter because they reminded me of a couple of lemurs.
I don't know why bicyclists are so unfriendly. I still hold out hope. I'll continue to wave when I pass them by.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Turttle and Leg Cramps

Lack of clear weather has kept me off my bike this winter. Last winter I only had a couple of weeks I couldn't ride. This winter has given lots of cold, rain and ice. And it's hung around like a homeless stray cat.
I'm trying to get prepared for the BAK in June. This weekend provided me enough time and warm weather to ride 2 days in a row. Saturday I rode 30 miles and did fine. Today, Sunday, I felt a bit sore but I headed out anyway. Today was warmer than yesterday, a great day for a ride. The wind was against me, but I didn't mind. It's good for conditioning. I was encouraged to find a sure sign of spring on the trail just below Shawnee Mission Lake: a large Snapping Turtle. I opted not to put any part of my body near it for perspective in the picture. It's shell was about 12" in diameter.
I was only a few miles from home when I got a severe cramp in the front of my left thigh. I stopped my bike to stretch it out and the back of my thigh cramped as well. I couldn't bend my leg so I just stood beside the road and hoped the pain would ease soon. I decided this was the time to call for help, so I asked Brenda to come and get me. I've never in my life had a cramp so severe.
I'll give my legs a day or so to recover and get back to building my endurance again. BAK is only a little more than a month away.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Home Show

Late nights.
Choose a color.
No, we're not going to do that one.
What do you mean you're not going to make a sample? We've never done this before.
No time for a sample. It won't dry in time.
Some fights.
I don't think I've got enough plaster to cover this much space.
Fans blowing.
Got to get the next layer on.
Brenda's stressing because it doesn't look "good".
Can't help it now, we're out of time.
We were supposed to be there an hour ago.
It will have to do.
Pack it into the trailer and haul it to the show.
Maybe it's time to redesign the booth. This is too much work.
Find our space. Unload. Carpet is too long. What's going on?! Our space is only 18 feet. Our walls are 19' 6" and made of wood. They won't shrink. Talk to the head honcho. Problem solved.
Set it up. Where are the bolts? The colors look different here. Where's the extension cord? Do the lights work? This piece needs a layer of wax, it looks pale. Brenda still doesn't like it. Doesn't look good enough. Well, it's the best we could do. Next year we'll do it better. Start earlier. Do something to "wow" them.

This is our typical pre-home show week. And the list above was edited to fit better on your screen. There are endless details, and we are always scrambling to get things dry in time to take to the show.
The piece Brenda thought was not good enough is the star of the show. (This is not the first time this has happened.) Several people gave us positive feedback. One lady said our walls were far superior to the other 2 faux finish displays. Today the traffic was steady but not overwhelming. After seeing and hearing how people respond when they see our booth we abandoned our thoughts of re-designing it. Every year it's a lot of work, but we'll be back, I'm sure.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Squirrel Contest

He started talking to me as soon as he stepped in the bathroom door. I was surprised because men usually don't talk to each other in public restrooms. (I think there is a fear of appearing too "friendly" while taking care of nature's call.) This man didn't appear to care. "How's it going?", he asked. "Great weather we had today." It was the typical conversation starters, but it seemed a bit odd because we were in the men's room. He then asked me if I'd heard of the squirrel shooting contest. This conversation had jumped from merely "odd" to outright strange. I quickly reminded myself that Tonganoxie, KS has a different mindset than the metro area. Still . . . a squirrel shooting contest?
My chatty companion explained that he owns a local gun shop and that he'd sold two .22 rifles to people participating in the squirrel shooting contest sponsored by Cabela's. Whoever brings in the most squirrels (by weight) wins the contest. He didn't say what prize these marksmen won. As he breezed out the door he talked of how he'd given up shooting the squirrels raiding his bird feeder and had merely installed PVC over the support post. He was gone as quickly as he came, leaving me to contemplate that this was the strangest men's room conversation I've ever had.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Getting Plastered

Brenda & I are at the Italian School of Plaster in Dallas, Texas. We're learning the art of plastering using products that have a 2000 history. The Romans used lime plasters in their buildings. The lime in the plaster calcifies and returns to stone, giving a long-lasting finish. Builders in Venice used polished plasters to imitate the look of marble. Their buildings on stilts wouldn't support the weight of real marble.
People in America today think "Venetian Plaster" is any plaster with a texture. Most of them are surprised when we show them a smooth-as-glass, polished plaster and explain the true nature of Venetian Plaster. We have worked with the traditional lime plasters in the past, but our training came from Americans and was sketchy at best. Doyle Self, our instructor, was trained in some of the same schools we were. When he took on the Safra plaster line he went to Italy and learned from artisans with a centuries-long history of plaster application. He had to unlearn his American training.
Brenda & I are working to unlearn some of our habits as well. We've created 32 sample boards using 20 different products. It's the end of the week and Brenda's brain is at the verge of information overload. We've got a home show in 2 weeks and need to put some of these new finishes on display. We tried to think what products to buy, but at the end of the day yesterday we couldn't think very straight. We've got to put an order together today. Looks like we're going to have a working breakfast.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Losers and Sinners

Have you heard Christians say, "I'm just a sinner saved by Grace."? This statement sounds spiritual and filled with humility. But how does this one sound? "I'm just a loser."
Brenda & I recently had a long discussion with Rob & Elan about the power the subconscious to form our identity. The subconscious controls more than 80% of our thoughts and actions. In a fight, the conscious mind will lose out to the subconscious every time. What I've learned is that my subconscious shapes much of what I believe about my identity.
God has straightened out my beliefs about my identity in Him. I used to buy into the whole "I'm a sinner" rubbish until He showed me the scriptures describing just who I am since I've been reborn. "I'm no longer a slave to sin because my old self was crucified with Christ so that my body of sin might be done away with" (Rom. 6). My identity in Him is as saint, a saint that sometimes sins. When I sin it doesn't make me a "sinner". And if I walk around with the mistaken attitude that "I'm just a sinner saved by grace", that belief makes it more likely that I will fall into sin because my subconscious believes that is my nature.
I recently discovered in my subconscious a belief that I can't be a winner. I've justified it to myself by saying that I'm just not competitive. I enjoy the process more than the outcome. This belief was harmless enough when I played ping-pong with Don Brent and every game was a deuce I ended up losing. I was good enough to stay close, but not to win. But I'm finding this loser mentality creeping into other areas of my life, and it isn't just innocuous any more.
I'm working to convince my subconscious that I'm a winner who sometimes loses. If I lose it's not because it's my nature. The good thing I've discovered is that my subconscious is pretty gullible. This truth is a mixed blessing. It can be convinced of almost anything and doesn't know if something may be impossible. On the other hand, once it believes something is impossible it has the power to make it so.
I believe that this process I'm going through is what the Bible means when it says to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" and that our goal is "the salvation of our souls". What the world calls the "subconscious" is a part of what the Bible refers to as our soul. What I'm learning is that the work the Holy Spirit does in us is to get the life that is the Spirit of Christ worked into our soul (subconscious) so that we become like Christ. That is my identity. That is my destiny.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Colorado New Year

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The last day of 2007 was my first time of ever snowshoeing. We visited Rob & Elan in Colorado and had planned to go skiing on December 31, but I-70 was closed because of wind blowing the snow into white-out conditions. Rob found a pair of snowshoes for me and we headed out in the bitter cold to hike up a mountain trail. We were somewhat protected from the gale-force winds, but the gusts still made the snow like hundreds of needles on exposed skin. We climbed about 1000 feet and almost made the summit, but time required us to turn back.

The following day Rob & I went skiing at Loveland. I hadn't been on skis since 2 years prior. It took me a bit to get my ski-legs. Rob gave me some pointers and I was moving with confidence by the end of the day. I only fell over a few times just as I came to a stop.

We also got to spend Sunday with Rob & Elan checking out the housing market in Evergreen. We stepped inside one house and were transported back to the late 60's. Every room brought new surprises in retro decor: pink toilet and tile, pull-down light fixtures, felt-patterned wallpaper. The architect who drew the plans was a rectanglophobe, that is he had an aversion to anything resembling a rectangle. Rooms were diamond shaped and trapezoids, but none were rectangular. Brenda dubbed it the "psycho house". We agreed the only hope for this house was to bulldoze it and start over. It was beyond rehab.