Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Am A Very Forgetful Person . . . Sometimes This Can Be Very Inconvenient And Frustrating

What I'm Up To

Last Tuesday was my first day with Amor Ministries. Everyone seems really great and I am very excited about my work environment. My time with Amor will be interesting in that it is starting kind of slow but will ramp up very quickly. Last week was a celebration week with Amor. The spring and summer are extremely busy times for the ministry and a lot of work gets done. As a result, they choose a week between these seasons to allow a day for fellowshipping followed by a couple of days off. Consequently, Tuesday was an orientation day, Wednesday a celebration day and I had Thursday and Friday off. Not to worry though, later this week I will assist in leading a group down to Mexico through the weekend (See what I mean by starting slow and picking up fast?). As it turned out, I really needed those two days off to get myself ready to work with Amor.

I Can Forget Critical Things With Alarming Frequency

Below you will find two photos. If you look closely, you can find something wrong in both of them. If you can find what's wrong with each picture, you can then find what these pictures have in common. Hint: It is the pervasive theme of this post.

(This is a bike wheel)

(The problem with this picture is not the sour look on my face . . . I wear that quite often)

In the first picture, the problem may be a little bit harder to see. Although it was difficult to get an adequate camera angle to show it, you may notice a significant bend in the rim of the bike wheel you see above. This is not the circular bend that all wheels have, but more of a sideways bend that wheels should not have. I have arbitrarily decided that I will show you the incident that led to this bent wheel in comic form.

As you can see (or maybe not, since my drawings are equivalent to a three year old's finger painting), the short story is that in my haste to leave Moab for Lake Tahoe, I did not adequately lock my bike down to my roof rack, resulting in some battle scars on the Subie and a bent wheel and chainring on my bike. All told, I was very fortunate that I locked the fork mount and it did it's job, otherwise I would have been picking up scraps of carbon, aluminum and steel off I-70. The car is dented, but will be fine, and I've got my friends at Haymarket Bicycles trying to find a cheap solution to my bike damage. Side note: If you live in Northern Virginia and need anything bike related, visit Haymarket Bicycles. These are good guys that love to put people on bikes and then put them back on bikes after bone headed mistakes.

Now refer back to the second photo I provided. If you have not figured out what is wrong with it yet, I will give you a hint. My start date with Amor, for whom I will be traveling back and forth over the US/Mexico border, was May 11. If you still can not see what is wrong, look at the expiration date of my passport. May 9. Two days before I started with Amor Ministries. I don't need to explain that I was busy leading up to my start date with Amor. I have communicated that plenty. That said, throughout my preparation it somehow escaped me that my passport would be expired by the time I got to Amor.

On my first day, I sat in a conference room and one of our internship coordinators requested all of my required identification. I confidently slid my passport and driver's license her way. She looked at them briefly and responded by saying, "Is this correct that your passport is expired?" As she handed the passport back to me and it slowly dawned on me that this very important detail had slipped my attention, I am sure I put my hands on my head and looked much like I did in the third panel of the comic above.

As soon as our meeting ended, I went to work trying to find out how quickly I could renew my passport. As it turns out, there is a way to have a new passport processed immediately, it merely requires you to pay nearly double the standard passport fee and drive to one of very few national passport offices. Fortunately, one of these offices is in Los Angeles, just a couple of hours north of San Diego. I quickly went about taking the first available appointment at this office which would be at 7:00 a.m. on Friday. I was afforded some relief through making this appointment, but was still concerned as to whether my passport would be processed the same day I applied for it. Since I needed to travel to Mexico on Monday. Additionally, there was one more issue that would affect my trip up to L.A.

Tires Wear Down Very Quickly When You Overload Your Car and Drive 3,600 Miles

Prior to my departure from Virginia, I made sure that my car was in good shape to make the trip. I had an alignment issue that had caused some premature wear on my tires. Two tires had to be replaced and the mechanics estimated that the other two had a remaining life of about 5,000 miles. Given this information, I had two replaced and left the other two on, planning to replace them some time after the end of my trip across the country. What I did not take into account was that putting as many things as I could into the car and driving it across the country would drastically reduce the 5,000 mile estimate. By the time I got into San Diego, the rubber on those two tires was showing signs that it would soon pull apart. This meant that I needed to find two new tires that matched the ones I already had in my car somewhere in or around San Diego before I drove to L.A. Within an hour or so of starting my search I found a chain that could have the tires shipped to a store close by on Wednesday. I was able to drop my car off that night and pick it up with my 17's wrapped in some fresh Falkens the following afternoon.

I Get By With A Little Help

People have been coming through for me repeatedly throughout this experience. My trip to L.A. was no exception. My new roommate, Andrew, immediately recognized that it was going to be tough to get to L.A. from San Diego for my meeting in the early morning. His parents live just a few miles south of my destination, so he put in a call with them and I drove to their house Thursday night. Rather than having a two hour drive that would turn into a three or four hour drive with traffic in the morning, I just had a quick 25 minute trip. I am very thankful that they were able to lend me a bed for the night. The next morning, getting my passport went off without a hitch. I had some free time, so I used it to visit the J. Paul Getty Museum, which Andrew's parents had told me about the previous evening. The museum was amazing, I only wish I could have had more time to spend there. The 118 mile trip home took me roughly 3.5 hours due to traffic, but I was very thankful to have my passport and to have had the days off to straighten out this issue. For the rest of the weekend, I took it pretty easy. Even today I am pretty worn out from the travel and all the new stimulii. My aunt and uncle, who live in San Diego, did invite me to spend some time with them and their girls, which I was very thankful for. I did some stuff with them but otherwise hung around the house.

(Just one of the amazing buildings and some beautiful foliage at the Getty Museum)

(Central Garden at Getty)

Things are working out pretty well. Even when I make a little mistake or have a barrier thrown in my way, there is always an opportunity for it to be torn down. I guess the old phrase that when God shuts a door he opens up a window is often true. I'm thinking this week I'd just like walk out the door rather than jump from the second story.



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Update and Springboard Part II

For everyone that has been following my progress and may not have heard yet, I have arrived safely in San Diego and started my life here. So much has been going on, but after my cross country trip, I have a back log of stories and ideas. Having so much to share feels tremendous. For now, I think I will have a new format to what I write. First, I will let you know briefly where I am and how I am doing. Next, I will continue to tell the chronological story of my cross country trip and my introduction to Amor.

Where I Am and How I Am Doing

I'm in San Diego, and I'm doing fine, thank you. You could have figured that out from the previous paragraph.

Continuation of My Story

After Sarah left, I figured I would spend a day at most in Colorado Springs with Jill and IS's family. One of the big objectives of my trip was to ride my bikes in some awesome places, and I had not had much of a chance to do that in the Springs, but I still had three more major stops on my list: Moab, UT, Lake Tahoe, CA, and San Luis Obispo, CA. I also mentioned that I seemed to have a computer issue. This issue would start to slowly derail my plans, but create new opportunities for me as well.

The Computer Issue

The issue that I was having with my computer and subsequently shared with IS was that it did not seem to want to boot up. Late night on Monday, he got a chance to take a good, hard look at it. After watching it refuse to respond to any of his efforts for roughly an hour, he was able to come to a pretty solid conclusion: The hard drive had failed. Prognosis: Not very good.
IS informed me that the computer would surely need a new hard drive and estimated the odds of recovering any of the information from my broken hard drive at about 30%. Perhaps if this has never happened to you, it might be tough to understand what I was going through, but this is kind of a big deal. I had failed to back up all of the information on my laptop and it contained so much that I needed. Sponsor lists, a sponsor letter, job applications, resumes and roughly 20GB of music and movies all stood to be lost. Those that know me well know I love music and pride my wide-ranging catalog, so that was a huge struggle for me. I completely bugged out on the inside, but did my best to keep calm with IS because he was extremely graceful in spending his time and resources on my computer. IS rebuilt my computer with a new hard drive he had laying around the house, but was still very skeptical at the likelihood of recovering any of my information. In the end, he was able to recover every bit of what was on my hard drive as well. Now I still have some organizing and cataloging to do to get everything to where it was, but I have everything I need and my computer is running faster. IS spent hours of his time and provided me with a free hard drive to get my computer back to form. While it was a huge bummer that this had to happen, it clearly could not have happened in a better place. I hate to consider the prospect of losing everything on my computer or the bill if I had taken my computer to a repair man. Thanks so much Craig, I really can't express my appreciation, so I owe you Big Time.

The Opportunities I Was Afforded.

It was not until Tuesday night that my computer was ready, so I got to spend a little more time in the Springs. This turned out to be wonderful for me. On Tuesday, got out on my road bike and tried to find a good route out of town. Unfortunately, I failed miserably. After an embarrassing spill on a sidewalk at a busy intersection, I decided to call it a day. If you want details, you'll have to call me. The following day, I got out on my mountain bike and ran into a local cyclist. He pointed me toward some absolutely awesome trails. I was able to ride through downtown Colorado Springs and past Young Life headquarters, then I headed up into the mountains above the Springs for some excellent riding and breathtaking views. Pictures will most certainly follow once I am able to nail down all my picture issues. For now, use your imagination: I was riding a mountain bike on a mountain with beautiful views of the city and snow capped mountains around me.

Even better than the riding was the additional fellowship I got to experience with the Evans family. They were amazing hosts as they continued to offer me a bed, anything in their pantry, anything they cooked and one of the vehicles (You saw the subie in road warrior mode, this is not a vehicle you want to be driving if you don't have to). The Evans are also preparing for a move as they are soon headed back to Virginia from Colorado Springs. The boys are dealing with it really well, despite the fact that the only home they have ever known is the Springs. I was able to see some of the impact they have left on their community and it has clearly been profound. IS, Jill and the boys have all given a lot to the people around them and maintained am impeccable reputation, I was greatly impressed. Finally, my time with the Evans helped give me a bit of a buffer on my trip. If I had left directly after Sarah did, I would have undoubtedly felt incredibly lonely as I traveled down the highway (I know this because it turned out I felt pretty lonely anyway). The Evans made me feel comfortable and at home and sent me out with a better feeling than I would have otherwise had. I am deeply appreciative for everything they did with and for me during my stay.

Wednesday morning, I left for Moab, UT, a place I will not soon forget and you will soon learn about.

I've learned a new word during my first few days with Amor, which I have decided to use as my sign off, at least for a time.



Saturday, May 8, 2010

Slickrock Haiku

Slickrock is awesome
My tires always hook up
Steep climbs are all mine

Thursday, May 6, 2010

“Spring” Board

I am currently in Moab, UT, a town that has completely surpassed any expectations that I could have had for it. I will be getting in to telling about Moab a little later though, as I have to do some backfilling to make up for simply not having the time to share everything that I have been up to.
Previously, I told of my wild trip to Colorado Springs, but I have not yet talked about my time in the Springs. When I arrived, after completing my version of Cannonball Run, Sarah, her niece Hannah, her sister Jill’s family and a couple of their friends were there to greet me. After the marathon I had completed (running 26.2 miles = driving 26.2 hours?), it was great to have such a fond welcome. Quickly, a cold one was placed in my hand, and we had homemade bananas foster ala mode for dessert. Everyone seemed excited to stay up, play cards and socialize, but I was not long for the conscious world, I laid down on the couch to watch everyone play cards and woke up several hours later as I was being ushered from the couch to bed.

The next morning, we woke up for breakfast, as prepared by Jill’s boys. Jill has an awesome family. She is married to Craig, who is totally laid back and I will henceforward refer to as “Information Savior” for reasons you will soon discover. Jill and Information Savior have four boys: Daniel will soon be attending Va Tech on a full ROTC scholarship, Jordan is hysterical and a fun guy to be around, Austin is a really caring kid with a servant’s heart, and the youngest, Joey, is another funny guy and was gracious enough to relinquish his room for the duration of my stay. Shortly after breakfast, we did the tourist round of the Springs. We ascended Pike’s Peak for beautiful views, visited Garden of the Gods to see unique rock formations, and drove through old town Colorado Springs. That night, we relaxed and ate dinner together.

The following day was Sunday, and the real reason we were all gathered in the Springs. Jordan was to be confirmed in the Catholic Church that day and he had chosen Sarah as his sponsor for the process. We had a pretty laid back day leading up to the Confirmation, and didn’t do much apart from watch Avatar.

Avatar Tangent

NAGAA (Not as good as advertised). I was into it for awhile, but it kind of lost me as time went on. The special effects were amazing and I always appreciate a message that reinforces respect for the environment, but there were a couple of issues I found. First, the animation was great, but it really didn’t seem like $700 million worth of great special effects. Perhaps I need to see it in 3D, but I think there is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to spending money on CGI. Second, is an irony noone seems to be talking about. Did it completely escape James Cameron that he spent $700 million on a film that attempted to preach about the beauty of living simply and primitively? Apparently it did. Dear James Cameron, thanks for some breathtaking scenes in your film, Avatar, but please leave the preaching to those that are at least trying to walk out their message. Also, how did this movie get a PG-13 rating? Is it just me, or did Neytiri spend, like, roughly, the ENTIRE movie pretty much naked and didn’t the body count rival that of Saving Private Ryan? Maybe $200 million of that massive budget was used to buy a more consumer friendly rating from the MPAA.

And now back to your regularly scheduled program . . .

The mass and confirmation we attended were beautiful. The church that Jill and Information Savior’s family attend is a really impressive structure, and the bishop who gave the homily for the service was captivating. We watched as close to forty young men and women confirmed their faith. While I am not catholic, I find young people committing to the principles of the Christian Faith extremely reassuring. Following the mass, Information Savior prepared excellent steaks for dinner and we sat around the table with more family, having some very interesting conversation. Eventually, it was time for the evening to wrap up. This would be Sarah’s last evening in the Springs, so we stayed up talking and trying to make the most of our time before we parted ways. Unfortunately, I was still exhausted from my travels, so we spent a minimal amount of quality time together before each retiring to bed.

The next morning, we awoke around four a.m. to take Sarah and her Hannah, to the airport so that they could fly home to Virginia. Goodbyes were tough, but they were said nonetheless. After dropping Sarah and Hannah off, Information Savior and I drove home. During the ride, I mentioned that my computer didn’t seem to be working at all. He said he would take a look at it. When we got home, I went back to bed and slept in, something I hadn’t done since reaching the Springs.

I will tell about the rest of the time in the Springs in my next post, as this one has gotten a little long. Thanks again for reading.


P.S. I have pictures from this time, but most of them are on my camera which is currently inaccessible due to a silly mistake. For now, just look at this rock formation at Garden of the Gods and watch out for Big Foot!

(Interesting rock formation at Garden of the Gods)

(I brake for huge, mythical, scary beasts)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wherein I Compare Driving Long Distances and Endurance Racing

On Thursday evening, around 9 p.m., it struck me that I hadn't gone on a nice drive in quite some time. I do most of my driving around town and into Northern Virginia, so it is rare that I can get out on some open roads and really enjoy myself. I am very fortunate that I really like the car I own. I have yet to come up with some clever nickname for it, so for now we'll just call it what it is, a Subaru Outback 2.5 XT. The Subie was neglected throughout tax season, so I felt it necessary to really use all of it's abilities on a drive. First, I loaded it down with bikes, a cargo box and sundry other personal items:

(The Subie in "Road Warrior Mode")

Having felt that I was sufficiently fulfilling the ruggedness quota of my car (It is, after all, an SUW, and yes, I am a hapless victim of marketing lingo), I decided to take a trip west on 66, away from all the hustle and bustle of the DC area. After about 50 miles, 66 hit 81 south, and I thought, "What the heck, the buru needs a little more attention, I'll take her a little further." But the buru got greedy and took advantage. I swear, you give her a mile, she takes 1,651. 81 led to 64, 64 led to 70, 70 led to 24, and after nearly 26 hours of driving, I was in beautiful Colorado Springs, at the base of the breathtaking Pike's Peak.

(In Colorado Springs, the Buru feels at home, as there is mountainous terrain and many other of it's kind.)

That's right, I left Warrenton, Va at approximately 9 p.m on a Thursday night and arrived in Colorado Springs, CO at 9 p.m. Friday, having only taken brief breaks for gas, caffeine, food and stretching sessions. I would like to point out that at no time did I feel overly drowsy or incapable of continuing with my drive. Had that happened, I would have pulled over and slept. My goal was to get to the Springs as quickly as possible but not at the risk of my safety or anyone else's.

As I have mentioned before, I have some experience with endurance mountain bike racing. I have raced both on teams and individually in 18 and 24 hour races. These races generally consist of riding in a 7-15 mile loop as many times as you can in the given time frame. In these races, I have ridden my bike as long as 15 hours continuously. Throughout my drive across half of the country, I was struck by the similiraties and differences between driving a long, long, long, long time and endurance racing. They are many and some are enumerated below.

1. You will be uncomfortable.

(My mountain bike saddle)

(My driver and passenger seat after filling my car with approximately half of everything I own)

If you take a good look at either of these seating positions, you would probably observe that neither would likely be a comfortable place to be for an extended period of time. Your observation would be spot on. Although I love my car, one fact that became "painfully" apparent during my drive is that it was designed in Japan for people that are slightly smaller than me. This caused many aches and pains as my journey went on.

2. You have to shut out discomfort.

I am no doctor, but I have learned there are different parts of the brain that govern your ability to process information and respond to it. When driving or riding a long distance, you have to learn to use and listen to parts of your brain that are critical to your task, but ignore the parts of your brain that make the task more difficult. Example: When your brain tells you there is another car near by or a turn you need to take soon, you respond by saying, "Hey, thanks brain I will take that information and use it accordingly." When your brain is telling you you are in pain and still have 18 hours to go, you respond with, "Shut up and come back when you have something useful to say."

3. You will eat ridiculous, unhealthy things

McDonald's, corn dogs, energy drinks, trail mix, soda, fried foods, beef jerky, donuts, candy and pretty much everything else that is banned from The Biggest Loser house is what you will eat when driving a long time or endurance racing. The reason you eat this way when racing is because these foods are easy to handle, and although generally bad for you, are often processed into useable energy very quickly. The nice thing about eating like this while racing is you burn the calories very quickly. When driving you generally eat this type of food because it is conveniently located on or near the highway and since you are just sitting the whole time, you can can count on being a little more hefty by the end of your drive. I like eating this way much better on a bike.

4. You have to go through "Kansas"

Kansas is a beautiful state, but has very few gas stations, convenience stores, not windy areas and interesting things to look at. Kansas is a grind to drive through. It is a place that although you are driving 80 mph it rarely seems like you are making any progress. When riding a bike, Kansas is more of an emotional place, it is a time when it feels like you are making no progress and have little encouragement. The only way to get through Kansas is to refer to #2.

(A field full of windmills: Hands down, the most interesting thing to look at in Kansas)

5. You will feel satisfied when you are finished.

I love the feeling of realizing that you have covered what seems like an insurmountable distance. Being able to share that feeling with friends and family while partaking of your favorite adult beverage is amazing. The sleep that comes afterwards is nearly as good. It is like no other sleep I have ever experienced, it is thorough, deep and sublime.