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LiveStrong Challenge - Austin 2011

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Our author approaches a dusty, soot-covered blog, takes a deep breath, blows away the superficial layer of debris, and with a broad, sweeping motion, clears the remaining dust from his beloved blog...

...cough, cough... ...sneeze... ...cough...

Ahh. There we go. Holy cats, people - I have been quite neglectful of my blog. Can you believe it's been nearly a month since the last entry? Wow. What's the excuse?

None, really - yeah, I've been a little busy, but I've mostly been lazy with respect to paying attention to the computer. I've barely been checking my home e-mail, let alone thinking of witty and interesting blog entries. :-)

So... you may recall from a previous entry that my boss and friend Steve had put together a team to participate in the LiveStrong Austin Challenge. He did an amazing job of building an excellent team, and together, our team raised more than $9,000 for the event. That number put us in the top 35 teams in terms of money raised for the event!

Each of us ponied-up the money to book our own hotel rooms, fly to Austin, and participate in the Challenge. With 20 people on our team, this was quite a commitment, and a testament to Steve's charismatic style - he was able to recruit 20 truly excellent people and get them to train, fundraise, and travel for the event. Kudos to everyone!

With the money raised, our flights and hotels booked, and our legs conditioned, there was only one thing remaining - participating in the actual event. The Livestrong organization sponsors 13 challenge events, from 5K races to bike rides to marathons to ski events; they're held at various cities around the country. Steve targeted the October 15th Austin event, as it was his wife's goal to participate in this challenge before she passed. We raced the event in her honor.

Steve, his mom (Judy), his daughter (Claire), his son (Will), and I drove to Milwaukee on Thursday night so that we could catch a semi-decent night's sleep prior to flying to Austin early on Friday morning. We booked rooms at the lovely Super 8 near the airport and hunkered-in for the evening.

I'm not much for hotels... They feel dirty to me, I worry about bedbugs, I can hear all of the activity taking place in adjacent rooms, and I don't generally sleep well because I'm afraid I'll oversleep and miss a flight/meeting/commitment. And Thursday night was no different... I was in my room by 8:30pm, wiped-down the entire room with Lysol wipes, scoured the bed for bugs, and proceeded to lie wide awake until 3:45am.

The alarm went off at 4:30am, so I scored a solid 45 minutes of "sleep." Ahhh.

We made our way to the airport, where we met Dan (Steve's trainer and friend) before heading to our departure gate. We flew to Kansas City, where we picked-up Steve's mother-in-law (Jeanette) and her two friends (Lea and Ariel). The nine of us boarded a flight in KC and flew to Austin, where we landed at around 11:30am.

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We picked-up rental cars (a Dodge Grand Caravan and a Chevrolet Traverse) and then set about finding a lunch spot. We were all starving, as none of us had eaten since well before sunrise. Unfortunately, there was a slight miscommunication, and one group went to the hotel, while Steve, Judy, Claire, Will and I went to Whole Foods for lunch.

The Austin Whole Foods is amazing - it's massive, and it has a ton of unique food offerings, all of which are made to order. I opted for my old-time favorite, grilled chicken tacos on corn tortillas:

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With our bellies full, we made our way back to the hotel. We checked-in, and then walked down to the LiveStrong village. The LiveStrong village served as "ground zero" for the Challenge weekend.

We picked-up our race packets, and here's where the story gets really interesting. :-)

The LiveStrong Challenge weekend consists of two primary events - a 5K run/walk on Saturday, and an optional bike ride on Sunday. The bike ride offered 4 distances: 20-mile, 45-mile, 65-mile, and 90-mile options. To participate in the bike ride, you had to pay an additional entry fee ($125) and raise at least $250 for the event. You also had to supply your own bike.

If you were able to meet those criteria, you were afforded the opportunity to ride with Lance Armstrong, provided you were up for the 45-, 65-, or 90-mile routes (the 20-mile ride took a different route from the longer rides).

I paid the entry fee and raised enough money (I think my total raised was about $1875, thanks to the MidTown Pub fundraiser event), but at the last minute, decided to not pack and fly any of my bikes down for fear of having them damaged in transit. It was a bit of a let-down, but I really didn't want to have anything get damaged by either the TSA or the airline.

I mentioned that Steve is charismatic and resourceful... It turns out that he was contacted just prior to our event by the CEO of LiveStrong.

The CEO (Doug) mentioned that he (Doug) was looking forward to meeting Steve and his family and asked if there was anything he could do to help us out. Steve casually mentioned that I wasn't going to ride as I didn't want to travel with my bike. Doug said he would try to find a bike for me to use.

A day before we were due to arrive in Austin, Doug told Steve that he found a bike for me to use; all I had to do was walk over to Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop and tell them that there was a bike waiting for me to use for the Challenge. Please note that Mellow Johnny's is Lance Armstrong's bike shop, and nearly everyone that works at the shop is involved in one way or another with Team Radio Shack/Trek/Lance Armstrong.

So imagine my shock when I walked into Mellow Johnny's and said, "Hi, I'm here to pick up a bike for the Challenge," and their response was, "We don't have a bike listed for you here."

Again... no big deal. I figured it wasn't meant to be, and I would enjoy the weekend no matter what. As I browsed around the shop looking at t-shirts, jerseys, and cool gadgets, the head mechanic for the shop came up and asked if I was "Doug's friend, Steve." I said that I was. He said, "We have a bike for you - it's in our VIP vault and it will be up here in a minute."

I wasn't sure what that meant, but anytime someone uses the words "VIP" and "vault," you know it's going to be good. And sure enough, within 5-10 minutes, a bike was presented to me by one of the mechanics.

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That, my friends, is a 2011 Trek Madone 6.9 that belongs to Andreas Kloden. Andreas rode THIS ACTUAL BIKE in the 2011 Tour de France. No lie.

I became light-headed and faint; I was going to be riding a hand-built, custom-spec'd, uber-bike that was used in the Tour de France by a pro-rider for Team Trek. Holy cats - Steve, you are THE MAN. I pinched myself about 300 times as the mechanics did their best to set-up the bike to my needs. Here it is on the work stand as one of the mechanics swaps out the stem for a slightly shorter one:

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I chatted with the mechanic as he worked on the bike, and asked him, "Is this seriously Kloden's bike? I mean, it's a replica, right? Not the actual Tour bike - it can't be."

The mechanic said, "I was on the 2011 Tour team; I did support and set-up for the team this year, and I can tell you that I worked on this very bike for the entire Tour. It is the real deal - it's Klodie's bike - chips, scars, and all."

WOW.

"Any idea what this bike is worth?" I asked.

"In tour form, with aero wheels and carbon bars, probably around $20,000. As it sits now? Probably around $15,000, give or take. Did you need aero wheels?"

"No, I think I'll be OK with these," I said, my mouth dry. This bike cost more than my car, and it weighed half of what a bag of kitty litter does... in full race form, it tips the scales at 14-pounds. My Cervelo R3, for comparison, weighs-in at 16-pounds. A 2-lb difference is huge when it comes to biking - it's nearly impossible to shed 2-lbs from a race bike... I can't imagine what tricks and goodies Kloden's bike featured.

After about 20 minutes, the bike was "ready" for me. I wasn't picky - they offered to do a proper fitting, but I was so floored with the scenario that I said everything would be fine as was. Beaming from ear-to-ear, I met-up with Steve and we walked back to the hotel.

Once back at the hotel, I took a few more photos of the ride - here you can see Kloden's name affixed to the frame:

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And here's one more side-view of it. What an amazing marvel of engineering and fabrication - pure carbon fiber with the best-of-the-best components. Wow.

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I took the bike up to my room, salivated over it for a few more minutes, and then laced-up my running shoes and went for a pre-dinner run. It was so great to be back in familiar territory - I ran just over 6-miles on some of the world's greatest running trails compliments of Barton Springs Trail. This is where I spent every single morning while I lived in Austin; 6 miles each morning alongside the gorgeous Lady Bird Lake. The miles flew by, and before I knew it, it was time for dinner.

Our group assembled in the lobby, and we walked down to an awesome little Tex-Mex restaurant, where we enjoyed a wide variety of Austin specialities. From table-made guacamole to street tacos to enchiladas, we feasted like kings and queens. Steve generously picked-up the tab for our entire group - I can't imagine what it cost, but thank you again. The sun was fully set, and most of us went back to the hotel to get some sleep.

Dan (Steve's trainer and friend) and I went carousing around the town for a bit - we had a drink at a roof-top bar, and then wandered down 6th Street, watching people and listening to bands along the way. At around midnight we decided to call it an evening - the race would start at 8:00am, and neither of us had slept more than an hour the night before.

Race morning came, and our team quickly took control of the hotel lobby.

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Our plan was to meet in the lobby by 7:15, at which point we would make the short walk to the starting line as a group. The event organizers requested that we all be ready to go by 7:45am - the race would start at 8:00am from the 1st Street bridge.

Claire, Steve's daughter, was up-and-at-em - here she is in her team shirt with race number proudly affixed:

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And here are Lea and Ariel (with Wendy in the background) getting ready to make their way to the starting line. We all looked pretty good, considering it was 7:15 am and most of us were operating on little sleep.

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Someone had a great idea to ask the hotel staff to take a picture of our group; I'm glad they did, because this is the only picture I could find of our entire team. We're all in our team t-shirts and ready to run (or walk):

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Our team made its way to the starting line; the weather was phenomenal. Here you can see the sun just rising over Lady Bird Lake. Any questions as to why I so enjoyed running in this area?

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We arrived in perfect time; the organizers were sharing details about the race, thanking sponsors, and providing information about the event. There were more than 2500 runners and walkers, all of whom raised more than $2.3 million for the event.

Steve, Dan, and I posed for a pre-race photo - you can see the Four Seasons behind us, and you can see my "new look" - yep, that's a full-fledged beard on my mug.

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I started growing the beard on a whim, and then decided that I would stick with it until I had a full Brian Wilson beard (from the San Francisco Giants)... for those not familiar with Brian Wilson, he's a reliever for the Giants. He helped them win the 2010 World Series, but he's best known for his crazy beard and antics. Here he is at the 2011 ESPY awards:

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And here he is, on the mound during a game:

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Truth be told, I hate the beard. It's bothersome, it makes my face look fat (although that may have more to do with my steady diet of donuts, cookies, and other bad foods), and it's just plain ugly. But, I'm sticking with it until at least Halloween... we'll see what happens from there. Back to the race...

At 8:00am, they sung the national anthem, and after shedding a few tears (it was a moving moment - remembering why we were there, what we were doing, and all of those who have battled with, lost to, and/or continue to battle cancer), I snapped two last pre-race photos. You can see the number of folks that were in attendance:

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Seconds after snapping the photos, we were off.

The race wasn't "staged" by pace, so we had to navigate our way through the crowds of people in an effort to find some open running room. For the first 5-6 minutes, we struggled to average a 12-minute mile; there was a lot of stopping/starting/weaving as we weaved in-and-out of people. We also ran into Doug (the CEO of Livestrong) and talked to him for a minute or two. I thanked him profusely for his help with the bike...

And then we were truly off-and-running. I snapped a photo as we ran our way up Congress Avenue:

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And someone in our group took this awesome photo "down" Congress - I'm not sure who took the photo, but it turned out really great (it may have been Wendy?). You can see the runners and the capital of Texas in the background. With the morning light, it's a really cool photo:

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Steve, Dan, and I ran our way to the finish line with a finishing time of 27-minutes on the dot. Factor in the 5-6 minutes we lost during the beginning, and our pace was very respectable. It was Steve's first 5K, and any sub-30 minute time is truly impressive. After crossing the finish line, we turned around and ran the course backward in an attempt to find the rest of our team.

We found the crew and joined them for a return to the finish line. Here's Steve's mom (Judy), his niece (McKenzie), and his sister-in-law (Julie):

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Julie and McKenzie ran the race as well - they finished in 25-minutes, which is totally awesome. They also ran back to find the group, and I happened to snap this picture as they were returning to the finish with our group. Great race, you two!

With about half-a-mile to the finish, Claire decided she wanted Steve to put her on his shoulders and run to the finish. Steve hoisted her onto his shoulders and with some help from Martha (a friend of Steve's family), Steve, Claire, Will, and Martha all made a speedy b-line to the finish:

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Here's Steve and his kids after the race:

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What a great event. Everyone did a wonderful job of finishing the race; we were slightly hungry, so we decided to make our way back to the LiveStrong village with the hope of scoring some breakfast grub.

Here's our group as we made the trek back to the village:

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We arrived to the village, only to discover they didn't have any food. While there was a post-race meal, the meal was on Sunday (after the bike ride). D'OH!

We debated about where to go, and finally settled on another round of Whole Foods. I enjoyed some scrambled eggs with spinach and mushrooms, a small piece of pork sausage, a biscuit, and some cookies. I'm telling you, the Austin Whole Foods is simply awesome. I love that place!

Bellies full and legs well-run, we made our way back to the hotel, where thanks to another one of Steve's connections, we had plenty of ice cold beverages and snacks waiting for us. We settled-in at the hotel's pool, where we snacked and drank while watching the Badger football game and socializing with one another.

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After enjoying more than our fair share of beverages (and Cheetos), we decided to head over to the infamous Allens Boots. Allens is where I purchased my very own pair of cowboy boots a few years ago - it's the Mecca of boots and western wear, and is a must-see place when in Austin.

Here's a peek inside of Allens... this is a row of boots - men's size 12. Yep, every boot in that row is size 12.

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A few people bought boots; Steve bought some boots, some shirts, and cowboy hats for us. Here we are leaving Allens; I've got Will (Steve's son) with me. Yes, he got a hat but wasn't wearing it at the time of this picture:

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Man, that beard is hideous. :-D

We stopped at Sugar Mama's for some cupcakes, and then made our way back to the hotel, where we prepped for dinner. I hit the trail for a quick run, hopped in the shower, and then led our group to the infamous Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Que for some traditional Texas barbeque.

The line was huge - the place was absolutely packed (I think it took us 30-45 minutes to get through the line to place our orders):

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But the wait was well worth it. I had some brisket, some pork tenderloin, and a jalapeno sausage link. Yum - just look at the smoke ring on that pork!

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After eating at Rudy's, we returned to the hotel, and then hit Austin's 6th Street to celebrate the events of the day. For those not familiar, 6th Street is essentially one big party - it's 10-12 blocks worth of bars and bistros, all with tons of live music. Without exaggerating, nearly every single bar has a live band, and between every bar is a small food stand, with offerings that include pizza, bbq, brats, fish-n-chips, tacos, and more.

We wandered-in to Camino el Casino, where we enjoyed a few beverages - primarily PBR and scotch (Steve's favorites). Here's part of our group raising a toast to the great weekend:

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From left to right, it's: Steve, me, Dan, Tamara, and Wendy.

From Casino, we wandered down 6th Street, encountering Ferraris, Bentleys, Jaguars, Aston Martins, and a few Audi R8s along the way. Austin loves its exotic cars!

The crowds became heavier and heavier, and at 9:00pm, Austin closes 6th street to cars. Here's what the streets looked like as we made our way down to Molotov, another one of 6th Street's clubs:

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I'm not sure what was more crowded and difficult to navigate - the 5K or this bar-scene-turned-street-party?

We shimmied our way into Molotov, scored a booth, and did our fair share of people watching (and commentating). Wendy and Tamara bought us a round of drinks; a kind waitress took another group photo for us. Here we are, about to call it a night - we were all tired and ready to call it an evening:

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From left-to-right, it's: Dan, Julie, Steve, Tamara, Wendy, me.

Shortly after that photo, we walked the 1.2 miles back to our hotel, where I found a little friend waiting for us. Apparently our hotel had a "house dog" that served as an ambassador to the place. He was a super nice, extremely mellow yellow lab. I never caught his name, but I liked him nonetheless.

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Sunday morning arrived, and I was up, dressed, and ready to roll by 6:00am. The bike ride was scheduled to start at 7:00am, but thanks to the large number of participants (4300), the event was moved (literally at the last minute) to a location about 30-miles west of Austin.

I hopped-in the van and made my way west. With about 5 miles to go until I reached the destination, traffic came to an abrupt halt. After not moving more than 200 yards in 15 minutes, I started to get nervous - it was 6:45am, and I was still at least 4.5 miles from the start of the ride. Judging from the traffic around me, I could tell that everyone was heading to the same place - the start of the ride...

I waited in traffic for another 5-10 minutes before making an executive decision. There was no way I would make it to the start, and the idea of riding an unknown course (without a map), on an expensive bike, with 4000 other people sounded worse and worse. So, I pulled a U-turn and headed back to Austin.

I figured I would park near my old Trigger Point office and ride my familiar roads. I wouldn't be "riding with Lance," but at least I'd get to ride this amazing bike in a familiar and comfortable environment.

I parked the van, unloaded my bike and hit the roads of what is known as "Austin Hill Country." The views are amazing:

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I rode the beast of a bike for a solid 40 miles, and it was awesome. The bike was so stiff, so fast, so silent, and yet so smooth. It was absolutely effortless to ride it - the shifting was seamless, and it accelerated like nothing else. I had a "loop" that I had ridden countless times on my Cervelo and knew that it would take approximately 48 minutes to complete. With the Trek, I finished it in 44 (and some change). I'm sure some of it was due to excitement, but I think a lot of it had to do with how efficient that bike was.

After the loop, I rode through some familiar neighborhoods and on some back roads. I stopped and took a picture along the way, just so that I would never forget this incredible experience:

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Tour. de. France. Actual. Team. Bike. Oh. My. God.

After nearly 3-hours in the saddle, I returned back to the van and drove back to Mellow Johnny's, where I reluctantly returned the bike to its rightful owners. They removed my pedals; I thanked them again, and then went back to the hotel.

We watched the Packers beat the Rams, and then went out for dinner at Z Tejas, another Austin mainstay for upscale tex-mex cuisine. Most of our group opted for enchiladas, tacos, or burritos. I went with the daily special - sea scallops with chimichurri sauce and asparagus:

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Sunday night was rather quiet; we were all quite tired from the previous night, and I was tired from my long ride. Monday morning came along, and it was time to pack and head to the airport.

Here's Judy (Steve's mom) and Claire - notice the pink cowboy boots:

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Our return flights were uneventful, although they did run behind... we got delayed in KC for over an hour, and then had to take an alternate route from KC to Milwaukee because of some weather concerns. But, we landed safely. Back in Wisconsin, we stopped at Rocky Rococo's for some pizza, and then parted ways.

Back home, I unpacked my things and remembered that I scored a few goodies from the event. Because I raised more than $1,800, my goodie bag included a few extra items like this Nike LiveStrong backpack and Team LiveStrong hat:

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Because Steve raised more than $4,000, he received a backpack, hat, and a LiveStrong team cycling jersey - talk about cool!

And there you have it. It was a great weekend spent for a great cause and honoring an even greater person. I truly enjoyed meeting everyone that was at the event, and I can't thank Steve, Doug, and the Mellow Johnny's people enough for the bike. I owe everyone a huge debt of gratitude!!

There's talk of making this an annual event, and that's an idea I would fully support. I can't imagine the good things we could do if we focused on this for an entire year - let's get after it!

Before I sign-off, here are a few miscellaneous photos and comments/quotes from the weekend:

Claire, in her cowboy hat (can you guess her favorite color?):

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Our small group running to the finish line for a second time:

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Steve and his family out on the course (shady):

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Our team t-shirt design (front):

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The pictures were created by Steve's nieces and nephews, all of whom ranged in age from 2 to 13. They were asked to draw pictures of a tree bending toward the sun (it represents the lyrics from Pearl Jam's song, "Present Tense"). What you see above are their drawings, and those made-up the front of our shirts.

On the back of our shirt were the lyrics to Pearl Jam's Present Tense (Jody's favorite song, and the inspiration for the team's name), along with some sponsor logos:

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I did the layout/design for the t-shirts, and Steve bought them for us. Thanks again for the wonderful weekend and inspiration, Steve. I was proud to be a part of the team and would love to do it again.


And finally, some memorable quotes:

"I now regret eating an IHOP omelette for breakfast."
- Steve C., at mile 2.5 of the 5K race

"Are those flip-flops?"
- Steve L., at mile 2.75 of the 5K race as we got passed by a woman running/sprinting in true flip-flops

"Hey buddy"
- Voice of Marty, who was there in spirit, but not in body.

"Hey Steve.... doin?"
- Will, Steve's 2-year old son, asking his favorite question (aka "whatchya' doing?")

"Why?"
- Will's follow-up question

And there you have it. Until the next entry...

Pop Quiz: Texas Drivers Edition

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3:26am on Sunday morning and I'm wide-freakin'-awake. Nice. I don't know what it is, but I absolutely cannot sleep. Tossed and turned for the past two hours with zero sleep, so I decided to get some things done. Answered a ton of work e-mails from the weekend, made a to-do list for Monday morning, and crafted an idea for this blog entry.

In the past, I've been rather critical of Oklahoma drivers, and prior to moving to Austin, I was convinced that the world's worst drivers were from Oklahoma. And while I still firmly believe that Oklahoma drivers are awful, Texas drivers have officially won the award for the world's worst drivers, without a doubt, and beyond any exception. Congratulations, Texas - you hold a unique distinction!

I have never had more bad experiences while driving than I have while in Texas. It's ridiculous how badly people drive here - they have no regard/care/respect/concern for anyone else on the road, and it almost seems as though they blatantly try to spit on the rules of the road. It's so maddening.

So, in the interest of helping illustrate just how bad the drivers are, I've developed this quiz. See how you stack up against the selfish, inconsiderate, obtuse, rude, and genuinely awful drivers from Texas. Let's begin. Oh - just a word of advice - if you've completed a single hour of drivers education at any point in your life, you're already going to score light years ahead of any Texas driver...

And before you think I've lived a sheltered, traffic-free life, please keep in mind that I have spent many years living and commuting in San Francisco and Washington DC, so I'm not really a stranger to heavy traffic...





Question 1: Were you at any point in your life taught or otherwise educated on how to drive in Texas? Or, do you currently hold a Texas-issued driver's license?

A. No. I am educated, considerate, understand and observe the rules of the road, realize I am not the only person on the planet, do not tailgate, do not camp in the left lane while going 55, do believe in using my cruise control, and try my best to properly signal impending traffic maneuvers such as lane changes.

B. Hell yes! Screw everyone!!! Y'all!!!!


If you answered "A," please continue to try and avoid driving in, near, or through the state of Texas. You will only become frustrated and your life will most definitely be placed in immediate and extreme danger. Nuns and Buddhist monks alike have been blinded with rage from encountering Texas drivers. If you answered "B," I have nothing to say other than, "Lord help us all."






Question 2: This picture shows:

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A. A 5,000-horsepower NHRA Top Fuel Dragster as it leaves the starting line of a closed-course race track, where the environment has been strictly controlled to facilitate professional drivers operating and competing with technologically advanced machinery designed for maximum acceleration over the course of a quarter mile.

B. A typical Texas driver at any given stoplight in any given part of town.


The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas... in which case, you should substitute the multi-million-dollar race car for a: pick-up truck, SUV, ratty old Hyundai, or Vespa scooter - the result is the same. No one else can accelerate as quickly as a Texas driver. When the light turns green, you absolutely MUST floor it - don't look back, don't look around, just gas it and go. And don't you dare stop accelerating unless you've run into someone in front of you - just go, go, go! (y'all!)






Question 3: You are the only car on this particular stretch of road. You do not wish to exit from the road. Which lane should you be driving in?

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A. The lane to the right (not the exit lane).

B. The left lane would be my preference, especially if I was going 57mph in an area zoned for 65mph. Or, hell, since I'm a Texas driver, whichever dang lane I want, including the exit lane and both shoulders, y'all!!




The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas, in which case you don't care about lanes. Your vehicle has wheels, a motor, and at least one gun rack, so you'll drive wherever you want to.





Question 4: Reference the picture from question #3, and imagine there is a ______ (insert: bicycle, pregnant mother pushing a baby stroller, pack of baby ducks, or other defenseless entity) traveling on the shoulder. There is no traffic on the road. You are the only vehicle on this particular stretch of road. When passing the non-motorized entity as described earlier, you should:

A. Allow a safe distance between your vehicle and the cyclist/pedestrian/creature. It would be best to move over to the far left lane, and pass with some degree of caution.

B. Hug the shoulder as closely as possible in an attempt to buzz the cyclist/pedestrian/creature. If available, you should throw something at them while whooping and hollering. After all, this is YOUR road and who the heck do they think they are by riding/walking/traveling on YOUR road, y'all?!!


The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas, in which case, answer "B" would be the natural, knee-jerk response.






Question 5: You are traveling in heavy city traffic on a multi-lane highway, where the speed limit is 65mph. There are vehicles in every lane, and there are signs that clearly indicate that "slower traffic keep right." What does this mean?

A. Traffic that is preparing to exit the highway should be in or near the right-most lane so that they may efficiently and safely exit the highway. Traffic that is traveling at a normal pace should attempt to occupy the center lane, and traffic that is passing the slower traffic should temporarily occupy the left-most lane, then return to the center lane so as not to impede other drivers.

B. Who the @*#&$!!@ cares?! I'm from Texas, y'all!! I drive where ever I want to, and I'll drive at whatever speed I want! If I want to go 45 in the left lane and then swerve over to the far right lane, speed up to 100, then slam on my brakes as I dive over to the left lane so that I can squeeze within inches of you and another car while going 50, I'll do it, y'all!! Get outta' my way, y'all!!! Yeeeeeee hawwww!!



The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas, in which case answer "B" seems completely plausible, especially if you add in that you're texting on your iPhone and jamming out to some country music while driving like a complete jack-and-apes.





Question 6: True or false - when traveling on the freeway, where the majority of traffic is flowing smoothly and the road is wide open, straight, and free of obstruction, you should use your cruise control to maintain a consistent rate of speed.


The correct answer is "True." Unless you're from Texas, in which case, you will most likely do your very best to disrupt that even flow and rate of travel. It is your God-given right (and duty) to drive like a complete jerk, so you will speed-up whenever someone attempts to pass you, and you will attempt to make it nearly impossible for anyone to get around you. If you're in the left lane, you will be going slower than everyone until someone attempts to pass you. If you're lucky enough to spot another driver from Texas, the two of you will form what is often referred to the "Texas roadblock" by driving side-by-side at exactly 8 mph slower than the posted speed limit, thus impeding and inconveniencing every other driver around you. Occasionally, your Texas roadblock will speed-up to a high rate of speed, still traveling side-by-side, and then abruptly slow back down. You will repeat this process for miles and miles.





Question 7: When approaching a stoplight where all surrounding traffic has come to a stop and the signal shows "red," you should:

A. Remove your foot from the gas pedal, apply the brakes, slow down, prepare to stop, and be aware of the traffic around you.

B. Keep on accelerating toward the stoplight, screw y'all!! I'm from Texas, I'm driving a big truck, I got my 10-gallon hat on, I got my country music crankin, I got a big wad of dip in my lip, and I ain't slowin' down for nobod--- oh crap!!! SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEETCH!!!!! What the heck are y'all doin'?! Get outta' my way!!!


The correct answer is "A." By now, you've probably got the idea of how bad things are around here...






Question 8: You live in a city of nearly 2-million people. There isn't a dirt road, field, or any type of farm within a 30-mile radius. Parking spots are tiny, parking garages are short, and gas is both limited and expensive. What type of vehicle should you consider purchasing?

A. A reasonably sized vehicle that suits your needs; if you have a family, you might purchase a minivan. If you're single, you might purchase a smaller vehicle, such as a MINI Cooper, or a Honda Civic.

B. The biggest truck you can find, in 4x4, with the largest motor available. You should then modify the truck so that it is lifted beyond the legal limit, fit it with the loudest exhaust possible, tint the windows as black as possible, install an oversized and unnecessary trailer hitch, and install a large brush guard on the front, complete with as many fog lights as possible. If there's any room left on your credit card, extra chrome trim is always a welcome option.


The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas, in which case, you will answer "B," and you will then drive that obnoxious truck in an equally obnoxious and unsafe manner.






Question 9: What is the purpose of a speed bump?

A. To slow the speed of traffic, usually in an attempt to encourage safety and awareness in an area that may be heavily populated by pedestrians.

B. A jump for my vehicle and a major inconvenience to my busy schedule, y'all!


The correct answer is "A." Unless you're from Texas, in which case the answer is "B." You will accelerate at a high rate of speed toward the speed bump, slam on the brakes at the last possible second, fly over the bump, and then gas it to the next speed bump.

Wait... check that - if you're really from Texas, you would never slam on the brakes - you'd just keep accelerating, so disregard the explanation. Just gas it, y'all.






Question 10: You are driving on a busy section of road, where there are exactly 117 other cars around you. How many other cars are around you?

A. 117.

B. Who cares?! I'm from Texas, y'all!! I'm the ONLY car on the road!! I'm the ONLY one that matters!! Don't mess with Texas!!


Sigh.....





If you answered "A" to any question above, you are most likely not a Texas driver, and for that, I thank you and welcome you as a fellow driver. I also encourage you to stay as far away as possible from any vehicle that displays Texas plates, because you will most likely go from being a peaceful, law abiding driver, to an enraged, ready-to-snap, wanting to pull your hair out driver within a matter of seconds. Trust me.

Bonus question:

This is a picture of:

bush_driving.jpg

A. George W. Bush, our previous president

B. God's gift to the world and a fellow Texan. But what the heck is he doing driving so slowly?! That boy's spent too much time in Warshington DC, y'all! Tell him to gas it and go! What? No, he don't have to look ahead - he can keep lookin' over his shoulder, just gas it! Go, go, go!!!! Yeeeeeeeehaw!

Another one down.

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Happy Mothers Day!

run_number.jpg

Oh, and I did another triathlon today. This one was part of the Texas Tri Series - The Pure Sport Rookie Triathlon - in New Braunfels. We sponsor the series (along with several other companies), so I was able to get free entrance to the race, and I was able to sneak in at the last minute, which was nice. As you can see, I was entrant number 944... they allowed approximately 1000 people into the race, so it was a decent-sized event.

New Braunfels is about 30 minutes south from Austin, approximately half-way between Austin and San Antonio. The race started at 8:00am; the transition area closed at 7:40am, and you had to be there by no later than 7:00am; they recommended a full hour before close of transition, so it was up at 4:30am... nice.

Not many pictures to share, sorry... here I am coming out of the water (not dead last in my group, but pretty close!):

swim_transition.jpg

My swimming is still so awful. I thought I had done pretty well on the swim, but nope - I pretty much got my butt kicked by everyone else... my swim time was just under 10 minutes (9:35) - 300M... ick. I didn't use my wetsuit because the water temperature was warm (75F), and the water smelled like sewer, so I didn't want to stink up my new suit.

I am proud to say that my transitions have improved tremendously since my last triathlon. I spent a total of 2:35 in the transition area (out of water, run 100 yards to bike area, put on bike shoes, helmet, glasses, run to bike mount area, and start riding), so that was great. Once on the road, I got after it pretty good - it was only an 11-mile ride, so I was able to crank on it. I finished the ride portion in just under 35 minutes, for an average of about 19mph. Back in transition, I spent just under 3 minutes dismounting the bike, running with it to the rack area, changing shoes, taking off my helmet, putting on socks & shoes, and leaving the transition area.

The run segment was a short 2-miles; I finished it in 16 minutes. Here I am coming toward the finish line (behind the open shirt dude - I slowed for the photo):

tri_running.jpg

Total time: 1 hour 6 minutes. Not great by any real means, but I did finish 182 overall (out of about 1000), so that's not too horrible. Especially considering I didn't start swimming again until Monday of this week. :-)

We had a small booth at the event - here are Amy and Richard in our "booth lite":

tp_booth_tri.jpg

With the race finished, it was down to San Antonio to grab a bite to eat on the Riverwalk and to see the Alamo. I had been there a few years ago, but figured that since I was so close, it might be nice to stop by.

Had breakfast tacos for lunch - yummy:

breakfast_tacos_zuni.jpg

And then stopped and saw the Alamo:

Ran into this cute little kitty along the Riverwalk:

kitty_riverwalk.jpg

And then drove back to Austin. Did some laundry, sat by the pool, and am now contemplating dinner...

Speaking of dinner, we had a farewell dinner for Lina, our graphics artist intern, on Friday. We stopped at Maria's Taco Express for some happy hour fun and delicious tacos. Here's a picture of part of the Trigger Point crew:

group.jpg

From left-to-right: Jessica (marketing/events), Lina (graphic arts), Me, Thomas (east coast sales).

That's about it! Looking forward to a busy week at work, so the blog will probably be a bit slow. Oh, before I go, here's a picture of my neighbor's dog, Zeus - he's the cutest Chihuahua I've ever seen:

zeuss.jpg

Tengo caliente

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So it's a little warmer down here than I thought...

hot.jpg

That's what the 'ole temp-o-meter showed while on my way back from an afternoon swim. Good thing it's also super sunny - that just makes it feel all the more incredibly hot. :-)

I've been swimming in the outdoor lap pool lately and I much prefer it to the indoor pool. The outdoor pool is a bit longer, the lanes are wider, and for some odd reason, it's not as busy as the indoor lap pool. I still sink more than I swim, so I'm looking into taking a few "stroke lessons" from masters coaches around here. If I could get my roll and breathing down, I probably wouldn't hate swimming so much. Turns out that one of our sponsored athletes (we sponsor about 35 athletes from various arenas) is also a masters swim coach, so I may hit her up for a few lessons.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and hope everyone has a good weekend.

Spent the weekend in Fort Worth, Texas at the GSX Southwest Regional Crossfit Qualifier: Hell's Half Acre event (talk about the longest name for an event, ever). We loaded up the Trigger Point RV on Friday afternoon, hit the road, and spent the weekend working with about 300 of the Southwest's toughest gladiators, and it was both interesting and fun.

We got into town early Friday evening, found our spot, and parked the RV. After a quick trip to Lowe's for some last minute supplies, it was off to dinner and then to bed - we would have to be set-up and ready by 7:00am on Saturday, so that meant the alarm would go off at around 4:30am. Nice!

We got the RV set-up and by 7:15, we had people stopping by to "roll out" in preparation for the day's events.

rv_at_show.jpg

This was our first event with the RV; the company has owned the RV for quite some time, but hasn't used it much for events over the past few years as we've focused on Expos and events where we would set-up a tent/booth. The RV got pulled back into action because we'd like to start attending smaller and local/regional events, to help bolster recognition and branding in our area. It also allows us to try new events like Crossfit (we primarily focus on Triathlon and Marathon) without a ton of additional expense.

So, the first order of business was getting some graphics applied to the RV, and our friends over at Lewis Sign did a marvelous job of applying the graphics in short order. They picked it up from us on Wednesday and had it finished by Friday morning. We've got ideas to "wrap it" further, but the logos would suffice for now. But enough about that, let's get back to the weekend...

The Crossfit Qualifier was an event that served as a stepping stone for the Crossfit Games, which are hosted in California this summer. The Crossfit Games are like the "world series" of Crossfit - the best of the best compete for title of Crossfit Champion.

Crossfit competitors are a bit different from your standard triathlete; they're big and muscular, full of knots and tight spots, and haven't been exposed to our product like triathletes have been. So, we spent a lot of time educating them about our products, letting them "roll out" and test the products, and impressing upon them how important it is to roll out on a regular basis.

Here's some of our crew working on a few of the spectators:

rv_rollout_photo.jpg

The ground looks wet because it rained like crazy while we were at the show - if you haven't already heard about it, the Dallas Cowboys practice facility collapsed over the weekend due to some severe storms. We were about 10 miles from the facility, so we experienced the same storms and are happy to report that the RV survived with nary a scrape.

We sold out of product at the show - the response was unbelievably great. People were skeptical at first, but all it takes is a 2 minute demo and they're hooked. We had huge guys and "ripped" girls coming up, hugging us, thanking us, and telling everyone around us to buy our stuff - they were so impressed with how well it all worked. So by early Sunday afternoon, we were completely out of product - we also sold out of product at the Boston Marathon a few weeks ago (and we took $25k worth of product there!), so things are definitely going well.

Here's one of the guys that I spent about 30 minutes working with - he didn't qualify for the Games, but he's no slouch... he came by twice on Sunday to thank us for helping him.

crossfit_competitor.jpg

So, that was the weekend. It was a great learning experience for me; I got to see how the events take place, and that helps me understand some of the logistics and supply side challenges. I also got to experience the Expo environment, learn more about our products, and see firsthand how people perceive and use the products. So, it was a win-win scenario, for sure.

I know you'll all want some food photos... :-) So, here's a picture from dinner on Saturday night - that's a chicken fried steak that's roughly the size of Texas itself:

steak.jpg

Believe it or not, but Jessica, our Events and Marketing coordinator is the one who ordered that monster... I had a salad... :-)

Also stumbled across this interesting beer at one of the convenience stores:

pug_beer.jpg


Finally, I've stumbled across a website called Yelp, and it's pretty cool. You enter in your location, select a category (like Restaurants), and it'll find all of the places that meet your criteria. It'll then share member reviews, recommendations, and all of that fun stuff. I was in the mood for a good burger the other night, and Yelp had a few suggestions.

I ultimately chose to go to "El Casino del Camino," in downtown Austin. It's categorized as a "dive bar" but was supposed to have amazing burgers. It had a cool veranda/patio area out back:

casino_camion.jpg

But sadly, that's about it. The food was terrible. Driest, most stale, and most tasteless burger I've ever had in my entire life. I was so disappointed. It doesn't even deserve a picture on my blog... ick. So, Yelp failed me... but it's been pretty good with everything else so far, so I'll keep using it.

Finally - you can read more about the Crossfit event over at the company blog; I was tasked with posting info and updates, so check it out for some more pictures and details.

Score!

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Every job has perks; every job has a downside. Finding the ideal balance between the ups and downs can be tricky, but when you do, it's probably one of the biggest defining factors of a dream job. I honestly think I've found that balance here at Trigger Point.

Case in point: we offer discounts on our products to pro athletes and fellow industry insiders, and they return the favor to us. As such, I've been able to score some great gear at a significant discount, including a new pair of shoes, wet suits, and some bicycling shorts/bibs. I received my shoes today and am already in love with them...

pearl_izumi.jpg

They match our company colors perfectly, and they're extremely comfy. Technically they're trail running shoes, but I think I'll be ok with wearing them for casual use. :-)

Nothing else to report - just working my butt off. Oh, I was featured on our company blog today - you can check that out by clicking here. Enjoy!!

I'll post more over the weekend, so stay tuned.

A day in the life

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The Trigger Point offices were closed on Friday, in observance of Good Friday, so Thursday was my last official "work day" for the week. We hired a new sales person to handle the Texas region, and Cassidy wanted to take him around and introduce him to some of our Austin account holders. So, we hopped into the Trigger Point Truck and hit the road - I made a blog entry about it over at the Trigger Point Wordpress Blog site; you can read all of the details about it over there.

As a teaser, here we are, about to go into Crossfit Central, which is one of the nicest Crossfit facilities I've ever seen.

crossfit_outside.jpg

After calling on various accounts, we stopped by Whole Foods to grab some lunch. They had a great deal on lunch tacos - two for $5, so I grabbed a couple of tacos (chicken), some fruit, and a bottle of water. I was out the door for just under $8 - not bad for Whole Foods, and excellent for as great as it tasted.

whole_foods_tacos.jpg

Whole Foods is such a cool grocery store - you can literally find anything imaginable there, and everything is fresh, wholesome, and amazing. They also have a massive salad bar, a baked potato center, soup line, pastry shop, and more... here's a shot of the pizza and pot pie area:

wholefoods_pizza.jpg

So much nicer than the deep-fried crap that Walmart considers to be "deli food." :-) Although, the Whole Foods prices are quite a bit higher than 'ole Wal-Mart... check out the price on this ham:

179_ham.jpg

And finally, here's a cold splash or reality for everyone who complains about my constant raving about Austin. :-) Contrary to what my blog might lead you to believe, I don't get to go running around to all of these wonderful restaurants all day and night. Nope, I make it sound "glamorous," but the sad reality is that more often than not, my meals go more like this:

laundry_meal.jpg

That's an EAS Myoplex Chocolate nutrition shake (180 calories) with a bottle of Ozarka water, and the lovely laundry room. So, fear not - life's not always so grand in Austin. ;-)

More Austin Goodness

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You're going to get tired of me and my positive, upbeat, happy posts... but don't fret - I'm sure I'll have some snarky and cynical observations to share in the near future. I could already craft a piece about how horrible Texas drivers are - they may give Oklahoma drivers a run for their money - but I'll save that for later.

For now, Austin definitely has that "new car smell." I really can't say enough great things about the city, and I think a lot of it has to do with my location. I'm so close to everything - it's almost ridiculous.

I was bored on Sunday. I had wanted to go for a long bike ride, but the winds were gusting at speeds of up to 40mph, and I didn't feel like getting tossed around on the bike, so I settled for a 7 mile run around the Barton loop, took a shower, and then wondered how I could best spend the rest of my day.

I looked at the car and realized it was filthy, so first item on my list was to go and wash it. I had noticed a local car wash place that looked interesting - they always had Jaguars, Porches, BMWs, Mercedes, and Land Rovers running through their facility, so I figured they had to be decent. I drove 2.1 miles from my apartment to the car wash place, and man, was it busy.

I got into line with my car and waited for the attendant to "take my order." Since I had never been there before, I chose the basic package - hand wash, hand dry, complete wheel and tire cleaning, tire dressing, and a complete interior cleaning. Cost? $16. Wait time? About 1.5 hours. But, it was a Sunday afternoon, the weather was nice (but windy), and I had nothing but time, so it was all good.

Here's my car in the wash bay:

car_wash.jpg

The car wash had a great outdoor patio that was shaded, and they offered free wireless internet and cheap soft drinks ($1 for a bottle). I opted to walk to a local marketplace, where I found a great locally grown and roasted coffee. I also browsed the selection of locally made cheeses, beers, and snacks. I can't tell you how awesome it is to find places like this - it's so refreshing to not be forced to shop at WalMart. I'll gladly pay an extra $0.39 for something if it means that it's: (a) supporting a local business, (b) fresh and exciting, (c) something that doesn't say "Kraft" or "Tyson" or "Nabisco" on it.

After grabbing the coffee, I headed back to the car wash place just in time to see them finishing up my car. It looked pretty good to me:

car_clean.jpg

I realize how ironic it is that "geekysteve" from "Guru Reports" is now paying people to wash and detail his car... yes, a few years ago I would've gone bonkers with the idea of running my car through a service like this, but today I couldn't care less. In the event that the car gets too swirled or too messed up, I'll fire up the buffer, spend an afternoon perfecting it, and call it good. Life's too short to obsess over a swirl mark. :-)

I also noticed a doggy day care across the street from the car wash - that's good to know about, so I took a photo to keep as a "reminder" in case I need to use it:

dog_daycare.jpg

Given Austin's liberal stance on allowing dogs just about everywhere, I highly doubt I'd ever need to use them, but it's good know they're available.

With my car nice and clean, it was off to explore the city. I needed to swing by a Sears so that I could pick up a cheap pair of pliers, so my next mission was to find a mall. Turns out there's an amazing mall about 2 miles from my apartment (4 miles from the car wash). So, I took Lamar Blvd to 360, and within a few minutes, I was at the Barton Springs mall.

What a place. They had Nordstroms, Macy's, Coach, Prada, Ann Taylor, Lucky Brand, Mens Warehouse, and about 30 other awesome stores, including a Sears. I took an hour or so to stroll through the mall, making note of the various stores. Oh, they also had an Apple Store!! Jackpot #2!

Thoroughly impressed with the selection of stores, it was back to the apartment. The sun was setting, and I had grabbed a few free magazines while out and about. I pulled a chair onto my deck, turned on my iPod, kicked back and enjoyed the Sunday afternoon.

porch_magazine.jpg

I had a view of the pool, my clean car, the setting sun, and a few good magazines to read. I sat on the porch until around 7:30 or so, which by then it was getting chilly (into the high 60s). The entire time I was sitting there, I smiled with appreciation for the simpler things.

I've spent so much of my life being wrapped-up in, concerned with, and obsessing over money and status. I've wanted nothing more than to be wealthy and successful. And for so long, it meant so much. But now, with my life completely rearranged, I've come to realize that none of that stuff really matters. I'm not going to try to kid myself into thinking that it's not nice to have a bucket of money, nice watches, nice cars, a big house, and so on... but I am perfectly happy with this one-bedroom apartment, my bike, my running shoes, and my iPod. I've got a job that I'm super excited about, I'm in a city that is inviting, fun, friendly, and full of opportunity, I've got a great network of friends, and as such, I'm free of worry and stress.

It's liberating. I'd love to sell my house, but it'll happen when it's meant to happen. Until then, I'll keep chugging along. I thought about this a lot today while I was riding my bike (on my lunch hour - another bonus - I rode 27 miles at lunch today, and it was glorious)... How lucky am I to be in this situation? To find a job and a place when the world is what it is? Wow.

So, with that, I'll leave you all for a bit. Sorry to get so philosophical. It's not really my style, but it's more or less what I was feeling last night and today. I'll also leave you a photo of a burger from Shuggies (which is in the South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery). I'm telling you all - you need to come visit Austin. You'll leave 13 pounds heavier, your cholesterol will be 10% higher, but you'll be happy. :-)

burger_trailer.jpg

Why I'm going to love this job

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Not only is Austin shaping up to be an awesome city, but the perks of working at Trigger Point are already paying dividends. Cassidy (the company founder/owner) bought and built a new bike - a Litespeed Archon, and was so excited to have it "finished" that he grabbed me and said, "Hey, let's go ride this afternoon."

So, we hopped on the bikes and hit the road. We did a quick 15-mile ride on the Southwest Parkway (a nice rolling road with wide lanes, moderate traffic, and great scenery), and got a chance to talk about work while not sitting at our desks. It was refreshing, and is just one of the invaluable benefits of working at a place like Trigger Point.

Here's Cassidy's new bike - it's seriously cool (Titanium frame, finished "in the raw"):

litespeed_side.jpg

And here we are in the parking lot, getting ready to go on the maiden voyage:

ride1.jpg

We're all decked out in our Trigger Point Cycling gear (jerseys, shorts), which is another super cool bonus... we get cool t-shirts, clothing, and other promo items as part of our "deal." I really can't say enough good things about life here in Austin and at Trigger Point. I have such a good feeling about this.

I also had an opportunity to update the company blog - check it out over at Wordpress. It has full details about our ride, and some additional pictures of us getting ready to go our for our spin.

Howdy, y'all! Hook 'em Horns (or something like that).

So, you've all e-mailed me, and you've all left me voice mails, and you're all wondering what the heck is going on with me. Thanks for the concern, and apologies for not responding to your inquiries - I'm not ignoring you (well, I'm not ignoring most of you), I've just been super busy. I (drum roll) relocated to Austin, Texas last week, and have been immersed in my new job, the city, and all of that fun stuff.

"W-w-w-w-what?!" Yep, I heard you, and I saw you do that double-take-head-twist-thing that you do when you're confused. That's right, I'm in Austin.

"Where's Austin?"

Easy - it's in central Texas, about 2.5 hours south of Dallas, about an hour north east of San Antonio, and about 2 hours north west of Houston. Refer to this wonderful map that I made:

texas_map.png

Cool, eh?

"Why Austin?" Lots of reasons, but most notably I found a great job here and was lucky enough to get offered a position. I've long wanted to live in Austin - there's just something about it - and things "worked out" in just the right order so that I could have that opportunity.

"What's so special about Austin?" Tons of things. But I won't bore you with history and details; you can check out the Wikipedia entry about Austin. Suffice it to say that Austin is a booming area - there are about 1.6 million people in/around the immediate area, the city has a ton of personality, it's very athletic-friendly, and it's not Arkansas. :-) I can actually shop at a store that isn't a Wal-Mart, and I can actually eat at restaurants that aren't chain restaurants. It's so refreshing. But more on that in a bit.

This is going to be another lengthy entry, so please click on the link to read the rest of this entry. Sorry, but we've got a lot of catching up to do!!!

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Austin category.

Big Boy - RIP is the next category.

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