Oct 21

In The Forest City

I wonder when we’ll get tired of seeing signs like this? I wonder if it’ll be about the same time we stop seeing signs like this.

That’s at Urban Kitchen, a little deli in Cleveland. (Order the herb encrusted chicken!)

I suppose that is perhaps the most positive spin on a sign of this sort I’ve seen. I wonder how many people they are down. And I wonder what prompted someone to type that up and tape it to the door.

The people inside were delightful. We did a pickup, of course, and so there was no wait or service, but the food was good.

And we’re in Cleveland for most of the week, this restaurant is four blocks from the hotel, which was six hours from our driveway. So it was an early morning and then some meetings and then dinner and an even earlier morning tomorrow.

More on the why, then.

Oct 21

Ironman Indiana

This weekend we were in beautiful, bucolic Selma, Indiana, a rural community just outside exotic Muncie, which is in Indiana. And so it was that they named the event Ironman Indiana. It’s a bit of a one-off from the Ironman company. A lot of races were shut down last year. A lot of events didn’t get the chance to make money; a lot of outstanding athletes didn’t get to do their thing. So, this year, they decided “Let’s run a half Ironman and a full Ironman on the same day in the middle of a pandemic!”

We drove up Friday evening, because The Yankee was in this race. She did her packet pickup in Muncie, indoors but there was no one around. We went to the hotel(s) — and more on that in a moment. Saturday morning she got up very early and started the race.

Here she is after the 2.4 mile swim, and the conclusion of her 112 mile bike ride. Still a great big smile …

This is just outside the transition area, so she’s slowed down enough to allow us a glimpse as she’s preparing for the run.

Again, a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile run, and then you wrap up a light day’s work with a 26.2 mile run, which she’s starting here.

At some point on the run it becomes a mental thing as much as a physical thing. You’ve been out there for hours. You’ve surpassed your longest workouts. It can be tedious or boring or painful or entertaining. And as this course was a series of out-and-backs, you only saw your personal cheering sections a few times. But at least the weather was nice and mild today, and downright cool after the last of the rain had passed through. Really, it was a bit of everything, and so much of this particular course is in such a delightfully rural area that the only people you would see for long stretches of time are other athletes and the occasional aid station. You spend a lot of time in your head. A lot of time.

And yet, having done half the run, 13.1 miles down and 13.1 to go, she’s still got that big smile.

Later in the evening, having slashed through the water and ground on the pedals and pounded the pavement, the finish line.

This is her third Ironman. First there was Ironman Louisville in 2017. Then there was the North American Championship in Texas in 2019. And now, Ironman Indiana.

She finished, got her medal, took the publicity photos, grabbed a roast beef sandwich and sat on a bench to collect herself with her coach and his wife. And then we carried all of the tools of the Ironman trade to the car. Then she shivered as we drove back to the hotel.

We had two hotels this weekend. The first place had to put some rooms out of order, which we’re guessing, means they overbooked. But they were nice enough to reserve us a room in a much less nice hotel across town.

The sign out front inspires a lot of confidence.

But! We got a room with a king size bed, better than we were expecting in the first hotel. This place was undergoing renovations, however, and smelled funny. It probably always smells funny.

It was a smell that was even weirder through your mask.

So we settled in there Friday. On Saturday, the desk manager says to me “Checkout is at 11.

“No sir, it is not. The other hotel booked us for two nights.”

He had our little note from the other hotel right there on the desk. He was waiting on me.

It says here one night.

“Yes it does,” I said. “And the attendant there assured me this was a typo on a form letter and that our visit with you was for two nights.”

OK, let me call them.

“Yes, please do call them. Call Chris, the manager. Call Chris at home.

He calls, asks for Chris. Chris isn’t there, because it is Saturday on one of the busiest weekends in their town. Why would the manager of a teaching hotel be on hand?

He asks for whoever was close by. He gets put on hold.

Then the desk manager gentleman turns to me and nicely says “I know this isn’t your fault.

I said, “And I know this isn’t your fault. I also know I have two nights with you.”

At which point he hangs up and says “They were taking too long. I’m going to make them pay for it anyway.

Which is where I say, “And when I come back tonight, my stuff is still going to be in the room, and not on the curb, and this key is going to still work, right?”

Which is a question I asked him two different ways, just to be sure we had an understanding. And we did.

You put that out of your head for the day, but after the triathlon it’s a half-hour ride back to the hotel and you’re wondering the whole way: Is our stuff still going to be in the room? Is this key still going to work? It’ll be a whole new shift of people working in the hotel this time of night. What if Robert didn’t pass along this information, and we’re tired and hungry and cold and it’s late and we’re also sweaty? No one wants a scene in their smelly, renovating hotel, in front of people putting “cigerettes” out in the flower pots.

But the key worked, our things were still in the room. The three-time Ironman had a nice soothing shower and a snack and I said, “Since we’re safely in the room I can tell you this story now … ” which she laughed at until she fell asleep.

And on Sunday, we left exotic Muncie, got a quick breakfast and drove back to Bloomington. Sunday was a low key day spent resting and cleaning. Today was a Monday; tomorrow will be a full Tuesday.

Sep 21

Getting outside for the textures of the evening

Happy Monday. Beautiful fall weather all day, or so I heard. I spent it ‘neath the fluorescent lights.

Fall has a weird transcendent quality to it. I should get out there and enjoy this. Because winter is coming and you know what that’s like. But I have things I need to do inside. So I’ll get to it tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow! Good idea! Tomorrow! It’ll be beautiful out there, then, too. But it’s never long enough.

Because winter is always looming just out there, somewhere. Waiting to arrive, unwelcome, a few days too early and determined to leave much too late.

The signals aren’t much help, either. There’s a saying about corn, knee high by July. But there’s not a saying that says “How in the world did that happen? It’s just the first of September?”

And sure, it signals fall, but that just foreshadows winter. It’s impossible to shake.

Anyway, saw that corn field on my Saturday bike ride, near the end, after I’d given up. At least my shadow had a good ride.

And he should! He never does any of the work on the bike. He just lets me pull him along, shadowy wheelsucker that he is.

When I got in for the evening I took a walk in the woods. Something about having to spell the word fluorescent seemed to require it. Let’s take a look at a bit of nature.

This is just down stream from where I found that leaf.

And if you were standing roughly there and wisely looked in all directions, you would eventually find yourself looking up. And you would be justly rewarded.

But when you turned back around and saw the light cast by the sun skating away, you’d get another beautiful glimpse that made wading through the underbrush worthwhile.

I am not a botanist, which is a statement that should be plain and obvious every time I put a picture of a plant here. And because of this, each time I see this plant, I want to say it is something else. This week we’re calling it milkweed.

Look at the bark on this tree. How beautiful is this?

Same tree, just below eye level.

And just below that, and slightly around to the side, there’s this sign of a limb removal.

It’s pretty low on the tree, and that looks as if it was a big branch. Maybe kids climbed on it. Maybe it just got in the way.

And since it’s a beautiful autumn Monday, it is time to check in with the kitties.

Phoebe is happy with the changing weather. She’s lately getting more snuggly and it has not escaped her attention that blanket season is upon us once more.

She likes blanket season.

Poseidon is a cat for all seasons. I believe he was upstairs soaking up some window sunshine before I interrupted him here.

He would like you to know you interrupted him. And he wants to know why. It’s a fair question.

Sep 21

Catching up

Here are just a few photos to get us started on the week. May yours be productive, but not overly busy!

We had a nice long walk this weekend. Here we are walking on the path to be paved later.

There’s a nice wide asphalt pedestrian/cycling path on either side of that section, and the connection would be logical, if not inevitable. The paths are one of the more attractive local features, but, sometimes, when we’re on this section, I wonder if maybe we’d all prefer to leave the occasional stretch in this well-maintained condition.

Some of the hardwoods are getting ready to go.

It’s both beautiful and distressing, really.

Equally distressing, I just noticed that we did not check in on the cats last Monday. It’s only our most important weekly feature! Shame on me.

Phoebe didn’t remind me to put up the pictures. That was the problem. She was too busy relaxing around the fireplace.

And Poseidon didn’t point out the oversight after the fact, either. He was too busy hiding out under the stove cover.

I built this when Phoebe and Poe came into the house because they are young and all over everything — Poseidon in particular. We were concerned they would walk over the stove top and singe their pads. I built it a little high, so heat could escape, but also so the top would be level with bar behind the stove. Both cats love to lay on it, which we allow. Poseidon especially loves it after a meal has been made. He enjoys the warm.

And now he’s figured out how to get under the thing.

He’s a toddler who will never grow out of it, I’m convinced.

But they’re both going to have a great week, and we all hope you do, too.

Catch ya tomorrow. Until then, did you know that Phoebe and Poe have an Instagram account? Also, don’t forget my Instagram. And keep up with me on Twitter. There are also some very interesting On Topic with IU podcasts for you, as well.

Sep 21

Weekend photos

Just a few shots from weekend walks outdoors. And there’s also a video down below. But, first, the pretty things.

The sun silhouetted the trees and I further polarized the lens with a pair of cheap sunglasses.

The photos of which are never as cool, somehow, as what you’re seeing through the glasses themselves, but still fun nonetheless.

I thought this was a bit of toadflax, or hairy skullcap (that’s actually a wildflower name, yes) but now I think it could be any number of other things. I’m going with downy lobelia (Lobelia puberula).

And that is why when I did the last wildflower post I made the joke about failing hilariously at plant identification.

I’m not even going to try, here. Let’s just admire the contrasting colors.

I’m guessing this is some genus of Persicaria, or smartweed. There are 30-some species in that group. One of them has to be this color, right?

I feel comfortable with this one, it’s white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima):

I was rather surprised to find honeysuckle blooming this late in the year. I was pleased. It should bloom more. And, if not, this should be a sign of the new spring. It is almost springtime, right?

Look at this Yellow wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia), so full of life and promise:

Your standard issue bunch of goldenrod.

On our Sunday walk I heard this doe before I saw her. I don’t think that happens very often. She stood and stared for a long time, and let me get within about 15 feet before she calmly walked off.

I did not see the deer that was with her, which had stayed very still, until they both walked away.

We had a big video chat this evening with a Pulitzer Prize winner. Elizabeth Kolbert joined us via Zoom as part of the fall 2021 Themester, “Resilience.” Her Prize-winning book — The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, covers mass extinctions She has a new book, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, which was released a bit earlier this year.

The interview went well, after it got started. I’ve queued it to the beginning.

It’s always fun working on someone else’s projects.