Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006 Holidays - Life Is Good

I remember really dreading the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays when I was younger, and now there are still some aspects of forced family gatherings that can be inconvenient. But as each season passes and I'm more in touch with my ultimate mortality, I have greater respect for the threads that link us to the past and future through family.

To my knowledge I have fathered no children and can't say I regret having missed the experience. I'm told a human being never really knows love until they become a parent. Whatever. I have made some effort to be an influence on a few young people I've been fortunate enough to share my existence with and hope the experience was positive for them as well.

Anyway, I enjoyed the family gatherings more this year than any before. I feel like I contribute a lot with my fried turkeys and a few modest but thoughtful gifts. Wifeunit has such a positive influence on my attitude because of hers, and I'm grandfather age now since ML has two grandchildren. Maybe they will remember me vaguely as I do my grand/great ancestors. All the young people seem to tolerate or even enjoy the experience more than I did at their age.

We continue the family gatherings and expect one another to attend in spite of those who may not otherwise make the effort to stay close. It's a good thing and our family owes this to our mother's persistence. She is the matriarch, humble and loving, and the underlying spirit of a group of characters now 19 in actual or proposed number, not including a few visiting cousins, etc..

I wish everyone could be as fortunate.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Catching Up On the Fall

Two weeks after our trip to Wiggins, Wifeunit and I returned to the coast the first weekend of November for Oceans Springs' Peter Anderson Festival. We've been to the festival several times, and I've never seen a bigger crowd. That's a good thing for the Coast and the festival, but not so good if you don't like long lines for food and beer. In the past, the gang from the Coast has always met at the park after walking around the festival all day. We take camp chairs and visit, eat sweet potato fries, drink beer and enjoy the free entertainment at the gazebo. This year was so crowded, there was no place to sit, and the music was much louder than I remember.

We still had a great time, stayed in Gautier with ML, the Ninja Fairy and Lilly Saturday night, and stopped for a while at Jamie and Bethany's in Wiggins on our way home Sunday.

Later in November, I got out early on a cool bright Sunday morning and went in search of anything worthy of a photograph. I saw there were several Great Egrets roosting below the reservoir spillway, so I decided to try to creep up on them and maybe get a nice picture.

While creeping in the weeds, I spotted this little duck.

I sent this and another to an expert birder to see if he could identify it. He replied saying it was an Oldsquaw, or Long Tailed Duck, female. Turns out it's a rare or uncommon bird for Mississippi, and I was asked to submit my photos with some paperwork to the Big Birder of our state who keeps up with all the records.

On the first weekend of December we made another road trip to the Delta.

If you look closely, you can see my name on the big electronic board at Delta State's superfine swimming facility. Wifeunit and I and my 2 teammates from the Flowood Y Fighting Flounders went to beautiful Cleveland, Ms. again for the Southern Masters Short Course Meters Championship Swim Meet. It was my first official swim meet, and I finished just about where I thought in every event - dead last. That's ok though, since I may have won something in my age group. Everyone from age 18 to 80 competes in the same race. It was fun and gave us a chance to do some shopping at the famous pottery shops of the Delta, Peter's Pottery in Mound Bayou and McCarty's in Merigold. (I'll post another story about Wifeunit's long lost cousins of Mound Bayou when the photos are ready)

On our way back home we were able to spot several Northern Harriers, a bird sometimes called a Marsh Hawk. Harriers are apparently quite common in wide expanses like the Delta, but I had never seen one, or knew it if I had. I didn't get any pictures, but they're easily identified by their flying close to the ground over brush, listening for mice and birds to pounce on. They are more slender than most hawks, and have a white patch on their tail (coverts) that can be seen from a good distance. Below is a great pic from a Google search.

Photo: Mark VanderVen, Western Washington University (Link)

Thinking back, I know I'll always remember the trip for the nice, peaceful feeling I had driving home - the sun a fading red glow in the clear western sky, the Family Truckster all cozy and warm while the temps outside fell into the low 30s, cruise control set at 60 mph on Highway 16, listening to Garrison Kiellor's Prairie Home Companion, as I drove right past my exit to Hwy 43 and into the dark.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Busy Days

I guess I'm not as interested in this blogging stuff as I thought. Two months have passed since my last post, and there's been plenty to write about. Wifeunit and I are always involved with some activity on weekends, and my job is stressful but exciting. Maybe this post will get me back in the groove.

We enjoyed a great weekend on Red Creek with our regular canoeing gang. The early October weather was beautiful. The water was low, making for some strenuous work at times, but it was a nice trip. The moon was full with a clear sky at night, making the sand bar nearly bright as day. Coyotes and owls were singing for us.

The canoe trip was October 7th & 8th. Two weeks later we were on the road again to Wiggins, home of my niece, Bethany and her husband, Jamie. Jamie and I were entered as a relay team in the 26th Annual Paddle, Pant, Pedal Triathlon (results) . The race was great fun, 4 miles of canoeing on the Wolf River, followed by a 5-mile run, then a 23-mile bike ride. We were a relay team so we partnered on the canoe, Jamie did the run and I rode the bike leg. Jamie also rode his bike for the fun(?) of it. The photo below features the 2nd place Pittman/Mitchell team (and some other guys who probably cheated).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Terrific Weekend

The work week is shorter when the weekend leaves you with a feeling of peaceful satisfaction. Wifeunit and I left home Friday at noon and drove to Cleveland, Mississippi, home of Delta State University. We went so I could participate in the DSU Triathlon and just to get out of town for a change. Our August wedding anniversary weekend in New Orleans was cancelled due to Wifeunit's mother's illness, so we were ready for a road trip.

The drive was nice - mostly light traffic and good weather. I got a Delta driving lesson from Wifeunit, which made sense to my stubborn self. When you need to pass farm equipmment on the long, straight, flat highway, and you can't see approaching traffic very well because of the mirage effect on the road, just get out there and go! If something's out there, you'll see it soon enough to whip back into your lane.

We made Cleveland in time to hit the Sharpe Street shops, the Crosstie District, diagonal parking, old style, small town thing. It's great that some of these towns in the Delta are still prosperous enough to preserve themselves. Many have just decayed from being abandoned. We dined that evening at the Airport Grocery, an interesting restaurant with old signs and assorted junk from rural yesteryear hanging about. Their junk looked authentic and in proper context, not what you see at some franchise eatery like Ruby Tuesday. The food was Delta home style - barbecue, okra, corn, catfish, etc., and lots of it. It's a very casual atmosphere, of course, and the price was great. All we could eat, 2 Coronas, tea and good service for less than $40.
I had never heard of the place but it is apparently famous for hosting Delta Blues musicians. Blues just isn't one of my things, but the Airport Grocery just made my short list of favorite places to tie on the feedbag.

Our hotel accomodations for Friday night were a challenge for Wifeunit. We were in the room no more than 5 minutes before she had the front desk on the phone for a new bedspread without cigarette burns. Then, when the luckless employee came to deliver the spread, Wifeunit discovered a hair (maybe even pubic) on the sheet! Wifeunit, seasoned traveler that she is, has received free rooms and meals as compensation for innkeeper transgressions less than this.

Next morning, at the beautiful Delta State University natatorium, began the triathlon. DSU has a first-class swimming and diving facility.

The weather was a little warmer than I had hoped for, about 70 degrees at the start, but I'm sure it was near 80 for the run leg. The swim went well, 500 yards sharing a lane with the eventual Overall Masters Male Winner (whom I outswam, I might add). They even had lap counters, which helps tremendously.

I hopped on my bike too soon, before the mount/dismount line and got a warning and hopped right off. It's amazing that you can make goofy mistakes so easily after a hard swim. At one race I put my helmet on backwards. The bike course was mostly straight and flat, but really rough in some spots. I averaged about 23 mph going out with the wind, but only about 18 mph coming in. The turnaround was just a spot in the narrow road and I fell making the turn, but didn't get injured. I lost about a minute trying to get my Aerodrink container back in its rack.

The run was flat and easy but hot. I finished a little ahead of my training partner, Paulunit, since he's had a foot injury and can't run well. He beats me swimming and cycling every week. We were 2nd and 3rd in our age group, and Paulunit's wife gave me a new name, Pink Barney.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Fall Birding

Wifeunit and I joined a dozen or so other Jackson area birders for the monthly bird walk at Mayes Lake last Saturday morning. We hadn't been on a walk since spring of 2005, I believe. It was nice to see our friends again and meet new birders. I didn't expect to see any unusual birds at this early time in the fall migration cycle, but we got a glimpse of some warblers and vireos we rarely see at home.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Early Mornings

This page needs some color to brighten it up. This is an August sunrise from Wirtz Road in Rankin County near my home.

My early morning exercise schedule allows me to see some unusual things from time to time. I could say I'm in training for a triathlon in two weeks, which is true, but I will continue my workouts even after the triathlon. Since January, 2002 I've been getting up at 4 AM for some sort of exercise. I let myself sleep until maybe 7 on some Saturdays, but it's now a habit to be up before the sun.

My routine for the last few months has been a 5K run on Monday, Wednesday & Friday, 2300-2800 yards swimming with my Masters club on Tuesday & Thursday, and usually a 36 mile bike ride on Sunday morning at a 17-19 mph pace.

I've entered 5 triathlons and 7 or so 5K races and survived them all. That's actually the best I can say about my efforts, since I'm no speedster. Swimming is my strongest sport, and I owe that to my great friends in the Masters club and constant encouragement from my wife and sister. The cycling is fair, considering I've only been riding a year. My running is the weak link. Lately I've been really working on improving my speed and it's paying off, I think. With a little help from some cooler weather, I cut my 5K time down this week by over 1:30. I hope to run tomorrow or Wednesday under 30:00.

I ran a 5K last year in 26:57. The course was flat and the temperature was 39 degrees at the start, so my poor performance this summer hasn't gotten me too disgruntled. I think my training course is pretty demanding, too.

Next race: Delta State University Triathlon - September 16th

First Post

It's been a nice week and a cooler day than we've seen in a while. A fine day to join the legions of bloggers and learn to record my thoughts and observations, post some photographs and share my favorite entertainment with anyone bored enough to stumble by.