Monday, December 30, 2019

The Proof is in the Miles. Get OUT 2019!

Holy Crap!

I haven't run this little since High School. Even in the "bad" years when I worked at Coldwell Banker and struggled to get runs in, I ran more than in 2019.


1106 miles. In fact, in 2018 I almost had that by the halfway point. A bad year, indeed. And with the knee replacement in June, I don't expect the next year to be much better. 

1106 miles. That's barely averaging 3 miles a day. And to be honest, if that really was 3 miles every single day, I might be okay with that (well, probably not). But it wasn't 3 miles every day. There were a multitude of 0 days.

1106 miles. That's worse mileage than a 1986 Lamborghini Countach (look that one up). 

So what do you do? We'll see. Maybe....

Run on. Anyway. 

And don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people with much bigger problems than a bad knee. I am grateful to be strong, healthy, and happy with the life I lead.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Yesterday I Woke Up on the Couch

Yesterday I woke up on the couch. No, this isn't a story about marital trouble and it is not a commercial about the world's most comfortable couch (although mine is pretty comfortable). This is a story about decisions.

Yesterday, I was supposed to awaken in a bed at Rose Medical Center. I would awaken there because two days ago I was scheduled for my  knee replacement. While my Doctor said he'd throw me out of the surgery center in 4 hours, Medicare says old folk like me have to spend the night. Anyway, it didn't happen. I moved it; postponed it, you might say. Here's why:

After spending most of a Monday about four weeks ago re-reading my “Guide to Knee Replacement” I am convinced that this was not the time for this and is my best plan.

My reasons for postponing are:
1.   1) In order to have the best replacement surgery and recovery, it is advisable to not be overweight. Presently, I am considerably overweight. My history says that I am literally no good at dropping weight in the winter (like many). I do much better in the spring and early summer and in the past have been able to drop up to 12 pounds a month very naturally. That, frankly, would be ideal. In 2001 at the ripe age of 50, I weighed about 175, which I consider my “ideal” weight. With only four weeks until the December scheduled date, there was no way to make any significant progress to anywhere near that. I know what I have to do to get to 175 and have already made some significant changes in my overall dietary regime.
2.   2) I also read more about recovery and the difficulty of the first month and believe that Christmas is not the time to go through that. Not fun for me, not fun for anyone else. And no fun experiencing this already weird Colorado “winter” with crutches or a walker.
3.   3) Recovery is easier and quicker when the patient is able to be active and summer is the best time for that.
4.   4) Neither Dr Larkin (The Replacer) or Dr Andy (my Ortho guy) are relating any sense of urgency with this surgery. They both say that at some point, I’ll need it, but neither of you say I have to have it, like NOW..

If I were not me, I wouldn’t care about any of this at all. If I didn’t feel that the last 53+ years of running were worth adding to, I wouldn’t care about this. I am the guy who hasn’t been on any major medication for like…. Ever. I don’t even like Advil. To have a foreign object stuck in the middle of my leg seems kind of repulsive and everyone who has had it says it takes some serious getting used to. I really don’t want a knee replacement, but if I want to live the life I want to live for the next 20-30 years, I need to have it done. I just don’t think I am physically (or mentally) ready right now. My wife, Linda, says I'm just chicken. Well, that too.

SO, I postpone. In the meantime, a cortisone shot to help reduce inflammation and pain (although there isn't much pain). Jogging about 15-20 miles a week for sanity, and getting ready to begin the assault of my bike, the elliptical and anything else I can add to the mix.

Why the couch? Well, I've been sick as a dog (whatever that means) the last five days and trying to avoid keeping my wonderful wife awake while I hack through the night.

Run on. Merry Christmas, Happy Whatever else you like.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

It's Really Kind of Sad

It's been a long time since I wanted to write anything on this blog site. I've done some running since July 29 (last post), but nothing of any significance whatsoever.

I write today while basking in the comfort of the once lovely Best Western North River, awaiting tomorrow morning's Chicago Marathon. I was supposed to run Chicago last year, but my knee caused me to defer until this one. This knee thing has eliminated two New York Marathons, a San Francisco, that previous Chicago, and untold numbers of local races.

Anyway, for once, I decided to get my moneys worth and at least show up at one of these expensive events. So here I am (of course it helps that I am also working Monday teaching my brand new Listing class at the NAR building). And while the day began incredibly, it has gone more downhill than the Revel course in Colorado (you'll have to look that one up, sorry).

I awoke to the news of Eliud Kipchoge's fabulous sub-two hour marathon run. While showering, I downloaded the race so I could watch it on the plane. One word: AMAZING! It lifted my soul immensely, and caused me to think that maybe, just maybe, this trip to Chicago would be a good thing.

Upon arriving, the Expo was crowded and fantastic. I love the buzz of a big city marathon expo. All those people, feeling fired up, conserving energy, loving the runner atmosphere that few other events possess. Arriving on Saturday, much of the best stuff is missed. Few, if any, elites are doing appearances and many booths have been picked over. Nonetheless, the electricity remained. And the new Nike hot pink shoes are everywhere.

After Ubering most of the day, I decided to take the Nike double decker bus back to
the Nike store and walk to the hotel (just four blocks). Other than the absolutely freezing wind of the Windy City, the ride was pleasant. The Nike store was PACKED.

It was walking around the store and the subsequent walk to the hotel that it hit me. I am a sad imposter. 

I have run three times in the last two weeks. My five mile run from 13 days ago had my knee buckling at least ten times. My hope, from two months ago, to at least run half this thing has been replaced with a fear that I can't even cover the 5.

My knee is shot. My doctors appointment six weeks ago emphasized this point as the only real solution he had was/is knee replacement. 114,000 miles has brought a bunch of arthritis, and zero meniscus. My knee has called it quits. On the follow-up appointment, this
Tuesday, I imagine I will be referred over to the official knee replacer doc. It's sad; I'm sad.

The issue is that the expo reminded me of how cool it is to be ready and focused the day before a marathon. The reality brought with it the sadness that it is just a reminder of how it was. Yeah, there are many stories of runners who beat the odds and ran far and even raced after their surgery. I'm just not sure I believe I have the discipline and/or desire to be one of them. Seems like a lot of work and after over two years of this bad knee stuff, I'm tired.

So, tomorrow I will go. How far? Not sure. I will go until I'm too humiliated to keep it up. It's sad when you've run fast and now you can't. It's sad when you love the marathon and am not sure you'll ever finish another. It's sad when you feel like you no longer belong to that coolest of groups: runners. It's just kind of sad.

Monday, July 29, 2019


Some people Blame it on Rio. Not me. For me, Rome is the culprit. In fact, all of Italy is to blame.

I'd never been to Italy. Heck, I'd never been to Europe or in fact across either of the Oceans. My life, although much traveled, is domestic in nature. But the trip I took this summer with my wife Linda, and her family, sort of woke me up. And now it's time for decisions.

I'm not big on decisions. In fact, here's how bad it is. The four major life decisions I have made went like this:
1. Began dating my ex-wife because as I was getting ready to leave a party, she said, "How come you're not dancing?"
2. Went on my first date with Linda because she asked me to a wedding.
3. Became a teacher because Dr Beer said I would be a good teacher after I delivered an A+ informational speech in college.
4. Became a real estate agent because someone said, "You should go into real estate," and I said OKAY.

Pitiful, huh?

Traveling to Italy, however, stirred up a bunch of stuff. Italy, obviously, made me want to travel more (I gave up acceptance in the Mount Blanc Marathon for this trip AND of course my crappy knee), the in flight movie Free Solo and Alex Honnold made me want to climb and be all over the outdoors, my son made me want to hike, camp, and kayak, Linda is also  tired of me walking like I'm 98 years old, and I just, simply, want to run..... Another decision has/had to be made. What do I do about my knee?

Tuesday, I took step one on the road to answering that question by going to see my trusted Physical Therapist, Pete Emerson. Pete is awesome. Pete is honest. Pete doesn't like medication, doctors, surgery. Pete also cured my piriformis syndrome when NObody else could. So, I went to see Pete. Here is what he said:

The ligaments in my knee are strong. The tendons around my knee are strong. My quadriceps are strong. My issue is simple: after nearly 114,000 miles, my left knee is suffering from severe degeneration. No stretch will cure that, no strength exercise will cure that, doing nothing won't cure that. "I hate to say it," said Pete, "you may be looking at a knee replacement."

Not the news I want to hear, but exactly the news I expected. After my knee surgery in December 2016, yeah the one that didn't work, it has been a steady trail of pain, discomfort, non-support, bone on bone hyperextension, and flat out knee buckling. On the upside, however, Pete said he sees three athletes in his PT business who are presently running pretty well with replaced knees. In a world where surgeons are afraid to suggest that is possible it's good to know it is.

SO, what is the plan? Pete suggests I get my own x-ray and MRI, take it to several orthopedic surgeons and say, "Here is my MRI, here are my x-rays, here is what I want to be able to do in my life. What do you think?" I like that.

So, what DO I want to do in the rest of my life? Well, I want to run without constant angst over whether my knee will give out. I'd like to race again. Maybe not a marathon (but why not?) but for sure 5Ks, 10Ks, Halfs, Trail races. I want to jump, climb, hike, and, oh yeah, be able to go up and down the stairs or get up from the couch without it being such a big deal. I want to lead a fabulous active life. Not too much, right?

Pete suggested losing 25 pounds prior to a surgery. Twenty Five is nice, why not Fifty? Either way less pressure on the knee (real one or fake) can't help but help. So, OUT is soda, meat, bad stuff, and most every sugar known to man. In is pool running, cycling, 3-5 mile easy runs, beginner rock climbing lessons, and vegetables - oh so many vegetables. I'm shooting for early December. That gives me six/seven weeks of recovery time before I hit the teaching road again. 

No doctors with a million years of experience, says Pete. We want a youngish (40s maybe), tech inspired, computer knee mapper surgeon who's done a lot of knees in the last decade. He says the technology of the knee stuff has grown by leaps and bounds. Awesome, that's what I'm talking about!

Now taking applications...... 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 13, Arrivederci Italy!

Our Ride
We were up before the alarm. The anticipation of a long trip home sort of weighed on us as we headed down the scary elevator to meet our "driver."

There had been a little bit of a joke about us opting for the car instead of the taxi. Well, not when we hit the curb. There was our guy in a black suit driving a black frickin' Mercedes Benz. Oh yeah, another solid choice!

The trip to the airport was easy, as was check-in, despite AlItalia not being the best communicators around (but what airline is?). We had every piece of paper we needed, checked those massive bags, and hit the waiting area. My carry-on bag.... yes, the Kevin Costner bag, nicely protecting my Luccan pottery. John and Patty's plane left an hour later, but we sill ran into them prior to our/their departure. And before we knew it, we were onboard.

I made a conscious effort for the NY-Rome and back flights to pay a little extra for stretch seats. It was so well worth it. Nothing much happened across the Atlantic (and that's the way we like it). I played some cool trivia game, was amused by a little baby, read a bit (Roger Bannister's book - Twin Tracks), and watched Free Solo one more time. 

Nice View!
Arriving at JFK, we were shuffled through customs in what seemed like record time, grabbed our bags and then unfortunately had to go OUT of JFK and back in to catch our flight to San Francisco. While it could have been a moderate pain, everything went amazingly well and being TSA Pre for the flight didn't hurt.

We had a few hours so we attempted to eat finding that the selection in our terminal wasn't the best. I can't even remember what we settled on, but it was not, as you can tell, memorable. The six hours across the USA seemed to take forever. I decided to pass the time with two oldies but goodies, at least I thought so. First I watched Gone With The Wind.

As always I was amazed at Margaret Mitchell's ability to write such a fascinating character in Rhett Butler. I didn't cry at the end, but I was reminded that this was my Mom's favorite movie of all time and that she thought, if there had ever been a real sequel, Scarlett would have gotten Rhett back. No way, Mom.
Looks like Denver to me!

The other movie was Breakfast at Tiffany's. My motivation here was that I had never actually watched it and I was anxious to see this epic tale of life in New York City. PLUS, Audrey Hepburn. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. This got an Academy Award???? Who was the competition???? Holy Crap, it might have been the most boring, nonsensical, useless movie of all time. Give me a break. I kept asking myself, why am I watching this? Couldn't I just open the exit door and jump? Lord have mercy!!!!

We arrived safely in San Francisco (except for the scarring left from watching Breakfast at Tiffany's), grabbed our bags without incident, and grabbed a shuttle to the closest dump that didn't charge $350 a night, a Super 8. We checked in, hid out in our room and after falling asleep initially, we woke up about 2 and spent much of the remaining night giggling about things that had happened on the trip and especially how terrible it was to watch Breakfast at Your Know Where's.
The Gang in all their glory! Front: Leslie, Me, Linda, Alex
Back: Blane, Kaci, Kyle, Rachel, Joey, John, Patty, Kevin

The crappy Super 8 had a great shower and our Uber arrived bright and early. We made it to SFO just in time to catch our flight home. As hoped, our luggage made it, our Uber driver delivered us home, and everything was intact. Excellent.

It was my first trip to Italy, first trip to Europe. While I could wax poetic about the entire experience, I will only say this: it won't be my last trip like that and I couldn't have done it without this bunch of cohorts. Thanks to John and Patty, Blane and Leslie, Kyle and Kaycee, Rachel and Joey for your awesome company. Thanks to the many wonderful people who helped us all over the place with a special shoutout to Chiara, without whom I'd have never had Chiara's Car.

And big time THANKS to my honey, Linda for being a wonderful companion. Welcome home.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 12, When in Rome, Time to Go Home

Grabbing shade at Monte train
If it's Monday, it must be time to head to Rome. A bit of a sore knee made a run a lousy idea so I went for a walk instead. We were pretty much packed from the night before and we kind of knew that this would be the close to final packing as we had very limited time in Rome for such things.

Breakfast was good, we walked about town a bit filling in a couple of last minute gift purchases. We were to check out at 11, and a taxi would take us to the train station. Unfortunately we had a bit of a wait until our train left for La Spezia. So we stood, one more time, in the sun waiting for a train dragging around our heavy luggage.  One major lesson learned on this trip for any future trips is this: pack light, wash often.

Special Luggage Spot
We found John and Patty at the La Spezia train station. We would have a long ride from there to Rome (3 1/2 hours) and no one was looking forward to it. As much as the train ride from Florence to La Spezia was a mediocre experience, this one beat it hands down for sheer suckiness. We weren't assigned a track until the last minute and with all of the luggage and last minute bathroom going, we were not positioned for good placement.

The doors opened and every obnoxious train rider rushed through the doorway and snagged every spot in the already minimal luggage area. That, once again, 
Room with a View
left one choice, the overhead space (and there wasn't much left). In the end, we had luggage everywhere. Front, Back, hanging out the window, I think. We still however had one BIG piece without a location. Easy, we thought, we'll just lay it on our table. So that's where it sat for what seemed like an eternity, on our table.

Upon arrival at the Rome station, we were dumped in what I will not so livingly call the catacombs. Far, far, far from the the lovely end of the terminal, we were dumped at the

South end, where basically even the taxis didn't like being. AND, we would need cash for our cab ride and had none. Two stores within a half a mile and no ATM. Then, like a beacon in the harbor, I saw a Radisson hotel. THEY must have an ATM, I thought. BINGO!

My Girl shooting a pic
Heading to different hotels, we took separate taxis. Our driver was one of those, let's call them "creative route" guys. We arrived, just the same although our driver dropped us almost a block from where we were going (of which we were not completely sure). We called our host, and he said he'd meet us in a jiffy (not sure what the European time unit is for the jiffy). He ushered us into this very old building, took us up and even older elevator that barely fit the two of us and our bags, and led us down a hallway to a door that said, "Colosseo Panoramic Rooms." He explained the lay of the land in extremely broken English noting that if we had questions we could call his wife who spoke it better. We asked about shuttles to the airport in the morning and he said a taxi was $48, this shuttle guy he knew did it for $50. We opted for shuttle guy thinking he had to be better than the taxi rides we'd had.

The room was GREAT. Without a doubt, and yours truly scored again as it was spacious, with an AWESOME bathroom, AND a view of the Colosseum. A quick unloading of our stuff and a call to John and Patty to see about dinner. They decided they were an hour, at least, from heading out SO we decided to sightsee the Colosseum before sunset.

Epic Colosseum Shot
The next hour was spent sucking in the majesty of the Roman Colosseum. We were too late for a tour and leaving too early the next morning. So we read placards, took pictures, and enjoyed the crap out of the experience. Soon, the phone rang and we arranged the dinner meeting. We would meet right on the corner near our hotel. Cool. Minutes later, there they were. It turned out that their hotel was pretty much in the same huge building as ours, but on the other side. 

We were pretty much ready to eat, when a lovely young lady in front of a restaurant asked if  we wanted to eat on their rooftop. Sure, why not. Great call on that one. We ended up on the roof of the Ristoro Della Salute with an unobstructed view of the Colosseum. I had a killer Caesar Salad, Linda had, surprise, Bruschetta. Then came the good stuff. For me, a filet with roasted potatoes and tempura asparagus. She had a good looking risotto thing. We ate, recapped, took some pictures, and then departed. Somehow in
See ya Italy!
the reshuffling of flights, we ended up on different ones, so this would probably be arrevaderci. 

We finished packing, set a 5:45 am alarm and spent our last night sleeping in Italy. 

Sogni d'oro. Sweet Dreams.

Until we meet again!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 11, Monterosso!

Morning in Monterosso Al Mare
The day began with a rooster crowing at about 6:30. I guess even the rosters sleep in in Italy. My job was simple: get up, get dressed, and hit the run down the hill. Monterosso is actually two places, Monterosso and Monterosso Al Mare. The first is South of Al Mare and a little smaller. That's where our hotel was situated. While smaller than Al Mare, Monterosso had more restaurants, more shops, and was just plain quainter (is that a word). BUT, Al Mare had the train station.

I love running as a way to get to know an area. It's especially effective in the morning. My journeys took me through the tunnel and into Al Mare, up some hills, even up the Porto Hotel trail and onto a bit of the Cinque Terre trail. The trail spans all five villages and is considered a state park, thus.... a fee. I didn't get too
The Band is ready!
 up the steep, rugged little bugger until I hit the pay station. At the time, no one occupied the hut, but I decided to head back anyway. Good citizen? No tired trail running climber.

We hit breakfast (where I was treated to a special serving of scrambled eggs and Italian bacon, as per my request - cool) and then decided it was time to just bum around. We wanted to meet up with John and Patty and see Vernazza, but also planned to have lunch with Blane and Leslie in Monterosso. They were staying on the other side of town.

As we wandered two cool things happened. First, the streets all had signs about some kind of a parade or something. Sure as shootin' after we'd walked around just a bit, the parade came through. Bands, citizens, guys dressed like veterans and yes, even in Monterosso politicians. We listened to the band, heard some speeches all in Italian (no matter what the language, you can always tell who the important dignitary might be by how long they get to speak), and wandered some more. It
The little boy and the candle
was local fun.

The second cool thing happened as we decided to peek into an old church just a few yards from our hotel. We entered, planning to take the complimentary picture of the old church, and noticed a little boy, maybe 5 years old, sitting in a pew with those cute footie PJs and a backpack. He rose, walked over to the side, lit a candle, paused for a few moments, and then ran down the aisle and out the door. And he was gone. Luckily for me, I was camera ready and was able to get one of the most memorable shots of the trip.

Lunch happened at a place called Ciak. We'd noticed it the night before as it had a large open-to-the-street window where you could watch the cooks. I guess they thought it was good advertising. Blane and Leslie had some seafood concoction that made me nervous while
Lunch with Blane and Leslie
Linda stuck with pasta. I, luckily, selected gnocchi with meat sauce. OMG, it was an absolutely fabulous lunch. Tasty, semi-light, and just plain delicious. We chatted some and

reminisced about the trip as we were pretty sure we wouldn't see them before the flights home. All good fun.

Next we discovered that John had decided to hike the trail from Vernazza to Monterosso, and was approaching the halfway point. While the trail is only slightly over two miles, it takes forever because of the steepness and ruggedness. We decided to head him off at the pass, so to speak. This might have been one of my few mistakes when it came to my health. My knee DID NOT LIKE this trail at all. I think we barely made it up a half a mile before he came blazing by. We
Vernazza with John and Patty
turned and happily descended. He was tired and thirsty. Someday I want to go back and nail that whole thing: all five towns. Not this time though.

We had a quick chat with John, some gelato, and then accompanied him via train back to Vernazza. A simple ten minute ride and we were there. Vernazza seemed older, or maybe not as spruced up. We checked out their hotel room and walked to the beachfront. They were doing the boat tour thing that evening and they told us all about how that was going to go. We passed, mostly because of the especially high cost. Once suitably caught up, we synchronized our schedules for the train ride to Rome and we were off.

A quick shower and we were down at the hotel's lounge area. They had a nice layout. A bar/lounge area as well as a cafe type place where they made breakfast (and some things
Chatting with Jean
customized just by asking). We (well, Linda) had a glass of wine and we chatted with Jean, She told us about Kenya and how often she is able to get back. Just a wonderful, hard working young woman with a sharp mind and a gentle spirit. She was awesome. "You need to come run in Kenya," she said. Yeah, that would be cool.

We arranged for the morning taxi, and headed down to town for dinner. After some exploration, he decided on the return to La Cambusa. Why tempt the fates? Why rock the boat? Why go to all the work finding another place. I'm not sure what I ate (mostly because I didn't take a picture of it). Linda had some pasta with a walnut sauce which according to her was, "divine."

A short walk, maybe some gelato, and off to bed. Tomorrow we begin the journey home. Ciao, Monterosso.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 10, Hello Coastline!

Chiara's Car Fully Loaded
Note:   You will notice that Blogger began acting up halfway through this post (not wrapping text around pictures). After completely wasting 30 minutes trying to cure its actions, I just gave in. Hope it's not too annoying.

It was time to say goodbye to the Villa and head for the coast. I confess to looking forward to the move mostly because the villa, while wonderful, was boring. And I, having never been to Italy, wanted to see stuff. So, we were off to Cinque Terre, five cities along the mountainous coast of Western Italy.

We were up moderately early for our departure. Kevin and Alex were on to another adventure, Blane and Leslie were headed to Monterosso (which was our destination), Kyle, Kaycee, Rachel and Joey to Rome (I think), John and Patty to Vernazza (one of the Cinque). First on the docket, Linda, John, Patty, and I needed to return "Chiara's Car" back to Chiara. First, however, I need a nice little run before attacking the day. An easy 3 miles would suffice.

The rental company sent directions. The GPS identified the train station. John's iphone zoomed in on the target. STILL, none of this accounted for the absolute madness of
Trattoria Desserts
the area within three miles of the train station. Rich, the driving, chilled, saint truly earned his wings in this version of a bad Larry, Moe and Curly episode.

Undaunted by the madness around me, we arrived at our destination on time, with a full tank of gas, and ready for yet another visit to the epic Firenze station. Possessing a little time, we grabbed a light lunch in this cozy place right across from the station called the Trattoria Dall'Oste. Service was good, we created room for our massive amounts of 
luggage and settled in for some eats. The food was good, the pastries and desserts were 
better. They had these little Nutella cookies that Linda became somewhat attached to, and 
I could see why.

The train ride from Rome to Florence was easy. We got on board, we placed our somewhat 
massive luggage in the luggage section, and we were off. Boarding the Florence train, no such
luggage compartment existed. That was an issue because 1) the train was packed 2) the 
overhead bin was smallish 3) our bags were HEAVY. It was a royal pain in the ass and nobody, 
and I mean, nobody was of any assistance whatsoever. Despite the Herculean task before us, 
we managed to stash our luggage up above, and find four seats. By the way, did I mention it 
was like 95 degrees in the anything-but-air-conditionedtrain. 
"Road" to the Porto

The train departed on time, and arrived in La Spezia, except for one minor detail, no place to 
park. What? I thought we were on a schedule here. Am I on Frontier Airlines? SO, we wait 20
minutes to park. Somehow we lug our bags OFF the train only to discover that figuring out what 
to do when you've missed the train is difficult in Italy. Some 20-30 minutes later we're on the 
train to Levanto with stops along the Cinque Terre. We bid a fond farewell to John and Patty in 
Vernazza and arrive in Monterosso ten minutes after.

Each of these five towns is right on the coast. Getting off the train was one word (other than
painful): stunning. The water was gorgeous, the shops and hotels sparkled, everything was
as could be imagined. While searching for the perfect coastal accommodations, I looked mostly
at Vernazza and Monterosso. Stepping off the train, I knew I had made a good decision.
Monterosso was great.

We called the Hotel to see about our ride up the hill. "You're late," they say. "Well, yeah we're late,
not much we could do about that. What do we do?" "You'll have to find another cab." Thanks.

We walked a hair to an area that might have some taxi traffic and BOOM, there one was. 
"Where to?" he asked. Hotel Souvenir," I say. "You're late," he (Danilo) says. "Well, yeah 
we're late, not much we could do about that. What do we do?"  Get in. But first, our driver tells 
us, he has to drop another couple at the Hotel Porto Roco. What we didn't know was the the 
Hotel Porto Roco was up a steep hill on an almost one lane trail with a small rail separating us 
from the cliff and the water. Slightly hair-raising. "That's kind of scary," Linda said. "Nah, I do 
it 18-20 times a day." Yikes.

By the time we check in (and by the way, our room is on the 5th floor and there is no elevator, 
and did I mention our bags are/were heavy?) and unpack a bit, it's time for some dinner. But,
Dinner at La Cambusa
oh yeah, our bags. Our bags are taken to the room by James. James is about 5-7, maybe 
145 pounds and is from Kenya. In fact, all of the hard working staff is from Kenya. James and 
his counterparts Robert and Joseph, clean landscape and lift things. Two Kenyan women,
Jean and another woman I didn't meet handle many other tasks. THEY WERE ALL FANTASTIC.
Oh and James brought our bags up one at a time, lifted over his head.

Deciding where to eat was a matter of walking a bit around town and sneaking peeks at the
plates of other patrons. We decided on a cute little, mostly outdoor place called La Cambusa.
I ordered the Sea Bass, Linda got the pesto pasta. The bread: awesome, roasted potatoes: 
magnifico, and I hear the pasta and the wine were top notch. Maybe, just maybe, the food truck
is turning in the right direction.

A nice walk and some Gelato followed dinner and soon it was time to hit the sack. Lo and behold,
no one was up drinking and chatting. It was just us.

Good night. I mean, buona notte.

Friday, June 14, 2019

A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 9, Lucca and my Mission

Cover me, I'm going in
thru the Lucca Wall
It was Friday (I didn't miss this one). It was our last full day staying at the villa. I was on a mission.

The day we walked the streets and shopped the shops of Lucca, we had seen some wonderful handmade pottery that nicely depicted the Tuscan countryside. This morning, I was going to combine two of my favorite things: running and doing something for Linda. My goal was to get in my morning run within the gates of Lucca and find the pottery shop amidst the hundreds of shops we had seen. I arrived around 8, and Lucca was as I had hoped, completely void of people. A few were up on the city walls walking, running, and biking but that was not me today. I was the urban hunter. With intelligence as my guide, I decided that if I just ran the streets; up one, down the other, I would find the illusive shop. Wow, I couldn't have been more wrong.

After 4 miles of street running and nothing to show for it. I decided to just run and not search. The plan was twofold: I would enjoy the last miles of my run more if I was focused on the run, and by not searching I would find my shop. While I enjoyed the run, the trickery
Lucca in the morning
of the non-search search didn't work out. So upon completion of my six miles, I just walked.

Finally I had another idea. If I could get back to the church where the opera happened, I might be able to retrace some vaguely remember steps to the shop.

At 9:50 am, after 6 miles of running and another 2 walking, there it was! OPEN AT 10:30! What? Are you kidding me? Who opens at 10:30? I've been up since 6!!!! Doesn't this shop owner know what I have been through today? SIGHHHHHHHH. Oh well, let's walk around some more.

Now all was not lost. First and foremost, I had found the shop and without a severe lapse in memory it would allude me no more. Next, I had some time to shop for something for my sons. While I am not a big believer in gifts from Daddy's trip, I do know that a practical, well thought out present might be nice.
Pinarellos? I'm in!
Then, I find the perfect place, an Italian bike store.

Back near the turn of the century, after the death of their Mom, my boys and I did a ton of cycling. Many young men know their football roster, or the baseball lineup. The three of us once sat in a condo in Breckenridge and not only made up a cycling board game (lovingly called Mandelbaum), but identified 175 professional cyclists. Sick? I think not.

Anyway, an American woman who had married an Italian man owned the quaint little place that focused mostly on rentals but also had some cool stuff in general. What caught my eye was the official Giro di Italia hat knowing that each would find this to be a worthy addition to their hat collections. DONE!

Finally, it's 10:23 and it's back to the pottery shop. Lo and behold, she's opened early and my pot and plate await. I tell her of my crusade to not only find her but to acquire the target
Lucca has a carousel? Go figure.
of my shopping desire. She seems unimpressed. "You know, I could have gotten my wife a Giro hat," I wanted to say. Oh well, mission accomplished. So, it's 11 am and time that for me to drive back.

It has not been mentioned in a few posts, but by now, I have getting back to the villa DOWN. I follow the GPS (no matter where I am) till I find Poopy's, and I am good to go. Nailed it. Again! I also decide that this would be a good time to get gas and since there is a station right around the corner from Poopy's, it seems like the perfect place. I must confess that I was a hair nervous about working the whole "put gas in Chiara's car" thing, but it went without incident. Now, not only am I cool, chill Italian driving Rich, but I also know how to do the petroleum thing. 

A Nun and a Cop. Good Pair!
It was decided that the last full day at the Villa would be a relaxing one. Enjoy the pool, wander the grounds, visit the local store, maybe see the extremely cool museum/house just below us. It was also decided that we would head out this evening and sample the local fare, maybe hit a pizza place. Seemed perfect.

The pool, while a little chilly was great. It was a good size, located perfectly to capture the optimal sunshine and well appointed with the finest in lawn furniture. In short, a nice hangout. So, for a while, we pooled. 

At this point, I need to mention two things that have gone without comment during our journey. Thing one was the local store.

On one of the first days at the Villa we grocery shopped at a little market (well, mid-sized) in town. It was nice, convenient, and all of that. While exploring, however, Rachel and Joey found this nifty little (and I mean little) place just down the hill via several trails. As the grocery guy, I spent little time in this awesome spot as it could not compare to the
Rachel and Joey at "the store"
Esselunga di Porcari, which must be Italian for Big Ass Grocery Store. Nonetheless, the final journey to the little store had more meaning as Joey must have walked to it nearly everyday. 

Just up the street from the little store was this "place" that just stood out anytime you looked down the hill from the Villa. We saw this place everyday. We even took a tour of it that cost 12 euros a piece, and for the life of me, I cannot find the name of it. So, I will just say this: it was old, a lot of "important" people had lived in it, and they wouldn't allow you to take pictures inside (rip off). My two fave pics of the outside are along this post.

So, back to the two unmentionables. The second one was my computer. I have/had a 15" Macbook Pro that had served me well for almost four years. On night two at the Villa, I
The house/museum
noticed that instead of going to sleep when unattended, my computer would semi-shut off. While one can be revived from sleep with a tap of any key, I was having to actually turn it on each time. After the fourth episode, my computer said, "sorry, that's it. I'm done." And it died.

Luckily, I had my ipad for some minor computing. The biggest fear was that I had lost a big bunch of info stored after the last backup. Also, luckily, the hard drive was okay. Lesson: computers last about three to four years, plan on it.

Returning from the house/museum, I am completely prepared for what will be one of the big pains of group travel, deciding which pizza place to visit. Well, that never happened as while we were gone an administrative decision was made that instead of going out, we would play potpourri with the contents of the fridge. What???? I thought we had a plan.

The garden of "the place"
Having had enough of the administration, we (Linda and me) decided to revolt. Pizza was the plan, and by God these two rabble rousers were going out for pizza. Rabble, rabble, rabble (or is it rouser, rouser, rouser). After soliciting little support for the revolution, I said to Kyle, "We're going out for pizza anyway. Wanna go?"  Answer: "YOU BET!" So me, Linda, Kyle and Kaycee were off the Pizzeria da Andrea down the hill in Campannori.

Upon entering, you'd have thought these Americans were bringing the plague with them. After crabby greetings, frowns, and somewhat dirty looks, the Americans were given a seat and a girl who spoke a little English to be the sacrificial waitress. But from here on in though, it was all fabulous pizza. We sat, ate, and chatted for an hour. I think I learned more about Kyle in that 60
Bocce by night
minutes than in the 19 preceding years that I have been with his Aunt Linda. And Kaycee, who we just hadn't ever spent a lot of time with, was delightful. 

The drive back was without incident (just turn at Poopy's). "How was the pizza?" was the question. Well, it was fantastic and even if it had been terrible, we'd have said it was fantastic. Administration be damned.

Darkness settled in and the focus turned to the courageous sport of bocce. I have to admit, seeing everyone trying to be awesome at something that looks so simple (and is not) was quite entertaining. Having said that, I will also mention that I NAILED bocce. Well, maybe.


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