Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Men That Don't Fit In

There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stand still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood, And they climb the mountain's crest;
And they don't know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.

-- Robert Service; The Spell of the Yukon

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Staying busy with everything that has come along with the new house, I have not had that 'moment' yet. You know... the moment that the feeling sinks in that this is now home. So far, this whole experience has been surreal. I've always worked for people that have houses like this, so I've just felt like an interloper. The guy who is just here temporarily to paint the house, rewire the garage lights, and mow the lawn. Well, I AM that guy, but I'm going to be sticking around for a while; doing all those things and more for a long time to come. I wasn't overwhelmed with that comforting feeling that this is 'home' until two recent events.

Event number one came at the end of a long day; full of running errands, making phone calls, doing laundry, and moving some crap from the old house to the new one. After eating some leftovers for dinner, I was disappointed that I had not been here for sunset. Sitting at the end of the dock with a nice rum drink at sunset is one of my favorite things to do.

Figuring it was better late than never, I decided to head out to the dock anyway. Although it was about 10pm, I made my standard rum and orange juice and headed out to the river. As I sat there, sipping my rum, looking at the stars, and contemplating the phenomenon of nature being concurrently silent and deafening... it hit me: Wow! I live here and get to experience this regularly. Awesome!

Event number two came the following morning and was the simplest of things, but was extremely powerful. My second favorite thing to do at the new place is to have coffee in the morning out on the dock; hopefully watching sunrise. I woke up, got out of bed, and made my pot of coffee as I always do. As I was digging through one of the boxes I had moved the day before, I pulled out my two favorite coffee cups and began washing them.

Then, standing there at the sink... looking out into the front yard and watching the flag and palm fronds sway in the breeze, I became awash in emotion. I am now here with my favorite coffee cups; participating in my usual ritual. Standing there with water dripping off my cup and beginning to run out of my eyes, I realized: Wow! This is definitely 'Home' now.

I only wish Adrianne was here to share the feeling with me. Ahh... she would still be asleep, anyway.

The old house has not yet sold and we are not completely settled into the new place, but none of that matters. I finally feel like this is home and I do not have to pack up and leave when the work is done. Who are we kidding... the work is NEVER going to be done! I thought it would take many more months to no longer feel like a stranger in my own house, but all it took was the simplest of things to drive the point home. A coffee cup.

Pay attention to the little things. They are usually important.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Overqualified... really?

There are jobs available, even in this media and paranoia driven time of unemployment. Those numbers are skewed, depending on who your listening to and what their agenda is. YES, I understand a lot of people are out of work, but there are still jobs available. May not be in your current field or discipline and you may not earn the same salary, but there is work out there.

I've heard the expression, "I'm overqualified for that." a lot lately. A few people I know have used that lame phrase for years. Here's the thing: just because you have a certificate or degree in something does not automatically make you qualified for anything, much less OVER qualified. Experience makes you qualified. LOTS of experience may make you overqualified, but no guarantees. Something for you to ponder: you are most likely average and most definitely not as good as you think you are. Stop exaggerating your accomplishments or abilities and telling the rest of us how great you are or could be. We know better and just don't care. Put that energy into finding work and taking care of your responsibilities.

On the subject of certificates and degrees, I know a massage therapist in Florida that likes to say, "I have my degree in MT." She also thinks she is an exercise physiologist, because she's taken a few CEU classes and been a 'trainer' in a gym. Next, she'll probably say she's a nutritionist, because she's been watching the Food Network.

No... you have a certificate from a technical school and are just a LMT. Nothing wrong with that. Be proud of it, but don't pad your resume above it. My cousin, David, went to Life College for 4 years. HE has a degree or two in massage therapy and exercise physiology. HE is qualified to do that job. HE owns his own practice now, after years of working for others. You are not more qualified than he. You will not command the same respect and salary in the industry until you get some experience. You don't start at the top of the ladder. You've got to pay your dues. Maybe someone like David would give you a job, if you came down from your fantasy echelon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Century ride in the Keys...

... is in the bag and was it ever fun! Things didn't go as originally planed, but the altered plan went rather well. Various illnesses, job commitments, and random excuses whittled the 12-18 or so riders down to 3: Bobby Stoky, Paulie Doane, and myself. Selfishly, I was determined to do this ride... even unsupported. There are enough convenience stores and restaurants along the way that it would not be a problem.

The Florida Keys is a magical place for me. Here and Homer, AK are my Shangri-La spots on this Earth. It would not be such a bad thing for me if I were to become a snowbird between Islamorada, FL and Homer, AK. For now, I guess going between Deland, FL and Homer, AK will have to do. Nothing wrong with Deland or Central Florida in particular, but it ain't the Florida Keys. There are definitely some down sides to living in the Keys. Expensive housing, remoteness, brain-dead tourists, and the fact that virtually every hurricane is attracted to this area almost as much as Haiti and Puerto Rico. As I always say, "The grass is not greener... it's just different grass." Still, people have managed to survive here and I think I could manage, as well. With enough sunsets, blackened grouper sandwiches, and Mojitos... I think almost anything is possible.

Now, back to the ride this past weekend. Like I mentioned, some folks had to bail on us. Adrianne and Kolla were battling illness, Scott had to work, and several other people had every excuse or reason to not show up for the ride. There was quite a bit of planning and time, so they could not use the excuse that they didn't know about it. We have been talking about it, non-stop to whoever would listen, for over six months. Maybe after the same folks hear us talking about how much fun this one was, they will not miss the next one. Yes, there is going to be a next one... most likely several. As early as a month or so from now for the next one. Adrianne is determined to get well and come back with a vengeance to complete her task without waiting until 'next year' for an annual event scenario.

Here are the heathens that participated in the first "Tour De Keys... 104 Miles of Hell to Heaven" We're still working on the slogan and logo, but that is what it is called for now. On the left is Paulie Doane, our 'beginner' cyclist. He has limited cycling experience and was doing this ride on a new bike that he only had about 40 miles on at the time. A big "No-no" among event or race purists... and I also had my doubts about it, but he faired well.

In the middle is my great friend, Bobby Stoky. Of all the things we have seen and done together, this ride started as sort of a joke with my wife, Adrianne. We told her we were going to ride our bikes from Key Largo to Key West to get a rise out of her. As usual, it worked, but I got serious about the thought of the ride. I bought a new bike, told Bobby we were REALLY going to do this, and began a plan to start riding regularly. Of course, it was two years in the making, but I was determined to do it.

On the right in the photo is yours truly. This shot was taken at the first of five planned stops along the route and I can't even begin to tell you how happy I was to finally be riding this event after all the talking and planning.

Our first of two mishaps: a flat in the middle of a three mile long bridge at mile 40 of the ride. I'm flagging traffic with my bright yellow jersey, while these two diligently work away. Eventually, I lent a hand to move the process along... we have time to make up now.

Paulie's bike is new and Bobby's and mine are well worn-in and in tune, so I do not expect and major mechanical difficulties. Flats are about the only thing I figure we have to contend with. That and 'looky-loo' tourists, blue hairs, and people texting while driving trying to take us out. I made it all the way to Marathon, about half way through the ride, before I had a close call. Then, there were three, right in a row on a bike path no less, so I got back out on US1. Much safer out there.

In the Keys, landmarks are referenced by mile marker numbers, which begin at MM 0 in Key West and climb upward as you go North. We began our ride at MM 104, Sundowner's Restaurant, which Bobby happens to be the proprietor. We stopped for lunch at the Seven Mile Grill at mile marker 47.5, where our support crew caught up with us. Our friends, Paulie and Candace White, along with my wife, Adrianne, met us there to provide assistance and be cheerleaders for the rest of the ride.

Almost immediately after lunch is the most mentally daunting challenge of the whole ride... the seven mile bridge. It's no steeper to climb than any of the other bridges. It is just looming out there in the distance after you have already been pedaling for 60 miles. This is where we thought we would lose Paulie... and we almost did. He was worn pretty well after the bridge, but with a little food and water and a whole lot of encouragement... he kept battling onward.

After the small, impromptu break at the end of the big bridge, the pace slowed quite a bit. As my mind continually calculated our speed and time, I knew we needed to maintain pace to arrive before dark. Our current situation has us arriving right at official sunset, which is appropriate, I suppose. No better time to be at the Southernmost Point in the Continental US after riding 104 miles on a bicycle.

I kept the tempo at a 15.5 mph average, but kept pulling away from Bobby and Paulie like I had started hammering away at 24 mph or something. Bobby stayed back with Paulie to motivate him, but finally decided to lift his own pace to the final planned stop, which was 6 miles out from the end of the ride. I had already been there a while when he arrived. Some time later, when Paulie was approaching, we began jumping up and down and shouting encouragements... as we watched him slowly continue riding past the stop. He didn't realize it was US shouting at him and just kept riding. The above pic is before we remounted and went after Paulie. We caught him about a mile down the road and had a good laugh. Spirits are high... we're almost there.

Mishap number 2 at mile 100.4 of the ride, according to the trusty Garmin Edge 305 (which is my birthday gift to Adrianne). It's my first flat in 1426 miles, so I can't complain. Especially given Adrianne's experience, so far, with flats.

We had lost Paulie in traffic, so we needed to stop, anyway. I'm still concerned about making it to the Point on time, so I'm working furiously. A small sliver of metal was found in the tire, which had to be chewed out with my teeth, since we didn't have tweezers or pliers. (Note to self for an addition to the on-bike kit) We had to take an alternative route than originally planned, due to a Christmas parade, but we are finally rolling in towards the final destination of the ride. Our support crew is there, wondering where we are.

 End of the road. We made it! Arrived a few minutes after official sunset. Adrianne, Paul, and Candace rallied the tourists gathered at the Point to cheer us on as we rode up South Street. What an awesome feeling. I'm thrilled for Paulie, who can barely stand or balance after the day he's had. 104.1 miles, the Garmin says, but a brain fart has me forgetting something. MM 0 is a short distance down Whitehead Street. After a few pictures, hugs, and smiles at the Southernmost Point Marker, I somehow convince the guys to get back on the bikes for a 0.3 mile trip to get more photos at MM 0. They agreed, even though I thought they would throw me in the water.

The end of the road and then some! Here we are at MM 0, the end of the road on US1 (or beginning, depending on where you start). A far cry from Ft. Kent, ME; some 2209 miles away. Are we done yet? Apparently not, as we now have to get to the resort. We figured, "What the hell. We've ridden this far... what's a couple more miles?" It's getting dark and we need to get there quickly, as I'm the only one with lights on his bike that work. Adrianne made arrangements and got us quite the hook-up at Parrot Key Resort. This place is a magnificent, three bedroom condo that is only about five months old. The property used to be a Hampton Inn and this is a considerable improvement. After riding about 3 miles in the dark, we were off the bikes and into the showers. Trip stats: 107.9 miles, 14.8mph average, 7hrs:17min on the bike, 11hrs total time, 2 flats, and 0 injuries. Success!

After a fantastic dinner at Mangia Mangia, we retreated to the resort where sleep came easy for everyone. We were all pooped. The next morning, we had breakfast and did a few touristy things in Key West and had dinner at El Siboney Cuban Restaurant before heading back to Key Largo. Overall, this was the most fantastic experience I've had in a while and can't wait to do it again. We are weighing illnesses, schedules, weather, and the upcoming tourist season to figure out when to make the next attempt. As soon as early January and up to February 14 is the window. After Valentine's Day, you take your life into your hands every time you get near brain-dead tourists on the road; coming down to see what made Jimmy Buffett write all those silly songs. As they are escaping their mundane lives wherever they come from, they wreak havoc on those of us that live in Florida full time and have figured it out already. The only thing truly bad about hurricane season is all the tourists it brings in. A storm goes away after a few days.

 Until next time... Sayonara!