Friday, November 30, 2012

The Tramp Trip, or My Apology Tour

A few of you have quietly wondered why I am in Wisconsin, where it is 30 degrees, instead of in Texas, where it is 70 degrees.  I mean, warmer weather is why I agreed to live amongst the Republicans, isn't it?

Also, I did disappear in April, and resurface in November, in Madison.  What's up with that?  Am I covering up a move back home to my parents' basement?

It's all part of what I'm calling The Tramp Trip, or My Apology Tour, depending on how you feel about presidential election debates.  I took a series of disconnected events and connected them into what was to be a 6-week, but has become a 3-month, trip.  Just me, a suitcase, my bike, not really warm-enough clothes, and a rotating cast of supporting characters. 

Climate Change Calls For More Donut Consumption

Back in early October I left Austin on a sunny, 90-degree day,  for Baltimore, MD, and Rev3's Hall-Full Triathlon.  I stayed with a lovely little family in North Laurel, and raced on a course I had only ever trained on during my time in DC.  As always Rev3 took excellent care of all its racers, including the pros, although we had some trouble agreeing on my first name.

My name has a lot of pronunciations, but not Hallie

Race day was easily the coldest and most temperature-related miserable I have been on a bike in years.  If we had been smart, we would have done this:

More of us might have started, and for sure a few more would have finished.  I did, but ended up in the med tent, huddling around a space heater and drinking hot chicken broth.  It was a wish-I-could-forget-that kind of day, except for the fact that the longer I stayed around waiting for my rockstar home-stay dad to finish (2nd overall!), the more I ran into people I knew from DC.  It like a totally unplanned mini-reunion.

Stomp Your Old Yard 

The rest of the reunion was planned.  Following the race I relocated to DC proper and my former 'hood for the week.  I know that having the opportunity to be in DC and dedicate so much time and attention to catching up with my friends there, is absolutely a perk of my "job," and not one I take lightly, so I threw myself into taking full advantage.  I stayed with Emily; wandered north-west DC and visited my old bike shop; and had dinner with The (Original) Support Staffer.  I met a local athlete I coach whom I had never met in person; had lunch with a training partner of old; and surprised my old masters group in McLean, where I was welcomed like I had never left.

Shenanigans with Flanigan

More often than not I ate at Julia's Empanadas and dreamed about how I could get them in Austin.  And when I wasn't at Julia's, I was eating at Luna Grill in Dupont.

A friend described the experience of being back on those streets very aptly - "I liken DC visits to seeing an old boyfriend: you can remember why you liked it, and the place is comfortable and friendly, but it's been totally neutralized because the spark is gone."  I would have said "it feels weirdly small."

Back To The Great White North

From Baltimore I flew to Milwaukee, where my uncle picked me up and drove me to Madison.  The following morning I drove to the northern reaches of Chicago to attend the wedding of a friend who has shared nearly every life transition with me: from high school in Wisconsin to Harvard to the physics department at Harvard to DC after graduation.  I go to Texas and he snags a girl!  

Continuing my trend, weddings are the only place I don't take pictures.  But from the minute I stepped into the hotel lobby to check in, I was catching up with people from high school/college who I had not seen in 8-10 years, and whom I would otherwise not have seen in the near-to-long-term future.  I went to Sunday brunch early so I could get on the road and beat the rain.  Five hours later we were all still there, sitting around tables shoved together in the middle of the room and eating the same brunch food again for a late lunch.

Back in Madison, I was alone at home for a week until my parents flew back from Europe.  Seeing the opening, I threw the kegger I never was able to in high school.  The Porsche managed to stay out of the neighbor's pool.

My parents returned and we slowly settled into co-habitation.  I was preparing for Rev3's next race, a 70.3 in Florida.  However, after a gut-check conversation with the Zebra Poacher, I pulled the plug on my season.  Recalibration of my thyroid throughout the fall (because of stuff that happened in July and August) had kept my training volume and intensity too non-specific for racing a 70.3.  The focus switched to laying the ground-work for 2013.

Flatlanders, Indeed

The first full week in November I grabbed my bike, packed a car, and headed to south-central Illinois.  Relatives on my mother's side had not seen me in 16-18(!) years and I needed to rectify that situation.  Now those cousins are married with walking, talking kids of their own, including an 18-year-old I last saw as a newborn.  Election night was spent with what can only be described as The Brood, eating, talking, and generally hollering at the TV.

That side of the family are farmers or farmer's kids almost to a man, and live in a part of the country that is big squares.  I went out for a run with directions from my uncle: go to the next stop sign, turn left, go to the "T," turn left, when you pass the cemetery wave to your Grandma and Uncle, go to the "T," turn left, go to the "T," turn left.  Just over 7 miles later, I had run the second smallest square possible from their house.  My run route map was so absurdly perfect.

From there, I ventured north to Chicagoland to finally meet the Zebra Poacher.  He's American, but has been on sabbatical in England for two years.  Up until that point I had only ever "met" him on Skype without the video chat.  Chalk one up for "on-line dating"; we got along thick-as-thieves and I can confirm that he is as-advertized.  He, Atomic Jane, and His Majesty put me up for the night on a very psychically-positive couch (it has previously hosted Cat Morrison, Bjorn Andersson, and Jonas Colting) and fed me Lou Malnati's pizza.  It's a wonder I ever left.

His Majesty, King George of Illinois

I ran in whatever 'burb I stayed in (Chicago is a nebulous place for me) and managed five (5)(!) whole feet of elevation change in 6.5 miles.  Flatlanders, indeed.  From there I wandered down to Joilet to spend a day and a half with a family friend I hadn't seen in three years.  All of that and I still made it home for the Badger game on Saturday. 

"Sunny" Doesn't Mean Warm

Back home the weather continued to hold against all odds as I explored all sorts of riding and running routes nearby.  No snow yet!  To me, winter sunlight in Wisconsin looks thin and obviously lacking true warmth, giving the landscape a smoggy filter of sorts.

June 2012

November 2012, same time of day

To me the dairy farm looks to be floating in a blue-gray sea

I thought I would be back in actually-warm Austin by now, so my packing list is squiggy around the edges for late fall Midwest riding.  Basically, I put on every piece of cycling clothing I brought - and some I have fashioned since arriving - and ride as long as I can manage in "the heat of the day."  I've only had to call for a ride once, and that was because the sun set far faster than I anticipated.

Shoe covers fashioned from dad's old Gold Toe socks

Bird's The Word

Now that my parents are back living among long-time friends in Wisconsin we planned our traditional Thanksgiving with gusto.  Grilled turkey plus a day full of food, football, and friends, including one of my best friends from middle/high school who non-nonchalantly walked into the room after telling everyone (even his parents) that he wasn't coming home until Christmas.  The weekend that followed was decidedly not the one I had planned.

And that leads me here, to writing on my parents couch while it is 19 degrees outside, and 63 degrees in Austin.  And yes, I sleep in the basement.

How To Thwart Murphy's Law

Way back in October my plan was to stay in Madison through Thanksgiving, then return to Austin until a Christmas trip back north, but I didn't actually have any of those plane tickets.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to take action through in-action: I didn't buy a ticket anywhere.

Now I am staying in Madison until early January, leaving right before my parents leave town again too.  If there is anyone else I need to apologize to, just let me know! 

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