Monday, April 30, 2007

Motorcycle Alphabet City Tour - Ride #2 (CUPS)

The day: Saturday, April 28th

The weather: COULDN'T have been nicer.

The plan: Get out on the motorcycles to ride. We would use the alphabet city tour as an excuse for a destination.

After prepping the bikes and grabbing a light breakfast, we headed out Saturday morning. Our intent was just to ride, but we used our on-going quest to complete the alphabet cities tour as our excuse. We were also adding the Abate Alphabet cities and points of interest to our itinerary. The weather couldn't have been nicer. At 9 AM, it was in the 60s already and the sun couldn't have been shining any brighter. Dressed in layers, anticipating MUCH warmer afternoon temperatures, we headed south on I-65. Our destination was a little south of North Vernon in Commiskey, IN. We arrived at Steam Cliff Farms around noonish and took our time enjoying the plants, wine-tasting and a bit of lunch. (You can read more about this great little spot in another post to follow.)

We lazed around for several hours and finally, with the sun high in the sky and several stops left to make on our journey, tore ourselves away from sunning ourselves.

Usually, before these outtings, I scout out a route that will nab us some great alphabetical finds, but this time I left all the planning to Troy. We took out the big map book of Indiana and found a way that wound us through some two-lane highways with the farm near Seymour as our destination. This route took us first through Paris Crossing, which I swear had only a church, a liquor store and a run-down playground. Then we found ourselves and Uniontown and with a little roadside manuevering, we managed to snap our pictures without being hit by any of the MANY trucks passing by. This is a part of Indiana where I think it's required by law to own a truck. ....and a gun rack.

Just before reaching our destination of the farm, it was old-home week for Troy as we snapped a picture in front of his high school in Seymour and then in front of the grade school he attended in Cortland.

After a brief visit with his parents and youngest sister at the farm, we headed back to the city and got in just before sunset when all of the crazy Saturday night drivers hit the roads.

If that wasn't a day that God had made, I don't know what is. In a word.....GLORIOUS!

Date Night #2 - Holcomb Observatory

For Date Night #2, I was in charge of picking the destination. After racking my brain for ideas, I got tired and decided to turn to the internet for solutions. You can pretty much find anything you want on there and it delivered this time as well. My choice?......The Holcomb Obervatory on the Butler Campus. I remembered going to an observatory or at least the planetarium portion when I was in college at Ball State and thought it sounded like an interesting adventure. They were showing "Saturn: The Ringed Giant". The show started at 8:15 and ticket prices were a mere $3/person for adults. A definite bargain! There was also an opportunity to look through the telescope after the show although the weather didn't look very promising for that.

I printed off the maps from Troy's house to the Butler campus and gave them to him so he could navigate. The name of the Observatory wasn't on the map, so I asked him if he could guess where we were going. He said he had no idea. After looking at the map for a few minutes, he said, "Hey! It's the Butler campus. We're going to the Vonnegut thing, aren't we?" ( ) For those of you who don't know, Kurt Vonnegut was supposed to give a speech at Butler University, but unfortunately, he died on April 11th. His son, Mark, would be giving the speech, which had been written before Kurt's death, at Clowes Hall on the Butler campus that same evening. The tickets had been free, but had been "sold out" in mere minutes a few months ago. Needless to say, I had NO idea this was going on at the campus on Friday night. When Troy asked if that's where we were going, he looked so hopeful and suddenly the Observatory didn't seem nearly as interesting.

After breaking the news to him that we would not be attending the speech, I told him where we WERE going and he directed me where to go since I'm not familiar with the campus.

Freshly informed that the Vonnegut speech was the same evening, I was pretty sure we would NOT have a crowd at the observatory. When we arrived, we paid our $3 and entered a room where there were only 2 other people. We practically had the place to ourselves! The atmosphere was quite collegiate with its old linoleum smell and time-worn benches that creaked under our well-fed 21st century weight.
Our "instructor" for the evening was Sarah, who informed us that she had just finished the last of her undergraduate classes that afternoon and the she would soon be graduating with a degree in physics and, despite having forked out a pretty penny for a Butler education, would be leaving her chosen field in order to obtain an MBA. She also claimed that she was actually a little more calm than usual because she hadn't had her daily caffeine dose. Let's just say, I would HATE to see her all "buzzed" up. Now, I realize that this is essentially an astronomy lecture and perhaps not the most interesting subject matter, but I hadn't planned on seeing such a peppy presentation. Maybe I'm old, but I could have done with a little less slap-stick.

Saturn is actually quite interesting and they have really discovered a lot about it since I last picked up a textbook. They have sent several missions up to photograph it and the photos are just breathtaking. They seem almost cartoonish with their vivid colors. Saturn is a gaseous planet made mostly of hydrogen and helium (like the sun) with a few other gasses thrown in for good measure. It is so dense that if you tried to parachute through it, you would be crushed because the pressure is so great. Its rings are actually made up of dirty snow balls about the size of a person and they are VERY densely packed together. It has about 23 known moons and they are constantly finding more. (When I was in school, they only knew about 2 moons. ...I'm OLD!)

Once the presentation finished up, Sarah pointed out some constellations in the planetarium. But the highlight of the evening was finding out that the stormy skies outside had cleared a bit and that we had a small window of time to view the moon through the gigantic telescope. We headed up the winding staircase and were treated to a view of the moon. It was a fairly bright moon that night, so the young woman operating the telelscope set it up so we would just look at the edge of it. Even then, it was so bright that it would take your eye a minute to recover after looking at it through the telescope.

A few minutes later, the clouds rolled back in and the young ladies closed the telescope up for the evening. Back in 1994, it was computerized so that it moves at the touch of a button. Before that, it took 4 good-sized men to move it into position!

We finished up our evening with a stroll down by the fountain. It was quite a beautiful site and the evening was just perfect. It was crisp and just cool enough for a light jacket or sweater. The Butler campus was calm with another semester drawing to a close. I think all Friday evenings should be exactly like this.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

#63 - Do a charity walk, run or ride.

2007 Susan G Komen Race for The Cure

On Saturday, April 21st, 2007, I, along with my mom, Troy, several friends I used to work with and about 40,000 other people, participated in the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure, which is a charity event that raises money for and awareness about breast cancer. I've participated in this event once before and also in an event called the Breast Cancer 3 Day where participants raise a minimum of $2000 (in 2004) and then walk 20 miles a day for three days in a row. In 2004, I walked from Kenosha, WI to Chicago, IL. (It's a LOOOONG way if you look at it on a map!) That event took quite a bit of intense training, but The Race for the Cure was a horse of a different color.

There are participants from all walks of life who's lives have been touched by breast cancer in one way or another. There are soccer moms to senior citizens, 2 year-olds to 82 year-olds (probably even older). The course is a 5k or 3.1 miles and the length of time it takes to finish it depends on how fast the mob in front of you is moving (not very fast) and if you stop at the port-a-potties (there was a line of them at every mile). We started towards the back 1/4 of the pack and by the time my mom got finished with a restroom stop at mile one, the end of the pack had nearly reached us. At one point, we commented that maybe this was less a "race" for the Cure and more a "mosey" for the cure.

In addition to making a donation of $30 to actually walk, participants can also purchase signs to wear on their backs "In Celebration" of a loved one who is fighting the battle with breast cancer or "In Memory" of a loved one who has lost the fight. It is always very touching and often brings a tear to my eye. One group of people who tugged at my heart were all about my age and wearing signs saying that they walked in memory of their mother and they had clipped a picture of her to each of their signs. One had even written, "I miss you, mom."

Before I participated in the Breast Cancer 3 Day, I actually hadn't been personally touched by someone I know having the disease. I just thought it was a great event to be part of and whether we are a woman who has breasts or a man who simply enjoys them, we are all touched by breast cancer and it's devastating effects. However, in the late summer of 2005, after I had participated in my walk, my brother's girlfriend Tammy was diagnosed. She was only 42 and had always led a healthy life. She never smoked, worked out, ate right, etc. It touched too close to home and I've been trying to participate in fund-raising efforts as much as I can now. (She is doing very well now after several surgeries and intensive treatment. God willing, she is back on the road to full health again.)
The event is sponsored by many local entities including WTHR (a local television station). There is an opening ceremony where survivors (appropriately dressed in special pink shirts) walk through a gateway of pink balloons behind numbers indicating the number of years they have survived cancer. Before and after the event you can stroll around and visit the booths of other sponsors including New Balance shoes (where we got cool pink shoe laces) and Ford (great pink scarves). Did I mention there is A LOT of pink?

Besides getting to participate in the event with my mom and Troy, the highlight of my day had to be this little girl who couldn't have been much older than 3. She was sort of walking along at her own pace. Her shirt was too big and she would often get her feet caught up in one another and kind of amble along like someone who had enjoyed one too many "beverages". She would occasionally push her sunglasses up on her face (also a bit large for her), but she seemed to be moving forward with such determination. This was a girl who was on a mission! I asked her mom if I could take a picture of her and she agreed. I don't even think the little girl noticed. She never missed a step.

If you would like more information about how you can get involved or support one of these charities, just click on one of the links under "Other stuff you might want to check out when you're bored."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Date Night #1 - Tibbs Drive-In Theater

Recently Troy and I have been commenting on how we often feel like we are stuck in a rut doing the same things day after day and week after week. We go to the same jobs every day, do the same work at those jobs, eat the same food, see the same people and experience the same adventures. (Or lack of adventures, really.)

In an effort to break ourselves out of the rut, at least for a few hours every month, I posed the idea of a surprise date night. There are only a few stipulations. 1) We each plan one outing per month, 2) it is kept a secret from the person who has not planned it until the event is actually taking place and 3) it can cost no more than $10 per person.
I was pleasantly surprised when Troy volunteered to plan our first adventure! He is quite good at the details on these sorts of things and has a great imagination, so I new I wouldn't be disappointed. All week long I tried to imagine what he might pick for our inaugural Date Night. I racked my brain and even tried guessing a few things. He was like Fort Knox! Other than telling me it was in the Indianapolis metropolitan area, I had no idea where we were going or what we were going to do.

After a lovely dinner at the Flying J on the southwest side of Indianapolis (Hey! Don't knock it until you try it. These people feed hungry truck drivers for a living! They know a thing or two about food!), we headed north on 37. Troy had printed all of the driving directions from the Flying J to our destination. He had also printed off the weather. (Did I mention he was good at the details?) He told me to look for Raymond Street and said that we would be heading left on it. I thought, LEFT? That takes us
further west and there is nothing on the west side of Indianapolis. (I might be a little biased since I live on the eastside and only actually ever engage in activities on the east side or downtown generally.) I said to him, "What's on the west side? The only thing I can think of is the drive-in theater." He said, "Oh really? Is there a drive-in over here?" I mentioned that my friend Stacey had told me about it last summer, but I didn't remember exactly where it was located. After we turned on Raymond street, he told me that the next thing we were looking for was Tibbs. I said, "It IS the drive-in isn't it?" Once he said the name of the road, I remembered where the drive-in was. He finally caved and said I was right and mentioned that I had actually guessed it right the night before when I had been throwing out different ideas. I was thrilled with his choice for our adventure! What a great choice!

We arrived early since the movie didn't start until 8:30 (previews at that point since it wasn't quite dark yet), so we had plenty of time to find a good parking spot for optimal screen viewing and made our way to the concession stand. The little cartoon characters from Grease kept going through my mind singing, "Let's all go the movies. Let's all go the movies. Let's all go the movies and have ourselves a snack." ;-)

It was full of all the normal movie fare and more. There was hot dogs and nachos, popcorn and soda. It was a junk-food lovers dream! Fortunately we had eaten dinner before the movie! Shew!

Our feature presentation for the evening was "Meet the Robinsons." It's a Disney cartoon aimed at kids but it was cute enough. It had a great moral, lively characters and a few witty lines. The only part when we thought this film was really aimed at kids was when they sort of frenetically introduced all the members of the family (it was quite large). It was sort of like watching nonsensical pictures flash across the screen hundreds at a time. I was certain my elderly brain would explode!

For the price of $9/per person for adults, we could have seen a double feature, but the second movie was "Wild Hogs". We chose not to stay for it because 1) we've seen it and once is MORE than enough even for those of us who are motorcycle lovers and 2) we are OLD and it started at 10 PM. WAAAY past our bed times!

Overall, I give the Drive-in Movie date night 4 1/2 kisses out of 5. It was innovative and definitely required some thinking out of the box. It was cozy and comfortable. We took my car and all we had to do was tune it to a certain radio station. There are no more speakers hanging off of car windows. Welcome to the 21st century! We had snacks, cozy seats, a couple of blankets in case it got a bit chilly. I got to take my shoes off (you wouldn't want to do THAT in a regular theater!) and we even got to bring Sisko, the wonder-pooch along! (I think he was more interested in what was showing on the other screens.)

If you wanna give it a try yourself, you can visit Showtimes, coming attractions and ticket prices are all there. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

500 Workouts - 11% completed

So, yesterday afternoon marked workout #55. It seems such a paltry sum when you consider that my goal is 500! 444 more to go! (I completed another one this morning.) UGH!

You would think that after 56 workouts, I would find some rhyme or reason to how hard or easy a workout is. Unfortunately, I have not found that to be the case. One day I will be excited to get to the gym and when I get there, I will find that running for more than 2 minutes in a row will be a feat I am not able to accomplish. (When I started back in December, I couldn't run for more than 30 seconds without feeling like I was going to die, so 2 minutes represents quite a bit of progress for me.) Another day I will be exhausted from staying up too late or not feeling like I had had enough to eat and be dreading going to the gym.

That was the case yesterday afternoon. Troy and I walked to the gym from his house (about 1.25 miles) and the whole way there I was feeling tired and hungry. I was sure that it was going to be an excruciating workout. But when I got there and hopped on the treadmill to run, I found it to be really easy and actually felt pretty good! I generally do a 5 minute warm-up of walking then intervals of 2 minutes running/3 minutes walking to recover until I hit about 35 minutes total. Yesterday I started running after only 1 minute of warm-up walking since we had already walked to the gym. I ran for 2 minutes, which flew by. Then about 1 1/2 minutes into the 3 minute recovery I started running again because I felt rested enough and wanted to push myself a bit. While I only stayed on the treadmill for 15 minutes, (the gym was closing and I wanted to get the weight-lifting portion of my workout done) I ran 8 minutes of it! That's over half. I'm sure to an experienced runner that doesn't sound like much, but for me that's a big deal. I'm generally pretty happy if I run 1/3 of my total time. 1/2 is HUGE!

So, the point of all of my ranting is that I can't seem to figure out when it's going to be a good running day and when it's going to be a bad running day. The good days seems to be coming more frequently, so perhaps that's because I'm getting used to it and it just doesn't feel so hard anymore, but I'm not counting my chickens yet!

At the end of the month I will be participating in the Race for the Cure. ( It's only a 5k, but I'm using it as a practice run for the Indianapolis Mini Marathon 5k that I am participating in on May 5, 2007. Wish me luck and I hope it's a good running day!

Monday, April 9, 2007

#98. Try one new recipe a month for 6 months.

Recipe #1: One Dish Chicken & Rice Bake from Campbell's Kitchen

Prep Time: 5 min. - Bake Time: 45 min.
1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup OR 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup water *
3/4 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves


MIX soup, water, rice, paprika and black pepper in 2-qt. shallow baking dish. Top with chicken. Season with additional paprika and pepper. Cover.

BAKE at 375°F. 45 min. or until done. Serves 4.

TiP: *For creamier rice, increase water to 1 1/3 cups. Serve with your favorite steamed vegetable blend. For dessert serve pear wedges.

For even more flavorful rice, try substituting an equal amount of chicken broth for the water.

Recently I was trying to come up with some new dishes for Troy and me to try for our dinners/lunches. We try to do grocery shopping and "freezer" cooking about once every three weeks. We make a list of meals that we like that are easy to cook and that freeze well. We compile the list of ingredients, make a grocery run for any items we are missing, then I spend about 3 - 5 hours on a Saturday afternoon cooking and packaging the meals into 1-serving containers that we put into the freezer. Then during the week it's really easy to grab a container out of the freezer and take it to work for lunch. We've found this helps us eat a lot healthier. It's also cheaper and better than the Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine frozen meals.

The only problem I've come up against is that we tend to get into a rut where the same meals are being prepared over and over again. I'm not sure if this is because we really like the meals (Turkey Manhattan) or because the same items are often on sale (chicken for chicken and noodles). Either way, I'm a bit tired of the same meals over and over again. So, I found this great website that sends me daily recipes ( Because it's sent out by Campbell's, most of the recipes contain some sort of soup, but that makes it all the better since soup can be quite economical and good for you, really.

We were heading to Troy's family's farm for Easter and there wasn't a main dish on the menu that I would eat (I don't generally eat red meat or pork), so I decided to bring this Chicken & Rice bake. I knew I was stepping out on a limb bringing a dish I'd never made before to a gathering where others would be my guinea pigs, but it's sadly not the first time I've done it and probably won't be the last. (I shun conventional wisdom about such things.) I also modified the recipe a bit. (Campbells cooks all over the land are shrieking in horror!) I had a can of Garlic Cream of Mushroom that sounded interesting and I used brown rice instead of long grain white rice. (EGAD!)

Then general consensus: Very good! It was quick, easy and cheap. If you added a salad and veggie, this could serve a family of four quite well!

I've got 5 more recipes to try in the next 5 months, so if you have suggestions, please pass them on to me. :-)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Happy Birthday Henry!

Today is my dad's 59th birthday! I'm sad that he and my mom live so far away (only about 120 miles, really) because it makes seeing them very often difficult with all of our schedules. Troy and I are making a concerted effort to get up there more often though and they often stop in and stay for a few days at my house, so that's nice.

Dad doesn't talk much. At least to anyone else, but luckily I can sometimes get him to talk to me. I'm always amazed at some of the things he knows! I may have been college-educated, but he has an uncanny way of knowing things I didn't even know existed. For example, in the state of Indiana, each of the license plates have a county designation on them that is a number. The counties are numbered in alphabetical order and Marion county, the largest in population, has several numbers assigned to it. Given a moment, I think he can probably name just about any county given that numerical designation. Now, I'm a numbers person and I can't do that!

So, in honor of Dad's birthday, a look back a the year 1948:

What Things Cost in 1948:

Car: $1,550
Gasoline: 26 cents/gal
House: $13,500
Bread: 14 cents/loaf
Milk: 86 cents/gal
Postage Stamp: 3 cents
Stock Market: 177
Average Annual Salary: $3,600
Minimum Wage: 40 cents per hour

* Only one in ten Americans has seen a television set up to this point.

My how things have changed! Only one in 10 Americans has a TV set? How many of us now have MULTIPLE sets? Wow! And yet, somehow, there is still nothing on!

So, happy 59th, Dad! Here's to hoping for a least another 40!

Monday, April 2, 2007

All new experiences are NOT good!

Things wind is good for: (per sailing a boat, grinding grain, generating electricity. Occasionally I even enjoy flying a kite.

Thing wind is NOT good for: Trying to ride a motorcycle down the highway with open fields on either side and semis all around!

Troy and I decided to take a ride up to Fort Wayne to see my parents on Sunday afternoon to take my parents out for dinner. My Dad's birthday is on Wednesday, April 4th, but I won't be able to make it up there for the actual day.

It seemed like a great plan at the time. We checked the weather and saw that it was going to be in the upper 60s, low 70s with a bit of wind in the afternoon and a chance of rain heading into the evening. I've never been fond of the combnation of wind and riding my motorcycle on the highway. When I first started riding, I used to swear that gale force winds whipped up as soon as I hopped on the interstate. I now realize that's not actually the case, but you would have been hard-pressed to convince me of that three years ago!

As far as the rain goes, I used to say that I had made a deal with God and that we had agreed (ha!) that if it was supposed to rain, I wouldn't ride and that if I was supposed to ride, He wouldn't make it rain. Well, all bets were off last summer when we were riding through New York State in a rain that was so hard that the area received about 5 inches in just 3 hours! Despite wearing enough clothing and rain gear to resemble the little brother from "A Christmas Story" ("I can't put my arms down!"), I was soaked in places I wasn't even aware could get wet.

All that to say, the threat of a little rain doesn't really put me off of riding.

On the other hand, after yesterday's ride in 25 mph winds, I will definitely reconsider before heading out in a little "weather"! Today I am quite sore from trying to man-handle my bike against the wind so that it would stay on the road and I'm certain I have taken at least a year off of my life due to stress from the fear of being run over after slipping under the tires of one of the many semis that were around me.

There were several times that I just wanted to pull over, lay down in the fetal position and cry like a baby. Fortunately, I didn't act on this desire. I sense that might have made the situation A BIT worse! Instead, I did as my friend Tammy suggested and breathed. It actually occasionally worked!

When we got off of the bikes at the end of our journey, Troy said that I had handled it well when I told him I hadn't enjoyed that ride AT ALL. He said, "While that may be true, you've learned new things about the bike and the way it handles."

I think maybe sometimes ignorance is bliss.


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