Sunday, July 25, 2010

ALS Double Day

Former TLF colleague Gary Guinn sent me a notice a few months ago about participation in the ALS Doubleday Ride and Fundraiser, and I took the bait. Like the Livestrong ride last year, this was an inspiring and emotional event. Unlike Livestrong, and pleasantly so, there was a refreshing absence of the macho Lance factor (Challenge those hills! Game on, Cancer!) among the participants and more of an emphasis on community and recreation, while supporting those who needed it.

About 400 riders moved out from Mt. Vernon High School at 10:15 and headed through downtown Mt. Vernon, along and across the Skagit River, and into the delta area and farmland, toward La Conner. Along the way we passed crops (wheat, spuds, carrots, beet seed, fallow tulip and daffodil fields, corn, pumpkins, even Christmas tree farms), farm animals (cows, sheep, goats, horses, chickens, ducks, geese, donkeys), and even some wild life (bald eagles, falcons, herons, hawks and a bunny!).

Rest stops were stocked with regular rider food, well-managed and plentiful, with lots of support and good cheer along the way. The route circled part of the Swinomish Reservation on Fidalgo Island, then headed back up through La Conner toward Padilla Bay. Most of the ride was over flat terrain, so the 54 miles seemed relatively easy, even though I haven't really been training and had no rides of that distance this year. The Bleriot performed well, though the chipseal roads seemed to loosen a few screws and bolts along the way.

Gary was a great teacher, loved by his students, and always one with a good story, frequently about roller coasters, which he visited whenever he traveled to conferences. I was grateful for the opportunity to ride in his honor.

More pictures here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Garmin Out; Cateye Strada In

My time spent messing with the Garmin Edge 305 may be over. The thing ("Is that a mediated bike, Andy?") wouldn't turn on this a.m., a day before the ALS ride in Mt. Vernon.

Do I replace it? Or, do I go backwards in technology, deciding that I didn't really need all the extra functionality, the angst spent wondering if my bike computer needed charging, upgraded software, measuring elevation, acquiring satellites, GPSing, and generally getting more data than I really needed?

Recycled Cycles installed a new Cateye Strada. Back to basics. Keep it simple.

I've got other ways to GPS.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Perugia and the Denouement

What can I say about the band's performances at the Umbria Jazz Festival? Two amazing sets at the Piazza IV Novembre. By the end of the second night's gig, we are reduced to tears of joy for how they have played, what they have accomplished, how much they have grown, and the sad and beautiful poignancy of this all ending.

First day, we are late leaving Hotel Il Grifone, but bus driver extraordinaire Marco Pranger maneuvers the massive tour bus right to the stage. Set-up, sound check, and they are off.

Basie tunes get the people in the square moving. Ballads are sweet. Dusk turns into night. Feetbone gets the people in the square shuffling. The last tune played on the 2nd Night is Brown Knows Rose. After the encore, the musicians sign autographs and pose for pictures.

We accomplish what we set out to do, and swing all the way.
Pictures here.

Denouement in Rome:

Nolan read from notes, thanking all, talking about jazz family, thanking Brown for all, for putting up with poor choices. This young man has grown up, as have we all. Not a dry eye in the house.

Following was Max, impromptu, once again thanking Brown, but also admitting that he couldn't imagine high school without jazz band, recognizing he would have been lost without that experience.

Colin and Anna lauded the musicians, the parents and Brown. Noted that they see a lot of bands, but Roosevelt is the best, easy to travel with.

Brown gave an emotional and inspiring talk, Teddy Roosevelt's "Daring Greatly." Thanked musicians for overcoming difficulty and peaking at Umbria. Remember the values of the band, excellence; support forthwith group., OK to work hard, to demand high standards of self and others, and to swing! He hugged every band member, told them to thank their parents, tell them about the trip, and to realize that their parents wanted them to have an experience they would remember the rest of their lives.

What a ride.

What's next?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Aboard the M/V Dubrovnik.....

Aboard the M/V Dubrovnik.....

Came on board after cleering customs and passport stamping '@ 6:30 p.m., dinner @ 8 and underway @ 9.:00.
Wonderful sunset, lights of Split, small ports and through a narrow passage into the Adriatic. No moon tonight so the stars just popped.

Chatted with Colin M about succession at Mandrake, after a conversation with he& Anna this afternoon about future tours, Dalmatians, Italy, Greece or maybe Russia and the Baltics.......who knows?

Comments overheard.....

...."My give-a-shitter's plum rusted."

....Their bubble is not quite plumb."

Before in Split, toured Diocletian's Palace this afternoon with Curt C. Roman ruins, world heritage site, monument to John Paul 2 in cathedral that had been Diocletian 's mausoleum. Then, pizza at Strega Nona's before returning to wait too long for ship.

Cabin was stuffy making it difficult to sleeping, after tossing and turning, awoken from unpleasant dreams to find the dawn. Spectacular sunset, billions of stars at night, spectacular sunrise, and then, Italy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Euro Transport

One of the highlights of Hvar was renting a bicycle for a couple of hours, and cruising the city. Two hours for 50 kuna, or about $8 seemed like a reasonable fee, and I rode as far as I could on the promenade toward the south, until I came to a public beach, where bathers were enjoying the sun and warm Adriatic.

The rear tire on the Kona Mountain Bike was about half-full, so I swapped it for another steed and rode the promenade in the opposite direction. The local who rented the bike told me that keeping the tire pressure low was a good idea, as the hot sun and the tiles in town caused the tires to explode!

I saw several municipal bike sharing programs while traveling, in Vienna, in Rome and in Slovenia, all well used and seemingly successful. Overall there is much to emulate from the European approach to transportation, with small, fuel-efficient cars, well-functioning public transportation, trams and subways in Vienna and Rome, an excellent bus system in Perugia, and even municipal escalators in Perugia to move citizens up and down the steep hills of the city.

My photos of bikes and other transportation from the trip are here.

Hvar Musings

Espresso atop the Spanish Castle Magic overlooking Hvar, after swim, pizza lunch, and dropping off laundry. Climb in heat of midday, to see great views, contemplate Anna's mystical stories, Euro 2013 with Cynthia, talk with Curt about AA, fathers, family. This place is right and it's not all random. Some things fit too well.

Notes from Croatia

Opatija by the Sea - The Croatian Riviera.

Imperial Hotel is summer resort for some Hapsburg royalty, just as old but charming, ignoring window dry rot and other obvious "used to be great" touches, with the Baroque interior and ubiquitous yellow paint. Hot, humid; threatening thunderclouds cropped up as we drove over the border from Slovenia toward the coast. By the time we got into town, rain spreading across from Rijeka. Long lunch at Hemingway's that sufficed, then rain and thunder started on the way back to the hotel. Questionable whether we would play outside on the terrace. Sean led a group in an a capella Star Spangled Banner in honor of 4th of July.

The band set up under umbrellas on the terrace and used the festival's sound system. During the set up, Brown told the band, "Hey guys, Elvis needs some help." Has this phrase ever been used before in this context to this audience? Probably not.

Downbeat about 5:15 drew crowds from hotel, as well as off the street. Some watched from across the main drag in town and the band delivered a killer performance that left many slackjawed. In particular, New Musical Express rocked the place.

After dinner, Tower of Power (Described as 'God's Soul Band.' I like the idea of a deity with their own personal R&B revue.) at the Liburnia Jazz Festival; loud, lots of fun. Checked internet in an attempt to send email and photos, but no access so off to bed for early wake-up. Photos from Opatija here.

8 am and we are on the road to Split, 6.5 hours down the coast, through the mountains on the Croatian equivalent of the Interstate, well maintained, wide and great road, go Marco go! First, we get a ferry ride and then to Palace Hotel in Hvar.


We moved from Vienna, Austria into Slovenia today, stopping for lunch in Graz, a picturesque city in south Austria, from which Arnold Schwarzenegger hails.

Ljubljana - Another charming burg. Stayed at Hotel M. Comfortable, clean, step. Up from Hotel Atlas in Vienna.

Dinner then 20 minute stroll through their Tivoli Garden to main square where big crowds gathering for Saturday night out on the town., with added excitement of World Cup match between Spain and Paraguay on TVs at most all the bars and cafes. Got gelato and reconnected With Scott B., Curt & Andy McCarthy watched with the other Slovenians, as well as some great people viewing.

Sunday am, 4th of July, hour and a half of tourist stuff, strolling the waterfront. Pictures to be taken, souvenirs and chotchkes to be admired, even some stuff from Nazi era, as well as lots of Soviet memorabilia, disturbing for its nonchalant character. How do they deal with that history? Maybe the same way Americans do with slavery and the genocide of the native population.

Tomorrow, the 4th of July, we go to Opatija, Croatia, perform at the Palace Hotel, then go see Tower of Power at the Liburnia Jazz Fest.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


We drove to Eisenstadt, home of Esterhazy Palace and the Haydn Museum for lunch and a tour. Again, the weather was hot, somewhat humid, and we were sapped.

Much of the 'grandeur' of the palace and the glory of the lesser nobility encouraged my notion of how things would improve when the revolution occurred, but that's another story.

Then on to the spa at Marienkron, in the town of Mocchof, near Gols, Austria. The band played outside and blew them away with an old school set including American Patrol, Pennsylvania 6-5000, and In the Mood. Among the crowd were Sister Immaculata, the nun who manages the facility.

Also attending was a mystery guest and his date. Why were they there? Where were they going? They missed a great, great performance!

Much of Austria derives it's electricity from wind turbines, and other renewable sources. Near Gols, we drove through a large wind farm. Given the lack of a breeze, few of the turbines were rotating, but still, it was very impressive, as was Vienna's transportation infrastructure, with subways, trams, dedicated bike lines, and other civic amenities. Sure, taxes are high, but the results seem well worth it, with universal health care, five weeks' vacation, and a spotless city.

More photos here.

The next day, we leave Vienna, have lunch in Graz, then cross the border into Slovenia, for an evening in Ljubljana.

Vienna and Matzen

While dealing with our jet lag, we took city tour of Vienna on the bus, hosted by one of the Masons' favorite guides, who explained the difficulties of poor circulation on the French Monarchy, as well as the reason that the Hapsburg empresses had so many children (No TV back then!). The highlight of the tour, the only time we left the bus, was a visit to the Schoenbrun Palace, the Hapsburg's answer to Versailles.

In the afternoon, the band took about a 45-minute bus ride into the countryside to the little town of Matzen. After the sound check we took a walk through town and had dinner with some folks from the Mayor's office and the musical director who arranged the visit. We toured the town, about 10 km from the border with Hungary, which was described as the Iron Curtain. The arrival of the Soviets here at the end of the WWII was still fresh in memories, and much of the village suffered damage during that assault.

The weather was quite warm gig last night at Matzen, but the band was hot. They brought down the house, particularly during Feetbone. Scott Brown was among the soloists on that tune, borrowing Andy C's trombone and blapping his way into the hearts of the audience.

Two encores including American Patrol, another crowd pleaser!

Next up is the gig at Marienkron, then on to Slovenia.

More photos of the gig and the day are here.