Saturday, July 21, 2007

Vive le Tour

Every July, I religiously follow the Tour de France. My Tour de France "obsession" started in the mid-90s when my dad would watch the 30-minute daily recap on ESPN. Over the years, it's evolved to the point that now I spend quite a bit of time (think multiple hours on the weekends!) watching the race, reading the live internet updates while I'm at work, and perusing daily race blogs for the little-known storylines. I've even been known to take mornings off of work to watch important stages unfold live.

I am captivated by the event. I love the beauty of a train of riders flying through the French countryside. I love the sacrifices that riders make to train for this event. Each rider has their own story for how they got to the Tour and what they went through to make that happen. I love the hurt that riders feel after a hard day. I love the endurance that it takes to get on the bike and ride at your best day after day after day. For 3 weeks! I love that just when I think I know is going to win, something happens to change that. In the Lance Armstrong years, I loved how he dominated from start to finish. He didn't let anyone beat him on the mountain climbs or in the time trials. No one compared to his talent and dedication. In this year's race, I love that the race is more wide open and riders that specialize in the mountains or in the time trials can limit their losses in the other disciplines and still come out on top. I love the fight and courage of riders to push through the pain of injury and crashes. This year, Alexandre Vinokourov, the pre-race favorite, crashed early in the Tour and has about 60 stiches in his knees. But he is still riding!!! He struggled in the Alps but today in the time trial, he fought through the pain and beat the rest of the field by a huge margin. I admire the phsyical and mental strength that it takes not to give up. I love the strategy of the tour. Although individuals race the tour, the rider's teams play a huge role in the overall success of the individual. I love that there are races within the race (for the sprinters, the mountain climbers, the young rider and the overall leader).

What an all-around-great sporting event. Vive le Tour!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stepping Back in Time

On Saturday, my parents, grandparents and I went on a little day trip to south, central Kansas. It was awesome! Our first stop was a huge old stone barn. Although I am a farmer's daughter and granddaughter (on both sides of the family), and I used to own farm land, I'm not really that in to barns. But, let me tell you, this barn was neat. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but it's three stories. And horses used to pull wagons up the ramps to deposit their goods inside. And the stone walls are 12 inches thick. Holy cow! That is thick. It was about 95 degrees when we were there, but the thick stone walls really kept it insulated. On the same property, there's a stone chicken coup built into the side of a hill. I think it looks a bit like a chia pet with funny hair growing out the top.

Our next stop was the small town of Cottonwood Falls, KS. Population about 900. The main street is still brick. Check out the picture of the county courthouse in Cottonwood Falls. Isn't it cool? Is it odd to anyone else that such a neat courthouse would be built in such a small town?
We had dinner at the Grand Central Hotel and Restaurant. It was voted best steak dinner in Kansas or the entire midwest (or something). It didn't disappoint! I don't know what they seasoned the meat with but it was soooo tender and tasty. Yum!!

Driving down the roads of the rural Kansas really made me feel like I was in the 1940s. Old cars. Lots of beat up pickup trucks. Laundry drying on the clothes line. It made me wonder what it would be like to live in a small town. It seems like it would be a nice change. Slower pace of life. Less distractions.

I also loved just driving down back roads that I'd never been on before. I adore Kansas (just ask any of my Chicago friends how much I talked about it when I lived there). But, since I've lived back in Kansas, I haven't gone west of Lawrence very often. I want to make more of an effort to do that. To really see the rest of the state. I love the beauty of the rolling hills. And the rolling wheat. And the open spaces. Yes, I need to take more trips to central and western Kansas.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Great View

My cousin Lisa's birthday was Friday. Her mother-in-law works for the Royals and reserved a suite for us at Friday's game. It was awesome!! The suite was directly behind home plate. I've always sat on the 1st base foul line or the 3rd base foul line. Never behind home plate! It definitely is the place to sit to clearly see the pitches and the plays develop. The suite was stalked with dogs, chicken strips, spinach-articoke dip, fresh fruit, chips, peanuts, popcorn, pie for dessert, wine, beer, soda, water. The Royals won the game, scored a lot, and there were fireworks afterwards. Overall, it was a super fun evening! I could get used to this suite thing.