Wednesday, August 29, 2007

episode 164: shameless plug.

Go here.

register here.

it'll make you feel good.

like last nights efforts. (UGH!)

Congrats to Chris and Cheryl. See him here.

Has the USA Cycling put a ban on cross racing on the 16th of September in the midatlantic? Seems like 3 races were on that date, a date I was excited for, and all three have moved at this point?

looking forward to el hefe tonight. Tacos anyone?

Grass track saturday. (i)Paul still can't believe I won the omnium last week. One question. What's and omnium? And Was I not supposed to shift?


Sunday, August 26, 2007

episode 163: "I'll wrestle anyone in the room, except for the folks at table 8"

I will admit that I am not that big of a drinker. But in my limited observation, a gin drunk seems to be a smoother, easier, more dare I say it, more sophisticated drunk, than my normal, Miller High Life (the champagne of beers) drunk.

Perhaps it's the manner of consumption? When drinking beer, and I do enjoy cold beer, I seem to race from the top of the bottle, to the bottom. It's as if I open the hatch , and pour it down. I will admit on a long hot day, there are few things I enjoy more than that first taste of a frothy beverage hitting my parched lips.

But the Gin drunk, it teases you, swirls about your head and sneaks up on you. Perhaps it's the slower drinking, the sips, the brisk refreshing tonic dancing in my mouth. I use my straw and I stir the magic elixir, just one more sip and everything will be numb.

Numb enough to dance at a wedding? Not quite, but a marvelous time none the less, as all my family (minus children), got together last night as the kid who grew up next door to us got married. The Bride was beautiful, The groom looked great, and really for me, it gave me a great reason to see my family, and for all of us to be together.

The reality of the situation is that my brothers and I don't stay in touch as much as we should.

Sometimes old wounds are tough to heal. That's not pointing blame, it's stating a fact. But last night, from the moment we "took care of the bartender", through walking like panthers through Philly to find a packie, to Bryan finally getting his win in a Superbowl of facial hair contest, to when Diane decided to clear out table by dumping it on the ground, everything was fine. The night was pretty outstanding.

Although I was very happy for the bride and groom, selfishly I enjoyed the excuse to be with my family, and perhaps act the fool just a little. It was a pretty great night. You know I always complain about having to go to wedding, but I'll admit, I always have a wonderful time.

cross practice this morning, ought to be very special. If (i)paul smells gin, it's me.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

episode 162: NOT DEAD YET. (the last post from my trip)

As I may have mentioned before, I am a pretty simple man. That being said, I had never traveled away from home for 21 days, and certainly I have never been away from Diane for that long. On day 12, I cracked, and in a big way. On the bike I was fine, I knew my job. I cherished my opportunity to ride with my teammates, to help them, to be a good team player, to get some great base miles, enjoy the country and fall in love with the bike again. Off the bike, despite the kindness of the Keeners, I missed my wife, I missed my life. And I cracked. Hard.

In Big Bear Lake, I slipped off by myself and I just started crying. I was pretty hysterical. I was done, I wanted to throw my bike off a mountain and just be done with the freakin’ tour. It was late but I needed to talk to someone. I called Diane. No answer. I called my mom. No answer.

I leave hysterical messages to both. I start to call my boss, thinking if nothing else she’ll put a foot in my ass and get me straight. Then my phone rings. Thank God it was Diane. In her own inspiring way, she told me to get my head out of my ass, and to finish this thing off. She furthered that in 2 more days we would be together and everything would fine. It was just enough to get me through the night.

The next morning I woke up, and I was spent. Not so much physically, as emotionally. As I lay on my back and looked up at the top of my tent, the first thing that popped into my head was “not dead yet.” I sat up, grabbed an ink pen out of my man purse and on my forearm, wrote those words. “not dead yet.”

As I kitted up and started getting ready, my Keener friends could see I was pretty shattered. Erika, who dreamed up this long and strange trip, looked at me and said, “What have I done to you.” Shannon looked at my forearm and said, “that’s a little dark …” and thus my nickname for the trip, Dark Marc was cemented. Brent looked at me and commented to his lovely fiancé, “Marc’s broken…” then went into his best Pantera impression. (it was actually pretty good)

To me, it wasn’t dark at all. It was inspiring. Physically the riding was tough, but not tougher than some of the stupid long and hard races I have done with the Spot boys, Not harder than racing with monkey butt, not suffering like I have in some of the cross races I have done, where my compatriots and I routinely turn ourselves inside out, fighting for freaking 10th place.

To me it was hope. It was that no matter how much I missed my wife, my job, my family, that I wasn’t done, I wouldn’t stop fighting, I wouldn’t quit, I’d keep crawling forward, I’d keep suffering, no matter what. You want to stop me? You better kill me. I’m not dead yet, and I’m still coming.

Riding that day was one of the hardest days of the tour, if not the single hardest. The route was 82 total miles, 5 miles right up a mountain off the bat, over the pass and out of the valley, 20 into the headwind, then 16 miles of steep climbing into the headwind. Over the first pass, I paced my teammates, trying to give some shelter from the headwind.

In the flats, the group was cooking. I got in a bad spot and was off the back with Erika. We decided to not chase but make our own way across the flats. Then the climb started.

I understand that the views from the climb were beautiful. I wouldn’t know. I pegged the heart rate at 175, and only saw the white line as I focused on that, and just drilled it. I was very happy in my pain cave, and in fact had set up a hammock and was enjoying a cold beer in there. I was so much in my own world, that I didn’t notice Harry riding along side me in the sprinter offering me a water bottle, and I was totally startled when Dan, the filmmaker, was all of a sudden next to me asking me about the pain cave. For the record I could only manage a grunt as answer, as drool hung off my bottom lip, and I kept pushing the pedals for everything I was worth. It was a beautiful moment. 1 hour and 12 minutes later, it was over, I made the top, and pulled into the rest stop where Harry handed me a coke and a piece of beef jerky.

I knew this climb would be hard. I looked at my forearm. “not dead yet.” I had jumped on the pedals, and turned them in anger. All my homesickness, all my frustration with mountainbike season, all my anger about having to listen to so much hippie music, all my insecurities and fears about failure, all my stress about what lie in my work email bin, I laid it all right there on that white line.

In hindsight there is no doubt that this day was the hardest of the trip for me. Emotionally bankrupt, I looked deep into myself and I remembered that I can’t quit, I need this, I need to suffer, I have to struggle sometimes to remember that I am alive. I have to fight to get home to my baby, to never give her anything but my best. Sometimes I need you to feel my pain, and sometimes I want to feel yours. I want to keep going.

“not dead yet.” This wasn’t morbid or dark at all. It was about looking at what was hard, biting my lip, slamming my hand in that proverbial car door, and just keep going. Never quit, never give up, do your best. Sometimes I forget that. This day, perhaps the hardest, perhaps the most cathartic for me, I remembered that. I remembered why I am alive. I remembered why I was here, and I did my job. On that mountain I fought hard to get home to my baby. I fought hard to be alive, and to remember I will never quit.

After the climb, we enjoyed a 30 mile decent into wonderful Huntsville, Utah were we camped on a luscious lawn, and the Keeners, Shannon and I would enjoy our final meal together as what had become a great team. It was bitter sweet for sure.

The next day we would arrive in Salt Lake, and slowly slip back into reality. Day 13. Amazing. And for the record I’m still not dead yet.



Sunday, August 19, 2007

episode 161: "2.5 sandwiches"

On the trip there were a number of occasions where we pulled into small towns, or were camped in some town park, where showering was not an option. This statement might make you think that our accommodations weren't great. This was not really the case, in fact, Jerry and the boys had us rollin' pretty damn plushly. Papa Smurf would have been proud.

But I digress. As such on more than one occasion we were off to find the local swimming hole as a means to clean up. Early on we decided we should develop a rating system for each swimming hole that we partook of. I believe it was Eric who came up with the rating system, or as we called it "sandwiches" . The scale was a 1 t0 5 sandwiches. 1 being an algae covered pond that no one in their right mind would enter for fear of being eaten by the swamp thing:

to 5 sandwiches, which would be clear water, deep enough to swim, big enough to hold all 14 of us, and most importantly: a rope swing!

One night we loaded up the sprinter and headed out to find the local swimming hole. Upon our arrival it was clear that this was a -1 sandwich hole. Clearly no one had swum, or touched the smelly stagnate water in this area for quite some time.

So Harry and Jerry got directions and we were off to find a new swimming hole. On the way up a long and twisty dirt road, Harry and Jerry had much friendly banter about Jerry's ability to get and relay directions, and Harry's ability to follow them. It's great to watch to old friends have fun poking at each other. In the back of the sprinter we all laughed our asses off.

Finally, after about an hour on the dirt road, we turned the corner, and alas found our swimming hole, touted by the locals as "amazing". What we saw caused a huge roar of laughter from the group as before us was a huge puddle, not 25 yards across. Was this our holy grain of swimming holes? The immediate reaction in the Sprinter was that this was at most a 2 sandwich swimming hole.

Ah but Karma rewards the patient and kind, as we turned the corner to park and beheld a beautiful, huge natural spring, complete with picnic tables strategically placed to allow for jumping, and easily 100 yards across. It was beautiful, and had a rope swing been set up, would have easily been a 5 sandwich ride, but alas, it was rated 4 sandwiches.

In Haven Hot Springs, we had a wonderful river to jump in and cool you, and then magnificent hot spring to sit in and loosen the tired legs. Again, a wonderful place to swim and frolic, but the lack of a rope swing kept the swimming hole to a 4 sandwich experience. The hot springs were really nice. As Chris said, "this was truly a special place."

Got a new aero haircut yesterday. Decided to try it out with some of the dccoders this morning. Jan, Papa Smurf, and Rotten joined me. We did the Queen B loop, which when we rocked it was less of a b paced ride and more of a "biatch-smack" pace . Super Fun. The boys were riding very well, the aero haircut served me well as I sat in and rode it out. Hope I find my legs in the next 40 days or so.

Perhaps best of all this weekend, you know besides hangin' with my baby. I sat around the the kitchen table with Jeb, L-Web, Brian and Tom, and talked shit. That hasn't happened for a year. Man that ruled. Welcome home L-Web and crew.

I don't want to start any rumors, but Peaches was out with the cross guys, on a bike with 700c wheels and gears doing sprints Saturday. I'm not saying peaches could be a dirty crosser again or anything but you have to look at the facts. I won' t even mention who was playing jam car today too...

here's Amazin' Andrew after smacking me around saturday.


Friday, August 17, 2007

episode 160: mama I'm so happy, I'm gonna join the band...

One of the things that was toughest for me on the trip was the different cultures of the west. First, everyone listened to dirty hippie music out there. If I hear one more blue grass, or jam band, I might scream. I mean I don’t hate it, but can I get something that feels my pain a bit. Please.

But there were other things. I mean the hybrid pedal team was very open, and excepted all of the differences in our group, but I admit, being a blue stater, I really took for granted our way of life, and that I could be a jackass when ever I wanted. In other areas of the country, like Idaho, people aren’t always open or as accepting. It was in Idaho that I realized for the first time that perhaps wearing an all pink Henry’s kit wasn’t the best move. I mean, I live in the only red county in Maryland, I can ride my bike up the street and find three houses that confederate flags hung on their front porches. I’ve had plenty of folks with gun racks in their 1975 Ford truck buzz me, or throw stuff at me, or even just tell me I’m number one, but in Idadho I had an entirely different experience.

After dropping into Stanley, ID and realizing the amazing Saw Tooth Mountains that surrounded me, I was instantly dropped into a moment of Zen. I was humbled by the sheer magnifgance of the mountains, how jagged, and how rugged they were. It was really an amazing feeling. I am doing a poor job of explaining how I felt, how it impacted me, but it was just awe inspiring.

At lunch, my buddy Brent sad down somewhat close to me, he was definitely violating my personal space. I knew he was doing it to be funny, I knew he was trying to make me squirm.

So I decided to play back. Using the old, Wrap your hand around the head, and place your own hand over the mouth, thus kissing your own hand trick, I planted a huge kiss on Brent. Really I was kissing my hand. It totally caught him off guard, everyone at the table laughed, because although it may have appeared that I kissed Brent, I actually kissed my hand, it was funny.

Then the woman sitting at the table across from us freaked me out a bit when she spoke up and said, “You better be careful, people get shot for that kind of behavior around here.” She was very dead pan; to be honest I couldn’t tell if she was joking or dead serious. A survey of the table had 50% of the table thought it was a joke, 50% of the table thought I was dead meat.
To be honest, at this point, I felt pretty sure she was serious. All I could think about was the final 7 miles we had to ride, me being the only guy in a pink jersey and on my bike. My only thought was “dude, I am so dead…” Needless to say, I crushed those last 7 miles and got to the camp site ASAP. Further I didn’t wear pink again until we made it to the liberal thinking, free flowing state that is Utah, when I finally had cell service again, Diane had texted me, "don't wear pink!!!"

Someone later told me Idaho might be the most conservative state in the union. I like to think of it as a state of culture shock for me. YIKES.

I got my first real cross ride in the other night. We went to a place I like to call the “fatcave”, its secret grassy spot that I like to go to spin out the legs a bit. After using my “fatspray” to knock out monkey, uncle mike and rotten, I shared my secret spot with them and we ripped out a few laps. No real efforts, just cruising, getting the feeling of how great a cross bike works at you know cross.

I was trying to see how hard I could push the corners, and one section totally blew it, and ended up in the brush. No matter, I stood on the pedals and cruised back on course. We were all pretty much Cheshire smiles and high fives, maybe not fast, maybe not fit, but damn it felt good to make the cross bike work. So freaking good. It was so much fun.

If you believe in omen’s here’s one for you, and hopefully an omen of a good season to come, as we rode home we past a hard charging Debra Compton running past, you know mother of KC. We all screamed to her, as we all ways do when we see the Compton’s, “Hello, Debra Compton!” She smiled and waved excitedly to us, as she cruised off on her run. My guess is she’s training for the upcoming Philly Marathon. That Debra is a crusher for sure.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

episode 159: I'm not alone because the TV is on yeah...

On paper day three looked like an easy day. 60 miles of long flat road, with only two short climbs along the way. The problem is on paper, usually never translates into reality. In reality we were faced with a mind numbing ride across the high desert of Oregon, in sweltering heat, battling a brutal head wind. Where as the previous days rides were strewn with candy for the mind and soul, beautiful views, technical descents, day three was something else altogether. Long, hot, and hard. I thought the folks in PA were the experts of chip and tar, but to be honest, on this stretch of road, Oregon was the chip and tar champion of the world.

The mile markers lining the road never let you forget how far you had gone, and how many more miles of soul destroying headwind you still faced. By mile 30, I wanted nothing more than to be off the damn bike.

Later I would tell Diane that this stage of the ride was like setting up the rollers in the kitchen, firing up the oven to about 150, and then opening it, and starting to ride.

And for all our effort, for our energy and suffering what was our reward? Paulina, Oregon, population 13. Probably one of the last small towns in the world. The entire town centered around the general store, and we couldn't help but partake of the couch on the front porch ourselves.

As I sat in this small town, I was just cooking in my own sweat. No showers, no real method of cooling off. Oh the hose in the back yard was cold, but short lived. Eventually I would roll out my therma rest and slip under one of our support vehicles to try and find some shade, I had no earthly idea why this town was a stop on our tour. I feel asleep as I was sure my brain would cook, and bleed out my ears.

Then he came to town. The cowboy, spurs jingling, carrying his guitar as if he had just escaped from Rodriguez's El Mariachi . He pulled up on the porch and began to let loose a wonderful litany of ranch songs and country songs, pausing only for a laugh, and perhaps a little story. Truth be told, I think that country music is the devil's music, and the reason for the current decline of western civilization, but I also was entranced by this man, and what he sang, and the passion he poured into it. At first I thought it was trucker 'stache envy, but then I realized it was his passion. During the over two hours he performed, I only recognized one song: "ghost riders in the sky", which I think I have as Mojo Nixon cover of on my MP3 player.

As the show ended, and hearty handshakes were had, I began to walk back to my tent under the dark starry canvas that was our sky. I looked to Jerry, the tour leader and said, " you know as I laid under the truck this afternoon sweating my ass off, I really wondered why the fuck we choose this as a stop. Maybe I'm too suburban, maybe I'm soft, but I was pretty miserable, now, now I understand. That was amazing. " Jerry smiled and replied, "this is the real west, that was something you likely never see again in your life." Jerry was right, and I was incredibly appreciative for the show that the cowboy had given us.

can you smell that? That's cross in the air. Did a little run with E-town and Monkey last night, pulled Big Ugly and B Bike out of the basement, hell even commuted on to work on Big Ugly today. Cross bikes just feel good. They are made to make you feel fast, even if you are like me, and not so fast. Oh, It's coming, yeah it's August, and still a while away, but it's coming for sure. I for one, can't wait.



Sunday, August 12, 2007

episode 158 : the great north west

okay, okay, okay...

Been a while since I updated. No, I haven't quit riding bikes. Oh yeah i am totally counting on wrapping my ass in black lycra this fall.

So where was I for the last 21 days?

Well, I was a proud member of the hybrid.pedal team. You can get the official story of our adventures here. This is clearly the unofficial, some of my version, clearly the potty mouth version of our trip.

I know, I know, How many teams can one guy ride for? No it wasn't like that.

Hybrid.pedal was a team of riders that took a 900 mile bike journey from Portland, Oregon, my favorite city in the world, to the outdoor retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah. We did it over 14 days, roughly 70 miles a day.

Our purpose was to spread awareness about the conservation alliance, ride through some of the areas the conservation alliance has helped to protect, and to create a film of the our journey, to be debuted at the outdoor retailer show.

The riding was wonderful, this really made me fall in love with my bike all over again. I have hundreds of amazing stories to tell, which I'll never be able to get on this blog. The North West was absolutely breath taking from, the Steens, to the Saw tooth mountains, to that freaky fucking kid in Post that could make any animal noise you could imagine. It was a once in a life time trip, and I was honored to be a member of the team, and to be an ambassador for the conservation alliance, even if I had to listen to more fucking dirty hippie music than I have in my life. Can a brother get a little Ramones, how about some TV on the radio? Something with a little pain and suffering please? But I digress.

My teammates we simply awesome. The bulk of the group were Keeners, and they kindly let me crash the party, and treated me with kindness, and put up with my tom foolery, my shenanigans, and the fact that I am pretty much a huge jackass. I don't think I could capture all the stories from the road. Dan Austin, a film maker now living in New York, did a hell of a good job, I however would like to high light my teammates just a little bit.

The ride was supported by the group who run cycle oregon. Here the boys are enjoying a great breakfast of Utah scones. No, not your new york version, much better than that.

Jerry and Harry are 30 year vets of the bike industry. If you ride a trek, and love it Harry is likely responsible for bringing that product to market. Greg in one sick dude, his next race will be a 508 mile road race, no drafting, through death valley. Mike is just a great guy, and super strong rider, he could sit on the front and make tempo all day. Jerry was the glue that held everything together at the end of the day it truly was an amazing and wonderful trip.

This is kyle, he is was the toughest guy on the team. He is not a cyclist. I understand he is an amazing fisherman. Each day kyle, who didn't like riding in a pack would go it alone, at his own pace, slowly clipping off the miles. Totally solo. Figure a 70 mile solo ride everyday. sick kid, super nice too. Kyle was my tent mate, sorry if my night time flattle was too much.

Eric rode a 30 miles stretch of the ride, previously his longest ride was 5 miles. Every town we ended up in, Eric would find and rip the local skate park. The dude is responsible for getting me to skate too in ketchum. That was fun, scary but fun. Eric was really the heart of this team. I greatly appreciated him. He was always a happy face on the road, and a hug at the end of a hard day.

Chris was the voice of the team. At a number of stops local conservation groups would have receptions for us, and would share with us their current struggles, and how the conservation alliance has, continues to help them. Truth is it was inspiring to me most of the time, this guy Kevin in Logan, was amazing. Chris was smooth like butter, more so I was always impressed with how after killing himself on the bike, he could walk in front of the crowd, and give a heartfelt, and compelling speech, from a couple of quick notes. A surfer at heart, Chris was pretty amazing out there.

This is Bree and Brent. They got engaged on their first day of the tour. Have you ever tried to draft off of a couple while they are busy pawing at each other. Jesus, I had to refrain from screaming at them," get a fucking room, stop screwing up my draft!" Just kidding, the story of Brent and Bree is pretty amazing. Brent is a veteran of the Leadville 100, and a hell of a rider. The kid can climb up walls. Best of all he is the nicest, most positive person I ever met. I mean I was having a bad moment, really homesick and down, and Brent was like, "he buddy it's gonna be okay!" I'd be like "fuck you Brent, I'm going to eat your soul." He respond, "don't be down, everything is going to be great, this totally rules!" Yeah, super good guy putting up with me.

Speaking of putting up with me, poor Bree was my contact for the ride, so I was totally sending her long stalker emails to figure out just what I needed to bring to the ride, she had a pension to be very positive, but also can swing the other way, and tell me to jump off a bridge when I need to. I was so grateful for her help, and to get to be apart of their great day. Best wishes to the both of you.

Shannon is a SLC native. Total child of nature and an incredible person. Okay, she is a total dirty hippie, but I won't hold that against her. Never an angry moment, always a smile on her face, she was really a great teammate, and a lot of fun to be around. At one point, I said something about all the crazy "damn dirty hippies" and her eyes had gotten all big and red, you know this after we just drug each other through 30 miles of headwind, until I responded, " don't worry Shan, you are all aces in my book!" We had a lot of laughs together, and it was great to always see her around the show.

Linda was not a cyclist. She is an incredible athlete and person. The first day, I ended up behind her and watched her pedal stroke. Totally l7, as in square man. By day three, she had greatly cleaned that up, and as she inadvertently attacked the group going up a pass, it took everything I had to not get dropped by her. Later that night I was checking out her 30lb bike, you know the one complete with disc breaks, and was amazed at how she was just crushing climbs. I can only imagine if she was on my 15lb bike. Yikes. Linda was the voice of reason for the group, and the calming influence when things were tough. She worked hard to be a better cyclist, and to always work hard to benefit the group. She was totally open to coaching from our leaders, and was simply amazing. I have a set of cross tires on the way to Linda for that bike, I hear Portland has a nice little cross scene, Linda may very well be the next big cross queen of portland.

What kind of sick depraved person would come up with an idea for a silly trip like this? Well, Erika would. This entire thing was her baby, and she did an amazing job bringing it to fruition. Erika is a hell of a cyclist, very smooth, and always knew where to be on the road. She worked hard, and could drop all of us on the descents. I would always appreciate how when I would come off the front of the pack, she'd look at me, and raise her hand, and quietly say, "keep your pimp hand strong brother!" Yeah, that was pretty sweet. Perhaps best of all, one night when Shan pulled out a guitar and was singing, (she is a dirty hippie after all, that's in the dirty hippie code) she was singing this beautiful song. I was crushed, totally shattered, home sick and missing Diane. Erika saw I was getting broken up, she started telling me butt paste jokes and made me laugh. Another time, after attacking a pass, (a pretty dumb I idea now that I look back on it) I pretty much totally cracked in the heat, Erika was kind enough to pace me in the last eight miles. Thanks for coming up with this trip, without which I would have never experienced so many of the things that I did. heartfelt gratitude.

Dan is the filmmaker, and artist that was tasked with documenting our journey, and capturing it on film for the conservation alliance. Dan rode about a third of the trip, all on an old F1000 cannondale mountain bike with slicks. Dan never climbed seated, and always rode without a helmet. I should also note that Dan has ridden this same bike across country previously. Dan is incredibly soulful. He really made me aware of the importance of this journey, as a pilgrimage to learn about myself, as much as it was being an ambassador for the conservation alliance. Dan and I spent many a night huddled away from the group, on our cells phones calling home to make that "moo moo" call to our significant others. Dan has a perspective on life, that I was honored to get to share, and will cherish for the rest of my days.

Once we were finally in salt lake I was met by Diane and Breyla la. Dude it was so good to hold Diane and have her hug me.

I so appreciated seeing familiar faces, and my friends from work, and to jump back into the routine. Still, it was very weird to not be hanging with the team as we all charged back to the real world. We were sure fly by and see each other at our booths.

Dan said it best, if you come from the depths of the ocean too fast, you'll get the bends, if you don't come up at all you'll drown, the show provided us a nice buffer and allowed to walk away all smiles and happy endings. I'll admit I loved when my hybrid.pedal teammates would cruise by during the show to see me, or when I could stop by their booths and say hello too.

As a general rule, I never talk about work on this blog. I have to say I love my job, and am so lucky to work for a place like Dansko. The owners of Dansko, my leaders, felt it was important for Dansko to have a representative on this trip, and that it was important for me to have a life experience like this. I can't even begin to say how grateful I am for all of the support and encouragement I was given for work. Very frankly this trip doesn't happen for me if Dansko isn't behind in financially, soulfully, or anything else. People often ask me why I love my job. Really it's not that I have a burning passion for customer service as much as I have a burning passion for doing the right thing. That's what Dansko is all about. Why they chose to send me on this trip, I'll never know, truth is I don't care, but I am incredibly grateful for their generosity.

I'm sure I'll have more, as this was the last 21 days of my life, but for now, I'm really tired. I am happily going to crawl into bed with my wife, wrestle with my dogs for my spot in the bed, and sleep very soundly.