Monday, July 25, 2011

Real, Live Action Figures

Likely, you are familiar with the term, action figures; they are toys that were originally targeted for boys which often represent characters from cartoons or films that can be, through the imagination of their guardians, put into action.  The term surfaced when the toy maker Hasbro introduced GI Joe, and it has been applied to the long list of successors ever since.  Recently, I had the good fortune of spending some time observing my very busy nephews who personify the term action figures that they so passionately love.

It all begins with the detailed plans of 2 weeks of summer vacation spent together.  The check list for which GI Joe's and which trucks to bring was quite complicated.  However, once this detail was settled, then it was necessary to rally "the troops" and get them into troop transporter, the car.  This was accomplished by using an old wheel barrow to haul them to the car, just part of the unfolding, imaginary game, of course.  Next, it was the long convoy to the battlefield on the shores of this remote place that was in jeopardy of being taken by the enemy.  Once the battalion of "action figures" was sufficiently deployed, it was a matter of establishing their command center and doing some on site "recon".  Naturally, once this entire process was complete, it was time to get trenched in for the much anticipated conflict ahead and a full week of fun with his cousin/brother.

The actual "battles", fortunately, were rare and infrequent, but the preparation took a tremendous amount of cooperation and planning.  That was the true story behind these scenes, 2 boys who were just being boys with a common interest in their action figures.  However, from what I witnessed, these 2 diplomats of fun were able to develop a plan, implement that plan, and visualize its unfolding, while working out their respective differences without letting it hamper their overall goal, having fun.  It is remarkable how having a common objective can set the tone for the behavior that unfolds.  That was the real lesson that unfolded, but for these 2 action figures, it was all about spending time with their best friend/cousin.  Mission accomplished!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Today's special...trail mix

Restaurants many times have specials in addition to their regular menu items, and in my experience,  those offerings can be quite enticing.  Of course, if you have a favorite eatery, then you may not even consider looking at their specials.  However, every so often something just sounds appetizing, and that's what you order.  Hopefully, there are few surprises, and after the meal is complete, you are genuinely glad that you were adventuresome.  Well, when it comes to running, choosing something "off" the usual menu might just be more appealing too.

The Western New Hampshire trail run series held its fourth race in the 2011 season this past weekend in Charlestown, NH, the Wicked Wildcat Wander.  My brother invited me to join him on this little "walk" in the woods, and with the heat and humidity, there was plenty of that.  However, the conditions didn't discourage us or the other entrants, but it wasn't exactly a cake walk.  The terrain really dictates the pace, and in this case, the first part of the course was predominately uphill.  But what goes up must come down, so the second half really was all downhill.

Trail running offers a unique and different experience when compared to road racing, but that can be a welcome contrast to the usual fare.  In the end, my brother and I enjoyed ourselves, not only for the trail running experience, but the race organizers handed out homemade bread and a cutting board to the winners.  Now that isn't something that you see everyday either.  In our case, we had to settle for a few tasty bagels.  However, judging from our excitement following our day in the woods, I think we will just have to ask for seconds.  Trail mix anyone?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Surf's up at the Bagaduce

The expression, "surf's up" refers to the rising tide and the waves that accompany it.  In the surfing world, it would be time to get your board and head out in hope of catching the big one.  In Hawaii that big one would probably be known as the Big Kahuna, and if you were on the north shore of Oahu you'd be riding the pipeline hoping for that perfect wave.  Well, if you are in Maine on a hot summer's day, and you time the tides correctly, you might just have to head on down to the Bagaduce to "catch" the waves.

On a return visit to the Blue Hill peninsula, my good friends and I pondered our options for the sun filled morning in Maine.  After throwing out a few ideas, a trip to the Bagaduce river won out by popular demand.  The Bagaduce River runs through the Blue Hill peninsula but reverses its flow depending on the tides. So, a trip to the Bagaduce meant loading up the trailer with kayaks, tossing in the life jackets and paddles, putting on the sun screen, getting the water skis and tow rope, and timing the tide change just right to experience the reversing flow, surfing phenomenon.  When we arrived at the bridge, we looked at the current thinking that we had missed the peak.  However, shortly after we arrived, we realized that we had timed the changing tides perfectly, so we could witness and experience this natural water park.  This really meant that the surf was up, and it was time to have some fun.

We wasted no time getting wet while negotiating the white water in the kayaks, however, after some moments of sheer terror, we decided it was time to literally take the plunge.  We convened on the bridge for the annual baptismal leap, and with the rushing water below and the Sun shining brightly, what better alternative could you have had?  So, without much further discussion, we began the countdown, 1...2...3...jump, and that we did.  The raging waters carried us down about a quarter mile through white water and and you made your way over to the edge, an eddy current carried you back up stream for another jump...perfect.  All of this was followed by the final event, water skiing from the bridge.  After tying a tow rope to the bridge, several of us attempted to ski the rapids of the Bagaduce.  Unfortunately, not all of us were able to master that skill, but no one could fault us for trying.

A day at the Bagaduce is not even a day at all, but as long as the tide is changing, there is plenty of opportunity for fun.  We kayaked, jumped, swam, and even tried some novel water skiing, all in the course of a few hours, and much like so many other creative activities, we made our own kind of fun.  So, when the surf's up at the Bagaduce, we go down!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Runner's Hi

Undoubtedly, you have heard about the runner's high.  That's when you have exercised enough to allow all those endorphins to be released which are supposed to make you feel good from head to toe.  Although it doesn't come predictably as part of every workout, it comes regularly enough to keep us searching for the next installment.  Quite possibly, that is what all the hullabaloo is about; this mythical sense of well being that doesn't really exist, but one that we are constantly trying to experience.  However, I really think that it goes far beyond the endorphins and the sweat; it goes to the core of the participant and spreads out from there.

I remember the first time I ever ran more than 4 or 5 miles continuously.  I joined my high school's cross country team during my senior year simply so I could start the basketball season in better condition.  On my first day of practice, I laced up my leather Converse All Star sneakers and headed out with the team.  Fortunately, my coach recognized that I hadn't done any off season training, so he directed me to a shorter loop that day, instead of the 8 miler that the rest of the team was taking.  About midway through the proposed run, I had this epiphany...'this running stuff isn't so bad, but I sure wished I had a better pair of running shoes'.  That evening, I purchased my first pair of Nike's, and I have been running, for the most part,  ever since.  There have been a few hiatuses, but they generally were short lived and associated with some life altering event.

Yes, the runner's high is different to different people, but for me, that first time I ever took to the streets for more than just a micro burst, I experienced something that forever changed my life.  I have run marathons, half marathons, sprint distance triathlons, all the way up to a full Ironman.  Along the way, I have presumably stayed healthier, traveled to a number of interesting destinations, but most of all, I have made an infinite number of friends, and quite assuredly, that  camaraderie is the "runner's hi" that has always made me feel it's all worth it.  That's what it's all about Charlie Brown!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

It's Deja vu...all over again!

I am sure that you are familiar with the word deja vu; it comes from the French meaning to see again and in the case of a deja vu feeling one quite literally has the sense that they are reliving a prior experience.  Well,  riding north on the interstate the other day, I had one of those deja vu feelings, and let me explain.

When my daughter was just a "munchkin", about 18 months old or so, she and I were doing some Saturday morning errands which frequently included a trip to Sam's Club to walk around or to McDonald's for a happy meal.  After we had completed our appointed tasks, we were driving along the interstate on our way home.  We were passed by one of those large semis with the company name plastered across all sides of the sides of the trailer which read "Shaws" in bright orange letters.  There was nothing particularly striking about the moment until this little voice from the rear seat of the car shouted out in her little voice, "Shaws".  It was one of those father daughter moments that I will never forget.  To this day, every time I drive on this short stretch of highway, I have a momentary flashback to this precious memory and can almost hear that little voice from the back saying, "Shaws" while looking for the trailer passing me by.

Life offers us a million memorable moments, but Lord knows we can't remember them all.  In fact, we don't, but one just hopes that there are enough of those moments that you recall the underlying themes.  In this case, all I have to do is hop in the car and head north on this section of the interstate, because when I do, I hear that little voice, and that brings a smile to my face again...and again...and again...!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Not so Famous "Moving" Trailers

A movie trailer is a preview for an upcoming feature film scheduled for future release. The term "trailer" was originally used because they were often shown at the end of the featured film. That practice did not last long, however, because patrons tended to leave the theater after the films ended, but the name has stuck. Trailers are now shown beforehand, but if you are the driver, "moving" trailers that fail to follow the main event are far more exciting than you'd want.  Allow me to explain.

Have you ever driven a car with a trailer in tow?  It takes some getting used to, after all, you have to account for the added weight when slowing down or the added length when making a turn or passing another vehicle.  However, provided one takes these things into account, it isn't all that difficult.  An experienced driver is likely to feel just as comfortable under these conditions as any.  However, even a veteran can encounter situations that you'd hope would never happen. 

My dear friend recently had one of these "near misses" while trailing his boat home.  Evidently, even after a considerable number of hours on the road and well after the Sun was down, he hit a pothole which seemed to change the way the car was performing just moments before.  It turns out that the trailer had become detached and was "competing" for the adjacent lane on the freeway.  You can imagine the sparks flying and the grinding steel on the road bed, not a welcome sight at any time, let alone when you are tired and nearing the end of your trip.  However, Lady Luck was on his side as the cargo came to rest with a minimum of damage or to the passengers leading the way.  After assessing the situation, the root cause was traced to a failed hitch pin that had become disengaged; all the other parts were inpected and accounted for.  Thankfully, what the road takes, it often times gives back to someone else and in this case, a replacement bolt for the hitch pin...perfect for this application.

Over the years, I have viewed my share of movie trailers, and I have seen oodles of trailers moving; but never have I seen a "moving" trailer that wasn't directly following the pace car.  In the end, this near catastrophic ordeal did not turn out to be the "boat buster" it was billed to be, and thankfully, that has everyone giving it rave reviews.  Popcorn anyone?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Let Freedom Ring

America is the land of  opportunity, but on the Fourth of July, we too are reminded that many of those opportunities present themselves because our founding fathers were committed to freedom from tyranny.  We now enjoy the rights and privileges of free men and women thanks to their convictions, and the ongoing sacrifice that our armed forces make maintaining that freedom.  For that, we all say thank you.

It is now our personal and collective responsibility to uphold those freedoms.  We live in a great nation founded by a group of courageous individuals, patriots and statesman alike, who were willing to commit and sacrifice dearly for a unified cause.  Let the celebration of Independence Day ring out today and everyday; and as we go forward, we must come together as a nation, for together we will stand stronger and more resolute in our commitment to that freedom.  Happy Fourth of July!