Tuesday, October 26, 2010

100 Miles on the Eastern Shore - Part 2

Part 2 of my 100 mile ride entitled: Wind, Chicken Farms and Vomit

Our merry group continued toward our lunchtime destination after stopping at Modest Town Church (mile 33) where the dreaded Fig Newtons invited me for a test taste... my second since the first grade which I remember as tasking god-awful. I will share that they do not taste any better than when I was 6. Yuck.
We continued and it was now that the wind appeared. I knew it was forecast but I held hope that the wind gods would see us below, see us making good hard effort and save us the agony that they could very well inflict. They did no such saving... wind howled in the leaves above, across the fields and always directly on our faces. Knowing that over 50 miles lay ahead does not a happy biker make. Here's a shot of Joel (and Jocelyn) adjusting his seat once more in preparation for dropping us a little later. This is also when I began to become a bit delirious and thought the warm pavement looked soft and inviting... ahh to lay in the middle of the road and take just a short nap -- wasn't to be however.

Our speed plummeted as we began to grunt out loud seeing our speed fall from 18+ mph to barely over 12. Disheartening but looking over at the others riding behind me... I wasn't in this alone and that made all the difference. Joel took his turn at the front as well as Jocelyn and I tried to make myself as small as possible behind them in order to hide from the wind. But while it might certainly have been easier drafting, I know that their friendship made more of the difference.

After lamenting that perhaps we had missed our lunch stop somehow and thinking "wouldn't that just be completely horrific and I don't know if I can go on" we saw the lunch signs. As we pulled up to the Garden and Sea Inn (mile 54) we found a merry bunch sprawled on the grass eating, smiling, laughing and commiserating on what had already been accomplished that day.

Lunch, by the way, consisted of many things that Bicycling Magazine's editors caution against. There were sandwich fixins, soda, chips and even brownies. All these (again according to the experts) consumed would make demands on our bodies to spend energy on digestion versus towards the legs which of course were responsible for that very important forward motion.

Ha! I laughed at the experts -- actually I didn't but there was no other lunch option so... of course I consumed. Heck, I deserved it.. I had made it half way to 100.

I did however leave the brownies to others, ate the fixins because I saw others with more expensive clothes and bikes eating them so it must be ok, and decided a banana for dessert would keep the magazine editors happy. The Coca-Cola did taste exceptionally good.

Before leaving stretching was called for and abruptly stopped as a pain I had yet to ever experience reared its ugly head as I tried to pull the stiffness from my legs. So much for stretching -- more of that professional advice ignored.

As we rolled out over oyster shells and out toward our next rest stop 17 miles away we decided to think only of immediate goals... that next rest stop. The idea of finishing would be put on temporary hold -- we would think of it after our last rest stop. I thought this prudent and wise. Small steps as we rolled slowly forward.

So it was about 10 miles later that I thought maybe those editors knew what they were advising us amateurs about. I felt ill. Like I'm gonna throw up all over myself ill. Maybe it was that sandwich, that Coke, that banana. Or maybe it was because we were at mile 67. Or perhaps the smell of chicken farms we had inhaled all day (there are A LOT of chicken farms on the Eastern Shore) -- their smell is a very close second, in my opinion, to the smell of pig farms. Nothing like pulling over and scaring your biking buddies by vomiting all over yourself... thank god I did no such thing.

The route had taken us toward Saxis Island and we were surrounded on both sides of the road by marsh grasses and inlets off the Chesapeake Bay. And a crab shack too.
Yes, the wind was still with us and the legs were aching. At mile 72 the road ended at the Saxis Volunteer Firehouse where water and a friendly collection of we're-almost-done riders sat in the sunshine and were fed upon by marsh flies.

Here's Joel and I excited that we just might make it to the finish as we sat in front of the fire station.

Great guy that Joel. Same Joel who said I was nuts for thinking up the idea of doing a century together. Same Joel that I claim has had plastic calf implants because they are so intimidating as I try to keep up with him (I shared this out loud with Jocelyn who I think might have thought me serious for a fraction of a second). Same Joel that I screamed at from behind to slow down because my legs would not cooperate and keep up with his legs pumping out an impressive speed. Good man. Oh, here's the pic.

Brad pulled in shortly after we did. Having pulled off his windbreaker to reveal an Oregon Porter Beer Jersey led to conversation about Bend, Oregon which led to converations about my being in the state for graduate school which led to his sharing that he was a diabetic. I caught a glimpse of him testing his blood sugar as he shared that he needed to rest a while to allow his body to recover after consuming Hammer Gel.

Now here's a guy who knows that his body processes sugars differently than you and I, he knows that he will slowly tire and be unable to keep pace, and he is out here with us facing his challenges head on. And not his first century. Inspiring.

We had 21 miles to our next stop. Buoyed by Brad's story we knew we were now closing in on the end. When we hit 80 miles, we cheered. When we hit 90, the cheer was louder. We were going to make it. Here's a shot of Hills Farm that Will had taken earlier in the day when he was there with Lynn. A beautiful farm with a long tree covered driveway that made us wonder whether we were being led to some horrific-well-planned Halloween slaughter (delirious again obviously). Will's pic:

After some Gatorade we safely left and those last 7 miles back to Onancock were quick. We were pulled like my horse used to be pull me back to the barn whenever we left the paddock.
The wind had apparently decided to leave us alone and we all took turns at the front pulling as hard as we dared. At one point, after some good-natured prodding, Joel took off at a rate of 26 mph while I tried to keep up.
All three of us passed by the Onancock town limits sign with a joyous yell and arrived at the finish where we left eight and a quarter hours earlier (that so sounds painful). It was fantastic seeing Will and Lynn waiting for us with cameras clicking. All of us with wide smiles on our faces and hugs to go all around.
Success made sweeter by the fact that we were surrounded by friends. Here we are rolling in (that's me in the white helmet).
And to end... I have my favorite shot that follows. It doesn't include bikes or jerseys or kissing. In fact it's taken the next day after two good meals and a restful night. Before returning to Richmond we decided to take a quick drive back to Onancock from the hotel so I could see the areas that I had missed because I was out on some foolhardy trip around the Eastern Shore peninsula. Thanks Joel, Will and Lynn for making the weekend not just memorable... but special.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

100 Miles on the Eastern Shore - Part 1

I finished salt-encrusted, exhausted, sweaty, a little cold, and jubilant.

My first century completed. 100 miles... the whole experience remains surreal.

Saturday morning I stood waiting for my buddy Will and his wife Lynn in the hotel's parking lot and noticed that the hotel had an anemometer high on its roof. It spun in slow lazy circles. I liked that it spun slowly. All week I had repeatedly browsed the weather.com website hoping for no rain and no wind. It was 7 am and there would be no rain, I hoped that the wind would fail to make an appearance as well.

We arrived just a few miles away and rushed through the check in process which didn't begin until 7:30 with half an hour to spare.

I would now like to now admit to all... I like to be early. Early should I make a wrong turn on the way, early so I don't leave anything behind, early so I don't feel rushed. I felt rushed and here's me rushing to get on enough clothes to stay warm.

Will had enough time as his start time was an hour later. Doesn't he look relaxed and composed here? This was taken an hour or so later...

Ok... so Will had some time to watch me rifle through my bag for all the various pieces of lycra intended to keep me from being too cold while also being removable for when it warmed up later (and easily placed in a handy little pocket on my back). Here's Joel (he who I convinced to take on this day's foolish attempt) being much more relaxed than I and putting on his gear unhurried.

We were off at 8 am with little time to reflect on what we were about to attempt. Cold with warm rays of sunlight peeking through the leaves overhead.

Here's a shot of us at the start... note my very colorful windbreaker intended for warmth, added benefit - cars will notice that I look like a pumpkin (quite relevant for October don't you think?) and choose to pass by without hitting me.

It was cold yet we were happy to be on our way and knew that the roads were flat. The leaves in the those trees above remained quiet too -- no wind. We agreed that average speed was less important than completing the day's most important goal -- getting to the finish.

Our first rest stop at 23 miles delivered us to a table of half bananas and plenty of water. I remembered the words of Pat, my godfather's wife, who reminded me to not stay too long as the legs may complain as they tightened off the bike.

I chose to get off the bike.

It was in mid banana chew when Joel introduced me to Jocelyn who was also riding her first century. A speech therapist from Fairfax County Schools, we invited her to tag along with us as we all attempted to reach 100 miles.

For those of you who have committed yourselves to this type of lunacy you already know that one of the unwritten rules of bicycling is to welcome those who are riding alone as the unfamiliar road can be a lonely place -- especially when undertaking a personal best distance. Our merry band now numbered three and sometimes five with the addition of Brad and Henry (more on them later).

Friendship from the vantage point of the bicycle seat is quickly made.

[NOTE: I am unable to continue as my bed calls and eyes refuse to remain open. Please return to my blog for Part 2 entitled: the ride continued, I felt like I was going to vomit all over myself, and wind makes an appearance... riveting don't you think?]

Saturday, October 9, 2010

An idea I'm mulling over

So here's an idea.

But first please check out http://www.pablove.org/ and go to the Pablove Across America site.

In short, Jeff Castelaz lost his son Pablo to cancer a year ago and has since created the Pablove Foundation to support pediatric cancer research, support families whose child is battling the disease, and help provide children resources during their stay in hospitals. Here's more about the foundation.

He rides, I try to ride... he's lost his son, I live in fear of losing one of my children and realized this vulnerability the moment my son was born.

Currently Jeff (I use his first name like I know him - I do not) and others are in the midst of bicycing from Seattle to L.A. raising funds for his foundation. Watch his first dedication (they do this daily) and you may be using his first name too as he talks about losing his son and his promise to Pablo.

Idea time.

I'm inspired to do my part. While my children are healthy I (like so many others) have lost relatives to cancer. My close friend Will's wife is a cancer survivor. My wife's boss lost his wife a few years ago. My son has a cancer survivor as a classmate. This year another child in his school was recently diagnosed. So here's what happens late at night being inspired by a man I don't know doing his part to help children I don't know. Remember the part about trying to ride my bike?

Summer 2011.

Organize a ride across Virginia from the mountains that border Kentucky to the ocean waters off of Yorktown. The American Bicycling Association has already done the math (and mapping the route) - 748.5 miles along the TransAmerican Trail.

Is it challenging? Oh yes I think it would be. Should it be challenging? Oh yes I think it should be. But it is of course no where near as challenging as what children with cancer are facing. I'm no professional fundraiser but I sure can get behind helping children who need help.

If a group (I sure hope I'm not doing this alone but that could happen) of us can raise funds to help Jeff and his organization while we pedal across the Commonwealth... perhaps it will also be an opportunity to make others aware that cancer doesn't just impact adults - it also affects children.

A child's love is unlike any other. Hearing them share "I love you" or "Good Morning" just because is heart warming. Knowing that children suffer... is heart breaking.

This is just an idea in its infancy. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Religion on a Bike

Two friends followed me out of the neighborhood recently as raindrops began to fall on our helmets. We had decided that it being Sunday and church service beginning at 9:45 later that morning, an early ride was required.

We knew rain was in the forecast as we started off at 7 am... while Robert mentioned that indeed drops were falling on our heads. It was then that I thought to myself whether fun included being wet and cold and whether hypothermia might be an unfortunate realization... and how soon this ride might end. But then the drops ceased.

A few miles on our regular route we usually pass the local reservoirs. This time the cool air and warmer water resulted in their being covered in mist.

Riding by so many homes quietly perched on the waterfront but without any activity instantly made me feel like I'd somehow been given the privilige of an experience others had chosen to sleep through. As it was Sunday, there were only a few cars that passed us which gave us plenty of room - perhaps they were already in a gracious Sunday morning-going-to-church-early mood, leaving us happier as well.

As we briefly stopped waiting, like all good cyclists should, for a light to change we were passed by a group of Canadian geese flying in formation and headed to fields unseen... just barely passing over the tops of trees.

It was at this moment we all noted how special the morning had become.

A few climbs later with cool air hinting at the coming Fall we sped into the rolling countryside. Cows stood fence-side eyeing us for breakfast and awaiting the warming sun to peek over the horizon. It was then that we looked to our right over a meadow where we witnessed a pink sunrise.

A few miles later and to our left a rainbow appeared over rolling forests. Dark gray skies framed its colors better than had the sky been less menacing. I think it's fair to say we were all enthralled.

What an amazing morning I wish everyone I've shared bicycling stories with could experience.

We finished about 2 hours after we had begun. Our bikes did gather some road grime as it must have rained just a mere miles ahead of where we rode... but regardless of the wet roads, impending rain smell in the air, or dark clouds above... drops never fell on our heads.

An hour later I sat in our local church's pew thinking that I had in fact already been to church... just on a bike saddle instead of in the sanctuary.

I've been thinking back to that morning a lot lately as the stresses of my teaching profession have taken hold I think it just might have been a favorite all time ride. Beautiful views, quiet roads, God's blessings, and good friends.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's been too long.

A month or more later since the last post and some news.

I finally finished my latest goal of 70 miles a few weeks back and realize that I haven't posted the specifics.

Biking from Richmond to Yorktown, Virginia was relatively painless... except for waking up too early (I was anxious), we arrived at the start too early (I was still too anxious) and the day prior my body was not interested in digesting food properly (I might have been anxious).

I was quite surprised at the reality of finishing this ride with relatively little pain as much as I think my back end was... ok, getting ahead of myself.

The first twenty miles began too quickly (I must remember to slow down) and then we stopped in the country area known as Charles City. The flat roads were a great change from the usual. We pedaled beneath trees whose overhanging limbs shaded us from the rising sun. I repeatedly looked down to my cyclocomputer to see my average mph climb to record (my record mind you) levels. I think the adrenaline had taken hold.

After a few bottles of sugar-laden electrolyte beverage at the rest stop which had I passed by without noticing (my buddy and I u-turned a mile later when we realized) we continued toward Williamsburg -- again, not too painful but again, at too fast a pace. I so wanted to slow down but admittingly pride intervened. Surrounded by people who had biked across the nation for the 52 prior days or people with very heavy bikes complete with cages prepared to carry tents and food... I felt like I should not just keep up, but lead a few miles as well. And what happens when one finds oneself at the front of a line of bicyclers barreling down the road? Well, one feels the need to impress fellow bicyclers with a high cadence and desire to break wind (in the good way) for those behind. Happily, I am able to report that while a bit painful, I was able to do my part and arrived in Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary. Ahhh... lunch of which I did not partake. Fifty miles does not invoke a desire to stuff one's face. Instead, more Gatorade and a warm energy bar (from being crammed in the back pocket of my jersey) would have to do.

And so our last twenty or so miles remaining were spent on the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown. This road was of course hilly and very rough. Rough as in pavement in which one sprays off the top layer of adhesive during construction so our tires make a friendly hum as we travel alongside the York River. This surface however does not make a friendly hum on 120 psi tires upon which I ride on a very narrow saddle. My arms rattled and I smiled knowing that beyond the bridge I saw ahead... was the "finish line". I must also interject here that this is when the tears began.

As we closed toward the end, I thought of all of the people that had contributed their hard-earned dollars to support my endeavor to raise money for cancer researchers. On my back in another one of those jersey pockets I carried a handwritten list of all those sponsors and those they contributed in honor of. A list of departed friends and family as well as names of people who had survived their battle with cancer. Thinking of them, the tears fell down upon the road as it sped by beneath me.

And then we arrived. Not too tired and in fact ok. No crashes. No bonking (referring to when one has no energy due to the lack of food consumption, not the bonking for which rabbits are known), no cursing my decision, no screaming for an end to the madness. In fact some energy left in the tank -- encouragement for the 100 mile ride to be completed in October.

Another milestone completed. Next challenge is later this month when I attempt my longest distance of 76 or so. This one I think will include a few more hills. I anticipate that my legs will hurt... but I think it's the kind of hurt that's good... I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pound cake, fawn encounter, still bird & 108 degrees (Bike Post #2)

I left too late this morning as hauled myself on the saddle at 9:30... but I only realized my error later. Shortly after beginning, sweat started to drip off my nose like a spigot. This would not be an easy happy venture into the countryside.

Lesson learned: do not eat a healthy portion of granola (with honey and blueberries) followed by a quick sneak of a slice of pound cake and then go biking -- I felt bloated and heavy as I placed myself on the saddle. Hmmm... pound cake, now I know why it's called that... I felt like I was carrying additional weight up the hills this morning.

(My son thinks it should be called "gain a pound cake".)

Fast forward as my uncomfortable self traveled past the Salisbury Country Club and saw correctly attired ladies batting the tennis ball back and forth. The well manicured lawns and golf course reminded me of a recent conversation I had with my doctor.

I had been trying to schedule a physical. Teachers know that there's never a good day to miss a school day. Not only do lesson plans need to be created but then there's the worry of what happens while we're away. There are good substitutes as well as horrible ones -- those are the ones that fall asleep in class or ignore those plans that took me till 7 pm the night before to create (both have happened to me). Then there is always some type of mess to clean up the next day when I play the role of detective as I sift through the previous day's history attempting to figure out what really happened... and what consequences need to dished out.

I centered on a good day and made that appointment after learning from the receptionist that the good doctor is out every other Friday -- which, after having learned of this, I promptly asked about as he arrived in my exam room. It seemed he had elected to schedule bi-monthly "me time". A decision that he reported to me had paid dividends at home -- less stressed, healthier, happier to be with -- as his wife had told him.

Two children (eight and five years old) have demanded time at our house. Yes I know that all children demand time from their parents. We guessed this before the first one's birth -- but had no idea what type of demands would be asked of us.

Add second child, eliminate more time for oneself.

So all energy is spent toward children -- as it should be, right? But then I noticed that doctor's yearly appointments are scheduled for children first, clothes shopping is always scheduled around what children need, grocery decisions are made according to children's desires -- grocers have learned this and place those sweet sugary cereals at children's line of sight. I'm all for making children the focus of our life, after all my wife and I planned for their appearance... but I think a little bit for me is ok too.

It may seem selfish, you may be looked down upon by some, and you might even feel guilty like I have... but it's imperative that everyone takes some time for themselves. Do what makes you happy and that happiness will return to those you surround yourself with.

Perhaps like this biking thing.

I pedaled on. I looked to my right to a spot where I spooked a fawn two days ago. It bounced through the woods next to me for a few seconds... its white camouflage still doing its job as I failed to see it close to the road where it had settled into the grass when I came upon it. Thinking back, good thing it didn't decide to turn direction in vengence and show me what a fawn vs. bike collision would feel like. Funny image to you, but road rash vision for me plus the embarrassing story I would have to share about how a fawn took me out.

Man it was hot as I watched drips fall beneath me each time I dipped my head.

A few miles later I passed a sparrow lying next to the road. One with its feet straight and pointed up. Apparently it had met the wrong end of a vehicle at the wrong time. Such a precious little life ended by our desire to get to our next destination in a hurry. Odd how it lay quiet next to the road, as if it took its last breath while in mid flight.

And then I thought of cancer and all the people affected. I thought of my grandmother again. Of Jenn's grandfather Joseph. Of Scott's McEver Sr. Of Patty Moore who I knew through my wife and who is survived by three young daughters and a husband. She battled cancer for close to a decade if memory serves correct. As the cancer returned yet again, she thought ahead to write letters to her daughters to be opened at momentus occasions. Each of their daughters has grown into a beautiful young women - grounded and making their own way in the world. I only hope that we raise Annaliese to be as strong.

I was reminded of my son's classmate who was stricken last year with Leukemia at the tender age of 7. I am happy to report that she's recovered and back in school after many nervous months of wondering whether she would live. The initial shock of a life impacted so young, the induced coma, her tears brought on by her loss of hair. Benson delivering (unprompted) his piggy bank to a fundraiser in support of costs associated with her parents constantly being at her bedside. I thought back to how she passed along her cards of goodwill to other child patients in the hospital who didn't have the same amount of support. Inspiring.

The heat today was overwhelming: the weather app on my phone read 98 degrees / feels like 108. But as tiring as today was (no more pound cake in the morning for me... thank you), I was inspired yet again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Overcoming Challenges on and off the Bike

Hello all:

When I was 19 a work colleague must have (because I don't clearly remember now) convinced me that riding on a hard saddle over many miles is fun. It took and I bought a Miyata bicycle and put a few miles on those tires. And then college got to the front of the line and took hold -- so much for bicycling.

Fast forward 15 years (yikes) and yes, I lot more pounds. After many a year being off the bicycle, my wife kindly presented me with a Trek this past March knowing that the bike bug had bit about a year ago. Since about last summer I have traveled the roads of my neighborhood on my mountain bike thinking that if I stayed with it a year... perhaps I would take a more serious look at a road bike. No need... my 40th present (no Corvette for me thank you) now stood in the living room waiting for me to climb on.

So for the past few months I have begun to understand some intricacies of what is required to get on a bike trying to go just a little farther and a little faster than last time -- it's harder than one might think. I have learned to actually take pride in tenths of an average mph increase. I'm so perplexed by professionals that seem to average over 30 mph when I can only painfully push almost 17 on my own (perhaps the 50 lbs I carry over theirs is one reason). When I'm slower, the cyclocomputer constantly berates me with its little arrow that points down when my average speed is down. When I'm faster... that little computer is my friend. When I have an off day, I look at my log that goes back a year -- those completed miles motivate.

I've now completed just over 1000 miles since March.

Hard to believe because more than a few times I wondered not how but if I would make it back home. I do remember that when I was 19 it was never a matter of if... funny how age creeps into one's confidence. My rides have gone beyond my neighborhood with loops just a little longer each time. While distance over 20 miles once seemed insurmountable, the miles now seem to pass a little easier. 32 on my own is now possible, 50 on my own perhaps soon.

And as everyone with a hobby knows, one easily finds lots of online material and magazines to further the appetite for more. I know more about cogs, derailers, headsets and bike seats -- although no where near enough not to rely on a bike mechanic.

What was once largely painful, is now fun and challenging -- but honestly... still painful. I've read that perhaps like rowing, competitive biking is a matter of who is willing to suffer more... uh, suffering hurts. And I'm guessing that there's a lot of suffering to get better. I don't want to race, but I do want to be competitive among those I ride alongside. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing others ride up a hill and "being dropped" to fend for yourself to the end of the ride. I've read that signing up for a ride motivates one to ride out of the garage early in the morning.

So I've signed up. My name has been added to the form, been sent in and I'm committed.

70 miles from Richmond to Yorktown in late August. Then another distance about the same in September (about a month later) and then in October the goal of 100 miles (I'm guessing about 6 hours on the bike -- which sounds really painful).

Why? Maybe I'm racing against not just time but also age (I hear midlife crisis being uttered by some of you). Perhaps like golf, I'm competing against myself. I find it therapeutic to get caught in the rain as I did yesterday, enjoy being on a quiet road as the early morning sun rises ahead, laugh (and grimace) alongside others as we ride toward's the day's goal of speed or time, and wonder to myself what 100 miles will feel like.

So here's to overcoming challenges. The Ride for Jim challenge on the 22nd of August will be the next one. I've got this yellow bracelet around my wrist reminding me that others have been challenged by much more serious challenges - fighting cancer. When the hill ahead looks insurmountable or the distance yet to go seems too long to overcome... I look down at my Livestrong bracelet.

On August 22 I will ride to Yorktown and I will think of my own grandmother that I never met as she died of breast cancer decades before I had a chance to meet her.

I will also be thinking of you: Kristin M, Tracey W, Jeanette C, Scott M, Will B, Cindy W., Jennifer H., and Barbara Clark... and hopefully more supporters as the ride draws nearer. On the Ride for Jim website you've shared who in honor of you've contributed. Names that I've taken with me on my rides too.

Two weeks ago on an early morning ride I stopped at the bottom of hill for a drink of water. It was shortly before 7 am on a weekday morning. I had already ridden almost an hour with another to go. I was standing there on the side of the road, sweat running off the end of my nose thinking of those that had already sent in a contribution... perhaps they're not just spending their dollars on supporting cancer research I thought... but maybe they're also supporting my efforts that morning as I work toward meeting the 70 mile goal.

It was a motivating moment that led to my fastest time yet.

Thanks for your support everyone. I hope to share more as I try to make each of my "sponsors" proud of my achievement. Thanks for your belief in me and more importantly, thank you for spending your well-earned dollars toward supporting cancer research.

Until next time, I'll be thinking of you when my legs scream at me to stop... to which I'll remember your commitment to my efforts. It really does have nothing to do with the bike.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer's Here

Finally the year has ended and another summer is upon us.

What other profession does one work with colleagues day in and day out... and then everyone goes their separate way? "I'll keep in touch" "Have a great summer!" "Call me next week after a few days have passed" are heard in the hallways as teachers frenetically pack their belongings and prepare to have their rooms checked so they might leave school for the last time... for a few months.

I understand. Non-teachers are envious and even a bit hostile as they complain that teachers have their summers off. Thinking back... I was envious too before my first summer off.

My rebuttal? I have none. I love summers spent with my children. If you've got issues with that... well then you've just got issues. I've learned that time is invaluable. We in the US culture haven't caught on to that one as a nation. I remember my German uncle sharing with me when I was a kid that he and his wife had run out of places to vacation. I know that Germans generally START their careers with six weeks of vacation not counting national holidays. I've seen the local bakery (in a small German town) post their vacation schedule on their front door so customers could expect their favorite store closed for two weeks in August -- haven't seen that one here in the states.

Are there consequences? I bet that bosses everywhere have a few thoughts.

For now, if you need me, I'll be the one at the pool watching my kids' swim lessons, at the grocery store, getting the car inspected, and taking kids for the check-ups. I suppose I'm getting back all that time I spent eating lunch in 10 minutes and not being available every workday for 6 1/2 hours. My turn.