Friday, July 31, 2009

Some Random Thoughts.....

I’ve been in the US for 2 days now and my mind is flooded with thoughts. To be more specific, I’m in the Heartland, Midwest, Center of the state of Corn, Peoria Illinois. A friend of mine said “I haven’t spent much time in that part of the country. I’ve been to Chicago three or four times”. Ha, Ha, Ha. Chicago is as close to Peoria as San Diego is to Fairbanks. Chicago is a big beautiful city with everything big cities have to offer. Peoria is the Heartland of America. Home to CAT and surrounded by the most productive pesticide covered corn fields in the world. With that as an introduction here are my random thoughts:
1. Radio hasn’t changed since my days here in High School. In fact as I drive around listening to the Classic Rock station I find myself right back in School driving around. I guess that’s Classic Rock today. I wonder what Classic Rock will be when Marco is 40. Pink Houses by John Cougar?
2. My post earlier in the week about Excess comes alive – It’s really weird actually. There are sidewalks here but nobody is on them. In fact you drive for 20 – 25 minutes and never see a human outside. Sure, they are in the cars that are all around but they are not out there using those legs they own.
3. There is a trail just like the trails in Germany. The Rock Island Trial – It’s beautiful. Too bad I had to drive 15 minutes to the start. Not quite like stepping out the door in anywhere Germany and finding a trail within 2 minutes.
4. I’m glad I don’t live and train here on my bike. If the cars or big farm trucks don’t kill you I’m sure the Volkswagen Beatle sized pot holes will.
5. Speaking of Pot Holes, the Stimulus Money is going to good use here. There is road construction (repair) everywhere. Looks to be about 10 years late but at least it’s getting done.
6. SUUD – Can’t type it the German way. South. Big bold letters on the side of a new building. Closer inspection of course it’s the local German Auto dealer. Those poor cars never saw roads in such bad shape.
7. Loneliness – I find when I’ve been away from people for a day or so, I tend to get all the talking I would have done in those days in the first hour I’m in contact with folks. Interesting that’s the case with my mother. I sit in that rocking chair and she talks, and talks, and talks. I feel bad, her cat died recently. She can’t even talk to the cat anymore.
8. Being Nice – I’m going after the good Karma train hard right now. I’m being extra nice to everyone I come in contact with. I think maybe good things will come back to me. My gosh it’s amazing when you are nice to someone. Their response is wow and thanks without even speaking a word.
9. Delcolax Stool Softener – I kid you not. It’s a true product and it’s being advertised on TV mid day here in the Heartland. I have a better idea. Get out of your car, walk for 30 minutes a day, eat real food and stop mixing all that medication. And please shop late at night. I don’t want to be behind you at the store when you are buying a box of this stuff.
Just some random things. It’s only been 2 days!

It’s a good life…..

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good By to the land of Rules...Hello to the Land of Excess and Censorship

Yes Germany has its rules. Rules that you have to respect. They work for this country.

The land of excess needs some work. A list of challenges:
1. Next time you shop for a car, size down.
2. Go to the Grocery store more frequently and buy less.
3. Buy as few packaged goods as you can. Take a look in your recycling (if you arent' doing that yet, get with it). Notice how much of your bin is being taken up by packaging.
4. Say no to plastic bags at the store. For Groceries use your own cloth bags. At Target/Wallmart just put the stuff back in the cart and put it in your car. Clearly the cashier won't stop putting one thing in every bag.
5. Stop storing things in the pantry. Don't buy things to store in the pantry.
6. Set a mileage goal on your car and stick to it. Make it a stretch that says find another way to get there.
7. Eat at home.
8. At Starbucks if you are going to sit inside or outside and drink your coffee, ask for a mug. What's the point of the paper cup if you are staying in.
9. Order 1/2 portions next time out. Most likely you don't eat everything they give you because they give you too much. Don't leave food on the plate.
10. Stop buying bottles of water. Use a filter!

Now a bit on Censorship. I remember one day in the Target Parking lot a couple years back. Marco was 4 or 5 and we were listening to one of his favorite Green Day songs on the Radio. He Says "Dad, they cut a word out of the song". "What word is that Marco". "Fuck" That word is a huge part of Rock and Roll. It happens to work well into the music. There are quite a few really good songs that don't get air play in the US because the artist uses profanity in the words. It's a shame. Not an issue here in Europe. Next is nakedness. Nakedness is part of culture here. Not in a sexual way, although that happens but in a "It's the human body" way. Because of that it's no big deal. When Marco and I would walk by the magazine stands or by the local photo studio I didn't see him snickering or craining his neck for a second look. I think we had one discussion of why you see it out in the open and that was it. End of story. Believe me if it was a big deal to him, he'd bring it up. And there was no way to hide it from him even if we wanted too.

It's a good life....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Marco

My roar scares small children and my waters are dangerous and cold.
I can rip through cities as though they were paper.
I fear no one and nothing.
I simply bat them away as I would a fly.
This is my planet and I will rule it.
Nothing can hurt me and I will not die.
I will always have fresh food and will be teeming with life.
I can never die because I will always come back, for I am the ocean.

Marco Jewell

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I’m a fairly patient guy. In fact I’m really patient. That’s one of the reasons I attract kids and dogs. Either that or I resemble both but I like patience better. Well this week I’m losing my patience. A list:

1. IPod – Could we please get longer headphone cords. Those of us with long torsos struggle. I can’t imagine someone 6’2” with a long torso. Darn Ipod would sit at shoulder length.
2. Stop Staring at me – It’s a bad habit here in Germany. That long stare of the locals. Yesterday while running an entire group just stood their and stared at me from 200 meters out and all the way as I passed them. Not a single hello. Quit would you.
3. Rules – There are so many rules here in Germany that if there isn’t a rule look out. A little explanation. A couple weeks ago a top professional triathlete was hit or hit a car days before the Big Challenge Roth race. As I read about the accident it was clear what happened. The driver had right of way but only he knew this because it’s a fairly unique rule here in Germany. The athlete from NZ made eye contact with the driver and thought that meant she could continue. Wrong! The Driver of the car in his long stare just kept right on going, causing the accident then driving on. Girl left on the street bloody. You see, Germans obey the rules and then without a care in the world plow on. On the other side if there isn’t a rule look out. 3 times this week the dogs and I have had to jump out of the way of an oncoming truck. The same truck each time. On the dirt path where walkers frequent, there are no driving rules. So this driver in his big truck doesn’t care if you are on the path and is not going to slow down or even remotely try to avoid you. Maybe less rules would make happier people that actually have a heart to let a cyclist have the right of way or heavens for bid let the skinny guy with the Gentle Giant and the Mental Midget have some space.
4. Cash – When we first moved to Germany we quickly learned that this is a cash country. Credit cards are rarely used or accepted and many places/people don’t accept the Bank Card. So right now everyone wants our cash and lots of it. Imagine if you will, spending a day with the movers. Yes movers are movers all over the world. They drive big trucks, smoke and can pack a house fast or slow depending on the payment terms. So Mary worked them down on the cost and in they came. 4 hours later they were done and had to be paid. Yes that’s right cash. We paid the Foreman cash 5,200 euros cash. Can you imagine doing that in the US? Well it doesn’t stop there. The way a rental works here is you have a key deposit. It’s 3 times your months rent. When you move out you negotiate the repair/damages. Does the landlord take it out of the key deposit? No, you pay him cash, hand him the keys and then he has the right to hold on to the deposit for 6 months. It’s possible on Friday that I hand the landlord 2500 euros and he holds on to 3000 euros for 6 months. He’s a freaking bank if you ask me.
5. Phones – My former company canceled my company cell phone. No big deal right. Well this also canceled the partner phone we had through the same phone company. Yes we got a deal because of the company phone but it was paid separately out of my account. I went to the phone company retail store to straighten things out and they said I would need to send a letter and it could take weeks. Next option was to open a pay as you go contract. 10 euros gets you in and then pay up front. So I did that and 40 euros lasted 3 days. To make it sting just a bit more I printed a bank statement today and found out I paid for that partner card for July.
6. Recycling – I love it and feel like we as the developed part of the world should do more than our share of recycling. It’s the right thing to do. Now try to move out of your house and time the recycling. Oh my, is it difficult. But this I think I conquered and roughly 90% of the things not going back to the US have been recycled.

These are just a few of the things trying my patience. Just writing them down makes it all feel much better.

It’s a good life….

Sunday, July 19, 2009


In the sport of Triathlon transition is often overlooked. With three sports to train for, how important can the transition from one to the next during a race be? Time and again though results show a different story. Look at the difference between 1st, 2nd and 3rd and you can usually see a difference in speed of transition. Most often the winner also had the faster transition of the three. In the recent Ironman Frankfurt, the lead women came to the bike/run transition together. One quickly put on her running shoes and out the tent she went. The other stopped to put on compression socks (probably a sponsor), stopped to pee and then headed out. Guess what, the difference in their transitions is the difference in the result. The first out won by the same margin of difference as their transition. So in Triathlon, it's important to practice transtion.

As I sit and type this I seem to be in the endless transition. I've been moving out of our house for 4 weeks and I'm not done yet. Tomorrow is the day when I finish. But then I'm not done. There is still a week here in Germany. Is it possible I could have practiced or prepared better? I'm sure there is. I think Scout would agree with me that we could have done better.
I watched an interview with Nelson Mandela's wife. He's transitioning from world leader to elderly, forgetful man. She says it's tough on him, getting old. He hates using the cane. This made me think of my own father. He's had his hip replaced, his knee replaced and shoulder surgery. All in the last year. I wonder how well he feels he prepared for it and how he's dealing with it today. I'm sure I would (will be) very pissed that I can't do the same things when I'm in that boat.
In Triathlon the only one who suffers from a bad transition is you the athlete. In life it's not quite that simple. My only suggestion is preperation has got to be the key.

It's a good life.....

Monday, July 13, 2009


Mary and Marco gave me a Birthday Present. Magazines. They know I love magazines so they purchased a variety knowing I would be alone for awhile. It took me two weeks to even open the bag but I did and I'm half way through the 5 magazines already. I generally read every magazine I have cover to cover. I can read a magazine almost as fast as Mary can read a book. I also learned a trick from Mary. It's taken me 16 years to figure it out but I started taking a bath at night and reading. It works. First it's quite relaxing. Second I get to read a great deal. Third it puts me to sleep and that has not been easy these last two weeks.

Last night I was reading National Geographic. This particular issue has a long article on the current food shortage. It really made me think today as I searched for food I wanted to eat.

The current food shortage at an all time low by the way, is being driven by a number of issues:
1. Large Population
2. Increasing Middle Class
3. Increased demand and production of Bio Fuels.

Some things to think about:

Something like 20 years ago the aveage person in China consumed 50lbs of pork/year. Today that is 70lbs. By the way that's not even close the the meat consumption in the USA. Can you say middle class.

40 years ago a man from Iowa felt he could help the food situation in India by introducing a new wheat. That wheat grew faster and produced much more wheat than what was being used in India at the time. To do this though the wheat needed food (fertilzer) and protection from bugs (pestisides). Not long after this form of farming was introduced in India people started getting sick. Cancer sick. Lets just get this straight. Those huge apples you are buying at the supermarket are not good for you. The really big ones all with that deep red shine. They are full of pestiside. That's going into your body and your body does not like it.

The current food shortage is driving prices for things like Rice sky high. High rice prices hurt the poorest 3rd of the population. So the people who struggle the most get hurt the most.

The next time you sit down to the dinner table look at the what's there. How did the food get there? Did your meat come from Nebraska, Bananas from Honduras, Olive Oil from Spain, wine from Argentina? No really, how did it get to your table. Ever thought about how crazy that is. Do we just blink and it's there? Is there food left on the plate when you are done?

I don't have the answers to this but I think we have to act individually. You know that story that goes "Someone in Africa is dying and you are throwing food away" , It's true! Does that mean you shouldn't eat well, heck no. I think what it means is buy what you can eat, buy fresh, locally grown if you can. Eat food that was recently alive. Give to food banks whenever you can. And take it from me, if it's been in the pantry for more than two weeks, you are not going to eat it. Stop buying the stuff you will never eat. Shop more frequently and buy less. Oh yeah, go out less too.

It's a good life....

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pictures from my Saturday Ride

This is like the perfect little farm picture. Tractors, cow and silo for storage. What more does a farmer need.
I just love the bird and the carp on the sign. You can eat, drink and sleep here if you choose. The Carp is there to let you know that it's the specialty of the house. You can only eat carp in months that don't end in Y. I'm not kidding and these folks know their carp.

Just a nice little courtyard. Gardens and cleanliness are very important to Germany. I'm sure someone was sweeping the gutter of the road earlier in the day.

My hideout. During the Biblical type rain last Saturday, this is the table I crawled under. It looks so much different without all the water.

Things going on in Herzo. Sommerkirchweih = Beer Fest. The annual Beer fest is going on. Anything for Beer here in Bavaria. Below is one of my favorite signs. Notice how they have played on the Ironman M dot logo. Theirs is an A dot logo.

The competition between brothers lives on. They're long gone but the competition is still there. The two Dassler brothers split up, one starting adidas the other Puma. As the story goes they opened up shop accross the river from each other. It's not much of a river but we'll go with the story. In 2001 adidas purchased land that once housed the US Military. The main street leading to the adidas Wold of Sport intersects at this corner. The future home of the Puma cat. On the opposite corner is the Puma outlet store. So, if you want to go to adidas you have to go through Puma. There are plans to open a mall on one of the other corners. adidas has already secured the anchor for a huge Peformance store/museum. Crazy amazing competition. Come August Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay will duke it out on the track in Berlin. The winner will be crowned fastest man in the world. Usain runs for Puma, Tyson for adidas. You can bet the winner's mug will be all over the little town of Herzogenaurach, Germany.
It's a good life....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Just a Quote

Lance posted this on Twitter the other day. It is very good:

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” --Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad

I hope one day to be wise like you. You are an inspiration to never stop learning, never stop caring and to fight for what you believe in. I hope you enjoy your day!

I love you

Le Tour de France

Wow! I love watching the Tour at a normal time of the day. I know normal to me is a big skewed at times as I write this at 4:30am but on the same time as the riders is what I'm talking about. Who would have thought this would happen so fast. Yes I know there is a huge population that wants and expects Lance to be in Yellow all the time but this is bike racing. It's not easy to get to the front of that race and yet there he is. Inches away from yellow again. My bet is teams and riders will not take the day off over the next two days. They did that on Monday and paid dearly for it. The next big day is Friday. On Friday we won't know who the winner will be. We will know who the contenters will be. It should be a fun weekend of bike racing.

It's a good life...

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Smell

It's been said that one of the best senses you have is your sense of smell. I can't remember too much about my first Ironman. Sure I've got memories of Mark Montgomery asking me if I'm running a 10K or my Dad at the finish. But what brings me back to that place every time is the smell. The smell of my bike clothes after 20 hours sitting in a plastic bag. I've had that smell maybe twice since that race and both times I was jolted back to that day. It was October 1988 if you want to know how far back that is.

So it is this that I offer up the smell of Germany. I'll miss it. I'm not sure Mary will. Germany to me is the smell of the farm. Around here that means manure because that is the feritlizer. Today I road by the Barn that I normally ride by. If the wind is right and the doors are open, it's the strongest smell of cow shit on the planet. I'm going to miss that barn and that smell. Each time I smell anything like it I'm sure I will be brought back to Germany.

It's a good life....

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Comfort Zone

This week I received a great many questions about my current living conditions. Let me just describe for a second:

2 Chairs - One from the Patio and a Bean Bag Chair.
1 Table - Patio Table.
TV and Computer
No Fridge - Sold it. Using a cooler
No Bed - Sold It. - Sleeping on the floor

That's about all I have right now. Oh yes, I have my bike and clothes but not much else.

So people ask, "Why are you doing this?" My answer all week is "Because it's good to get out of the Comfort Zone" At first I was just saying it but now I'm living it. I think we the Jewell Family and many of the people around us get too comfortable. In fact some fight to stay comfortable and don't want to leave. I'm a believer that you can't grow in comfort. Think of an athlete. If you do the same thing over and over again do you expect improvement? Improvement only comes from stretching the comfort. So why can't life be like that? It can and it should. Not all the time because then life would be really uncomfortable. I'm not up for sleeping on the floor the rest of my life. 2 more weeks though won't kill me. In fact I find I spend less time sleeping when I'm on the floor. This gives me more of the day to enjoy.

A couple things that have come out of being out of the comfort zone.

1. Food - It seems a waste to throw away all the food we had. So I'm eating it. I'm eating it before I buy anything new. Tonight for instance I had a can of Mexican Chilli. It wasn't bad. I already ate all the cold stuff (no fridge) so now I'm on to the canned things. I'm dreading the day I have to eat the Sardines. Mary eats them, I hate them.

2. Walks - Scout and I have added an evening walk to our routine. What's the point of sitting in the Bean Bag any more than I have to. Today we walked out to the Picnic table and I sat for 20 minutes. The sun felt great and the view was beautiful.

3. Bike Rides - I have my bike, so I'm going to ride it. Yesterday I should have stayed home. The sky was clear when I left the house. 25 minutes in, it started to rain. Rain like I've never ridden in before. Buckets I tell you. I had to quickly hide my phone. It cleared fairly quick and for the next 30 minutes I got dry. Then all of a sudden it came back. Only this time it was harder. It was raining so hard the streets couldn't drain. I could not see the road in front of me and I was sure the cars couldn't see me. At it's worst I spent a few minutes under a tree until it was raining so hard the tree was losing. I then found a picnic table and sat under it. By the time I got home, I was shivering and jumped directly into a warm shower with my clothes on. Totally out of my comfort zone but I know it won't get worse. The next time it's normal raining I probably won't hesitate, I'll just ride. One down side to that little ride, my phone is dead. I thought I had it protected but I was fooling myself. The rain was so bad everything got wet.

I'm sure I will experience more during the next two weeks. Hopefully I can carry the experience with me for a long time.

It's a good life...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July to all Americans at home and abroad!

I drink this fine Kilkenny in honor of the day!
It's a good life.....

Friday, July 3, 2009

The House

To Mary: You and Me Together, We could do Anything - DMB

They just don't build homes like this in the USA. These homes don't go up in days, it takes months and months to construct just one. We know because there has been one around the corner under construction for the last 8 months and it's probably 2 months from completion. But instead of rambling on, here's the list of what makes this home better.

1. Location - It's on a street marked "Walking speed only". This mean's cars are aloud to be in first gear, clutch out, no foot on the gas pedal. It's a kid safety zone and kids know it. They are in the street all day long.

2. Size - With the loft and the basement it's simply much larger than the house we have in California. Only drawback is it's not close to the beach.

3. Summer Cool - Without air conditioning it stays ultra cool in the summer.

4. Winter Warmth - With radiated heat on the walls and heated floors in the kitchen and main bathroom this house is warm. It retains heat too because the windows are ultra solid.

5. Windows - The windows suck close. In other words when they close there is a seal that lets nothing in.

6. Noise - Close the windows and there is no noise getting in the house.

7. Quiet - Our family is not quite on the same page. Mary stays up really late and I get up really early. Like there is 3-4 hours between her slumber time and my natural wake-up time. With the construction the way it is, the person awake can make the house very quiet and then not have to tip toe around the house.

8. The Shudders - I said I'd comment on the shudders again. You want it dark in the house, these things do the job. If you are like my brother and work from 10pm to 6am every day, you can shut a room off in absoulute complete darkness and quiet.

9. Stair Case - The stairs don't take up a huge part of the house. Because they are semi-circular they take up a very small percentage of the square footage.

10. Natural Light - Our house in Cardiff does this too but you don't need a light on during the day. This house can be super bright all day long if you want it.

Finally, this house was buit to last. Much like all the buildings in Europe, it will be here for centuries if it needs to be.

It's a good life......


Thursday, July 2, 2009

View's From My Walk With Scout

Today Scout and I took a walk. We are really going to miss our walks or runs together here in the country. It's such a good place to be a dog.

Generally the start of our walk is on this bike path. Have I said how much I love the endless bike paths?
The view of our house from the path.

Trees, there are lots of trees. Most sit together in beautiful forests. This huge tree sits alone in its own majestic way.

Our walk contiues up a farmers path. Scout is rarely on the path. She's usually out in the fields looking for rabbits.

Our Turnaround is usually this nice little Oasis. Not a bad place to stop and ponder for awhile. It's a great place to witness the Sunrise.

A hunter's perch. I've never seen one in use but this is what they use for deer hunting.

Along many of the country roads there are Frog crossing signs. There are times you have to stop to allow the migratory frogs to pass through. This little guy was just crossing the path.

Sunrise over Grossenseebach. Have I told you lately how much I love the sunrise?

The sheep pen. You can't see them but they are in there. Usually they are out grazing. On one crazy walk when we still had Neptune all hell broke loose. Marco and I had the two dogs off the leash. Scout got all excited and went running around the fence finding a way in the Pen. Marco went chasing Scout. Neptune went running the other way. My first priority was Marco then it was Neptune the old lab. I finally got him only to look up and see Scout in that little Barn with 3 sheep cornered. She had this "look what I have" look on her face. It's funny now but it wasn't then.

Did I tell you Scout loves the fields. There is lots of dew right now so here she is soaking wet. What you can't see are all the Ticks crawling all over her. It's been a good walk when her tongue is hanging out and she's soaking wet. I'm sure she slept well today.
It's a good life.....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Round - A - Bout

When Mary got smart and moved back to California from Arizona she full on shortened our date commute. Now I will admit that she did that long commute from Pheonix a great deal more than I ever did (could you blame her Pheonix vs. Encinitas). The point is when she moved back she lived with her mother in San Marcos. That shortened the commute from 100's of miles to 9.8 miles. That was all good but she actually didn't really shorten it. Pure distance was shorter but time spent in the car was about the same. How could that be you ask? The answer lies in my post tonight.

What the heck happend to the USA when roads were constructed. The rest of the world uses roundabouts and we Americans choose Stop Signs and Stop Lights. I have an idea for Mr. Obama and his energy plan. Turn off the stop lights and replace them with roundabouts. Think of the electricity savings. Not to mention all the idle cars burning fuel going no place.

So why is a roundabout so good? They are all good except that stupid one in Beutlesdorf. Even the driving instructer thought it was stupid. Anyway forget driving for a minute and let's go bike riding. In San Diego you're really lucky to go on a ride and not have to stop at a stop light. In fact I challenge that you can't do it. Well most can because you run the lights. That doesn't count. Today I went for a ride here in Germany. I road 70 minutes and guess what. I stopped once. That was a very rare stop. Generally on my rides I don't have to stop. Most intersections have Yield signs. Most major intersections have roundabouts. There is a flow to a roundabout that done correctly means you don't stop. What a concept. I'm sure going to miss it.

I plea to all those in the USA, if there is a referendum for an intersection and you have the choice, vote roundabout. We cyclists thank you.

Back to the love commute. In that 9.8 miles there were 13 stop lights. That's 13 chances to sit idle for 3 or more minutes. Once I made it all the way through without stopping. Many times unfortunately I stopped at each an every one of them. I'm very glad those stop lights didn't ruin our love. Somehow we made through them.

It's a good life....