Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Gear

Last weekend I headed up to Dahlonega to Riders Hill to do some shopping for some riding boots. I have always ridden in steel-toe work boots, but while we were in Venezuela, I really became interested in purposely designed riding boots. Because the weather was hot, sunny, and clear, Riders Hill's parking lot was packed with every kind of bike that one could imagine.

After trying on a couple of pair and checking out features, I selected a pair of Alpinestars Ridge boots. I also have been giving some serious thought to a Hi-Viz riding jacket to increase the visibility during my 42 mile daily commute. Anything to help the cage drivers with their cellphones embedded into the side of their skulls see the guy on the Harley with three headlights. They had a First Gear Mesh-Tex mesh Hi-Viz jacket in extra large, but they were sold out of the size I needed - Large. But they quickly offered to order one for me as he had three other orders for the day for the same jacket.

Thursday I checked with them and the jacket was in, so I began the calculations in my head. If I left work at 3:30pm and could keep my speed, I could reach Riders Hill before they closed at 5pm. But with Atlanta traffic, it would be close.

I left work and immediately began encountering all kinds of traffic obstacles. I began to employ Dan Bateman avoidance measures and began slicing through traffic. 42 miles into the 65 mile ride to Riders Hill, I noted that I would also be pushing the absolute limits of the range for the amount of fuel I had. So, despite my time crunch, I dove into the gas station and burned some precious time and income purchasing some $4.00 a gallon 92 octane gasoline.

Back on the road, I now had 23 miles of Ga HWY 9, an old two lane twisting blacktop. And to my chagrin, more traffic wanting to drive 15 mile an hour slower than the speed limit and no passing zones. About five miles South of Dawsonville, it began to rain. And then it began to pour. Marvelous. The rain drops were huge and coming down at a pelting rate. For several minutes it felt like they could cut my cheeks. North of Dawsonville the rain quit and instantly the humidity began to rise.

Finally, I reached the city limits of Dahlonega where I would have to maneuver through 4 stoplights before heading North to Riders Hill. And would you know it everyone wanted to pull out of intersections in front of me and drive 10 mile an hour slower than the posted speed limit - Grand.

After what seemed to take forever, I arrived at Riders Hill and the gate was still open. As I rode up the inclined driveway, I could see the "Open" light still lit. I parked and crawled off Rosie and checked my watch - 5:05pm, darn it! But the door was still unlocked. The staff was more than happy to hook me up with my new Hi-Viz jacket making the trip worthwhile.

After making the ride home, I started taking off my riding gear when the snap on one sleeve cuff of my new jacket came apart. I sent an email to First Gear late Friday afternoon explaining my predicament. Within an hour I had a very pleasant response offering to fix the issue for free.

First thing Monday morning, I received an UPS prepaid shipping tag and a RMA in my email for returning the jacket to the folks at First Gear. So, while a bit dismayed I had an issue day one with my new jacket, I have to say I am delighted with how quickly First Gear has responded to make amends.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What the Heck is Planking?

                                               Photo source:Bensayin.com
Ok, so I'm not 20 years old any more and I do not keep up with the latest fads. So when we were checking in with our airline for our flight out of Atlanta to kick off our mission trip at like 5am, I see this younger team member, Andrew Kim, lying face down on the tile floor. And, as any curious casual observer might inquire, I asked, "What the heck is he doing on the floor?"

"Planking" I was told. Um, OK. What the heck is planking?

According to Wikipedia, "The lying down game (also known as planking,[1] or face downs) is an activity, popular in various parts of the world, consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the Internet is an integral part of the game.[2] Players compete to find the most unusual and original location in which to play.[2] The location should also be as public as possible, and as many people as possible should be involved."

Apparently, this has been a popular activity since around 1994. Who knew?

So, of course my next question was, did he consider the amount of feet and shoe soles that had crossed the floor of the Atlanta airport? ICK.

But, it quickly became amusing to watch where he would be planking next as the trip progressed.

And before long, planking was catching on with other team members.

I am betting the cleanliness of the airport parking lot ran a close second to this I-beam in the parking deck of the shopping mall in Venezuela.

And it has continued to other countries once our team's mission was complete. One of our other team members, Amanda Rodriguez was off travelling to another country and posted this plank.

She said she had to ask a total stranger in Spanish to taker her picture. After trying to explain planking in Spanish, she finally said, "Quit asking questions and take the picture!"

Wiki goes on to show other examples:

And of course, there is lots of planking on Youtube:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Venezuela - the Video

One of our team members made this video of our trip. I thought I would share it for those interested.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Book Review: The Blessing - John Trent and Gary Smalley

The Blessing – John Trent, PH.D. and Gary Smalley
The blessing is a means of conveying unconditional love, acceptance, and approval to our children. It can be applied to all of our relationships: spouses, extended family, friends, co-workers, church family, and classmates.

All children grow up desiring unconditional love, acceptance, and approval from their parents. If they do not receive it clearly conveyed by meaningful touch, spoken message, attaching high value, picturing a special future, and active commitment, they spend the rest of their lives seeking approval from other relationships in unproductive ways.

The book breaks down the issues that develop in the lives of children who grow up in situations where the blessing is withheld or where parents choose to make their children try to earn the blessing. It also illustrates the power of words and power of the generational curse.

The book also provides solid, practical advice on intentionally provide the blessing in relationships to prepare children for positive relationships in their lives as well as practical steps for reversing the effects of not receiving the blessing in a person’s childhood.

John Trent and Gary Smalley provide suggestions on how to intentionally provide the blessing in life’s most difficult situations like divorce, death, desertion, adoption, and blended families.

This is a book that every parent, every adult that has not experienced parental approval, everyone that works with children, every small group leader, every children and youth worker, every pastor, every teacher, every employer, and everyone who values the relationships in their lives should read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Venezuela Recap

Sorry for all the post with no pictures, the internet access at the hotel was just not up for it. But here are a host of pictures to catch you up on the experience.

 I was amazed to see so many motorcycle cops in Venezuela. Most are riding dual sports like this officer who gladly agreed to a photo.

Allison's birthday was Monday while we were in Venezuela. The staff at Project Jonas suprised her with flowers and a cake. The girls on our team also suprised her with a cake, so everyone enjoyed a lot of delicious cake.

Some of the electrical issues I was greeted with upon arrival...

There were about 20-24 outside light fixtures that looked something like this:

We managed to get three rebuilt to look like this:

Here's Allison painting:

Here's the concrete pad in progress:

EPA - the daily building supply adventure:

Venezuela Day 7 and 8

Bright and early we rolled out of bed Friday at 3:30am and were in vans for a 3.5 hour ride to the beach with our team and the boys from Project Jonas. The conditions of the roads give the appearance of having been carpet bombed, but they have not had a war.

The driving is amazing in itself, something between Mad Max and Deathrace 2000. Many treat red lights like yellows. Stop and then go before it goes green. Intersections are games of chicken. Motorcycles split lanes even with opposing traffic and hardly anyone wears a helmet or anything remotely looking like gear. Honestly despite my years of experience racing, I do not think I would be interested in driving in Venezuela.

When we arrived at the beach it was gorgeous emerald blue water, crashing waves, and palm trees. We boarded a few 18 foot boats and rode for 20 minutes out to Cayo Sombrero Morrocoy
Venezuela. The first thing we saw when we stepped off the boats onto the island were iguanas feasting on bags of trash.

 Locals were renting chairs and small canopies while others were selling lobsters and varieties of seafood. We sampled some and it was amazing. So we purchased some shrimp and feasted in the shade while reading and relaxing.

The boys snorkeled and played football in the surf and a good time was had by all. Despite SPF 70 and shade, some of us still ended up sunburned. We returned to the farm for dinner and tearful goodbyes and then headed to the hotel for showers and rest.

Saturday we were up at 7am for breakfast and a brief team meeting then off to the airport. Our day of flying started out a bit off schedule with our first flight almost 2 hours delayed.

Our three hour lay over in Caracass turned into more like 45 minutes. And we had to get our luggage from the domestic carousel and over to the international check-in and then go thru security again. At the gate, we had to do security again. The best I understand, TSA does not trust Venezuela's security so they require the airlines to do their own for flights headed to the states.

When we landed in Miami, we had the slow process of going through customs. I was surprised how many folks were lined up for customs at 10pm on a Friday. Then we had to pickup our luggage from the carousel, carry it thru a section of customs and then pass it off to another area where the inspected it and then gave it back to the airlines.

We finally landed in Atlanta a few minutes after midnight. We retrieved our luggage and met up with Dash Transport for the ride home. We arrived to two very anxious dogs greeting our arrival home around 2am.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Venezuela Day 6

Thursday we avoided the trip to Epa and went straight to the farm. Another group went to Epa for additional supplies.

Allison assisted the bathroom remodeling team with painting, I assisted Carlos with laying concrete block on the trash enclosure. Carlos and I had worked the electrical project for the water pump together and worked together on pouring the concrete pad.

Carlos speaks no English and I know only a very limited Spanish vocabulary. So much of this week he has repeated the same sentence numerous times that could not understand and then we would play charades to communicate.

My grandfather was pretty good at laying block and when I was growing up, I carried a lot of block for him and learned the process well. So when I was carrying block for Carlos this morning, he quickly figured out I knew something about the process.

One of our group that speaks both Spanish and English walked out while we were working, so we got to use an interpreter for a bit. Carlos wanted to know if I was a block layer. I said no. He then asked why I knew how to mix mud and how to lay out the first run of block. So, I had the interpreter explain. He smiled and responded that I was good help. I took the compliment with high regard from someone skilled and as hard working as he has been this week.

After lunch with the boys, the supplies arrived and I began replacing pole mounted exterior light fixtures and cleaning up some more wiring issues. I finished it up just before sundown and got to see the fruit of my labor when they turned on the lighting at dark.

Our team had some pretty ambitious projects this week, but it has all turned out quite well. We are pleased with the results.

The boys and staff at the farm fed us dinner and threw us a fiesta complete with dancing. We returned to the hotel around 10pm had a brief team meeting, and then I got to get a shower.

Off to bed, we have to be up at 3:30am tomorrow.