Category Archives: Friends and Family

Leadville 100 MTB: Happy Trails, Happy Endings

 

Our seven-man Leadville 100 MTB team had one rider who crashed early on a tough descent and couldn’t continue the race.  Another rider finished, but needed an overnight stay in the local E.R. as a result.  Somehow we view this as fun – and as a successful outcome!   A more obviously happy aspect:  you can make good friends fast in situations like this.  I met one new MRE teammate from San Diego on Thursday evening.  By Saturday night, I was the guy sitting with him in the E.R. at 1 a.m. after we’d finished.

(Just above:  Mike Short with his newest fashion accessory.) 

 

 

This was my second summer in a row spent mostly in Colorado.  The focus – again – was the Leadville Race.   The summer began with a three-week stint roaming Colorado and New Mexico with a Chevy Tahoe, an Airstream trailer, and a mountain bike.  After a detour through central Europe in July, it was back to Colorado for hard-core bike training.  Again, a great group of friends and families (around 20 of ‘us’ in all!) converged on Leadville in August for the race and the Leadville festivities.  My mom and dad were again on hand – reappearing here and there along the course all day long, and standing ready to give me a big hug at the finish.

My race day pretty much repeated the great time I had in 2012 – almost down to the minute.  Others had much-improved times and/or much-improved experiences.  Mike Short, who struggled the most last year and came home without a 2012 buckle, shaved nearly 2 hours off his prior time and finished waaaaay ahead of me this time!  Shane Merz, who struggled for hours last year and finished with just 5 minutes to spare (on a 12-hour cutoff) got to experience the much happier situation of an “easy” never-in-doubt ride.   Team MRE again had two Californians – one of whom (Peter Thomsen) scored a sub-nine-hour extra-large buckle, while the other (Jason Zimmerman) scored a regular buckle and a trip to the hospital.  Scott Humphries had a snafu that delayed his start and put him 10 minutes behind the huge pack and – worse — without any water (or Gatorade) on his bike.  A serious problem.  He confessed to scavenging the race course for some mostly-full water bottles that had been dropped by other riders.  Desperate times.  Despite that craziness, he still beat me this year by several minutes!

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 I was on the bike, not behind the camera, so I didn’t take most of these pictures.  Big thanks to those who did!  I did take the one above, of Mike Short, who scored his first finisher’s buckle this year.  Mike Short’s mom, Dorothy (“Dot”) took the picture of me with my own mom and dad.  That was about 2 minutes after I finished an 11-hour bike ride:  I really look like hell, don’t I!?  At least Mom and Dad look good. 

More pics by Dot Short:

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A few by Michele Merz:

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Some shots (of me!) by the photo service, “Zazoosh”:

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And some race week shots by Peter Thomsen, and race day shots by his wife, Jana: 

Finally:  A few more — including a few from the prior weekend’s Boom Days festivities (which were much better documented last year, thus the sparse coverage here).

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Yellowstone: 35 Years Later

A quick trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons with my Uncle Tommy and Aunt Barb

 

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It was my uncle Tommy McCreight who first put a real camera in my hands — back in the 1970s.  And by bringing me along on their family car trips to places like Yellowstone, it was Tommy and my aunt Barb who taught me to travel.  As someone who now spends fully half his time traveling the earth with cameras in his hands, it’s fair to say those two made a big impact.

Every August, Barb would load up their green Ford van with her own kids (Dede and Dana), my sister and me, some of her inlaws and usually another kid or two.  This fact should figure prominently in Barb’s application for sainthood.  Tommy would load an arsenal of cameras, and we’d all hit the highways.   Tommy took pride in the astounding distances we could cover, so the days started early.  I don’t think we ever had an advance reservation at a hotel or motel; we never knew where we’d wind up, but as often as not, it was Yellowstone.  Tommy says he’s been there 23 times.

My cousin Dede emailed me a week ago, inviting me to join them (Tommy, Barb, Dede, Dana, Dana’s three kids, and Dannon’s boyfriend, Garrett Ford) on their first trip to Yellowstone in at least a decade.  I hadn’t been since about 1978!  I’ll surely never be able to repay Tommy and Barb for the patience and generosity it took to invite my sister and me along back when we were kids, so instead I just got to tag along with them one more time, 35 years later.

We had a great time.  It had been a long time since I had the chance to spend more than a couple of hours at a time with Tommy, Barb and my McCreight girl-cousins.  Dede and Dana are now Dr. Dede (physician) and Dr. Dana (dentist).  We laughed about all the things that had changed in the last 35 years — and laughed even more about all the things that hadn’t really changed a bit.

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I generally lack the both the know-how and the heavy-duty equipment for serious wildlife photography, but the McCreights are huge wildlife lovers, so I had to give it a try.  Results were mixed:  for some reason my pictures of relatively docile grazing animals are conspicuously better than my more-distant shots of flesh-eating predator species.  The coyote you see was eating a baby elk – nature at its goriest.  The curly-horned animals are bighorn sheep – not to be confused with Rocky Mountain goats.  We spotted that Moose out the window of a restaurant at lunch.   The waterfall you see in multiple shots is Lower Falls.  The steamiest pictures are at the Grand Prismatic Spring, which is an amazing sight that was almost entirely hidden by foggy steam on the cool day we were there.

Photo credit for the shot with me in it goes to my cousin and long-time fellow photographer, Dana (McCreight) Ellis.  I must have been standing uphill from Tommy and Barb because I’m not as tall as it looks there.  Dana was mostly successful in her scheme to avoid being photographed herself.  That’s Dede in the orange coat.  Creighton is in stripes.  Dannon and Taegen are the twins:  Dannon is in the tan coat, usually standing next to Garrett (who is often in camouflage). 

Thoroughly Modern Miller (Outdoor Theatre, Houston TX)

For the second year in a row, Olivia Reasoner was part of a big “HITS” production at Miller Outdoor Theatre.  This year it was “Thoroughly Modern Millie” — a real change of tempo from last year’s production of “Ragtime.”  Again, the show (and Olivia) were top-notch.

Olivia’s photographer/godfather (me) struggled a little compared to last year.   One problem:  I couldn’t recognize her for the first half of the show!  I’d feel bad about this, but I was sitting between her dad (Barrett) and her brother (William), and I figured out Olivia’s disguise/costume before they did!  She’s the one in the navy dress, “bob”-cut wig, and big, round glasses.  She was easier to spot once she jumped up on top of the furniture (above) and when she changed wardrobe, losing the glasses and donning that white-fringe skirt (below).

As always, the lead parts in the HITS show were high schoolers; Olivia’s much younger and thus paying her dues in the chorus.  Still a star of the show!

I snuck back over to Miller Outdoor Theatre the next night — hoping to improve my photographic luck.  But the place was so packed (including thousands of people out on the amphitheatre’s grassy hill) I didn’t get anywhere close.  Thus the one picture (above) from way back at the back, in the cheaper-than-cheap-seats.

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The Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston is celebrating its 90th Anniversary this year.  It’s an always-free venue in Herman Park near the Houston Medical Center, with about 2,000 “real,” covered seats, and room for thousands more out on the grassy hill of the amphitheatre. 

 

“State Champion Grace Parker” and the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers

In Oklahoma high school basketball lingo, a trip to the Big House means a trip to the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City for the State Championships.  Saturday night, the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers once again made their mark there  — ending the evening as Class 4A State Champs.

The beautiful blonde  you see in several of the pictures — #23 with a pinkish headband — is my niece, Grace Parker.   I got to hear them announce her as “State Champion Grace Parker” at the end of the game during a very-quick trip to Oklahoma last weekend.  Grace is a defensive terror — her prodigiously tenacious talent for harrassing, vexing and frustrating her foes was honed back in Fort Gibson, growing up as Caitlin and Tyler’s baby sister.   Of course those two were on hand to share the night.

The enemy?  The vicious vixen of Mount St. Mary’s.  Maybe being Popeless had thrown them off their game.  They looked like a great bunch of girls:  their warmup shirts didn’t have their last names on them; instead they had words like “Courage”, “Heart”, and “Strength.”  But the Lady Tigers showed little “Mercy” — erasing a halftime deficit and storming back to make it look easy down the stretch.

The darker-haired #12 in several of the pictures (holding the trophy in a few) is Grace’s best bud, Allie Glover.  Allie has roundball sharpshooting in her blood (her mom, Liz, was an All-American at OSU; her dad, Derald, twice coached state championship teams (allegedly)).  Grace has basketball in her blood, too, I guess:  Tyler was captain of an NAIA National Championship team at OBU.  That may have come from the Parker side of the family.  Maybe.

I had to stay behind the rails, so my pictures of the game itself aren’t all that good or interesting.  Happily there was ample opportunity to get some fun shorts during the celebration afterward.  Cousins, grandparents, and everyone else showed up to cheer and get their picture taken with the evening’s celebrities.

Forgive me for focusing on Grace and Allie — but Grace is family to me, and Allie might as well be family to the Parkers.  I hope everybody on the team has an uncle somewhere proudly bragging and posting pictures of them on the internet.  They all surely deserve it.  Congratulations, Lady Tigers!

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CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL THESE AND SEVERAL MORE PICTURES ON A SEPARATE PAGE

 

 

 

 

 

Paris 2012: A History Lesson

Here’s the last of three posts from a great trip to Paris with my niece Caitlin and sister Jana.

I had to brush up on some superficial French history  just to grasp some of what I was seeing in Paris last week, and to fit it in with a little perspective.  Here’s the crash course:

France had a series of Kings from the 5th Century through the 18th Century.  After 1610, they were all named Louis.  They lived in the Louvre (then a Palace) in Paris until the the 1680s when they moved 10 miles outside of town to a huge estate and a new palace at Versailles (now a Paris suburb).  Versailles served as the royal residence and center of most government until the late 1700s.  In 1789, Louis XVI  and Marie Antoinette were reigning as King and Queen, which was very bad timing for Mademoiselle LetThemEatCake:  Louis and Marie were dragged out of Versailles by French Revolutionaries.  By 1793, the monarchy was done (mostly) and both Louis and Marie were guillotined in Place de la Concorde in the center of Paris.  Ouch.

After the big Revolution ended the centuries of rule by kings, it took the French about one decade to appoint, instead, an Emperor!  Pope Pious VII (go figure) presided over the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte and his Empress, Josephine  in the 12th Century cathedral, Notre Dame (“Our Lady”) de Paris in 1804.  Napoleon ruled France from 1804 until he met his Waterloo — at Waterloo — in 1815.

The next several decades saw a mix of monarchs (Louis XVII, etc.) and an occasional return of Napoleon and/or his nephew (Napoleon III) as temporary emperors.  The famous  book/musical/movie, Les Miserables, was set (in Paris) in the early 1800s, during a period of monarchy (i.e., not during the French Revolution, as I’d always thought).  It was 1871 before a successsion of elected Presidents took over for good (sort of).  That was the era when the Parisians put up the Eiffel Tower.

It was Napoleon Bonaparte who commissioned the Arc de Triomphe to honor his military heroes and fallen soldiers.  Napoleon’s own body passed through the Arc on the way to his tomb.  The French marched around the Arc to celebrate their Triumph at the end of World War I; Hitler’s troops did the same when they took the city in 1940.  Happily the last big triumph along those lines was when our own American GIs (together with French and English Allied troops) liberated the city in 1944.  Their well-deserved celebration parade went around the Arc and down the adjacent avenue, the Champs Elysees to Place de la Concorde (toward the Louvre, where this story began).

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The big archway (pictured at night) is, of course, the Arc de Triomphe; the traffic pictures are from the precarious middle of the Champs Elysees.  The ferris wheel was set up at Place de la Concorde.  You probably recognize the church facade as Notre Dame.  The greenish statutes, the lavish landscaping, and the fancy chandeliers are at Versailles.  The pretty girls are my sister and niece. 

 

 

A PHOTOGRAPHY LESSON / EXPERIMENT :

For camera ‘folk’:  For the shot of the Arc in twilight, I quickly realized couldn’t get the cars out of the picture.  At faster shutter speeds, it looked like a parking lot of oddly-spaced cars.  To blur the cars, I adjusted ISO and f-stop ’til my shutter speeds were around 1/4 or 1/6 second.  Handheld.  The VR (Vibration Reduction — same as Canon’s Image Stabilization) elminated the blur on the stationary arc, but doesn’t (couldn’t) eliminate the blur on the moving cars.  Though the cars are blurred beyond recognition, I was surprised how sharp the VR system kept the Arc itself.  The picture (below) on the right is just a cropped section of the one on the left — notice that you can read the inscriptions on the Arc.  If I had it to do over, I’d have left the f-stop wide open and improved my ISO instead.

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