Category Archives: Friends and Family

Florida 2012: Panhandling with the Parkers

 

The beaches of the Florida panhandle – around Destin and Panama City – have sand as blindingly white as anywhere on earth.  Except for times when the seaweed mysteriously appears, the water is as blue as anywhere in the Caribbean.  But for the fact that it gets a little too hot in the summer and little too cold in the winter, these beautiful beaches might well be the most popular in America.  The area is sometimes disparaged as the “Redneck Riviera,” but as a native-born Redneck myself, I’m happy to claim it.

My sister has forged the wonderful tradition of taking her family to the Panama City Beach area every summer for the last decade or so, and most years I get to go join them.  It’s right next to Seaside, the notoriously-quaint town where they filmed The Truman Show.

Tyler is 23 now and lives in Chicago; Caitlin is 20 and in college at OBU; Grace still has most of high school ahead of her (she’s 15 but would think it important that I say “almost 16”).  Shockingly, the girls weren’t willing to get up with me before sunrise (on their vacation) for a sure-enough-genuine photo shoot, leaving me wandering the swamps by myself (camera in hand, of course) at 5:30a.m.  They did, however, agree to stand up and stand still long enough to take some fairly-glamorous-looking portraits on our condo balcony.  Those are all on separate pages.

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That’s me in the black shirt.  That’s my sister, of course, in the turquoise top, and in the orangish gingham.  Her husband, Bill, is in the light blue.  The dark-haired young man is Caitlin’s boyfriend, Caleb.  Poor Caleb has been around the Parkers long enough he’s no longer afforded “guest” treatment, but he’s low-man-on-the-totem-pole in the Parker family vacation ranks.  This left him sleeping in a windowless closet/cell and schlepping the ice cooler to the beach each morning (‘til he faked a pinky-toe injury).  He was a good sport.  The dark-haired girl is Grace’s (shy) friend and basketball teammate/sharpshooter, Allie Glover.  Yes, Tyler has a beard – allegedly only as a temporary demonstration of his loyalty to the OKC Thunder during the NBA playoffs.  The sunglasses are because it’s very bright and sunny in Florida — not (just) because he’s gone all showbiz on us.

 

Florida 2012: My Glamorous Nieces

There are several nice family/vacation pictures from my trip to the Destin / Panama City area with my sister and her clan (plus a couple of great guests).   But I thought these shots of my lovely nieces (Caitlin, 20, in brown stripes; Grace, 15 in blue) deserved a page of their own.  They were taken on the balcony of our rented condo.  Behind each picture is an ongoing debate about optimal smiling techniques, which side they felt (strongly) was their “best” side, and how they were going to keep their hair out of their faces.

 

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For the photography folks:  Nikon D800 (rocks), natural light on a shaded, open balcony.  Evening sun on the beach behind.   No tricks.  100mm or so, at f4 to blur the background.   

Ruby Slippers

My god-daughter Olivia Reasoner is back in the spotlight.  Last month she was a “chorus girl” in a HITS production at Miller Outdoor Theatre.  This week she was front and center at the HITS theatre on 18th Street, donning the iconic red shoes and blue gingham of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.   Judy Garland herself would have been proud.  Olivia was perfect for the role shepherding her three sidekicks to Oz:  she clearly lacks neither heart nor brains nor courage.  And she can sing!

That’s Olivia, above, outside the HITS theatre with a bouquet from her grandparents, Harry and Macy Reasoner.  The first shot in the grid below is Olivia with her beautiful mom, Susan.  Somehow her dad Barrett’s mug didn’t make it into the photos.  All four of Olivia’s brothers and sisters were there to watch, then clap, now brag.

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Tropical Beast — St. Croix Ironman 70.3

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These are just pocket camera shots.  Obviously I’m not the photographer in several of them.

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About twenty miles into the bike course of the St. Croix Ironman 70.3, there’s a hill called the “Beast.”  It lasts less than a mile, but the average grade is about 15%.  That means you climb the equivalent of a 50-story building (on a bicycle) in the nine-or-so minutes it takes someone like me to ride up.  The Beast gets a lot of attention, but that’s just nine minutes out of your six-hour day, and just a small fraction of the hills you have to scale on bike and on foot.  Thankfully, they haven’t figured out how to inject nasty hills into the swim course.

The 70.3 in the race name means it’s a “half” Ironman – which is a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run.  Scott Humphries, Shane Merz and I just finished the race Sunday.  The three of us have done “full” Ironman events (twice as long), so a little laziness and arrogance may have slipped into our training for this shorter race.  These are not good training strategies, so we were appropriately punished by the otherwise-lovely St. Croix terrain.  In a six-plus-hour event, Scott wound up beating me by 36 seconds!  I should’ve spent less time in the Porta-potties (or maybe more time training in the pool last month), I guess.  Shane was not too far back (he later confessed that he’d accidentally done the entire bike ride with his bike shorts on backward!?! Ouch.).  We all finished and had a fine time doing so.

It rained much of the early morning, so the twisty bike descents were wet and scary and a few places had six inches or more of running water on the road.  Triathlon bikes were not designed for any of that, so there was some nervous riding.  The consolation was that the sun was not beating down on us as we’d expected.

The event is centered in Christensted in St. Croix – the southernmost of the Virgin Islands.  The swim start is unique here:  it starts on the beach of a tiny island (pictured above in daylight) in the bay – and you have to swim out to that island (just at sunrise) before the race even starts.  It sounds odd, but as the race director said, “If you have a problem with that, you’re in the wrong race.”

Lance Armstrong was competing in the pro division.  He’d started his career as a triathlete and did this very race 24 years ago.  This time, all eyes were on #7 in the yellow swim cap.  Standing on the beach at the swim start was the last time we saw him, of course.  Obviously he finished miles (hours) ahead of us, though he came in third behind Andy Potts of the USA and Frenchman Stephan Poulat.  After they finished but while the race continued for hundreds of us mere mortals, Lance’s police-escorted SUV came right down the middle of the otherwise-closed-to-traffic run course, whisking him back to his hotel.  Meanwhile winner Andy Potts was hanging out in the finish area taking pictures and shaking hands.  That’s him in red giving me the “thumbs up” after the race.  Unlike Lance, Andy schlepped his own gear like the rest of us.  Lance no-showed the awards ceremony.  I think I became an Andy Potts fan yesterday.

Earlier in the week, we’d met Lance’s two pilots (he travels in a Gulfstream 4, yellow stripes, tail # N7LA) and spent a couple of days hanging out with them.  Super-nice guys.  To Scott and I (both small-plane pilots ourselves), Lance’s pilots may be bigger celebrities than Lance himself.  What a fine gig if you’re a commercial pilot:  St. Croix this month, Hawaii the next, France the next, maybe Aspen after that . . . .  Apparently, though, they were bored enough to hang out with us – and nice enough to email us after the race (from 41,000 feet in the air) to see how we did.

Special thanks to Scott’s and Shane’s understanding wives for tolerating this “guys’ trip” to the Caribbean.  Given the constant rains (it’s still raining now), you should be glad you didn’t come this time.  Scott’s next athletic stop is Ironman Switzerland in July.  Then he, Shane and I do the Leadville 100 (Colorado mountain bike race) in August.  Each will be twice as hard as yesterday’s outing, so we’ve all got some work to do.

The Kemah Triathlon (with my new camera)

I just got a new camera!   So I need some practice with it.  I took it out for a test run at the Kemah Triathlon Sunday morning.  My long-time buddy Scott was doing the race as a “tune-up” to further ensure that he’ll totally kick my ass next weekend when we both do the Half-Ironman on St. Croix (more on that later, I’m sure).  In the picture (above) where Scott is getting out of the water, you can see waaaay in the distance at the upper right is a boat on the horizon.  Scott did the Olympic distance tri, so that boat was where his swim started (about a mile out in the Bay).  The folks lined up to enter the water are about to start the shorter “sprint” distance tri.

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Nikon announced the D800 in February and it only took me a few hours to get my name onto the waiting list — but I still had to wait three months to get my new camera.  The resolution on this camera dwarfs virtually every camera on the market:  36 megapixels.  But that’s not the half of it.  The downside is that uber-high resolution doesn’t help much (and may hurt!) unless your lenses, your focus accuracy, and even camera-holding stability also step it up a notch.  Thus my need for practice.  I put the big Nikon 70-200 2.8 zoom on the D800; the wide angle shots are on my “old” D7000 with a 10-24mm.  Through no fault of the camera, my favorite shots from the day turned out to be mostly those wide shots.  Maybe the most amusing part of the D800 is that, as a 36 megapixel camera, each snap of the shutter (whether great or terrible) occupies about 32 MB of file space.  For perspective:  the laptop I took to law school had a then-impressive 20MB hard drive.

 

 Fortunately, we were careful to instruct Scott’s sons — Jack and Sam — not to act silly and mess up their Dad’s post-finish-line picture.