Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Bourbon Chase, Honest This Post Is About Running!

 

Me and my girl Vana at the pre-race reception at Buster's Billiards

WOW! What fun, in a how much abuse can a body tolerate kind of way. Delen picked me up Thursday afternoon and we drove to Lexington. Thursday evening there was a pre-race reception at Buster’s Billiards. Lot’s of food and a some free drinks. I had a Bourbon Barrel Ale which was pretty good. Met the Bourbon Babes at the reception. They were a wild bunch. Their team mascot kept poking me in the butt. The mascot was named Vana. She was quiet but I think she liked me, LOL. I never did see Vana again. It was a tough race and she did not make it to the finish.

 

 

Dash 2 Mash Team around the Booker Noe statue at the Jim Beam Distillery

Thursday night I only got about 2 hours of sleep. Not good. After breakfast Friday morning most of the team gathered at a FEDEX parking lot to pack up the vans and drive to the race start at the Jim Beam Visitor’s Center in Clermont. A couple teammates would meet us at Jim Beam and a couple of others were just arriving at the airport. Actually there was a SNAFU with the van rental. Budget didn’t have all the vans they needed and we wound up with only one 15 passenger van and one GMC Yukon which was a little cramped with seven people and all our gear.

 

Our start time was 12:15. That is when our first runner started along with the first runner from 8 or 9 other teams. The six runners in van 1 would each run a leg and then the six runners in the Yukon would each run a leg. The sequence would repeat until we each had run three legs. This would mean the first runner in the Yukon would not start until around 5pm. I was runner 10 (4th runner in the Yukon) so I didn’t run my first leg until after 7pm. Finally after nearly 12 hours on the go I was able to run. By now it was dark so I had to wear a headlamp, reflective vest, and a blinking light on my back. My first leg was 7.1 miles “Striding Through Springfield”. Early in the race the runners tend to be spread far apart so I only saw three other runners in this leg, one I passed and two who passed me.

At the final exchange of our first set there were two guys selling rib eye sandwiches and a bottle of water for $5. It was pretty good. We then found the local park where we were supposed to rest up until it was time for our next run. I laid in my sleeping bag on the hard ground for a couple of hours, but never slept. Too cold, too uncomfortable to sleep. Finally around 2am we started packing up to head out for our next run. My second leg was only 5.1 miles “Salvisa, KY, USA”. No turns it was a straight shot down US 127. It was around 4:30am so it was still dark. There was a full moon though so it wasn’t complete darkness which is good because the battery in my headlamp was beginning to fade. We finished up this section at the Four Roses Distillery. I didn’t sample any of the bourbon there, but I did sample the bourbon balls. They were delicious. Pretty sure I ate at least a dozen, probably more. Breakfast of a champ. I didn’t even pretend that I would sleep during this rest. We found a little hole in the wall for breakfast. Wilson’s Pool Hall. Mr. Wilson was working alone. He wasn’t expecting any big crowds on Saturday morning. The seven of us overwhelmed him, but he held up to the challenge. Eventually his daughter came to the rescue. This place would probably not fare well in a health department inspection, but the food was pretty good.

We then drove to the start of our last section which was at the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Our first runner started around 12:40. I felt sorry for Tina-Marie as we drove up one of the hills she would have to run. Wow! Long and steep. My last leg started in Midway, a neat little town of shops. I sat on the front porch of Darlin’ Jean’s restaurant listening to a bluegrass band while waiting for my turn to run. This leg was 8.2 miles “Romancing The Mill”, named so because of the romantic old mill I passed about half way into the leg. I started this leg at 3pm. I was not feeling very strong but I started out ok. About two miles in the Yukon passed me and gave me a bottle of water. Shortly after that my wheels fell off. Almost total bonk. I couldn’t run up even the slightest incline. I could barely jog the flats and down hills. Fortunately, all the other teams’ vans were passing by and just as I was about to flag one down to ask for water, one stopped and asked if I could use a bottle of water. I guess I must have looked as bad as I felt. I said yes definitely and asked if they had any Gatorade to spare. They handed me two 8 ounce bottles. What lifesavers! Team 148, Moonraker Madness from Elsmere Kentucky. I quickly downed both bottles and within minutes life was restored. I was suddenly able to run again. A short time later I was shocked and delighted to see the “1 mile to go” sign. I ran the entire last mile and was pleased with my 1:25 time. On a normal day I could easily finish 8.2 miles under an hour, but this was not a normal day and I was just happy to be finished. Without that Gatorade my time would have been much closer to 2 hours or worse.

This was my first relay race and it probably won’t be my last. I’m actually planning to send my reservation check for next year’s Bourbon Chase to Cap’n Mike this week. Mark your calendars it’s October 7th and 8th.

 

The Haircut

Miko and Wang Lihua at the World Expo

Last Friday Kevin, Wang Lihua, and I flew to Shanghai for a business meeting. After the meeting we went out for dinner and after dinner some karaoke. I actually sang several songs, ok sing is perhaps not the correct verb to describe what I did, shriek, screech maybe. One of the songs I did was Poker Face. Oh yeah, there was a little alcohol involved obviously. I had a great time.

The Huangpu River. The Pearl Tower and a Starbucks Coffee shop on the other side.

After an early morning wake up, Miko picked us up and we headed over to the World Expo. The Expo was huge and we probably walked 5 miles or more while there. After eating lunch we drove to downtown Shanghai to see the sights and walk some more.

Very large crowds at the World Expo so there were lots of signs reminding people to be nice.

Our flight back to Weifang was delayed by a couple hours so the airline fed us a meal while waiting at the gate. It was delicious.

What can I say?

Fast forward to Wednesday. After work on the way back to the hotel Kevin dropped me off at Salon Misa for a haircut. The Chinese word for haircut is Lǐfǎ but fortunately, Li Qing was with us so she went in the make sure they understood what I wanted. The first thing they did was wash my hair and massage my scalp. Then the cutting began. The guy working on my hair was working like a sculptor chiseling on a block of marble. Snip, snip, snip. Step back, look. Snip, snip, snip. When he was finished they took me back and washed my hair again. Then back in the chair for a few last minute snips to perfect the work of art. The entire process took just over an hour. Total cost 20 RMB, about $3. I almost feel guilty.

I then walked over to the bus stop to take the 15 bus back to the hotel. This is when the real fun began. I would later find out that the 15 bus stops running at 7pm and it was now 7:15pm. While I was waiting a lady on a bicycle stopped and asked me if I spoke English. You betcha, yes ma’am. She told me she was a teacher at the local college which was just a short walk from there. She actually taught Korean. English was just a hobby for her. She would be giving a speech in an English speaking contest on Saturday and she was hoping I would help her by editing her speech. I don’t know, I’m pretty busy. But you aren’t doing anything right now, she said. She said we could go to her office which was very near. What the heck? What kind of scam is this? I don’t know. She was persistent and seemed very nice so I said what the heck. So we start walking down the sidewalk. She said her English name was Rebecca. She was asking me a million questions. I’m keeping my eyes open waiting for her gang to attack me and steal my wallet. We made it to her office ok, no gang, nothing funny. The place looked like a school. We sat down and I read her speech. It was actually a very nice speech, but there were several sentences that were a little off. I understood what she was trying to say, but it just wasn’t the way an American would say them. The term she used to describe it was Chinglish. I’d heard that term before. I made some edits and then read it to her. We discussed how to pronounce certain words, voice inflection for emphasis. It was pretty neat. After we were finished with the speech she asked if I would like to meet her class. I’ve come this far why stop now. Sure, let’s go. We went up two floors and I waited in the hall while she went in to tell them she was bringing in a guest. When I walked into the room there were lots of oohs and aahs. You would have thought some pop star had entered the room. These kids were really excited to see me.

The new Skyler and I

They took turns telling me their names and asking me questions. How long have you been here? What do you like best about Weifang? Do you like China? One girl said she didn’t have an English name and asked if I would help her find a good one. Oh boy, nothing like being put on the spot. The first thought I had was, well my daughter’s name is Skyler, how do you like that? I wrote it on the board and she loved it. Later she asked me if I would always remember her. I assured her I would never forget her. As I was getting ready to leave I remembered to take some pictures to commemorate the event. Good thing I did because if I didn’t have proof I can’t imagine anyone would believe this story.

Day Trip to Jinan

On the platform in Weifang. The train behind me is not my train. It is a slow train. The fast train is very modern looking.

Tuesday morning Kevin picked me up at 8:15 to buy train tickets and then drop me off at the train station. Kevin’s cook/maid Xiao He came along to purchase the tickets for me. When she isn’t cooking and cleaning Xiao He sells Mary Kay cosmetics. We went to a ticket office at Syno Mall, it’s easier to get tickets there than at the train station. I couldn’t get a seat on the train I wanted so I had to take a later train. Since we had an extra hour to kill we went into KFC for a late morning snack.

Most of the fliers just end up on the ground. What a mess. This was early, later in the day you could barely see pavement.

When I first arrived at the train station I was a little worried because I had no idea where to go to board the train. Fortunately I had plenty of time to figure it out. The train station is pretty big. I found a kid who spoke enough English to point me in the right direction. Once I knew where I was going it was easy.

The ride to Jinan was very smooth and except for the two stops along the way we were cruising at constant 197 kph. For the metrically challenged that’s 122 MPH, not a super high speed train, but fast enough.

Pork, edamame, beer. The lamb and chicken had not been delivered yet.

The streets around the train station in Jinan were a sea of humanity. There was some kind of festival going on. Street vendors, lots and lots of girls handing out fliers and samples for products and services. People coming and going in every direction. Fortunately, the cars and buses were only going in one direction which is not necessarily a common occurrence in China. I don’t know all the traffic rules in

The cook at the charcoal grill.

China, but the one overriding rule is this: The person (car, bike, pedestrian) with the biggest pair of nads has the right of way. Of course if you are a pedestrian and you are wrong then your not quite big enough pair will be mashed into the pavement so as a pedestrian a healthy dose of common sense is vital.

Thanks to Google Maps I was able to make my way to Baotu Springs Park. It was an interesting park but you don’t get much for the 40 rmb entry fee. On the way to the park I ran into the pleasant aroma of a Chinese BBQ wafting up from a side street. Following the smell I found several BBQ places with outdoor and indoor seating. I picked one and chose to

Caged bird in a tree.

sit inside. I just happened to have my translated menu from the BBQ place I frequent in Weifang. The offerings were not quite the same but with it I managed to order 10 skewers of pork, 10 skewers of lamb, 2 chicken wings, a plate of edamame, and a beer. The pork skewers each had two small pieces of pork with a garlic clove in between with little to no other seasoning. The lamb was seasoned nicely and I don’t know enough about herbs and spices to tell what it was. Both pork and lamb were awesomelicious. The chicken wings were not spiced and were ok. Stuffed myself for 30 rmb ($4.54)

Old guys playing cards while their birds sing away in the trees.

In China it is very common for old men to keep birds as pets. The have them in cages and carry them to parks, hang the cages in trees, and sit around shooting the breeze with other old guys. Sometimes they will play cards or other games. I watched them play for awhile and have no idea what card game they were playing.

After wandering around the park for about an hour I returned to the train station. The chaos of the festival was still in full swing around the train station. I still had a couple hours to wait for my train so I ducked into the local McDonald’s for some ice cream.

A monument in Baotu Spings Park.

I made my way into the train station and waiting room number 3. I decided to visit the bathroom. Fortunately, I only needed a urinal and not a toilet because urinals they had, toilets not so much, just openings in the floor. They were in stalls, but near as I could tell hardly anyone bothered to close the door while squatting over the hole. I didn’t see any toilet paper either. The floor in the bathroom was completely wet which made me think about misguided American youth who wear those baggy pants with the pant legs dragging on the ground. From now on my shoes will be coming off my feet as soon as I enter my hotel room.

More festival insanity.

When I boarded the train back in Weifang it was easy to know when they were allowing access to the platform. In Jinan it wasn’t as easy. I could see they were letting people through but it seemed early. The guy standing next to me didn’t do English, but I pointed to the train number on my ticket and to the line of people and he shook his head yes. The return to Weifang was the same as the trip to Jinan, but I slept through one of the stops. I woke up cold and as I stood to grab my jacket I heard the announcement that the train was arriving in Weifang. I exited the train station, boarded the 56 bus which goes close to the hotel. I was exhausted, but it was an awesome day trip.

Click here for map showing points of interest in Weifang, Jinan, and Changyi. I’ll load more points as I visit them. Going to Shanghai and Taicang this weekend.

Back In China

Corn drying in the street right outside our factory gate.

I’ve been in China for about two and a half weeks. I have about that much time remaining before I return home. I am running and exercising more than I have on previous trips to China but still not as much as I would like. Living in a hotel isn’t much fun, but I’m getting used to it.

I’m really getting to know my way around the city too. Yesterday I rode a city bus for the first time. I plan to go out today and ride just to see where the buses go. It costs 1 RMB to get on the bus and you can ride it as far as it goes. One RMB is roughly 15 cents. If you transfer to another bus you pay another 1 RMB. The bus I rode yesterday will get me to the Walmart. Today I’m hoping to find the route that goes to the Symo Mall. More places to shop and a Pizza Hut and KFC. I could take a taxi to all these places for about $1.50, but the bus is also interesting and pretty convenient.

The hotel keeps giving me these little tigers. I have six now.

The great China corn harvest is underway. It has been on-going for about three or four weeks now. It takes a long time because much of the harvest is done completely by hand. Some ears are picked with two-row harvesters. They dump the ears of corn in the streets and then remove the husks by hand. The ears are spread out to dry. Later a small tractor with an attached sheller scoops up the ears and deposits the cobs and kernels in two rows. Cobs and kernels are then spread out by hand for more drying. Eventually both are shoveled into bags. Some streets have signs posted to prohibit corn drying, but there is corn drying just about everywhere. I went for a walk and found corn drying within a quarter-mile of the hotel.

Walking around the city. There are very few caucasians walking around so I get lots of stares especially from young kids.

October 1st to the 7th our factory is closed for the Chinese National Holiday. On October 8th I’m flying to Shanghai to visit another company. I’ll spend the night and next day in Shanghai shopping and wandering around the Bund. Fortunately for that trip I’ll have an interpreter with me. Should be fun.