Saturday, March 28, 2009

The chicken and the gondola

Our dealership uses two separate data bases to generate business.

One of the names that popped up recently on one of them was a gentleman whose last name was Leghorn.

Since I grew up watching a lot of Looney Tunes cartoons, the first thing that came to mind was a character named Foghorn Leghorn.

Because Leghorn is not exactly a common name, I was curious about its origins, so I went to Google for some clarification.

When I typed in “Leghorn” into the Google search box, it pulled up a name that I was not at all familiar with – Livorno. According to the website listed below, Leghorn is the English translation for the Italian word Livorno

As it turns out, Livorno is a city in Italy that was founded in the 1850’s.


One of the districts within the city is an area that all of us are a LOT more familiar with – Venice.

Venice itself is considerably older. Although exact historical records are not available, its origins go back to roughly the 2nd Century A.D., and it’s less a “city” than it is a legal connection that joins 118 islands in a lagoon on the Adriatic Sea. The dominant form of transportation in Venice is by gondola.

One of those islands is a piece of land called Murano, which has been the home of Venice’s glass making industry since 1291.

The glass that is manufactured on the island is much more varied than the glass used in windows. In a very broad sense, it truly is Italian art, and samples of Murano glass can be viewed by clicking on the name “Murano glass”.

Due to the fascination that the Japanese people have with Italian art, one of the names suggested for “the world’s first smooth SUV" was Murano – and that was the name that stuck.

By now you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with chickens, so I’ll take you back to the hen house.

There are 109 different breeds of chicken in existence in the world today.

The Leghorn is the only breed originating in Italy, but it is one of the most popular breeds throughout the world, and it is THE most popular breed for egg production in the United States. The breed is named after the city of Livorno, but there is no accurate information about when the breed first came into existence.

If you look carefully at the map of Italy, you’ll notice that the city of Livorno is on the “leg” part of the “boot” of Italy.

So ..

If you’re curious about the answer to that age old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, the answer would have to be ..


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

this spud's for you

At our Monday morning sales meeting this week, one of the managers mentioned that the main chemical in Rain-X is also a chemical found in the common potato (except for a former Vice President, most people spell the word without an “e” at the end).

Out of curiosity, I cut a potato in half this afternoon, rubbed it on a portion of a car windshield, and buffed it dry.

I then took a squirt bottle of water and sprayed it on the windshield to see if it repelled water.

It did.

The main ingredient in Rain-X is silicon, and the main ingredient in potatoes is starch.

I’m not a chemist, but a review of Wikipedia sites related to potato and silicon (click on the links above) may provide a clue to the link between the two.

Although I HAVE used Rain-X in the past, the article attached below details some of the problems related to its use.

gunk on your windshield

My conclusion is that we’d all be better off using potatoes on our windshields instead of Rain-X.

I have to admit that I felt my eyes glazing over as I read through all of the chemical information listed on the silicon page, but I found the article about potatoes to be VERY interesting.

Although most of us would assume that the potato originated in either Europe or North America, the truth is that it originated in Peru nearly 10,000 years ago (about the time that beer was first brewed.)

In spite of its Peruvian roots, 99% of the potatoes grown today are descended from varieties introduced in Chile.

The potato was not introduced to Europe until 1536, and it quickly became a food staple, due to its low cast and high nutritional value.

Due to the fact that very few varieties were introduced, the crop became vulnerable to disease, which eventually led to one of the world’s worst catastrophes.

Under British rule, most of Ireland’s cash crops were exported to England and the rest of the world, forcing the Irish natives to survive on a diet heavily dependent on the humble spud (the name is derived from a 16th century digging tool called a spudder).

In 1845, blight wiped out most of the crop, which led to the Great Irish Potato Famine.

For the same reasons that potatoes became popular in Europe, they also have recently become popular in a part of the world that you might not expect:


In addition to being the largest foreign holder of our national debt, China is also now the world’s largest producer of potatoes.

Since the potato is now the world’s fourth largest food crop, the United Nations designated the year 2008 as The Year of the Potato.

Although the potato itself is packed with nutrition, the “devil is in the details”.

The potato ranks as #1 and #3 on the attached list of the worst snack foods, but I’d have to argue that deep fried candy bars would have to be included as well if they became popular in places other than Scotland (which also gave us haggis)

The potato chip originated in New York State in 1853, and was actually created in order to irritate a crabby restaurant guest at a resort in Saratoga Springs.

The French fry goes back to the 17th century. As you might suspect, the French fry did not originate in France, but in neighboring Belgium.

When I was in China, I was amazed to find McDonalds restaurants EVERYWHERE, and they were always packed with people. Strangely enough, they ALL had hand dryers made by the World Dryer Corporation of Berkley, Illinois.

You may have already heard that the McDonalds Corporation is the largest owner of real estate in the world, so in closing, I’d like to leave you with the most popular phrase in the English language:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What we got here is a failure to communicate

When I was growing up, in the late 1950’s, my mother used to send a postcard to her mother Millie (Amelia) in Hastings, Minnesota every single day.

Although it’s possible that it was cheaper to send a postcard than it was to make a phone call, I suspect that the real reason that she mailed rather than phoned was due to privacy considerations.

At that period of time, most people had “party lines”, which meant that at least 9 of your neighbors could listen to all of your private conversations if they wanted to, and were quiet about it.

It occurred to me recently that I really could not remember the last time that I had either received, or sent, a postcard.

Just for fun, I went to my local post office and bought some postcards
(they are now 30 cents each) and mailed them to 10 people who were either customers, friends, or relatives. The youngest person on my list was a very mature 20 year old. The oldest was a very spry 74 year old.

I deliberately left off my last name and phone number from the cards, both to protect my privacy, as well as to allow the recipient an opportunity to play detective and find me.

I asked all of them to either call me or text me when they received the card. When they responded to me, I asked them a series of questions about their “communication process”. After a week, I had received four return phone calls, so I took the initiative and called the rest myself. No one had responded by texting me. Everyone that I talked with had received the postcards within 3 days of the time that I mailed them, but the Post Office is considering eliminating one day of service in the near future in order to reduce their HUGE operating deficit, which will increase delivery time.

In brief, here is what I discovered:

Most of the people on my list had NEVER received a postcard from a friend or family member, but a few mentioned that they had received them from local businesses, such as their dentist’s office.

Most of the people on the list had SENT postcards recently. Only one person had NEVER sent one.

Only three people on the list had a Facebook account, and only one person on the list had an account with multiple social networking sites.

Without exception, everyone on the list had a personal email account.

Everyone on the list had both sent and received a LETTER from a friend or family member fairly recently, most of them right around Christmastime.

No one on the list had EVER received a telegram, and only two people on the list had ever SENT a telegram. One was sent in 1965, and the other in 1974.

The 1974 telegram has an interesting twist to it:

Two of our friends were stationed overseas with the military when their daughter was born. In order to announce the birth to the new grandparents back in Minnesota, they decided to send a telegram.Their comments are in quotes immediately below:

"The first line of communication was MARS, where contact was made from an Air Force radio facility to a HAM operator in Ohio, who then placed a phone call to St.Paul.

So, it was radio to telephone, and the radio language required "over" at the end of each response. I don't remember if I said, "roger". I don't even remember where I went to send a telegram."

As you might suspect, MARS is a military acronym. It’s an abbreviation for the term Military Affiliate Radio System. Obviously, if you have to go to Mars to send a telegram, you aren’t going to send a lot of them.

Only two of the people on my list had internet capability on their phones.

Two people did not own a cell phone, but everyone still has a land line, and everyone has a home computer

Everyone on the list (with one exception) was either reading a book for pleasure, or had just finished reading one.

One person on the list had NEVER read a book for pleasure.

None of the people on the list had ever worn a hidden microphone, even though the information picked up on “wires” can sometimes be (bleeping) golden.

When I was researching the cost of postcard stamps in 1959 (three cents)
I came across the following link:

collector postcards

From 1931 to 1959, the U.S. Postal Service produced LINEN post cards, which have become collector’s items today.

The timing of the cards actually makes a lot of sense.

I’ve met a number of people recently who earn their living as art therapists, which means that they actually use art as a form of communication. Since 1931 was pretty close to the bottom of The Great Depression, it seemed logical to release some affordable art to the general public in order to bring some relief from the economic malaise that was gripping the country.

Four years later, the WPA Federal Art Project was launched. Its purpose was to sustain the “starving artists” of America during a very difficult time in this country’s history.

The most prominent person on the list is a man named Jackson Pollock (born on January 28, 1912) but his wife Lee Krasner was also a beneficiary of the program.

If you’ve seen the 2000 movie Pollock, which Ed Harris directed and performed in, you’ll have a pretty good idea what the term “tortured genius” means.

In November 2006, Pollock's "No. 5, 1948" became the world's most expensive painting, when it was sold privately to an undisclosed buyer for the sum of $140,000,000. The previous owner was film and music-producer David Geffen. It is rumored that the current owner is a German businessman and art collector.

With the advent of personal computers in residences roughly 20 years ago, the number of letters that we’ve all mailed to friends and relatives has dropped dramatically, which is part of the reason that the United States Post Office had a $5.142 billion operating deficit in 2008. On the Fortune 500 list, only 4 companies in the world had a worse operating loss than that.

General Motors was #1 on the list, with an operating loss of $38.732 billion.

Fortune 500 losers

Ever since a Chinese man named Ts’ai Lun invented paper in 104 A.D., people have been writing love letters to each other.

Since men and women are programmed much differently (I’d recommend reading Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps, by Barbara and Allan Pease, for a little more insight on this topic) the letters don’t always have the desired effect:

As humans, we seem to have a desperate need to communicate with each other, which is why a vast majority of the people in the world now own personal cell phones. Amazingly, the first cell phone was invented only recently (April of 1973). The inventor was Doctor Martin Cooper, former director of research and development at Motorola.

If you don’t feel like using your phone to either call or text your friends, there’s always Facebook, which is also a fairly recent phenomenon.

Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook almost exactly 5 years ago (February 5, 2004) when he was a student at Harvard. Initially, the service was limited only to students at Harvard, but later expanded to other colleges. Eventually, it was open to virtually anyone with a personal computer.

On October 24, 2007, Microsoft purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $246,000,000.

Zuckerberg’s net worth is estimated at $1.5 billion, which places him #321 on the Forbes 400 list.

He will turn 25 years old on May 14 of 2009.

He has since dropped out of Harvard and (ladies) he’s single.

Having the ability to communicate with virtually anyone at anytime can sometimes create some problems.

Last summer, an 18 year old girl in Pittsburgh, PA named Justine Ezarik received a 300 page AT & T bill for her I-phone. She has a Facebook profile, and recently learned that the system imposed limit is 5000 friends maximum. It’s possible that she has now moved to Los Angeles, since the Facebook system went into “overload” mode when I tried to view the friends claimed by Justine Ezarik of Los Angeles.

So, like, do you think she has a job or anything?

The Western Union Telegraph Company started business in 1856, and was one of the original 11 stocks listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

During WWII, the United States suffered 416,800 military deaths and 1700 civilian deaths. Every one of the families of the casualties received the bad news from the United States government by telegram, but never after 10 P.M.

In 1958, Western Union started to build a Telex network in the United States.

On January 27, 2006, the company stopped sending telegrams, the product for which it is known.

Unlike the Post Office, Western Union had diversified its product line a long time ago. Today, its annual revenues are $3 billion, primarily from money transfers, and it’s a subsidiary of First Data Corp.

To tell you the truth, I can’t remember the last time that I either received, or sent, a telegram, but I DO remember that the companies that I worked for were still using Telex machines until the early 1990’s.


The Telex network and Western Union telegrams stopped due to the advent of the internet.

In a March 19, 1999 interview, Vice President Al Gore told Wolf Blitzer of CNN, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet”.

Mr. Gore was an ardent proponent of ARPANET the military predecessor to the internet, and his input undoubtedly helped to speed up the development of the internet, but he did NOT invent the internet, even though Al Franken gave him a lot of credit for it in his latest book.

And that’s the inconvenient truth.

Although I own a cell phone, I’d have to admit that most of the communication with the people that I know is via our personal computer, and that’s probably true for the rest of the “baby boomer” generation
as well.

However, with apologies to Jerry Lee Lewis, there’s a whole lotta textin’ going on, and there’s no longer much chance for a failure to communicate.

As a final note, check out the January 29, 2009 edition of the Blondie comic strip:



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What do you say to a naked lady?

In 1970, the late Allen Funt produced a film called What do you say to a naked lady? When it was first released, the Motion Picture Association of America rated the movie “X”, due to the fact that it dealt with people’s reactions to nudity in unusual situations.

The actress in the movie was far from the most famous naked lady of the last 40 years, but that statement is also true for the late Linda Lovelace, star of a movie called “Deep Throat”.

THE most famous naked lady of the last 40 years was actually a 9 year old Vietnamese girl named Phan Thi Kim Phuc, who is more commonly known by the abbreviated name of Kim Phuc. Since the family name is actually Phan, and her given name is really Phuc, I’ll simply call her “Kim” to keep the story more,um,family friendly.

On June 8, 1972, the South Vietnamese Air Force, under the direction of the United States Air Force, dropped napalm on Kim’s village of Trang Bang, which was under attack from, and occupied by, North Vietnamese forces. Several villagers, and two of Kim’s cousins, were killed by the attack.

Associate Press photographer Nick Ut captured a shot of Kim running down the road totally naked, and crying in anguish. Immediately afterward, he took Kim and the other children to a hospital in Saigon. Although Kim survived the attack, she suffered extensive burns on her back, and was not expected to live. After a 14 month hospital stay, and 17 surgical operations, she returned home.

Mr. Ut ultimately was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the picture, and it was also the World Press Photo of the Year for 1972. Although support for the war in Vietnam had been diminishing for a number of years, the publication of the picture of Kim running down the road in obvious pain helped to bring an end to one of America’s most divisive wars less than three years later.

U.S involvement in wars in Vietnam actually goes back to 1950, when the conflict was called the French-Indochina War. The first Americans to die in the country (2 Air Force pilots) died in 1954, but the earliest date shown on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is July 8, 1959

Through the Eisenhower and Kennedy terms of office, the number of military advisers gradually increased, but the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 (which later turned out to be fraudulent) provided the excuse for the “troop surges” during the Johnson administration, which were called“troop escalations” in 1965.

Inevitably, the war became a film, and the first one released about the war was Apocalypse Now, which came out in 1979.

The most famous scene in the film was the one in which Robert Duvall (Corporal Kilgore) is giving a speech to his men, which you can watch on the clip below:

it smells like victory

A more graphic illustration of what napalm is capable of can be found in the middle portion of the original movie trailer (roughly 1:58 to 2:00 minutes)

Apocalypse Now trailer

Napalm, which is essentially jellied gasoline, was first used in June of 1944.

When ignited, it burns at approximately 2200 degrees Fahrenheit.

To paraphrase Colonel Kurtz a little, imagine being a small girl on the ground watching flaming liquid falling on your home, and then feeling it landing on your body.

“The horror” can’t possibly even come close to what she must have felt.

Kim eventually recovered from her injuries, and was given permission by the government to move to Cuba in 1986 in order to continue with her education,

While in Cuba, she met a young Vietnamese man named Bui Huy Toan. They soon fell in love, and were married in 1992.

When they were on their honeymoon, their plane stopped in Canada for refueling. Kim and her new husband decided to get off the plane and ask for political asylum, which was granted to them.

In 1996, she gave a speech at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and she met Reverend John Plummer, the man responsible for coordinating the attack on her village with the South Vietnamese Air Force.

She publicly forgave him, and that act of forgiveness was captured on film by Canadian Shelley Saywell.

In spite of the fact that former classmates, neighbors, and relatives have their names etched in to the polished black granite, and my name is on Panel 56W – line 17, the Memorial is a place of healing, and of forgiveness.

Since we are a democracy, we are all responsible, to a degree, for the actions of our government.

For that reason, if I ever have occasion to the meet the most famous naked lady of the last 40 years, this is what I would say to her:

“I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Muslims and the dancing goats

When the alarm goes off in the morning, most of us stumble into the kitchen, and eagerly await the fragrant smell of that morning cup of “Joe” that will help us to get the blood flowing in our veins again.

For starters, most people don’t know where the term “cup of Joe” comes from. Although there are a variety of explanations on line, the most accurate description (found on the Urban Legends website) is that coffee was simply “the stuff that fuels the common man”, who is usually known as “the average Joe”.

Very few people are aware of the fact that if it weren’t for the Muslims, and the dancing goats, we wouldn’t have any coffee at all.

Coffee use can be traced at least to as early as the ninth century, when it appeared in the highlands of Ethiopia . According to legend, Ethiopian shepherds were the first to observe the influence of the caffeine in coffee beans when the goats appeared to "dance" and to have an increased level of energy after consuming wild coffee berries.

From Ethiopia, coffee spread to Egypt and Yemen. It was in Arabia that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed, similar to how it is done today. By the 15th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey, and northern Africa.

Coffee has played an important role in many societies throughout modern history. In Africa and Yemen, it was used in religious ceremonies. As a result, the Ethiopian Church banned its secular consumption until the reign of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia.

It was banned in Ottoman Turkey in the 17th century for political reasons, and was associated with rebellious political activities in Europe.

From the Muslim world, coffee spread to Italy. The thriving trade between Venice and North Africa, Egypt, and the Middle East brought many goods, including coffee, to the Venetian port. From Venice, it was introduced to the rest of Europe. Coffee became more widely accepted after it was deemed a Christian beverage by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the "Muslim drink."

There have been a lot of studies conducted about the health aspects of coffee, but the one stated below should give you some pause:

Over 1,000 chemicals have been reported in roasted coffee; more than half of those tested are rodent carcinogens

If you’re environmentally sensitive, you should be aware of the fact that it takes about 140 liters of water to grow the coffee beans needed to produce one cup of coffee, and the coffee is often grown in countries where there is a water shortage, such as Ethiopia

Although Ethiopia, the original producer of coffee, is still in the top ten in terms of coffee production, the leading countries are now:

(1) Brazil
(2) Indonesia (the most populous Muslim country in the world)
(3) Vietnam (our former enemy)

If you are concerned about the purity of the soil in your back yard garden, you should consider these facts about Vietnam:

(1) During Rolling Thunder, which lasted from March 2, 1965 until November 1, 1968, our government dropped 864,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam.
(2) During the Vietnam War (which ran from 1959 until 1975) , the United States dropped 21 million gallons of Agent Orange (a defoliant) on Vietnam
(3) Although Robert Duval (in “Apocalypse Now”) said that he loved the smell of napalm in the morning, Kim Phuc would likely hold an opposing position, since she became the most visible "burn victim" of the Vietnam War.

Indonesia and Vietnam (the #2 and #3 producers of coffee in the world) also produce the most expensive coffee in the world.

Kopi Luwak, a product of Indonesia, can cost as much as $600 a pound. It is “produced” when civets “pass undigested coffee bans through their digestive tracts”. In Vietnam, the product is called “weasel coffee” because it is regurgitated by weasels.

expensive coffee

When I was in the National Guard in the early 1970’s, I often thought that the coffee tasted like (um) well, you know. I guess we’ve somehow come “full circle”.

If you were a fan of the late Paul Harvey, and would like to read “the rest of the story” just click on the link attached below:


Tomorrow morning, when you have your morning cup of coffee, give thanks to Allah, because without the Muslims, your morning coffee experience would be a whole lot different.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

To Hell and back - on a bicycle!

The August 13, 2006 edition of the Chicago Tribune had a story about an 87 year old man named Clayton Klein who was planning (again) to walk from Paradise to Hell to raise money for cancer research.

The journey from Paradise, Michigan to Hell, Michigan is roughly 420 miles, and would take him three weeks to complete. Even though I’m in pretty good shape for an old codger, I’m absolutely impressed by someone that age undertaking a walk of that length.

Since the publication of that article in 2006, Mr. Klein has completed two more walks in his quest to raise money for charity. In 2008, his charity of choice was Michigan Hospice.

If you Google “Clayton Klein”, one of the sites that pops up is a blogsite monitored by a woman named Susan Parcheta, who describes herself as a friend of Mr. Klein.

Her site is attached below:

Susan Parcheta

I keep raising the bar on my bike journeys, because I enjoy challenges.

A 100K was a terrific challenge, until I completed my first one.

Then I completed my first North Shore Century, in the fall of 2005, and raised the bar again.

In July of 2006, I completed my first round trip bike ride to Milwaukee, which was a 160 mile round trip.

To keep my life in balance, I interrupted the journey by having lunch that day with my old neighbor Jim Livingston at a restaurant called “Beer Belly’s” on Layton Avenue, just west of Billy Mitchell Field in Milwaukee. I had a brat sandwich, and the equivalent of four beers (two boombahs), and rode back.

Although I plan to eventually ride to Minnesota and back in a week, the next step is to ride to my old home town of Waukesha,Wisconsin (100 miles each way) and back in a two day time period.

But the ultimate trip?

Obviously, that would be to ride to Hell and back!

According to MapQuest, it’s 255 miles from Evanston to Hell, Michigan. At my average pace, I had calculated that I could accomplish a round trip ride in less than a week.

When I first started thinking about the possibility of making the journey, I ran the idea past a few of my friends and relatives.

My daughter Kelly, who is the world traveler in our family, also thought it was a good idea, so we started to make plans for a joint ride to Hell.

Conveniently, my cousin Steve lives in a small town not far from Hell, so we made a “reservation” with Steve to stay at his house on our third night out.

I ordered maps from Indiana and Michigan, and we plotted our route, most of which was on Highway 12 in Michigan.

We finally settled on traveling the first week in August, which later turned out to be the hottest week of the entire summer.

Since Kelly’s friend and former roommate Zach worked for the Marriott hotel chain at that time, we made arrangements to stay the first night at a hotel in Mishawaka, Indiana, about 125 miles from Evanston.

By 6:00 that night, we were still about 30 miles from our destination. The hills were getting bigger, and the daylight was starting to fade, so we took a more pragmatic approach to finishing the day.

We hitchhiked.

A great guy named Mike put our bikes in the back of his truck, and brought us right to the hotel door. He refused all efforts to pay him for his help, which left us with the impression that the trip was starting off on a pretty good foot.

We swam in the pool, relaxed in the sauna, and then walked across the street to enjoy a delicious pasta dinner.

The next morning, we used the computer in the hotel’s business center to plot the course for the next day. We had both decided that 125 miles was too ambitious for a day’s ride, so we scaled back to about 100 miles for the second day’s leg.

We found a hotel in Jonesboro, Michigan, and booked a room for the night.

Although the oppressive heat had forced us to take rest breaks every 20 minutes or so during the middle of the day, we were within 10 miles of the hotel by 6:00 that night.

The village of Quincy, Michigan is located in Branch County, Michigan, and it is bisected by U.S. Highway 12.

There’s not a lot of industry, nor are there a lot of people. In the 2000 census, its population was listed as 1701 people. The only structure of note in the town is a single set of railroad tracks that crosses Highway 12.

At a 45 degree angle.

Since we were getting close to our resting spot for the night, we were riding along at a pretty good clip.I was in the lead, and as I crossed the railroad tracks at about 15 miles per hour, the channel adjacent to the tracks pulled my bicycle off to the left, towards the middle of the road.

Momentum being what it is, my body continued forward towards the shoulder of the road, and I landed with a sickening THUD on the gravel shoulder.

Kelly was riding close enough that she also fell, but her only injury was a flat tire on her brand new bicycle.We quickly dragged ourselves and our bikes to the side of road, and pondered our next move. Although we had made plans to bring spare tubes and bike pumps with us, they somehow never got purchased, so our journey definitely fell into the category of “on a wing and a prayer”.
Ultimately, our salvation came in the form of another guy named Mike, and another truck. He drove us to our hotel, where we tried our best to get a good night’s rest. I will have to admit, though, that’s not an easy thing to do if you have gravel embedded in your arm.

The next morning, the proprietor was kind enough to drive us to the hospital in the next town, and bring us back, which saved us a lot of grief.

We swallowed our pride, and called home, and at 3:30 that afternoon, the old Buick, and the new bike rack, showed up at the hotel, and brought us back home.

My old Peugeot picked up a few scratches, and I wore my arm in a sling for about a week afterward, but I was back on the trails again in less than a month.

Before our journey, Kelly had already registered for her first Chicago marathon, and she also kept in shape by riding back and forth to work in downtown Chicago, where she worked as a tour guide for
Bobby’s Bike Hike

Although Kelly had also signed up for some training sessions for the Marathon, her work and other commitments prevented her from logging a lot of miles. By the start of the race, the longest distance she had run on one day was 8 miles.

The temperature on the day of the race eventually climbed to 88 degrees, forcing race officials to cut the race short. A 35 year old man from Michigan died of a heart attack, and over 400 people required medical attention.

Due to her extensive cross training, including a trip (partially) to Hell, Kelly easily finished 20 miles, and could have finished the race if the course had not been shut down. Judging from the pictures we have of her posted on our refrigerator, it looks as though she had run around the block, which still continues to amaze me.

In the summer of 2008, she completed her first
, and plans to do it again in the summer of 2009.

Eventually, I’ll make another attempt at riding to Hell and back on a bicycle, but I’ll be better prepared for the next trip.

Once that’s accomplished, I’ll move on to the NEXT logical step.

The Cross Country Challenge is a 52 day, 3800 mile, journey that runs from San Francisco to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Nobody ever said it’s going to be easy, and there may even be a few people who might say, “Brennan, aren’t you supposed to be retired?”, but that’s missing the point.

At the age of 56, I sold my house and most of my possessions, and moved halfway around the world to teach English in a country where I didn’t speak the native language.

It was a magnificent adventure, and I don’t regret doing it for a minute.

When I heard the Dalai Lama speak in downtown Chicago a couple of years ago, he said that the purpose of life is to be happy. Although there ARE people who may be content (and happy) watching reruns of “I love Lucy” on TV, that just isn’t for me.

To borrow a line from the Dodge commercials, I’m going to try to continue to grab life by the horns, and will seek adventure as long as I’m able.

If at some point in the future somebody tells me to go the hell, I’ll be able to respond,“No thanks. I’ve been there, and it’s not much of a place”.

Clayton Klein has ALREADY been to Hell and back (more than once), and I KNOW that he would agree with me.