Friday, September 30, 2011

It's all about the bike

Hola. Me llamo Cervelo.
I am your guest blogger today to tell you about the K's adventure in Espana for the World Duathlon Championship. If you remember from an earlier blog, Ginny had solicited your advice on the best way to travel with three people and two bikes from Madrid to Gijon, a city on the Northern Asturian coastline that was the scene of the race . Since then, son Eric dropped out because of running injuries, so the intrepid travelers were just Ginny, Gary!

I was thrilled in Newark Airport when Senor Gary upgraded my ride from ordinary baggage to oversized first class. I was put in an exclusive area with other bike boxes, golf clubs and large packages. From Madrid Airport I rode in a taxi to our lovely downtown hotel which had been a former embassy building. Here is the view my Senor and Senora had from their room:

from the balcony at Hotel Insur Palacio San Martin

....while I was in basement storage. (Not that I'm complaining--I had a pleasant stay with a few other bikes, who somehow thought I should speak Italian and were a little disappointed when they learned I was from New Jersey.)

Meanwhile, out in Madrid, my Senor and Senora also enjoyed a visit to the Prado, Madrid's famous art museum, like the Louvre or the Metropolitan museum in New York. They can now tell the difference (most of the time) among the three most famous Spanish artists: Goya, El Greco and Velasquez, but please don't embarrass them by asking in a month or so because I'm sure they'll have them mixed up.

They also said they liked the Royal Palace and their tour guide, Patricia, who smiled and seemed to actually like American tourists. In each room she would say: "Remember this room. In my opinion it has the most beautiful (Pick one: chandelier, painting, rug, furniture) in the palace and in all of (pick one: Madrid, Spain, the world), in my opinion."

On Wednesday, another taxi van arrived and I briefly enjoyed the 80 degree Madrid weather before being wheeled into the Estacion de Chamartin. (train station). Inside we waited for the via (platform) to display on the overhead schedule, just like Penn Station and NJ Transit. Gary saw other Team USAers dragging their huge bike boxes behind them and went to talk with them. Muy grande problema. Bike boxes not allowed on the train. Such discrimination! What would I, poor Cervelo do? Luckily an enterprising Team USA guy named Bucky took charge and rented a truck and driver.

Now my real fun began. I waved goodbye to my Senor and Senora, as they boarded the sleek train. Ginny was ready to settle in and read book #2 for the trip. There were 10 of us who got to know each other as we waited for the driver to arrive a few hours later. We would be in Gijon by midnight. But the Spanish do not worry about arrival times and firm dates. Manana, manana is good enough. We took our time. I do not want to elaborate too much because Ginny and Gary might get jealous but I did love the leisurely 2 hour dinner that began at 10 pm, a stop for some flamenco dancing, a sidra(hard apple cider) nightcap, some Asturian bagpipe music, a stay in a country inn, blanca y negra cafe (dark coffee with hot milk) in the morning, a stroll through the mountains and our arrival in Gijon just in time for a late morning empanada snack. So what if the trip took 17 hours instead of 7--we were there! And Senor Gary was waiting with a grave look on his face.

Lucky for me the bike mechanic put me together, so I did not have to worry about Gary assembling me with his new torque wrench.  One turn too many and the bike seat might crack. Gijon was beautiful-- a lovely stretch of beach--San Lorenzo Playa-- and finally I had the good view:

Gary took me out for a spin after the opening ceremonies. Here is Team USA:
Team USA on their way to the Opening Ceremonies in the old city

I loved the 38 kilometer (23 mile)  bike course. It wandered through the town, along the beach road and up a nice, challenging 8 km hill into the surrounding countryside with villas tucked away behind stone walls. I was glad we avoided the industrial sections because there is a lot of chemical and metal processing industry in this city of 260,000.

I don't know if you can see well in these pictures, but my friends, the other bikes, all sat in the windows of the hotel looking out over the beach and waiting for race day!
A bike in every window!

Race day was a comfortable, beautiful day and Gary was very happy with his results-33 out of 41 in his age group. No medals, but a good day.

We returned to Madrid via bus(them) and truck(me). Here I am with Gary for a final voyage with my old pals Cannondale, Kestrel and Eddy Merckx. I was excited it was the same truck company, but, alas, a driver who focused on getting to Madrid directly.

I think my Senor and Senora enjoyed their trip very much. Gary didn't talk or think about work for a whole week and Ginny didn't talk or think about the upcoming breast cancer conference for a whole week. Now that's a vacation!

As for me, I seem to be having some trouble with jet lag. Can't seem to get my wheels back on and get moving about. But one thing I learned: Manana, manana.

Good to be home, but I feel like I'm all in pieces! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

My digital 2 year old

Relax, dear readers, the angry breast cancer chick has submerged temporarily and the breezy, fluffmeister has returned with this good report:

Finally, I've joined the 21st century and gotten a smart phone--an i-Phone. I love it, but it reminds me of the old days when I had a 2 year old. The phone rings a jazz piano riff for calls, salsa music for texts and pings for emails. The constant pinging of the phone when emails arrive is like the sweet, insistent voice of a toddler- Ma, Ma, Ping, Ping.  I was never much good at showing the toddler who was boss, so I'm a little worried that I may become the slave to my demanding phone. So don't be surprised if you call me and get the voice mail, I'm just practicing a little parental discipline.

Buying the phone was a story in itself. For one thing, my family share plan never seemed to show my line as eligible for a new phone.  I later learned that eligibility can be switched to a different line and, come to think of it, someone in the family has already had an iPhone, Blackberry and Droid, while I've been waiting to trade up on my Samsung fliptop.

I initially visited a Verizon store in Brick one rainy afternoon. My assigned salesman, Megan, greeted me: 

Megan: What do you want today?
me: an i-Phone
Megan: No, you don't and here's why.....blah, blah, blah
me: But I still want an iPhone. My husband has an iMac and he wants me to learn to use the phone and teach him. (he's even slower to change than I am)
Megan: (puzzled look on her apple cheeked face) that's not what people usually say...they usually just say they want it because everyone else has it.

Undeterred, she persisted with her sales script.

Megan: Games are much cheaper on a Droid. With Apple you'll pay a lot more. Angry Birds is $4.95---a month!
Me: Megan, look at me. I'm 60 years old. Do I look like I want a phone so I can play Angry Birds?

She looked long and hard but it was clear Megan was not going to sell me an iPhone, so I left.

Coincidentally, the same son with the multiple phones was home one Friday without his phone charger. I offered to drop the phone at the Verizon in town for a free recharge, while I got groceries. When I returned to pick up the phone, it wasn't quite done, so i had time to talk to Ian, my efficient young tech salesman. 

Me: I'd like to get an iPhone
Ian: 16g or 32? 
me: 16
Ian: black or white
me: huh? white. Don't you want to talk me out of it?
Ian: why would I?

I explained my adventure with Megan and Ian shrugged. Clearly Megan had raised valid issues, which I guessed Ian agreed with, but he knew his customers.

me: I want something easy
Ian:(shrugging) the iPhone is for you.

Another customer asked  about how soon iPhone 5 would be replacing the iPhone4 and the manager promptly replied that Apple had released no details or availability date yet.

Customer: But it will be different and better-- right?
Ian: it probably has a big 5 on it and that would be enough to get people to line up around the block.

A bit cynical, but Ian got the job done. Halfway through our transaction, the employee door opened and out stepped Ian2--his twin brother. Wow. They must have fun fooling customers. What if I hadn't seen him?

Me:(imagining how it would go if I returned tomorrow)  "Ian, remember I was in here yesterday and you said ....
Ian 2: I've never seen you before, M'am.
me: But I bought this iPhone4 and there's a problem....
Ian2:  (shrugs--just like his brother) So..

It does take a bit of practice to use the keyboard and it took me so long to enter my correct email and password that an exasperated Ian1 told me to write it down and he'd enter it for me!
And I didn't think I was really that old.....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Andrea Mitchell

The cancer blogs and message boards are buzzing today with the news that Andrea Mitchell has an early stage cancer and announced it on her program.

I'm happy for her that it was caught early--after all I was in that same place 19 years ago with a "100%" cure and am now stage IV--0% cure. I don't want to bring you down, but I need to say a few things because I don't think the general public, the media and even much of the breast cancer community understands the strong, visceral reactions that a stage IV metastatic patient feels when they hear a story like this.

1. I'M CURED:  I cringed immediately when Andrea said she "had" breast cancer. She still has it and needs to ask her doctors the definition of a breast cancer "cure".

2. EARLY DETECTION: Her positive statement that "This disease can be completely curable if you find it at the right time" is false. 20-30% of those with early stage cancer will have a recurrence, which can be metastatic.

For those of us with stage IV, we read into Andrea's statement that anyone with a more advanced diagnosis has only herself to blame. But not all cancers are detectable on mammograms and even with annual mammograms and annual checkups, people get recurrences, often metastatic.

    3. BREAST CANCER FUNDING: Focusing exclusively on prevention and early detection, pink ribbons and survivors has skewed the fundraising and the public perception of this disease. Many people (including mbc'ers) are tired of Pinktober and if you were to ask the man or woman on the street what they thought of breast cancer, they might say:
    Everybody seems to get it. It's completely treatable and curable if you're positive and have detected it early. It's one of the "better" cancers. It gets too much attention and too much funding.
    Yet, 155,000 in the US are living with metastatic breast cancer, 40,000 a year die from it. It is the number one cancer killer of women in the 20-59 age group, the leading cause of cancer death for women worldwide and the 2nd leading cause of death by cancer in the US for women, after lung cancer.

    And only an estimated 2-5% of breast cancer research funding goes to studying metastases. It's unbelievable how misguided and misdirected it's all become!

    And someone like Andrea Mitchell who is a position to report and research the full story of breast cancer disappointingly resorts to the same cliches.

    My 2 cents. Thanks for reading.

    If you want more information, read:
    plug for the home team--the organization I work with
    National Breast Cancer Coalition myths and facts about breast cancer--you'll be surprised!
    excellent, funny, perceptive blog

    PS I revised this post after calming down and taking a deep breath last night!  Whew! Thanks for reading.