Pics for my Father, who loves trains

for every picture in this post, click it to see a larger version

This is the central station in Milan. I think this train looks more like a rocket than a train. I rode it for several hours from Milan to Bolzano, and although we did not leave earth’s atmosphere, it was quite comfortable and fast. The passenger car compartments seated 6 people facing each other. I felt linguistically inept for the hundredth time since I arrived, as I was with 5 other people with whom I couldn’t communicate at all.

And here is a better view of the really cool roof.

Boris on the small commuter tram in Collabo/Kobelstien, we took this to a gondola that rode down the mountainside into Bolzano. It was not really for tourists, it was for people commuting to work.

The view down the tracks in Collabo/Kobelstien, complete with a very old man in a stained work apron walking down the tracks. As he shuffled by me, I showed him the picture; he gave me a huge toothless smile from under his green felt fedora, and said something to me in German. A person is faced with choices in life, places where tracks diverge, and sometimes when you choose one track, you can’t go back.

I like the view from the track I have chosen; this is Austria, just outside of Innsbruck. Innsbruck was the site of the 1976 Olympics, and the physical outlines remind me oddly of Salt Lake; a fairly large city in a wide valley, surrounded on two sides by gargantuan mountains.

A whole bunch of VW’s & Audis blasting by waiting commuters in the Austrian Town of Rosenheim. This train was quite long, it could have stopped and picked us all up, each to our own new car.

Me on the train, hiding my “travel hair” under a baseball cap that probably identifies me as an American from 100 feet away. Gosh I have a huge chin.

4 new posts & Collabo

I am finally at a real internet connection! Yay!! For some reason European Wi-Fi hates my iBook. But the coffee here at this Italian coffeeshop is REALLY strong, and the direct ethernet is fast!

So I finally have been able to post my writings & images from the last several days, There are 4 new posts after this one, enjoy!

The picture below is the Dolomite surrounded track at Collabo. Click on it for a larger image.

I skated a 26.8 flying 400m lap on it this morning. An older, “seen it all” Russian coach looked at me after with a huge grin, and used one of his few english words, “Wow!”

It made my day…

Lost in Lengmoos

I am in Northern Italy for a few days, training with a gaggle of Russians & Boris on the high altitude, very cold, fast outdoor ice in Collabo. The lesson I just learned is that you can discover a lot about yourself getting lost walking home in the dark from the rink to the hotel.

Especially if it’s brutally cold, you are extremely tired, sweaty & cranky, the streets are badly marked and twistier/odder/narrower/steeper/older & stranger than staircases at Hogwarts.

I did finally make it home, after turning a 15 minute walk into an hour long frozen shuffle through this tiny mountainside town called “Lengmoos”. You probably won’t find it on a map, but nearby Bolzano is big enough to appear. Even though I am in Italy, they speak German here, as this was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until WWI. European linguistic identity & cultural grudges run quite deep.

It’s beautiful here in the Dolomites. Cold, forbidding, stern, Tyrolian, but beautiful.

I can’t understand how I went 35 years of my life without traveling from Bolzano at sea level, through endless terraced vineyards and 20+ winding switchbacks, to these Dolomite mountain hamlets at 4,000 feet.

The only problem is, now I want to come back in the summer and ride my road bike up the steep switchbacks, when its warm, the vineyards are green, and the sun is brilliant. I want to feel that endless out of the saddle cycling strength I used to have living in Ithaca, where your lungs, heart and legs can hammer an endless, sweaty, excellent, unstoppable, altitude gobbling rhythm.

It is winter, but imagine the vineyards green on this road winding up from Bolzano. Every inch of the hillside on the right is vineyard!

I probably will never come back in the summer, but I am glad I found an excuse to visit here anyway. Why is it in life that this overwhelming urge to be “practical?” is so strong. Speedskating, or following most intense passions, is totally impractical, expensive, crazy, but seeing new places, even if it means being lost in Lengmoos on a freezing evening? Priceless!

Why do I need “excuses” to travel? I never would have come here if not for this odd sport as my excuse.

Quite a few of the Utah speedskating tribe, who were full time skaters through Olympic trials, have ended their seasons and returned to full time jobs or school. I will return to a somewhat more practical/normal life when this season ends as well. I will both welcome it and regret it.

10 Things about Switzerland

Again I find myself writing from a train, currently the train from Lugano to Milano (then onward to Collabo, where I meet Boris). It’s hard for many North Americans who live in car-centric cities to truly comprehend how navigable Europe is by train. But I am beginning to see that due to the geographic distribution of European populations, trains are very practical, cheap, and relaxing.

I had a wonderful, yet very different experience in Switzerland than I did in Norway. What are the stereotypes of Switzerland in the North American Mind? Swiss army knives? Ricola? Hedi? Cows trudging through alpine medows? There is a lot of fluff that lurks right on the edges of imagination. Here are 10 specifics that my imprecise & fluffy mind noticed:

10. The Swiss Alps.
I lived in Colorado for 8 years. The Rockies are certainly bigger, but also because of their immense size, they are somehow distant. It’s like watching Godzilla & King Kong stomping around from several miles away. The Swiss Alps are different, not as high, but you are so close, it’s like you are right among the feet and tail & toenails of immense beasts that loom over you.

Here is a slice from another picture Jessica took. Click on it for a larger view of an incredible landscape.

9. Driving like a mole
Ever been in an endless sub mountain tunnel? This is the San Bernadino Pass. It went on and on and on.

8. Coffee on your keychain
Swiss keys are much more sophisticated, arty, & advanced than American keys. The green solid one is a “smart” key that fires up an office coffee machine, you add money to it, and it remembers & displays your running total. Very cool.

7. Military infrastructure
The swiss have not been in active combat in almost 500+ years. Even the Nazi’s in WWII decided to pass on taking on Switzerland. This has gotta be the toughest little army in the world.

6. Roasted Chestnuts
These are served hot from local street vendors. Jessica was absolutely in heaven. She was saying something very happy in Italian as I snapped this picture. The Chestnuts in the USA taste terrible, because there was some blight in the 30’s that wiped out all the tasty ones. That Christmas song that begins with “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” Now I get it. Think of a huge, soft, flavorful peanut.

5. Horse is good!
They serve foal in local restaurants, for real. Baby Horse. Don’t act all indignant, if you eat pig or squid/octopus, you are killing much more intelligent & emotional animals than a horse. Horses are cute & have a unique relationship to human beings, but also, as Jessica and I discovered, they are quite tasty too.

4. Multi-lingual Sugar
Any country that can keep its political & social coherence while speaking a bucketful of languages is worth respecting. For example; here are the contents of a simple sugar bowl at the restaurant in Davos. The quiz here is this: Identify each of the languages that the word sugar is written in. Bragging rights goes to the first commenter who can name the 5 languages with 100% assurance (jess knew 4, I knew 3).

3. Swiss Taxes
Tax assessors in Switzerland value houses on their outside appearance, not inside. So homes outwardly look very plain & simple, or sometimes even old & a bit medieval! Inside they are completely modern. This is the opposite from current ostentatious American mega-houses. I prefer the Swiss model. It keeps a modicum of outward humility in their towns.

2. Swiss Patriotism
They have places where you can plug in your electric car!!! When will America realize that true patriotism is embracing alternative energy with 110% of our American technical and business creativity!!!

1. EGOBANK,
I finally found a place to make a deposit of my surplus ego! I do have a few questions for the bankers; can I deposit now and make a withdrawal later in life when I really need to feel good about myself? What is the interest rate on properly invested ego? Does banked ego devalue/deflate over time? Is my ego over-inflated in value right now? Is there a favorable exchange rate between the European Ego and American Ego? Can I use online Ego-banking to make sure my Ego is always balanced? Should I invest my Ego in high-risk growth opportunities? Or should I aim for small & dependable ego investment returns? How much ego should I store at the bank, and how much should I carry with me? Is my ego safe in this bank, what if someone steals my ego?

Davos Days –Racing!

The ice in Davos is a unique surface. It gets incredibly cold at night, so it’s really hard, yet once the mountain sun hits it in the morning, the top softens over a hard bottom layer, so combines grip and excellent glide. The air is also 5,000 feet thin… Combine this with some pretty decent ice techs, and this can be an awfully fast place to race.

During training, it felt like the top speeds were higher than Hamar, but its still outdoors, and so you don’t coast as well, and even slight winds can slow times dramatically. So I was unsure what to expect.

There were several records I had shots at during this race weekend, the two I set in Hamar last week, 37.93 in the 500m, and 1:16.11 in the 1000m. Dutch Skater Ledo Beeksma has the 1500m record at 1:58.9, and he also has the small allaround samalong record

Translation for non-speedskaters: a samalong is basically lowest elapsed time over 4 races, but it’s a weighted time score where 1 second in the 500 = 2 seconds in the 1000 = 3 seconds in the 1500 = 6 seconds in the 3,000. They never do this in the Olympics, but it’s important in many meets.

Since Hamar I have been changing some of the mechanics of my arm swing, and I am very happy with the slight timing changes I feel. You don’t skate with your arms, & you don’t need arm strength to be a good speedskater, but the path your arms travel impacts how your legs transfer power into the ice, and more importantly for me, it affects your timing of how fast you step from foot to foot.

So I go to the 500m start line happy, confident. There were a few Swiss national team skaters before me, in addition to the masters racing. One of the Swiss skates a 38.12 500m, supposedly a new Swiss national record (he was very happy), hmmm, cool. I roughly expect a 38.4 from myself, as I have never gone faster than 39.01 outdoors. Soon it’s my turn to be called to the line.

I bust off my best technical & physical start in weeks, 10.44, I have a minor slip in the first corner. I hit a very high top speed in the backstretch, you can see that I have picked up some jedi skills and briefly turned my skate blades into a light sabre! (it’s just the sun, but quite cool looking!).

Finally I skate a clean final outer turn! I focus on the new arm swing in the last 100m, and I feel excellent pressure every step of the way.

I cross the line and see 37.81 !!!!! FASTER THAN HAMAR! AND A NEW RECORD!

I do a little celebrating of my own, as I was quite surprised. I don’t hide my emotions too much when I am on the ice. Jessica gives me some good natured kidding afterwards “Too bad you are not Swiss!”. As an added bonus, my time is .2 faster than my lake placid Yoda, Pat Kelly’s time of 38 flat. Pat said he slipped awfully at the start. He still opened in 10.31 though! I wish I went that fast when I slip.

The less that is said about the 1500m I raced later that afternoon, the better. I really have not trained for that distance at all, and have not raced one this year. My plan was to start slow and work the corners after 800m. What happened was I went very fast for 700m and built up a lethal dose of lactic acid, and was utterly shattered with 500m still to go. I faded by 5 seconds in the final lap, only slightly faster than if I had simply coasted along, and finished in 2:02, well outside the record. Pat skated a great looking, controlled race to just nose under the 2 minute mark. 1:59 something, a new age group record for him.

In the overall classification for all the masters racing in Davos, Pat and I were #1 and #2 in the standings, even though we are in different age groups, as I am 35 and he is 42. So we would definitely be paired together on the next day. I must admit to being a little intimidated. After all, the 1000m tomorrow is Pat’s specialty, he finished 6th in the 1994 Olympics the year Jansen won his gold.

Tomorrow seemed like it arrived in no time (even though Jessica, Becky and I had a fantastic party with our new Italian friends, they deserve a whole blog post of their own one of these days).

Sure enough, on the start list, there are Pat and I set together for the 1000m. The ice is still good, not quite as fast as yesterday, but smoother. By the time the 1000m came along, the sun was quite hot & beginning to soften things up a bit.

Pat has his game face on, they call us to the line, Him on the inner, me on the outer. BANG! I shoot off the line very well, but part way through the first turn, Pat comes sailing by me with a world-class sub 17 start. Grrrrr! I hit the first straightaway absolutely raging, in dramatic contrast to Pat’s control & smooth tempo. He is faster than me to 200m, but I pass him before the second turn, and accelerate the turn crazy hard.

A huge thank you goes out to my italian buddy Paolo Gemme for this fantastic shot of this moment. You can see Pat’s hips really in the turn, and I am not so precise.

Coming into the backstretch, I see the perfect draft! Starting on the outer in the 1000m often sucks, except when you manage to get that perfect draft at that perfect moment, like right now.

I am able to pick up a ton of speed as I get a beautiful draft. You can see here the subtle contrast in body position between his top speed relaxed groove and the intense effort of my style. I shoot through Pat’s draft, pass him, hit the fast inner turn and can barely hold the corner I am going so fast. Even though I can toss 450lbs around on the squat rack, it’s hard to extend my legs against the intense pressures of this speed. I get the bell for the final lap 15 meters ahead, I feel good today, and hit the crucial second to last turn pretty well.

My legs begin to lock up in the backstretch in the same old spot, in the final outer turn, I slow down dramatically, exiting the turn, I can hear the clap-clap-clap of the Pat Kelly tractor beam chasing me down. I drive with everything I have over the last 50 meters, my mouth hanging open in a desperate attempt to suck oxygen to my screaming legs.

I barely beat Pat to the line by a few meters, Again I am faster than Hamar, 1:15.95!! Pat right behind at 1:16.52. Our splits were a contrast in style I skated like a 17.14, 27.0, then a 31.81! an ouchy 4.8 second fade! Gotta love racing outdoors! Pat was something like 16.97, 29.3, 30.12.! Totally different approaches to a 1000. I am always faster when I just burn everything I have in the first 600m, as much as it looks bad on paper.

Later that day, we are paired together again for the 3k. Pat is already thinking ahead to Masters world allaround champs in Finland later this year, and needs to test himself by skating a fast 3k, as that will be the make or break distance for him. I just want to survive the 7.5 laps without puking on myself!! As this is a distance I REALLY don’t train for! Distance racing is its own unique beast. I can hear allarounders & marathon skaters laughing at me for fearing a 3k, and this fast-twitch fella deserves every bit of it!

Pat takes off hard from the gun. With Jessica yelling lap times and encouragement to me, I skate my own, much slower race, and manage consistent 36.9 second laps. That was as fast as I am capable of going. I tried to build the corners hard on the last 2 laps, but the legs started locking and I slowed down to 38’s. Final time of 4:44, and I was satisfied, as that is 18 seconds faster than the last 3,000 meter I raced over 2 years ago.

Pat beat me by quite a bit in the 3k, and won the overall masters’ samalong. We are in separate age categories though, and both set new samalong records in the 500-1000-1500-3000 combinations in our age groups. Yay for us!

Ugh, its late, I need to go to sleep. Thanks for reading.

not much Wi-Fi in the Dolomites

Greetings from northern Italy!!!! where I am training with Boris and a whole posse of russians for a few days… I will head to inzell tomorrow, for my last race in this wonderful/crazy european trip

I am writing quicky from the Hotel’s front desk computer… Apparently the internet is a new thing here in the northern dolomites, and the few wireless networks I have found all dislike my laptop intensely..

so I have not had a chance to post, or even check my email, in the last 4 days.. the horrors!!! but I have 3 long posts written, and once I find an internet cafe, I will post them and redo the dates so they appear correctly from when I wrote them…

hmmm, keyboards in this part of the world have the Y and Z reversed in their locations…. there is lots more strangeness & excitement to relate…

soon!!

-andrew

A Davos Day

I made it to Switzerland without any trouble (the Swiss trains do run on time), and for the first time in a week, I see the sun! Yay! Lugano has a mild winter climate, and it’s as beautiful as one could imagine, hilly too. Click on the image for a larger one

After a few days recovering from travel in Lugano, my wife, Becky and I drove through the Alps to Davos, where my next race is. We got to see a good deal of the mountains and Switzerland as we drove.

My overwhelming impression of the many small mountain towns I saw was that the Swiss reputation for being tough and resourceful is well deserved, because this must have been an awfully difficult place to live in until fairly recently. This part of Switzerland is vertical in nature, and there simply is very little room for ANYTHING between the towering mountains on every side. Livestock or agriculture must have been a huge challenge, and the population that could be supported on postage stamp sized agricultural plots must have been quite small.

However, it is beautiful, and I imagine generations of invaders must have found the narrow Swiss valleys with plentiful castles & natural defenses about as much fun as swing dancing with a porcupine.

We arrived in Davos, and the next morning, after Jess and Becky left for some downhill skiing, I walked the 800 meters to the rink for a warm-up skate. A large crowd of skaters is here from all over Europe. Here is a Norwegian and a Dutch Skater chatting about equipment. For you equipment-obsessed skaters, I see the Euro-Masters skating overwhelmingly on Vikings, with a smattering of Raps. The Germans are the only ones I see using custom molded carbon fiber boots like most US skaters. Especially a brand called SEUSS. I don’t think I have seen a single skater on the maple aluminum tube blades that are so common in the USA & Canada.

If you want to see the view of Davos from the top of the mountain, click here for a pic Jess took while skiing. The rink is barely out of view under the lip of the hill.

Davos is an interesting place. I have heard elite world cup skaters talk in reverent tones about “A Davos Day”, and now I know what they mean.

The rink is a huge expanse of ice, bordered by tasteful hotels, and then surrounded by the Alps. Davos is at roughly 5,000 feet, so it has the same thin air of Salt Lake. The Swiss take good care of their ice, so when you combine thin air and good ice, this can be a very fast place to skate. Since Davos is at high altitude, the nights are very cold, so the ice is extremely hard, but once the sun rises, the mile-high radiant heat from the sun makes skating very comfortable, even if the air and ice stay cold.

Here is the view looking one direction (click on these pics for larger versions)

And here is the view looking back at the rink building itself. There is a nice restaurant with outdoor tables to the right of the deck, under the word “DAVOS”. You can drink good European beer, eat steak, and watch speedskating!

Today was a textbook Davos Day. Sunny, highs in the mid 30’s, but it felt at least 15 degrees warmer. I chatted with my Italian friends from Hamar, made some new Dutch friends (including a Dutch skater who is 84!!!) and then unexpectedly saw my Lake Placid skate Yoda, Patrick Kelly, walk in the door.

Pat is a great guy, and a technically outstanding skater. Here he is enjoying the sun during a textbook Davos day. He has some really great memories of competing here during his time on the world cup circuit. His wife was an Olympic figure skater, and as Pat and I were zipping around the track, Karen was doing jumps and spins on the inside. Skating is such an addictive sport.

It’s great to see him, and I hope they pair us together tomorrow, as Pat is a 2 time Olympian, and can really motor. I feel quite good on my skates, and technically solid in my turns.

Speedskating is a preparation sport; what I mean by that is that ice speedskaters work crushingly hard for summer and fall to create physical capacity, and now in the meat of the racing season we relax, focus on technique, and rest so that we can be physically fresh to race fast. As Boris says “sleep, race, and celebrate life”. This is the fun part, and I plan to enjoy every moment of these “Davos Days” as much as I can. Maybe I will even get some sleep tonight, as the Italians have invited Jessica, Becky and I to a party at their hotel!

Thanks to everyone who reads & comments on this strange life I am leading. This experience could be kind of lonely, especially in Norway, as I spent a lot of time by myself. But I have not felt alone for a minute, because of all of you (and that is roughly 220 of you every day!!). Thanks.

10 things about NORWAY!

written in Norway, but am posting it from my friend Becky’s office in Lugano, Switzerland…

I write this from the train from Hamar to Oslo, looking out the windows at a new, but quite familiar landscape. The rolling glacier cut hills, farms, evergreens, steeply roofed houses (a sure sign of heavy snowfall areas), farm equipment, lakes and rivers, are identical to the green and hilly parts of upstate New York that are my ancestral stomping grounds (both personally, and for many generations of Loves).

Is this Norway, or the average rural road near Ithaca? (note, no photoshopping, here, it was this grey)

The only thing that you don’t see in upstate NY, is what I am on using right now, exceptional public transportation; This train is very nice, spacious, and I have light/air controls above my head just like an airplane!

A Norwegian recommended that I get out of Hamar, and take some time to see the “big pile of rocks” (their exact word choice) that is the rest of the country. I unfortunately did not have time to leave Hamar, but I feel like I saw a lot. Here are my quick impressions of 10 things about Norway

if any Norwegian wants to reply with “10 things stupid visiting Americans tend to miss when they visit Norway”, I welcome you to do so!

1. Cell phone quiet areas
One of the cars on the trains is “no cell phone car”. It was very pleasant, quiet, and the several other occupants quietly are reading the morning paper, as I am watching the scenery & writing this… I think there should go on the long list of “international good ideas” that many countries would be very well off adopting…

2. Porn and Donald Duck
The conservative right wing in America often wants you to believe that if nudity/sexuality/human body familiarity becomes no big deal, then somehow society falls apart and becomes a Sodom & Gomorrah nightmare worse than any Mad Max/road warrior movie. I point to the obviously functional societies in Europe, and the fact in Europe the human body & human sexuality is very publicly visible, In fact much easier to see than cigarettes.

However it still weirded me out, repressed American that I am, to see in the airport café, “HOT 60+ Mature Action” stocked on the magazine shelf within a foot of a kids-centric Donald Duck Magazine. (Donald Duck is HUGE in Norway).

3. Cigarettes=Death
Check out these warnings on cigarette packs. They take cigarette danger REALLY seriously, good for them! Cigarettes shorten the life of many smokers, and kill lots of them outright. The last time I checked, pictures of naked people don’t do that.

They had lots of creative messages, check out just a portion of them in a larger picture I took.

4. Breakfast in Norway.

I could have been experiencing an anomaly, as I mostly ate in the hotel next to the rink, but I don’t think so. Breakfast here is lots of meats, eggs, salty fish, coffee, fantastic yogurt and cereals. The choices were similar to my favorite USA “Wisconsin-style Breakfast”. All I can say as I pat my full stomach is “Yum!!”

5. Adjustable height showerheads
I should have taken a picture of this, it looks like a normal shower head, but is adjustable on a horizontal pole. This is a small thing, a detail, but as I am a shade under 6 feet tall, and my wife is 5’3, where can I buy one of these for my house? It’s also really nice when you want to get the water REALLY focused on certain tight lower back or neck muscles.

6. Moose-eating Parties
I was informed by a Norwegian skater that he was going to be attending a moose-eating party. The Norway moose population is like the local deer population in upstate NY, people crash into them all the time in cars, with disastrous results, and 25,000 are taken by hunters every year.

I think he was disappointed in my complete underwhelmed non-reaction, but I had just been in a discussion about a particularly VILE form of Scandinavian culinary delight. This is the Icelandic tradition of eating putrid skate. No, not a skate like I use, I mean eating a rotting sea creature (chased with shots of extremely strong liquor). Really, I am not kidding, putrid skate supposedly smells like cat piss. Check out this news report.

Compared to that, moose is a great meal. In fact, I bet Americans have a long traditions of eating moose, that is why there are almost no moose left!

7. KickSleds
Very common on the streets of Hamar, I saw many 50+ year olds gliding about commuting on these. On uphills you just push it like a shopping cart, on downhills, you stand with your feet on the runners and coast, and on the flats, one foot is on the runner, and you kick it along like a skateboard. Two kicks, switch runner, two kicks, switch runner.

Most of the kicksleds I saw had people’s names written in the wood slats, and also had bike locks to prevent them from “disappearing”. Kicksleds are not recreation, they are practical transportation!

8. Norwegian Humor
Where is this stereotype of cold & stoic Scandinavians? Most Norwegians I met were quite funny. Not only did one of them discuss moose-eating parties, but another seriously recommended that I take a train to an inland town called “Voss” and go to a certain café where I could order whole smoked sheeps head (eyes and brains included). Now I am a very culinary adventurous American, so maybe he was taken aback when I started asking specifics about how far it was from Hamar? Did the trains go there? If I could have taken an easy train to try this, I would have. But it was over 5 hours each way.. Damm!

9. Euro-Sport
Norwegian TV also covers winter sports on with much more respect than American TV, they show Biathlon, ski jumping, speedskating, and XC skiing as SPORT. Not some odd sideshow full of “personality profiles” because they really have no idea how to show it as an athletic challenge Also, Norway is damm proud that they pretty much stomp all over the world in many winter Olympic sports.

One of the other skaters used to be a ski jumper, I asked him about that sport, and he really went off. He said “yeah, I miss jumping, but now it’s a whole bunch of skeletons on the hill, super skinny anorexic lightweights who focus on gliding off the hill, not jumping. The Nordic combined is now the true ski jumping, as those guys have to have muscle on them to do the cross country ski part.”

10. Vigeland Park in Oslo
I have walked through most of the major New York City museums, if anything this was more moving. This park is a lifetime of work by Gustav Vigeland. There are over 212 stone figures, all depicting stages of human life & emotion. In the center is this incredible obelisk. 17 meters high, weighing several hundred tons, carved of one massive piece of Norwegian granite. There are 121 figures all wound around each other in the obelisk. Incredible. It took 3 stonemasons 14 years to finish just this central piece.

Before you die, resolve to take a walk through Vigeland park, and let all these stages of human emotion, age, and life depicted there, soak into you, it’s INCREDIBLE.

Here is a larger picture view of a few of these sculptures. I was so torn as I was there, take pictures, or just wander and let it soak in??? I decided to take pictures because I knew I wanted to blog about it (a rare moments when this blog changed how I acted in the real world) but now I want to go back to Vigeland, and stroll for hours and hours.

FLY SAS!!!

Lest you think that I overly dramtize my bad airport karma, today is a perfect example, and the reason that SAS (Scandinavian airlines) has earned my business from now till the day I die!!!

I stayed last night in Oslo with a Norwegian/South African that I met through this blog, the all-weather natural ice skater Franklin Eekhout. It was snowing pretty hard this morning., Franklin asked me, “when does your flight leave from Oslo, and where is it going?” I told him, it’s the 12:05 flight to Copenhagen. He checked it online, yes, the 12:05 flight is still going, and from the main Oslo airport. Great.

Franklin and I have had a great time hanging out, and in the morning he puts me on the bus the Oslo airport. I get to the airport. I look at the departures board, yes, there is my 12:05 flight to Copenhagen listed.

So I go to the self-service kiosk to get checked in. The computer says I don’t exist, can’t find my reservation. I find a real person and ask for help, I open my laptop and show her my .pdf copy of my reservation… All looks ok, she types me into the computer, can’t find me. She looks closer at my reservation number,

“oh, Mr love, here is the problem, your reservation is for the 12:05 flight to Copenhagen flying out of the Oslo Sandefjord airport, this is Oslo international, and yes, both airports have a 12:05 flight to Copenhagen. You need to go talk to the special ticket agent.”

AAAGGGGHHH!!! NOOOOO!!!!!

I go to the person specified, with a sick feeling in my stomach, and terrible worry about how to tell Jessica I won’t meet her in the train station. Mrs Ticket agent, even though my Orbitz ticket is non-changeable, and non-refundable, and involves a straightjacket of rules, she bends the rules, gets me on the flight from this airport (even though I am sure it was more expensive) and I am ok, and on my way…

SAS, thank you!!!! I owe you guys big time!!

So here I am, eating my egg and salty salmon breakfast baguette (I love this country!!) drinking my Kaffee Go-Go… and breathing a huge sigh of relief…

Now if I can just make it to Lugano….

I have a lot more to post about the first leg of my trip, including many pics of other master racers, and some observations about Norway. I have written the posts, but I need to select what photos go with them, and have a little more charge in my laptop too! The battery warning lights are flashing at me!

ONWARD!

Boris on ESPN

A picture of my coach Boris Leikin briefly appeared on ESPN.com’s home page during Olympic trials, and now it is in thier archives. Yup, this is Boris, a fantastic shot of him going really fast too.

CHECK IT OUT HERE

Oh, and by the way dear ESPN folks, I am pretty sure Boris finished 31st of the 44 skaters racing the 500m that day, not in XXXX place.