Saturday, January 30, 2010

St Petersburg

Just a quick post via Ben's borrowed laptop...

The trip over was somewhat long (not too bad), but totally uneventful: we breezed through security and customs everywhere, which was great except that we budgeted a lot of time for all that, and had mucho downtime in Newark. Flew all night Tuesday, connecting flight in Munich, and hit town by about 4:00 local time -- GMT+3? (By the way, Lufthansa's service made all US airlines look like the penny-pinching shitbags that they are.)

We're staying at a pretty nice place, the "5th Corner Mini Hotel," about 2 blocks off Nevsky Prospekt, and within walking distance of the Hermitage (visited it yesterday, just scratched the surface), the Russian Museum (Thursday), and Ben's new apartment, which we visited yesterday. By the looks of things, we seem to be in an up-and-coming section of town, not quite fashionable yet but getting there -- plenty of coffee/tea places, bars, restaurants; our street is overrun with shoe stores, and there's even a yarn shop around the block. Anne is in Heaven.

We hit the night life last night, saw a "Dixieland Jazz Band" at the Jazz Dance Hall up the street. Real nightclub atmosphere, a room full of round tables with little lamps on them just like some old movie, plus a dance floor in the back of the room. The band was awesome, a bunch of Russian men, mostly older, including an ancient banjo player who managed to totally rock out. They all took turns with solos, and also with singing -- mostly imitating Louie Armstrong -- but they also did absolutely wild renditions of "Rock Around The Clock" and "Route 66."

Anyway, that's it for now. We're doing a walking tour of cathedrals and other outside stuff today, while it's a relatively balmy 20 degrees or so. It's been shockingly cold outside, especially at night.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gone (Ice) Fishing

Well, we leave for Russia in a few hours, bus from Southside to Newark, then to St Petersburg via Munich. This would be a perfect blogging opportunity, but of all my gizmos I'm only bringing my camera, too many hassles, even legal ones for some toys... If I find/borrow a computer I'll post something, but otherwise it'll be pretty light.

If all goes well, we'll be back in the USA in time for the Superbowl.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Social Climbing

Morning weigh-in: 180#, 13% BF
A couple of good rides this weekend, which was good because there won't be any more riding for a few weeks...
Friday night I went out for a hill ride in Williams Township and other nearby areas. I cut through Freemansburg, to meet up with friend and fellow rider Bill K, who was coming from Forks, and we arrived at our rendezvous spot (the start of Gaffney Hill Rd) almost exactly as planned, almost like military precision or something -- the phones helped. We rode together from there, trying to get as many hills in as possible: Gaffney Hill, Wassergas, Ringhoffer, a few other smaller things, then he took the towpath home from Freemansburg while I went over the last hill to Market Street. Got close to home and saw Anne walking to Brew Works, scrambled into my regular clothes and finally caught up with everyone there. I was whooped -- Bill's  a polite rider, but he's a lot stronger than I am, and I was pushing myself to maintain a decent pace -- and was fairly mellow, had dinner and maybe one beer before I ran out of steam.
Saturday was a hard-core social interaction day. Anne baked a cake and we went over to Deb's sister for the memorial service, which was nice even if it was sad: there were lots of people there remembering her mom, and they had photos and other things to commemorate her life. (It's funny, there was such a strong family resemblance between Deb, and her sister & niece, that they looked strangely familiar, and even the photos of her mom had a deja vu quality.)
Later in the day Anne's family had their long delayed Christmas get-together, which was a raucous blast. Anne's family is large, and interesting, and just plain fun... Plenty of food and hanging out, a gift exchange; I've got tons of photos, which are already posted on flickr -- go click! I think I do best in smaller crowds, and the sensory overload finally caught up with me; I was toast once again by the end of the day.
Sunday I got up early, and drove over to meet a bunch of guys at Sals. VMB group ride: a friend or two, but mostly guys I didn't really know. This turned out to be a great ride, lots of fun, and I have to say I was riding well for a change. I was leading for a while, and it was funny how I panicked -- they're all right on my butt! -- and took off like a bat out of hell; later on I drifted to the back, where I could be my usual Take My Own Sweet Time self, but even then it was more a social grace than a physical necessity: I was riding and conversing rather than feeding the pissing contest, and I always felt like I had a lot more in the tank if I needed it. Conditions were primo, dry/frozen and fast (probably the last time it'll be like that until the temperature drops again), and we ran into a lot of others out there, getting in one last early morning ride before the rain and thaw. We got back to the cars just as the first raindrops fell.
I drove directly over to Blue Sky, and met the team (Anne, and Donna with her son & his girlfriend) for breakfast. Except for a haircut (and our Sunday Night Libation at Brew Works), I spent the rest of the day napping.
Tonight I'm packing, and we are on our way tomorrow.