At the Debate

A young reporter and I decided to watch the presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday at the University of Denver DebateFest with hundreds of college students. After a nice hot (and free) meal at the Media Center, we headed over to campus commons, but had to stop for about 45 minutes to wait for the candidates’ motorcades to pass.

These credentials got me and the kid reporter a free hot meal!

Police almost outnumbered the people lined up along the road. Cops on bikes, cops on horses, cops on bicycles, cops on carts, cops on foot. I was writing a children’s book about it in my head as we waited. We also interviewed a young family eating dinner at the foot of a tree under the yellow police tape, who were waiting for  “democracy to happen.”

When we stopped, we were hot and sweaty from our walk. It was 80 degrees and still. People were fanning themselves with campus maps. Not a breeze stirred. Just minutes before the first motorcade, I heard a loud swoosh and was almost blown off my feet by a cold hard blast. Not it was not the Silver Bullet, but it could have been. It was a cold front. The leaves of a eucalyptus tree across the street took flight in a swirl of dust. Goodbye fall, hello winter. Within about 20 minutes the temperature dropped 40 degrees.

“That’s Denver,” the young reporter said as she began to shiver. Neither of us were dressed for the outdoors.

After the motorcades (Romney with window down waving, Obama unseen behind bullet proof glass), we witnessed an ultra-liberal parade of signs, puppets, costumes, drums and horns. After wading through that, we arrived at DebateFest just as the bean bag battles winded down and the big screen TVs lighted up. We found ourselves a hay bale to sit on (or in the young reporter’s case, huddle against) and proceeded to watch disaster unfold.

I was too cold to really process it all until now, but I’m especially upset that no questions were asked about—and neither candidate brought up—the issue of women’s health care or the far right’s war against women’s health care. They talked Obamacare, Medicaid and other domestic issues, but not that.

I thought moderator Jim Lehrer’s questions were too vague and open ended, but I also thought he should have been given the ability to turn off the microphones when candidates did not obey time limits. He is a steady and experienced hand at this business, but the power went to the loudest voice and that was Romney.

Obama did not meet the challenge of having to think on his feet at all! He had prepped for Primary Election Romney, not General Election Romney. In fact, this may be the first time any of us have seen General Election Romney (GER). He was the only one on stage fired up and ready to go—with all new proposals and policies taken straight from the Obama playbook and claimed as his own. Remember that Etch-A-Sketch remark from the summer?

Who knew Romney planned to do away with pre-existing conditions and would allow parents to insure their kids to the age of 26? Who knew that his tax proposals were going to help the middle class and not the wealthy? Who knew his economic plan was NOT trickle down after all? It was an all new Romney, and no one, not even the TV talking heads, knew what to do with him at first.

Obama came out of his stupor the next morning and blasted Romney for his turn around, rightly pointing out that if you don’t know which candidate he’s going to be next, how will we know how he will govern? That’s troubling.

I’ll end with a link to this story, which a facebook friend found and posted. It is a list of the 27 myths that Romney told during his 38 minutes of speaking during the debate.

Obama, get some sleep before the next debate! I plan on watching from the comfort and warmth of my living room. I’ll be ready. Will you?

©Suzanne Freeman 2012

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Build it Now!

A tent with information about building State Highway 45 between Loop 1 and RR1626 is actually part of Gerald Daugherty’s campaign for Travis County Commissioner.

Today’s bike ride took me to a roadside attraction across from Bowie High School on Slaughter, complete with Burma Shave-type signage. “Traffic’s a Mess, You Drive Each Day, Stop & Learn How, To Keep it at Bay.”

I pulled into the tent, manned by two volunteers and a candidate for Travis County Commissioner. I must say, I was disappointed to learn this was not just about building SH 45 from Loop 1 to RR 1626. It was about electing Gerald Daugherty to the Precinct 3 County Commission seat. Daugherty is the Republican candidate running against Democratic incumbent Karen Huber, who, one volunteer informed me, was for SH 45 before she was agin it.

Burma Shave Signs

Burma Shave-like signs catch the attentions of drivers on Slaughter Lane in front of Bowie High School.

As someone who has to make a left-hand turn onto Brodie Lane south of Slaughter each morning to take my niece to Bailey Middle School, I am all for SH 45. It would take a lot of pressure off the main artery through my neighborhood AND IH 35, which is a nightmare most times of the day.

Mr. Daugherty was in an intense conversation with two gentlemen, and I did not feel like interrupting them, so I came home, looked him up online and sent in a question by email:

I am a firm believer in SH 45, but cannot bring myself to vote on just that one issue. Other issues are important to me. I am specifically concerned about the closing of women’s health care clinics state-wide because of the actions of the conservative legislature and Gov. Rick Perry.

Will Mr. Daugherty back efforts to keep quality women’s health care available to low income families? Will he vote to fund health care for county residents? 

I would like to commend Mr. Daugherty for his fight against toll roads in Travis County. I think they are an abomination!

I’ll let you know his response when I get it!

© Suzanne Freeman 2012
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How This Community Cares

In the “it’s a small world” category, I had lunch today with the Executive Director of The Care Communities. I ride on The Care Communities Team for the Hill Country Ride for AIDS, but this is not why she and I were lunching over different flavors of chicken salad at the original Hyde Park Bar and Grill.

I was introduced to Carol by a mutual friend in New York City, one of my New York book club buddies who went to seminary with Carol. Two friends from  University Presbyterian Church of Austin also encouraged me to meet Carol. They got me involved in both The Care Communities and the Hill Country Ride for AIDS. With that many connections, we are destined to be friends!

It was an honor to meet Carol and learn about her organization, which provides volunteer families for people suffering with AIDS and cancer. The Care Communities offers people with little or no resources help with everything from walking the dog to rides to the grocery store to house cleaning to friendship. They also help obtain basic needs from other available services in the community.

I was intrigued by her use of the term “volunteer family,” so I asked her to describe that. Her answer blew me away. For every client a group of volunteers (usually four or more people) are assigned to help that person with whatever non-medical needs he or she may have. While the professional staff works to sign clients up for whatever services may be available to them, volunteers are visiting and caring for each and every one of them. It’s an amazing model that has worked so well, Carol says, that it was extended to cancer patients. It began as a service for people with AIDS.

They are funded by the Hill Country Ride for AIDS and the Mamma Jamma Ride Against Breast Cancer, which will be October 27 this year. Wish I had known about Mamma Jamma sooner! I would ride for them, too. As is it I’m barely in training for the next Hill Country ride in April. I’m hoping to do 50 miles.

It feels good to know exactly what my time and effort is doing. Thanks, Krystin, for the introduction to Carol and thanks, Carol, for sharing your work story with me.

© Suzanne Freeman 2012

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A Ride Around Mueller Airport

A giant steel spider at the greenway on the old Mueller airport site in Austin, Texas.

Where 747s once revved their engines preparing for a sprint down a too-short runway, giant spiders now roam. Or actually, one giant spider hovers over a granite gravel pathway that once was Austin Municipal (aka Mueller) Airport. Runways and terminals are no more. The area is now a greenway and housing development. Oddly, the blue and white checkerboard tower that reeks of 1960s “modernism” mixed in with a little art deco and dada, still stands, surrounded by no trespassing signs.

Air traffic control

Air traffic control at the old Mueller Airport in Austin.

Now that I’m back on the bike, I wanted to check out a new trail. So far, nothing beats the Veloway for beauty, speed, fun and proximity, but sometimes a girl needs a change. So, I strapped Blue onto Pearl and headed north in IH 35 to the neighborhood where my oldest son Brian Kennedy was born in the master bedroom of a duplex 31 years ago. Much, much, much has changed.

Now called Mueller Southwest Greenway, a pathway morphs randomly from gravel to pebbled concrete and weaves through displays of native plants, fountains, hydrated ponds, picnic tables, benches, geese and outdoor sculptures. It’s not a good place to bike for exercise, but it’s a great place to treat as an outdoor museum or contemplative space.

The best part of the whole experience was the neighborhood this greenway serves. I don’t know if it has a name, but it’s a beauty. Every house is different, but all cut from the same modern take on Frank Lloyd Wright. Exotic, unique, every one a jewel squeezed onto a tiny lot. Porches on every one, paved alleys for parking and trash cans. Decorations, yard ornaments, flower pots all from arts and crafts fairs. This neighborhood keeps Austin weird, funky and beautiful.

I had more fun circling the neighborhood streets (8 miles total!) than anything else, especially since about every 5th house had an Obama 2012 yard sign! VERY cool neighborhood! The only presidential election sign I’ve seen in my ‘hood was one for Rick Santorum AFTER the primaries were over. Go figure.

I would rate this ride an interesting jaunt, but not worth the trouble of getting there and back to put on my list of regular routes. If you live in the area, lucky you. I’d ride there every day.

© Suzanne Freeman 2012

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Back on the Bike

4th of July Parade

Addy and crew win 2nd place in Wagons Division of the Shady Hollow 4th of July Parade.

The heat of the summer drove me into the pool and kept me off the bike, although Blue Belle and I did ride with Addy in the Shady Hollow Fourth of July parade. She won second place in the wagon division!

I made three trips around the Veloway last week, just getting the kinks out. I also talked to the guy who maps out the Hill Country Ride for AIDS routes about taking on the 50 mile route next spring. He doesn’t think I can do it on a Townie. He tried it once and said he was miserable with only the seven gears. “Well, you’re not a little ol’ lady, either,” I said. “Don’t mess with my Blue Belle!”

For today’s trip, I discovered my tires were too low. I had packed a lunch and my latest read—Swamplandia!—so I struggled through to my favorite tree at the 2.5 mile point, and chilled for awhile. I enjoyed a cool breeze under the tree believe it or not.

A stop for a bite of book and lunch on the Veloway.

Although it is about 91 degrees out, it is the autumnal equinox tomorrow! What a beautiful day. Steve and I are about to head out and buy a new bicycle pump to get me ready for the next ride. I want to start exploring new trails again.

The pool and Schlitterbahn  water park helped me keep in shape over the summer, but I can no longer pull Mount Everest. I can ride 10 or so miles at a clip, however, I just need to get my hill legs back. I also need to find the instructions to my odometer. I forgot how to calibrate it! Ahh, the inconveniences of old age.

© Suzanne Freeman 2012

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DONE: Hill Country Ride for AIDS 2012

I rode for Walt, a 54-year-old man living with AIDS in Central Texas. His name was strapped to my bike so I could see it as I peddled along 29-miles of country roads around the Reunion Ranch in Georgetown. More than 1,000 riders joined me, riding routes from 13- to 100-miles long. We raised more than $500,000, all of which will be spent on AIDS patients in Central Texas—the name of each of those patients tied to a bike.

The Finish Line!

The Finish Line, gold medal and all.

The ride was amazing. I stopped only for pictures and didn’t have to walk a single hill. The highlight was definitely the finish line, especially when I found friends Helen and Simone there, blowing whistles and snapping pictures. Helen brought champagne and strawberries to celebrate. We also had cheese, bread, smoked salmon and hummus. A fitting feast for a spring feat.

Thank you so much to everyone who supported me by helping with the grandkids while I went on training rides, sponsoring me with your contributions to the Hill Country Ride for AIDS and just boosting my confidence by voicing your belief in my ability to actually do it! I wasn’t so sure when I started this some 7 weeks ago.

I’m not going to stop riding either, although you won’t hear about it every time I’m on the bike—only when I peddle someplace interesting.

If you still want to give to the cause, it’s not too late. CLICK HERE to go to my personal page, then click on the red “Support Suzanne” bar on the right hand side of the page. And THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

© Suzanne Freeman 2012

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Fun and Practical: Errands on my Bike

What passes for a bike rack at Randall’s.

Today the adventure was practical. I strapped Blue Belle to Pearl and drove to Champion Toyota on IH35 between Ben White and Stassney. I left Pearl for her 45,000-mile check up and inspection sticker, donned helmet and gloves, dropped my purse and water bottles into the basket and took off.

Thanks to Google Maps, which will track a bike route with the click of a button, I had turn-by-turn instructions on how to get home without having to brave a major roadway. There were so many twists and turns, I had to keep the map in my hand. At one point, I didn’t like the looks of where the map wanted to go, so I took over and quickly outsmarted myself—as usual. My iPhone GPS got me out of that trouble. I did get to see some really interesting south Austin neighborhoods though! Lots of large men walking mean looking dogs. They all waved and said hi back when I whizzed past with a bright smile and, “Good Morning!”

I took the long way home, via a stop at the hair dresser for a haircut (Belle was locked to her first bike rack—no longer a virgin), followed by a trip along 45 and the Veloway for good measure, before stopping to have my first mani/pedi of the 2012 sandal season. No bike rack there, so I locked Belle to the grocery cart corral at Randall’s. (NOTE to Randall’s: you really need a bike rack. As I left, another bike came in and took my place. It was like parking in New York City!)

I learned about a neat little area that I rode through on my way to Escarpment from Davis Lane. I took a side trip through Karst Preserve at Western Oaks, a small area with a sink hole and a cave that feeds into the Edward’s Aquifer. No sign said bikes were not permitted, so I took off down the gravel pathway into the woods. I did have to portage over some stairs, but the short ride was really sweet.

The big fund raising ride is only two days away. Today I did 20 miles. Saturday, I’ll be taking on 29 miles from Reunion Ranch in Georgetown.

You can still sponsor me! I have $250 more to raise to reach my goal of $1,250. Click HERE to go to my personal page on the Hill Country Ride for AIDS website.

© Suzanne Freeman 2012

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