Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thank You, Mr. Bentley

Apparently at least one CBS News reporter has been assigned to cover the comings-and-goings of Senator John McCain in his bid to be the next President of the United States. How do I know this? Because I found this on the CBS News website:

The reporter? Mr. John Bentley. Thank you, sir, for covering this news event. I am tired of hearing about Senator Obama and his trip overseas. How refreshing to know that someone is paying attention to the other candidate. Yes, folks, there are two men running in Campaign ’08.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tour of California 2009

Yes! The route for the 2009 Amgen Tour of California has been released and I am psyched! The race ends in Escondido, near San Diego and Oceanside, the home of several of our Navy (and non-Navy) friends. My daughter was planning a trip to the Golden State to visit some of these folks, a trip that was cancelled/delayed this year due to the cost of gasoline. We were thinking of driving out next summer (June perhaps) after saving some money for travel costs. Now, I am beginning to wonder if we should reschedule the trip to February so we can see the final day of the race. Definitely a topic for further discussion.

Anyway, here is the route and a link to the USAToday article reporting the information. Start planning!

Stage 1: Sacramento (2/14/09)
Stage 2: Davis to Santa Rosa (2/15/09)
Stage 3: Sausalito to Santa Cruz (2/16/09)
Stage 4: San Jose to Modesto (2/17/09)
Stage 5: Merced to Clovis (2/18/09)
Stage 6: Visalia to Paso Robles (2/19/09)
Stage 7: Solvang (2/20/09) --- individual time trial
Stage 8: Santa Clarita to Pasadena (2/21/09)
Stage 9: Rancho Bernardo to Escondido (2/22/09)

To view a map of the route, click here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

TDF Entries Abandoned

Certainly anyone who reads Gooseberry Lane on a regular basis noticed that I began writing daily blog entries for the Tour de France and made it all the way to Stage 5. Talk about a fair weather fan who abandons at the first sign of trouble (dopers and computer problems). No, in actuality, I didn’t abandon the race at all; I just needed to abandon writing about it because my laptop died. I needed to focus my time on rescuing my hard drive. Sorry. Rest assured, I haven’t abandoned the race. In fact, I have it taping as I write so I don’t miss Stage 16 from Cuneo, Italy to Jausiers, France. It promises to be an exciting day with two massive climbs and a sprint finish. If you have time, catch the race on Versus. Vive le Tour!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Cycling Perspective

Versus is currently running a Take Back the Tour commercial that I find somewhat amusing and extremely accurate in its portrayal of the pain and suffering experienced by professional cyclists. Here is the text from the ad. On television, Jonathan Vaughters, the directeur sportif of Team Garmin Chipotle and a former cyclist from the US Postal Team, does the voice-over.
When they crash on those sprint finishes, that’s 40-45 miles an hour; if they’re on a descent, it can be 55-60 miles an hour. Next time you’re in your car at 50 miles an hour, strip down to your underwear and jump out the door...and that’s what it’s like to crash in a professional bike race.
I cannot post the video here, but it should be posted soon at

My Price is Capped

One of my financial strategies of late is to put as many recurring bills as possible on the budget plan. That way, I won’t be hit with big bills, like car insurance or fuel oil payments, every few months, requiring me to come up with a large block of cash. For example, at the end of May, I locked in my oil price for the winter at $3.799/gallon. Actually, I contracted for a price cap, meaning the highest price I will pay, per gallon, for oil from now until May 2009 is the aforementioned amount. If the price goes down, I will pay the cheaper price; if the price increases to more than $3.799/gallon, I will not be charged the higher price point. After I signed the contract, I was concerned that I had negotiated too high a price. Then my good friend, Koalagirl15, called me to say that the going fuel oil price for a “lock in” contract with her oil company was $5.499/gallon! I am so happy I bought early.

Fortunately for me, I only need to heat my house. Here in Connecticut, many homeowners use fuel oil to heat their hot water as well. Translation: they are required to purchase fuel oil all year long. Sadly, many of my friends are in this position. Now, I don’t know how many gallons of oil they use per month, but I can tell you that I use ~600 gallons of fuel oil just to heat my home every winter. At $3.799/gallon, my cost this coming winter will be $2279.40; at $5.499/gallon, it would be $2749.50 (and my house is only 900 square feet). For my friends who live in 3000-square-foot houses, their fuel oil cost this winter, just for heat, could be in the neighborhood of $5000.00...or more. Frightening!

So, what have you done to plan for heat this winter?

Divide and Conquer

This morning, I saw yet another news article about IndyMacBank and the depositors who are attempting to get their money out of the beleaguered financial institution as fast as possible. Some of these folks have in excess of $200,000 in their accounts; but, because funds are only insured for their full value up to $100,000, these people may only get that fully insured amount and then (possibly) 50% of the amount on deposit above that. What does that mean? If you have $250,000 on deposit, you will get $100,000 for sure. Then, you will get 50% of the rest, or $75,000. That means you will lose $75,000. Not good. The simplest way to avoid this scenario? Divide the original $250,000 among various financial institutions so that no one account goes above the fully insured amount.

Another word to the wise: if you do not have money in IndymacBank, or one of the other banks in danger of failing, leave your money alone. If those of us whose financial institutions are sound run to the bank and withdraw our money, the banking industry (and the economy for that matter) will become even more volatile. Protect your funds as much as possible while still leaving them on deposit. The bank cannot function without your money; but, more importantly, the bank cannot function without your trust and confidence in their ability to weather this financial storm.

My Laptop is...Dead

A few days ago, my Apple laptop lost its mind, deciding to quit completely sometime in the late afternoon. It had been behaving badly for a few days, refusing to save documents and renaming the hard drive indiscriminately. Now, my tool of choice for writing blog entries is unavailable, forcing me to use a stationary computer that traps me at a desk. Ugh! Frustrating and inconvenient, but not cause for whining. Just know that updates to Gooseberry Lane may be slow while I share the family room computer with my daughter. Thank you.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Think Before You Eat

Ok, I have no idea if this is true. I suppose I could test it for myself if I wanted to save a McDonald’s hamburger or a McDonald’s french fry for several years. I don’t really want to do that. My point in sharing this is to spark your thinking about the content of fast food and why it probably isn’t something any of us should eat, especially on a regular basis. To be fair, McDonalds does offer healthy food as well, like Apple Dippers® (without caramel) and Southwest Salad®. I, for one, like their Asian Salad® and their Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait®. Bon appetite.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hopefully, the Only Doper

I am a little behind on writing my stage-by-stage blurbs on the Tour de France, but I couldn’t let this pass without comment. This morning, first thing after tuning in to the daily Versus coverage, I heard the announcement that Manuel Beltran of Team Liquigas (and a former Team Discovery Channel climber/domestique) was arrested for doping. Allegedly, he used erythropoetin (EPO) to enhance his performance on Stage 1 of the race. At the risk of sounding judgmental (which I have been accused of doing on occasion), dare I ask:


After all the hard work that the race organizers, the team managers, and the riders have done to make sure the competition is clean, possibly for the first time ever, it is worse than unfortunate that a single individual attempted to cheat. It was wrong. It is wrong, and it is insulting and disrespectful to every other cyclist in the Tour.

The immediate consequences:
- ejected from the Tour de France
- arrested by French police
- fired from Team Liquigas (pending B-sample analysis)

The long-term impact: an even more difficult return to trust for the entire sport.

If you speak/read French, you can read more about the incident in L’Equipe, the French sporting newspaper:
- Beltran positif à l’EPO
- Beltran exclu, Liquigas continue

English speakers can check these articles from Sporting Life:
- Beltran: Innocent Until Proven Guilty
- Beltran Pulled From Tour

Thursday, July 10, 2008

TDF Stage 5

Catching up...

Route: Cholet - Châteauroux
Riders: 178
Distance: 232 km
- None

The longest day of the 2008 Tour de France was definitely a day for the sprinters…and yet another great day for Team Columbia with a stage win by Mark Cavendish. They now possess the white jersey of the best young rider and are currently second in the team competition. True, they handed the sprint jersey to Thor Hushovd today but, hey, sharing is a good thing. Right? Only seven points separate Kim Kirchen and Mr. Hushovd in that contest. One lousy day for the latter and the former may be wearing green again in no time. Remember, it isn’t over until the fat lady sings…or, in this case, until the fat cyclist rides. Well, you get the idea.

Favorite part of the day: the sprint finish, of course. How nerve wracking! With 35 sprint points up for grabs on the finish line, the sprinters had a prize worth fighting for. Team Liquigas set the pace at the front of the peleton in order to reel in a three-man breakaway and set up their man for a win (Francesco Chicchi). Team Columbia took a turn in the drivers seat as well in an attempt to launch Mark Cavendish over the line. An incident with a spectator and a crash on a roundabout did little or nothing to slow the pace into Châteauroux. Dicey, dicey, dicey. Nicolas Vogondy, one of the breakaway leaders, came up with one last desperate attempt to stay out front, but to not avail. Caught just meters from the finish, victory was not to be for the Frenchman. Instead, the win went to Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia. Kudos to the High Road Sports organization for a job well done.

Saddest part of the day: the withdrawal of Juan Mauricio Soler due to suspected broken bones in his scaphoid, the result of a crash on Stage 1. Today, he crashed again in the neutral zone and, shortly thereafter, decided to abandon the Tour. Too bad. The contest for the polka-dot jersey just won’t be the same.

In other news: Alejandro Valverde crashed early in the day. He has some road rash, but seems fine.

Oddity of the day: the giant yellow bug sculpture in one of the traffic circles. It was at around 56 miles before the end of the stage. Did you see it? It looked like an ant to me.

- Juan Mauricio Hernandez Soler

Overall Standings
- Stefan Schumacher
- Kim Kirchen
- David Millar
- Cadel Evans
- Fabian Cancellara
- Christian Vande Velde
- George Hincapie
- Thomas Lövkvist

For the latest video, click here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

TDF Stage 4

Route: Cholet - Cholet
Riders: 178
Distance: 29.5 km
- None

The first individual time trial of the 2008 Tour de France started on my television at 8:00 AM this morning. Too bad I wasn’t able to sit and watch it. I needed to work on some homeschooling tasks, including running my daughter out to church for organ practice. The wonders of videotaping (or Tivo, if you like) are such a blessing. Now the only challenge will be finding time to watch what I taped.

One day later…11:00 PM…folding towels…feeding the cockatiel…collecting trash…and watching my tape of the individual time trial. Hopefully, I will finish both the viewing and this blog entry before midnight so I can get some sleep. Don’t you just love July?

So, the upsets continue. Stefan Schumacher took the day, prevailing over second-place finisher Kim Kirchen by a mere 18 seconds. Favorite Alejandro Valverde came in twenty-third. Don’t know what happened there. The yellow jersey, Romain Feillu, completed the competition in 169th place, apparently just inside the elimination time. Whew! Other notables on the day: top spots for men from the two new American teams. Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia) took 2nd, David Millar (Garmin Chipotle) held 3rd, Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Chipotle) came in 8th, George Hincapie (Team Columbia) grabbed 9th, Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia) enjoyed 11th place, and Danny Pate (Garmin Chipotle) rounded out the bunch in 14th place. Very impressive efforts all.

The American teams are faring quite well this year, thus far. Team Garmin Chipotle currently sports first place in the team competition, while Team Columbia holds second in the team contest, first place in the sprint competition, and first place for best young rider. And remember, this is under the watchful eye of the drug testers at the Tour de France and at the Agency for Cycling Ethics. My greatest hope is that someone from one of these two teams will win the entire race and be able to demonstrate that they did it without the assistance of performance-enhancing drugs. Wouldn’t that be awesome!

Time trial oddity: listening to the aerodynamic rear wheel as the riders fly past the cameramen on the road.

- None

Overall Standings
- Stefan Schumacher
- Kim Kirchen
- David Millar
- Cadel Evans
- Fabian Cancellara
- Christian Vande Velde
- George Hincapie
- Thomas Lövkvist

For the latest video, click here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

How Do We Learn About “The Other?”

On Sunday morning, I saw this in the Daily Mail:
Two schoolboys were given detention after refusing to kneel down and ‘pray to Allah’ during a religious education lesson.
In the Old Testament, the Book of Daniel, Chapter 3 (NASB), I can read this:
You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image.

But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.

There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.

Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king.

Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?”

“Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”
Now, let’s be clear, I am not equating the practice of Islam with the religious practices of the ancient Babylonians. I am, however, wondering about the compulsion factor in each of these accounts. The schoolboys in modern times and the Jews of ancient days were both asked to bow down to a god that was not their own. Seriously, even in the interest of education, can society require (or even ask) this of anyone? I have to agree with the parent interviewed in the Daily Mail article, who said:
“But if Muslims were asked to go to church on Sunday and take Holy Communion, there would be war.”
So, if it would be unacceptable for a Muslim to participate in the practice of Christianity for educational purposes, why is it acceptable in reverse? A bigger question for me is: how can people learn about the religious beliefs and practices of others in the interest of community and understanding without “corrupting” their own religious observance? Is it enough to read about the beliefs of others? Or do we need to actually observe and perform the religious rituals or sacraments of another in order to truly understand? I happen to think that “book learning” and conversation with those who hold different beliefs is sufficient. I think the teachers and administrators at the British school went too far in this case.

My daughter’s music composition teacher told me once that he believes the need for religion will vanish someday and, with it, our need to label as “the other” anyone who believes differently from us. I don’t think that is possible…unless, of course, we all believe exactly the same thing. But then we wouldn’t be unique individuals, created by God for His specific purpose; we would be robots. So, unless and until we all become robots, I think we need to work toward a solution to this “understanding each other” thing.

Your thoughts on the subject?

TDF Stage 3

Route: Saint-Malo – Nantes
Riders: 178
Distance: 208 km
- None

More wind (and rain), a crash near the finish line, and a peleton that gambled a bit too much on their ability to reel in a breakaway made for some interesting racing today. The scenery was interesting as well, heading out of Brittany and into the beautiful Loire Valley, known for its wine production and for the longest river in France.

The day was dominated early on by a four-man breakaway comprised of Samuel Dumoulin, Romain Feillu, Will Frischkorn, and Paolo Longo Borghini. They headed away from the pack in the second kilometer, thinking (I suppose) that they would get some visibility for their team sponsors at best. Well, when the peleton was still working to catch them with less than thirty kilometers to go, their wildest dreams came into view --- that of winning a stage of the Tour de France or, in the case of Romain Feillu, of capturing the overall lead. Who would have thought?! A little known (to me anyway) twenty-four year old cyclist from Châteaudun, France taking the yellow jersey from Alejandro Valverde. Talk about having a great day!

By contrast, Angel Gomez had a horrible day, crashing with about twenty-five kilometers to go when he mixed it up with a piece of road furniture (in America, these are generally referred to as medians). The result? Certainly not a yellow jersey. No, Mr. Gomez received a trip to the hospital and a suspected broken pelvis. Ouch! Also involved: the Danish road racing champion, Nicki Sorenson. Thankfully, he is fine.

A bit of the incidental television coverage on Versus today: the Agency for Cycling Ethics. I am very intrigued by this effort: physicians, researchers, and athletes working together to determine a normal band of physiological measures for an individual human athlete and to develop a way to spot broad-scale changes in physiology, as well as the presence of illegal substances. The whole idea seems very proactively health-oriented. Don’t just look for banned substances; be concerned about the health of rider too. Team Garmin Chipotle and Team Columbia have both signed on to this. Good for them. I would love to see both American teams race clean and with reams of documentation to prove it.

- Angel Gomez

Overall Standings
- Romaine Feillu
- Paolo Borghini Longo
- Will Frischkorn
- Alejandro Valverde
- Kim Kirchen

For the latest video, click here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Currently Riding in the TDF

Yesterday, I needed to find a link for cyclist Frank Schleck, to provide some biographical information for those readers who may be interested in learning more about him. In my search, I came across this YouTube video of Mr. Schleck “taking a spill” during the Tour de Suisse. Personally, I think it is a miracle he is still alive. Let’s just say, “ouch” is a major understatement. Thankfully, he is ok and currently riding in the Tour de France.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

TDF Stage 2

Route: Auray – Saint-Brieuc
Riders: 179
Distance: 164.5 km
- Côte de Bieuzy-Lanvaux (category 4)
- Côte de Kergroix (category 4)
- Côte de Mûr-de-Bretagne (category 3)
- Côte de Saint-Mayeux (category 4)

Some windy, rainy weather today in France. Lots of lovely countryside, though. I am always curious about the local churches the riders pass along the way each day. There seem to be a lot of them. It makes me wonder: do they have large, active congregations or are they struggling; do they utilize traditional worship liturgies or have they adopted a more contemporary worship style; are they as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside? Maybe someday I can visit France for myself and take a look.

New knowledge for today: the Breton language and the Gallo language are spoken by folks in Brittany. I was curious about this when Paul Sherwin mentioned it during the live coverage this morning. This is what I found about Breton on
Breton is a Celtic language spoken mainly in Brittany (Breizh) by about 365,000 people, about 240,000 of whom speak it fluently. Breton is closely related to Cornish and less closely related to Welsh, though these languages are not mutually intelligible. Breton has also absorbed quite a lot of vocabulary from French, Latin, and probably from Gaulish languages, which are now extinct.

- snip –

Between 1880 to the middle of the 20th century, Breton was banned from schools and children were punished for speaking it. This changed in 1951 with the promulgation of the Deixonne law, which allowed for the Breton language and culture to be taught for one to three hours a week in public education if the teacher is willing and able to do so.
For more information on the Gallo language, visit this page on Wikipedia.

A duh moment for me today: Team Columbia is really young! Lots of riders age 23-27. George Hincapie is the “old man” on staff at 34 years of age.

Race highlights for the day:
- Another feed zone crash. Nicolas Jalabert bumped wheels with Frank Schleck.
- First category three climb of the race: Mûr-de-Bretagne.
- The final sprint was exciting. Lots of action, lots of jockeying for position. I was glad to see that Team Columbia was in the mix. The peleton really picked up the pace in the last few kilometers. Too bad about that crash, though. I was glad to see Kim Kirchen and Gerald Ciolek take second and third place.

- None today

Overall Standings
- Alejandro Valverde
- Kim Kirchen
- Oscar Freire
- Juan Jose Cobo Acebo
- Cadel Evans

For the latest video, click here.

*Lesson learned for today: Do not videotape the race with a plan to watch it in the evening. Family members will interfere. I did that this morning and my husband took over the television this evening to watch our latest Netflix arrival --- Hellboy. Ugh! Tomorrow, I will be watching my video in the afternoon. :-)

Great TDF Article

I was catching up on my Google Reader feeds this afternoon when I came across this article from The Fat Cyclist. Normally, I would just share it through Google, but I didn’t want my readers to miss it. I didn’t have time to pay close attention to all of the changes that Christian Prudhomme made to the Tour de France this year, which led me to believe that the competition would be as exciting as ever. Well, that may not be the case, what with all the “improvements” that have been enacted. I will have to stay tuned to be sure. Anyway, The Fat Cyclist has a great take on what viewers can expect during the 2008 ride around France, and some suggestions for additional "enhancements." Enjoy.

Happy 18th!

Yesterday, my daughter turned eighteen. I can hardly believe it. My husband sees it as a big deal and has been asking Katherine the Great if she feels any different, if she feels like a "grown-up." Not surprising, she could care less about how it feels to be eighteen. What is she excited about? Yup, you guessed it, registering to vote.

That celebration will happen on Monday morning. To recognize her actual “birthday," she had dinner with our good friends, the F family, at our favorite restaurant, Russell’s Ribs. Next week, she will have a picnic dinner in the park before the annual fireworks at Fort Griswold. Then, at the end of July, when her magician friend returns from magic camp in Pennsylvania, she will have an actual peer-group birthday party with letterboxing in one of the local hiking spots, ending with ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. Nothing like spreading your birthday out over an entire month. Then again, you only turn eighteen once, right?

I don’t remember what my eighteenth birthday was like. I do remember one thing: I certainly wasn’t looking forward to voting.

Happy birthday, Miss Katy!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Fourth of July 2008

No BBQ plans. No friends or relatives at my house. No day off for my husband. Sounds like a pretty rotten Independence Day, doesn’t it? It really wasn’t that bad; after all, we finally attended our first Fourth of July parade in Groton.

No, we didn’t just move here. We have lived in town for almost 19 years. We just never took the time to go to the parade. Around our house, the Fourth of July is usually consumed with work (as it was yesterday), with either my husband working on the submarine base or me working on something at home. Plus, since my husband often travels for work, traveling on a holiday (even to go to a parade) is often something he does not want to embrace; consequently, we usually stay home. Yes, we generally have burgers or hot dogs, potato salad, and watermelon for lunch. We just don’t make a big deal out of it.

So, this year, our dear friends --- the F family --- invited us to the parade. Since my husband was working, my daughter and I decided to join the party. They picked us up in their van so we didn’t need to drive (always a plus) and all headed to the side of the road not too far from our house. The parade was much longer than I anticipated, with a lot more local fire equipment than I knew existed. I also saw a lot of fife and drum corps units, a huge difference from the parades of my youth in southern Minnesota where marching bands dominate the landscape. The youngsters representing their Girl Scout troops and Boy Scout packs were adorable, and we waved at our friends who were walking with their church group. It was all very…small town, which I wouldn’t trade for anything at this point in my life. It was a very relaxing time.

The other big event of the day: the arrival of the Explorer of the Seas. For a picture and a description, click here.

TDF Stage 1

Route: Brest - Plumelec
Riders: 180
Distance: 197.5 km
- Côte de Ty-Jopic (category 4)
- Côte de Kerivarc’h (category 4)
- Col de Toullaeron (category 4)
- Côte de Guenervé (category 4)

Ah, July 5th: recovery day from the Fourth of July, my daughter’s birthday, and (this year) start day for the 95th Tour de France. The latter promises to be exciting, as always, but not the same as usual. For instance, the time bonuses are gone; the opening Prologue has been eliminated; and, of course, the 2007 winner, Alberto Contador, is absent, as is his fellow teammate and podium finisher, Levi Leipheimer.

And then there are those ads on Versus: Take Back the Tour. I found the first one a few days ago when I checked the website for televised programming information. This morning, I saw the second one during the live race coverage. Forgive me, but I don’t recall the ads from previous years being so…what’s the word…pointed. I understand the reasoning behind them --- to reclaim the image of cycling as a sport of athletic endurance and not doping --- but I am not certain the ads need to play quite so frequently. This morning, I saw at least one during every commercial break. I almost have the music memorized, but I digress…

Another novelty for 2008: the entrance of two American teams: Team Columbia and Team Garmin Chipotle. I must say I am psyched about this development. I only wish my favorite riders were all on the same roster. George Hincapie, of course, is riding for the former, while Christian Vande Velde is committed to the latter. Team Columbia had a productive first day in the saddle, snagging fourth place overall after Kim Kirchen’s break for the line. It was sad that he didn’t win the day, but I don’t think anyone expected Alejandro Valverde to launch such an explosive attack right at the end; very impressive on his part. I will definitely be paying closer attention to him when the race hits the mountains.

Sad event of the day: the loss of Herve Duclos-Lassalle from Team Cofidis. A short way into the race, he hit the pavement and broke his wrist. Fifty some miles into the first day of his first Tour de France and he was the first guy out of the game. Ouch.

- Herve Duclos-Lassalle

Overall Standings
- Alejandro Valverde
- Philippe Gilbert
- Jérôme Pineau
- Kim Kirchen
- Ricardo Ricco
- Cadel Evans

For video of Stage 1, click here.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Tour de France Route 2008

Saturday marks the beginning of the 95th Tour de France. Starting without the attendance of the 2007 winner (Alberto Contador) and third-place finisher (Levi Leipheimer), the race will skip the Prologue stage and dive right in with Stage 1. Setting off from Brest in Brittany, the route promises to produce some exciting racing and, when it hits the mountains, some exhausted racers. Stage 17, for example, sports no less than three hors category summits --- the Col du Galibier, the Col de la Croix de Fer, and L’Alpe D’Huez --- toward the end of a 210 kilometer day, ridden consecutively with a single feed zone between the first and second summits, and very little break between the climbs. If the goal of the race organizers was to find an iron cyclist, that stage should shake out the fittest among the peleton. It would kill me!

Anyway, for a 3D preview of the 2008 route, check out this video (see below). It was originally available on the official Tour de France website but, for some reason, cannot be loaded there. I found it on Youtube. If you don’t have time for the video, check out this race summary from the Tour website:
Running from Saturday July 5th to Sunday July 27th, the 95th Tour de France will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3500 kilometres.

These 21 stages have the following profiles:
- 10 flat stages
- 5 mountain stages
- 4 medium mountain stages
- 2 individual time-trial stages

Distinctive aspects of the race:
- 4 mountain finishes
- 2 rest days
- 82 kilometres of individual time-trials
- 17 Category 1, Category 2, and highest-level passes will be climbed
Live streaming starts on at 6:30 AM; television coverage begins at 8:30 AM. See you Saturday!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

History on My Kitchen Table

My kitchen table has a very bad habit of collecting “stuff.” It has been doing this since my husband tore out the wall between our family room and our kitchen when my daughter was younger. It was filled with “stuff” during that demolition and we just never recovered from the temptation to toss things there...until later. Well, one of my missions before the end of next week is to have the table cleared off; hence, my archaeological dig. Today, I found this, a letter from my fuel oil company:
August 1, 2006

Dear Valued Customer:

As we all know, this year we have seen oil prices hit very high levels; as of July 1, 2006 it is already over $70 a barrel with predictions of spiking to $100 per barrel. The continued uncertainty in the Middle East and current supply issues will most likely keep prices extremely volatile for the foreseeable future.
Oh, if only oil was that low priced!

Better Than Previously Reported

This past January, National Geographic ran an article about the sad decline of many towns in North Dakota. The accompanying photos were downright depressing: a dilapidated school, a neglected home, an abandoned church, etc. Well, after feeling sorry for the residents of the Peace Garden State, I was tickled pink to hear this recent, more cheerful report on
In less than a year, [Oscar] Stohler and his wife, Lorene, 82, have become millionaires from the production of one [oil] well on their land near Dunn Center, a mile or so from the sod home where Oscar grew up. A second well has begun producing on their property and another is being drilled --- all aimed at the Bakken shale formation, a rich deposit [of oil] that the U.S. Geological Survey calls the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed.

Landowners in western North Dakota have a much better chance of striking it rich from oil than they do playing the lottery, say the Stohlers. Some of their neighbors in the town of about 120, from bar tenders to Tupperware salespeople, have become “overnight millionaires” from oil royalty payments.
Fortunately, this new-found wealth doesn’t seem to be changing these folks:
[Mr. Stohler] still drives his old pickup [truck] and wears a mesh farm cap --- but it’s by choice.

- snip –

Lorene [Stohler] said the only thriftless purchase was an automatic sprinkler system for her flowers that surround the couple’s new home. And Oscar bought a $1000 ring for his wife to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
How sweet. I would say life in North Dakota is just fine.

Busy Days Ahead

Summer is finally upon us here in Connecticut and, boy, do we have our work cut out for us!

Normally, my daughter has a pretty relaxing summer with only a little bit of schoolwork. Being homeschooled, she sometimes takes time off during the “academic year” and makes it up later. This year, however, we are fully involved with school clear through July (at least). You see, she has the opportunity for an internship with the Salt Marsh Opera Company in Stonington, Connecticut. In preparation for this job (because it is a paid position), she will be taking dance lessons, etiquette classes, and instruction in how to apply makeup. The latter is necessary for two reasons: one, my daughter is a “naturalist” who doesn’t wear makeup and needs to know how to wear it; and two, she needs to determine if she is allergic to anything that may be used on her face before the opera performances in October. The former classes are to improve her ease with people since she is rather shy around folks she doesn’t know, and to gain experience with “stage presence,” if you will.

We will also be taking to the road for a week or so to attend the first wedding of my daughter’s homeschool friends, a young man who lived in Connecticut for awhile before his family moved to the Washington, D.C. area. Katherine the Great was pals with his younger brother, but they all used to hang together playing computer games in their elementary years. The last time our families got together was several years ago; we met up one morning at a Krispy Kreme donut shop in near their home, while we were returning to our home for Thanksgiving. My husband was working a job in the Tidewater area at the time, and my daughter and I had gone down to visit while checking out the latest exhibits at Colonial Williamsburg.

Third on our list for the summer is planning for winter. The last time the Midwest had major flooding (see The Great USA Flood of 1993), Connecticut followed up with more than a half-dozen snowstorms from January-March 1994. My husband was enduring thyroid cancer at the time and Katherine the Great was only three years old (yikes!). I already locked in my heating oil at $3.799/gallon. Now, I would like to replace our family room windows and make certain we are well outfitted with insulating window treatments, not to mention winter clothes, before the snow flies. Lacking the cash flow to pay a contractor, my husband and I may end up doing the work ourselves (ugh!). Hey, we put a roof on our house, so a few windows shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, right? :-)

So, are you relaxing this summer or are your days as busy as mine?