Friday, June 29, 2012

Cow Creek Country Classic edition

Last Sunday, I rode in the Cow Creek Country Classic, my very first 100-mile bike ride. Technically, the ride around the greater Waxahachie area shoulda been my first 101-mile ride, but a mechanical situation and subsequent hitchhiking experience robbed me of that extra mile. Care to learn more? Well, follow the photos.

Oh, hey, who is that guy? I'm told that I'm an unusual blogger because I don't include enough photos of myself in my posts. Perhaps these pictures — especially the one on the right — are a good reason for fewer pics of yours truly. So, check it out: What you're seeing on the left is Tr13ce, looking gooooood at perhaps 25 miles into the ride. That guy, well, that guy knows how to color coordinate. Dapper. 

But-but-but, just a mere 25 more miles later, hard times had fallen upon me. Yep, the heat was brutal. The ride started at 8 a.m.; by 10 a.m. it was well into the 90s. Approximately 8 miles from the 50-mile rest stop, I wasn't 100-percent certain I would be able to finish the ride. I was on top of my hydration, popping two and then four Endurolytes every hour (those things work) but I still felt like crap. That devil dog Doubt is a mean em effer. 

I reached the rest step, hydrated, ate an extra chunk of banana and hung out for a while and listened to riders who were dropping. Some said they were an hour into waiting for SAG. I was feeling better, and I got to see Frunners Ninja and Drum again at this stop. When I hopped back on the bike, I felt solid. Finishing the ride was no longer in doubt. Or so I thought.

BOOM! My 'xploidin' tire sounded like a friggin' gunshot around mile 72. I really didn't know what that sound was at first. I half expected to see blood. But no, my rear wheel was deflated and my rim rattled on the asphalt road, confirming that I was effed, not mortally wounded. Fortunately I was riding maybe 15 mph up a slight incline when it happened — no chance of wrecking. I calmly slowed and dismounted to assess the damage. Sure enough, as the blurry-ass photo shows (that's what ya get with the sun glarin'), the tire succumbed to the heat and split open about an inch. 

At this point, I figured my ride was done. If it were a flat, I would have been fine; I had a couple of tubes and a pump, and even if I didn't, every cyclist who passed offered a tube, including Ninja and Drum, who were nice enough to hang out with me for a bit before I told them to keep on going. I was a lost cause out there; no need to delay them. 

The next rest stop was less than 2 miles up the road; passing cyclists said they would tell the SAG wagon to come pick me up. Worked for me. I wandered along the side of the road, searching for a suitable tree (not many to choose from in between the towns of Frost and Italy, just so you know) that would provide some shade without making me difficult for SAG to find. A couple of nice locals stopped to make sure I was OK. One even asked to drive me to the rest stop. I considered taking him up on his offer. But I figured I needed to hang out; no need to send SAG on a wild me chase.

Long section of this story short — I got impatient waiting for SAG. A nice woman named Beth offered to drive me. Fifteen minutes had passed, and I didn't want to wait any longer, so I thanked her and accepted her offer (the mile-or-so she drove me is what cost me the total of 101 miles). 

At the rest stop, Dana, the SAG wagon driver from Richardson Bike Mart, inquired where the heck I had been. He must have passed me when I was chatting with Beth. I told him, "Oh, no biggie, I was just riding with a nice, complete stranger in her Econoline van. Standard ish for me on a Saturday, y'know." I expected to see Dana load my bike in the van and offer to drive me to the finish. But oh no, faithful readers. Dana whipped out the San Jose Sharks-colored tire you see in the second panel of the picture. This is where your used tires go when you buy new ones and tell your LBS bike dude that you don't want to keep your old ones. Your old-ass tires save my tired ass (more on that shortly). I was back in business. And, even better, Drum and Ninja were at the rest stop, too. So, as soon as Dana finished his handiwork, we hit the road for the final stretch.

For the remainder of the ride, the above saddle was my least-favorite thing on the face of the Earth. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine saddle. I've ridden Selle Italia, Fizik and the stock garbage that came with my Cannondale, Trek and Giant bikes. But this Specialized saddle is, well, special. It fits great. However, until that day, I had never spent 5-plus hours on it, and Chamois Butt'r could only do so much. So, yeah, I spent the final segment of the ride trying to find the most comfy position — I alternated between a few, but discomfort ruled the day. I suppose that, in addition to new tires, a new saddle is in my future.

Anyway, I finished. The Frunners and I finished just seconds apart. It was pretty damn cool. Sure, I was exhausted and my kit was saltier than the Dead Sea, but it was worth it. And, despite my best efforts to wear sunblock and reapply, I still earned some ridiculous tan lines. And, I would/will totally do it again. Hotter 'N Hell 100 isn't too far down the road. See ya there!

Heyyyyyy, where's the fifth picture? Ah, yes. A random shot for ya from Irving. Have you ever seen an entire Jeep covered in spray-on truck bed liner? Well, now you have.

I dunno. I like the Jeep just fine. I'm kind of impressed with the idea of "painting" it with LINE-X. I'm not a fan of the King Crunch lights or the add-on winch (not shown). Would you drive this? If you said yes: Would you park this poorly?


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tunesday: "Jump Into The Fog," The Wombats

The Wombats somehow were completely off my radar until a couple of months ago. Better late than never, right? They're fantastic.

My introduction to the group was "Let's Dance to Joy Division," a song that is perfectly catchy, smartly written and fun. I have high hopes the band does a follow-up tune called "Let's Make Crafts While Watching 'Control.'"Or that some smart alecks write a song called "Let's Dance to 'Let's Dance to Joy Division.'" Or maybe not. Definitely not. Anyway, since I like to pay it forward, I shared "Dance" with a colleague who astutely noted how singer Matthew Murphy favors Robert Smith of The Cure — in both appearance and voice.  

"Jump Into The Fog," from last year's album "This Modern Glitch," is picking up steam online and on the radio. While not as catchy as "Dance," it's still a good song — moodier, thanks in large part to the group's rhythm section dispatching the Franz Ferdinand-esque, indie-rock-disco drum and bass style of 2008's "A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation."

You have to appreciate what this three-piece is able to pull off live. How can you not love a group that plays and performs so well?!? By the time the Liverpudlian (such a great word to type and say) band comes around for Austin City Limits Festival in October, they will be a considerably more popular group. That's just my guess, which I base solely on knowing that tends to happen when a group opens for arena rockers like The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Song #theMJ wants me to dislike: "Disparate Youth," Santigold

It's been a wonderfully indecisive week here at Tunesday headquarters. I currently have several half-baked posts but can't finish any of them. I will blame delayed trauma from the hail storm for my scattered thoughts and inability to type coherently. Regardless, I soldier on. And with a new feature, no less — Songs #theMJ wants me to dislike.

First, for those of you who don't follow me on Twitter, you might be asking what the heck is #theMJ. Good question! He's the DJ at my office. What? Your office doesn't have a DJ? Weird.

Anyway, the MJ kicks out the jams from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., pumping up our sales staff and sometimes the editors. I'm an editor, and not all of the songs I hear are awesome. You can't please everyone; it's a tough gig. When the MJ plays something I especially like or loathe, I'll let my Tweeps know about it. Sometimes, the MJ nails it. When he first came across Santigold's "Disparate Youth," I declared the MJ nailed it. 

Weeks later, I've come to the conclusion he reaaaaally likes this song. My colleagues and I hear it quite often. What's not to like? I fell in love with it back in April, when Santigold released her latest album, "Master of My Make-Believe." The first single makes quite a statement, what with all the repetition — repetitive vocal pattern, repetitive drum beat, repetitive arpeggiated piano chords. You see where I'm going with this, right. It just loops over and over. I'd get dizzy if it weren't for the machine gun guitar that occasionally breaks up the monotony. Only near the end of the song does Santi change up her vocal with a too-little, too-late outro. What we have here is a good song that doesn't hold up on multiple listens. That odd video isn't helping matters out either, now is it?

I cannot fault anyone for bobbing along to "Disparate Youth." Just heed my warning; you will tire of it after multiple listens. Twenty should do it.

How about you? What formerly awesome song has worn out its welcome after multiple listens?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

'Those clouds don't look too threatening, right? Aww hail no!'

Ladies and gentleman, I am a reasonably intelligent human being. But, I have been known to do some foolish things. What follows is one of those foolish moments. First, let it be known I am fine — save for a couple of bumps on my noggin and what will be bruises on my arms and back when I wake up  (tennis ball-size hail plummeting to the ground will cause those). So, without further ado ...

Wednesday was a long, busy day at the office. I love what I do, but it can be mildly stressful. Wednesday was just one of those days. The perfect remedy: A good book and a good run.

What is the Internet doing to my brain? It's telling me it's kosher to not check the THREE weather apps on my phone before heading out for a 9-mile run.

Straight outta the office, I booked it (heh) to the Audelia Library Branch. As I mentioned Sunday,  I have waited a long time to get "The Shallows: What The Internet is Doing To Our Brains."

Fresh literature in hand, I headed home to change and get my stuff together for a run at White Rock. If I were training, I would have run out to the lake, done a loop and headed back. Depending on the route, that's 13-15 miles. I just wanted to get out there and do a nice 9, so I drove and parked at my usual spot — same parking lot where the White Rock Paddle Company's operates, right by the Mockingbird Point Footbridge. When I arrived, the paddle company people were quickly corralling kayakers as minor storm clouds rolled overhead. With all the heat we experiences last weekend and earlier this week, I was fine with running in a cool, late-spring storm. I didn't even think about checking my phone to see what kind of weather I could expect. If I had, I would have known to expect something like this:

Say, what is KXAS-TV meteorologist Grant Johnson pointing to? Oh yeah, a heavy concentration of orange-yellow-red badness (capable of producing hail) and a crap-ton of lightning. Guess where I was at 6:50 p.m. You'll want to check out no. 5 in my recap for the full details.

And, since I was running sans fuel belt, I didn't take my phone with me. That means I didn't take any photos from this adventure. BUT, I do have some rusty graphics skillz that will help you appreciate what went down and where.

1. About 10 minutes after parking The Clown Car at 6 p.m. at my usual spot, I already had crossed the footbridge, passed the dog park and felt pretty good about my running. The temperature had dropped and the storm clouds looked a bit worse; I thought, "Yeah, but how bad could it be?" Haha.

2. Right about here, the wind really started picking up and the rain arrived. Nothing too bad at first. It was still more of a pleasant respite from the heat at this point.

3. The rain became heavier. My shirt was completely drenched in about a minute. But I thought it could have been worse. I could have been one of the cyclists riding in the many groups I saw — there had to have been a few dozen — negotiating the slick pavement of Lawther Road.

4. Approaching T&P (Tee Pee) Hill, I heard the loudest lightning crack. I jumped, and the rain increased ...

5. ... and then the rain turned into hail as I ran down the straight corridor leading to the junction with Santa Fe Trail. At first, it was maybe dime/marble size but not much of it. Nothing to worry about, I thought. Within 30 seconds of that observation, it grew to golf ball; but there still was not much of it.

Like an idiot, I continued to run. I covered my head with one arm, hoping the hail and rain wouldn't get worse. I began to worry about my car. It was parked in a spot with no tree cover to buffer hail, a spot that floods quickly and often.

The chunks of ice continued to grow — some were in between the sizes of golf and tennis balls — and there was much more of it. One of these larger pieces of hail plunked me on top of my skull (the welt appeared instantly, but no blood or lingering pain). That's when I decided to stop and take cover under the trees lining the trail. I realized at the time that this location wasn't ideal for protecting myself from a thunderstorm; but it was my only option for avoiding the ever-growing hail. So I knelt underneath a couple of trees' protective canopies and assumed the classic duck-and-cover position. The hail continued to drop; some passed through the leaves and branches above me and struck my arms and back (much better than my head, but still not pleasant).

At this point, I felt like a complete idiot for being out there. The only thing that made me feel somewhat better was that there were others lined along the trail, assuming the same positions, waiting for the storm to break. The major hail lasted for at least five minutes. During those five minutes, I had to decide which way I would run to get back to my car (if it was still there and not floating in the lake) — back the way I came or finish my counter-clockwise loop. Finishing the loop would mean an extra mile, but the storm seemed to be heading the shorter, opposite direction. Once the hail returned to dime size, I left my protective cover and headed down the trail toward Garland Road to finish the loop and hopefully avoid more hail.

6. The hail had disappeared at this point. But the rain was still very much dropping. I encountered families with umbrellas and a few cyclists. Fat puddles had already formed on the usual trouble spots on the bridge spanning the spillway. My shoes were waterlogged, but I was running fine.

7. A-ha, the storm had subsided right around here! I thought everything would be cool and I could enjoy the rest of the run.

8. I was wrong. A second batch of hail started to fall. I once again left the trail to take shelter under trees lining the one-way road leading to Winfrey Point directly behind the Dallas Arboretum. Didya know that the Arboretum has a lovely outdoor display made of GLASS?!? At last check on DMN's The Scoop blog, six portions of Chihuly's White Persian were damaged.

As I waited for the hail to die down again, several cars passed me. For a second, I debated flagging one down and asking for a ride. But I didn't; instead, frustrated and motivated to get the eff home, I took off my shirt, wrung it out and created what probably looked like a turban. I figured it would function somewhat like a helmet and minimize the impact of the hail. Fortunately, the hail stopped a couple of minutes into my turban experiment and the rain returned to "pleasant."

9. From this point on, all I could think about was The Clown Car and its state. I hoped it was OK but already was resigned to the idea of taking it to the dealership tomorrow and dealing with the insurance company. The piles of melting hail in the grass weren't encouraging signs either. But the sun reappeared to elevate my mood.

10. I slowed my pace the closer I got to where my car was parked. As I followed the final twist of the trail, I finally saw the roof of my car. Good, it wasn't in the lake! I walked the final 40 yards slowly, evaluating how much hail had fallen near my car. None. No hail. I reached The Clown Car and it was pristine — free, Mother Nature car wash and no hail damage whatsoever. I was relieved.

So there you have it, folks. Pretty damn ridiculous, huh? I am fortunate nothing bad happened, and I hope the storm didn't affect y'all either (so far, I know of only one friend whose rear car window was shattered). I've learned my lesson.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tunesday: "Ocean Size," Jane's Addiction

Not too long ago, I wrote about Oceansize, a U.K. band that took its name from this song. As promised, let's get to the business of why this song is undeniably badass.

I was hooked on Jane's when "Ritual de lo Habitual" was released in 1990 (no, "Ocean Size" isn't on it, but I'll get to it; I promise). The controversial album art and PMRC-mandated sticker were icing on what quickly became my favorite alternative album (yep, more than any Nirvana or Sonic Youth release).

Before "Ritual," I had heard a couple of Jane's earlier hits — "Mountain Song" and, of course, "Jane Says" — on the Edge (remember "Tales from the Edge"?) and had seen videos and pieces about the band on MTV's "120 Minutes." Compared to the previous two albums, "Ritual" was about as polished an effort anyone could ever expect from a fracturing and drug-addled band. The credit for the successful album belongs to producer Dave Jerden, with whom the band formed a good working relationship on their second album, "Nothing's Shocking." You might remember Jerden as the guy who friggin' produced damn-near every great alt-rock band of the '80s and early '90s (from Talking Heads and Red Hot Chili Peppers, to Social Distortion and Fishbone). You could say he's sorta awesome.

After the first album — the good but disjointed live-show recorded "Jane's Addiction" — Jane's acquiesced to a studio setup and collaborated with Jerden. Visionary artiste/frontman Perry Farrell and bandmates were in charge for "Nothing's Shocking," but Jerden made the vision a reality. He captured the energy of a live show that Jane's thought couldn't be done. And that's where "Ocean Size" comes in. The third single from "Nothing's Shocking," it's an impressive (and loud, definitely crank the volume) statement. I interpret the song as yearning to be a bigger/badder version of yourself, a mammoth, indestructible version that's not taking ish from nobody, someone who's "no talk, all action."

A song about being as big as the ocean needs to sound like it, right? Mission accomplished. Dave Navarro's layered and laid-back 12-string chords start things off in the opposite direction, like a peaceful hippie bonfire gathering along the shore. Farrell joins in with breathy oooh-ing, and as soon as you can say kumbaya ... "three-four," the band erupts. What a massive sound — Navarro's distorted electric laid across the acoustic guitar ... bassist Eric Avery's thick-picked line and briefly dancing, melodic interludes ... drummer Stephen Perkins' stick-snapping aggressive fills ... and Farrell's echo-chamber effect vocals. I hit repeat often when shuffle mode treats me to this song. If Jane's ever tours again with the original lineup (not likely), I will gladly pay to stand in front of a stack of speakers and feel the crash of the sound waves.

What else? Original Jane's bassist Eric (Don't Call Me James) Avery is a bass genius and a personal hero. Let there be no doubt, his style and sound is the reason I chose a Fender Precision Bass over a Jazz Bass when I traded in my guitar about 20 years ago. Watch the video below for Avery's approach to playing simple, cyclical bass lines that cut through the mix and why he loves his P Bass.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Publications cluttering my coffee table

As of late, I've spent a fair amount of my non-running, non-riding, non-concert-attending, non-working waking moments catching up with a handful of books I've neglected.

After finally reading "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (I liked it much more than I anticipated; Holly Golightly is a remarkably captivating character), I am nearing the end of ...

• "Between a Rock and a Hard Place": Aron Ralston's cautionary tale is a well-written retelling of the escapades that cost him friends and nearly cost him his life on more than one occasion. The movie "127 Hours" (which I saw when it was released in 2010) is fine; but as is often the case, it doesn't present the full story. Reading Ralston's ordeal will make you eager for a fresh adventure and remind you how fragile life is and how valuable your relationships are.

• "Isaac's Storm": The city of Galveston was well on its way to becoming a world-class cosmopolitan city before a massive hurricane slammed the city of 37,000 people on Sept. 8, 1900, killing more than 6,000 people. Author Erik Larson pieced together survivors' documented memories, telegrams and letters to create the timeline and recount the deadliest U.S. natural disaster. Reading "Storm" has been slow going; it's interesting, but easier to put down than "Between a Rock."

I don't really have to explain Runners World, do I? Reading about running is good fun and I've collected some valuable tips, but I most likely will not renew my subscription. I'm sorta getting RW fatigue; standard advertiser-friendly gear reviews and department pieces make for stale reading, with only an occasional inspiring story peppering the pages of RW.

And then there's the color book. Debating painting my home's interior is a semi-annual event. Some day, I may just do it. Or maybe not. I haven't decided (Get a load of that indecisiveness, folks!)

What's next: After languishing for three months on the Dallas Public Library's waiting list, my name is at the top of the queue for a copy of Nicholas Carr's "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains." And sooner or later (definitely before the MetroPCS Dallas White Rock Marathon), I will read Scott Jurek's "Eat & Run."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tunesday: "Younger Us," Japandroids

How often do you hear that "less is more" or that something is "greater than the sum of its parts?" Those cliches apply to Canuck duo Japandroids. Singer/guitarist Brian King and drummer/vocalist David Prowse get the job done in a big way all by their lonesome. The volume and wave of sound they create is impressive. Other duos with the same instrumentation — the defunct but awesome White Stripes and local band RTB2 — more times than not lack that massive sound, sometimes on record and disappointingly often on stage. Heck even the Black Keys have opted to perform as a four piece to fill their sound.

But the Japandroids keep it simple — drums, guitar and super-hooky, energetic melodies and whoaaaaaa-filled choruses that make for infectious music — which is a hard thing to do nowadays when you can loop multiple instrument tracks, which at its conservative best is effective, but at its worst turns into a robotic mess. None of that with this band; I can attest that these are the 'droids you're looking for (heh). About two-and-a-half-ish years ago I saw the guys obliterate their set at the former Cavern on Greenville Avenue. Both were sick with the flu, but they powered through and blew my mind (see photoplay below; makes me miss having a legit press pass to wave at concerts).

What else? Stream the whole friggin' 35-minute album, "Celebration Rock," (which drops today) at NPR's All Songs Considered. After a couple of listens, I hear great improvement from "Post-Nothing." Japandroids sound more confident on their instruments; in particular, Prowse displays a much steadier sense of rhythm.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Overconfident on trails, costly climate control, rethinking rallies and KXT's Summer Cut

Some fairly tech ish right here. Momentum is your friend and just look forward going through this tree gate. Don't even think about lookin' at those roots!

Purchased in 2002 and officially dubbed Isabella Bicicleta
Oro de EspaƱa. The Spanish gold and red color combo
might have cost a bold designer at Trek his/her job; but
I've come to love it.
Most weekends, I am usually the most geeked about Saturday — better concerts, more events, full day to do whatever knowing I can recover Sunday. But not this weekend. The really fun stuff (well, except for laundry) is happening today. Top of the list: riding. My road bike is at the LBS for a tuneup, so that means quality time on the hardtail.

The original plan was riding the three loops of the DORBA trail at Cedar Hill State Park, which are dry, open and apparently awesome. But guess what? A friggin' Down and Dirty mud/obstacle run has commandeered the trails today. Good thing a friend told me about it before I hit the road.

Not really interested in scoping anything new  and trying to stay close to home, I opted for the faithful standby trail — Rowlett Creek Preserve. Of the 16 loops, I have my favorites, but I try to switch up the flow every time I ride in G-town — which means I don't have it completely dialed in. What's more, the DORBA crew organizes regular trail days to make improvements and add new obstacles (mostly teeter totters, logs piles and bridges). So it's best to not get cocky and respect the trail.

If by chance you are scouting locations for a "Swamp Thing" remake, look no further. Loop 2 is pond scum central.

I dig riding trails. It requires greater awareness and quicker decisions than road cycling. It's fun ducking low limbs, feeling their bark lightly scrape my CamelBak and my helmet high-fives their leaves.

On Loop 7, I stumbled upon some new-to-me trail work — a well-designed and nicely built boardwalk section. It lies directly on the preserve's floor, so it's not as challenging as some of the elevated ladders you'll see on hillier trails. But still, it's a nice little feature that you must respect. First cruise: Loved it. So much so that I snapped a pic for the blog and promised I'd loop back for a second go.

Guess what happened on that second ride? I totally didn't respect the trail, rode too fast, cut a tight corner at the end of the first segment and ate dirt hard. The damage: The unkindest "kiss" a male biker can receive from a crossbar. Yep, I was down, cussing and groveling for about 5 minutes. Good times. I also managed to acquire an 8-inch cut on my upper thigh and some tiny splinters on my arms. As bad as all that sounds, I feel fine now; my pride is even totally "whatevs" about the spill. I'm clean and ready to fight another day.

Chill factor

I know what you're thinking: Sexy, right? I think it has
Campagnolo components.  :) 
Major household repairs and I are not good friends. Within a month of moving in, I had to buy a new HVAC handler. Not cheap, but necessary. On Memorial Day I ponied up big bucks to replace what I'm told was one of the oldest AC compressors the service team has ever seen. 

With the added expense this month, I'll have to be a bit tighter on what I do this summer. The first casualty unfortunately is next weekend's Tulsa Tough, which would have been two days of riding with some kick-ass frunners. Cow Creek's 101 miler is still going to happen, and I also will make it to HHH. While I'm bummed, it was necessary. Paying to sweat at races and rallies is fun; paying to not sweat inside one's home is essential.

Summer Cut and G-town pics

I'll end this post with some rando shots of Garland (I like to swing by some old spots when I ride RCP) and one from Friday's concert — KXT's Summer Cut.

Smile Smile: An excellent local band whose set was cut short due to sound problems on the second stage of KXT's Summer Cut. I also saw the Flaming Lips, St. Vincent, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Fitz and the Tantrums on Friday. Not a bad deal for $10. Get an eyeful of the fans and bands at

More crash damage: I have no idea what mangled the water bottle cage when I wrecked. Maybe my leg?

You don't see too many stand-alone Foot Lockers these days. Backinnaday, you could get some fly-ass Reebok Pumps, Air Jordans, LA Gear Catapults and Cons Aero Jams at this joint.

The star is not shining so bright at Star Mart these days. I didn't step inside because: a) I was a dirty, sweaty mess, and b) I didn't want to know if someone ever beat my high score on the store's "SpyHunter" arcade game. 

Wow. Just wow. I don't even know where to begin. This is Gar-tastic.

Where I grew up. It makes me incredibly happy that the current owners take good care of the landscaping. The crape myrtles on the right are massive!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Five Photo Friday

Let's get one thing straight from the get-go: I am a fan of local businesses. I proudly support them, especially restaurants and places within walking distance (check and check for this place). BUT, I just don't know what to make of the sushi/hibachi restaurant that is moving into the former Grill and Deli Spot. Local runner and reporter Christina Hughes Babb is equally confused. Is it called Fire (mini chopsticks in the middle) Box or Firexbox? "Just My Type" doesn't address any of the mess we see in the sign. I eagerly await whateveritiscalled opening. I will give it a shot even if I may need a tetanus shot afterward.

Does anyone ever feel 100 percent comfortable saying they know the official name of the live music venue pictured above. At last check, I will be enjoying several awesome acts performing at KXT Summer Cut at Gexa Energy Pavilion tonight. The very last time I attended a concert there (James Taylor in 1997), it was called Coca-Cola Starplex Amphitheatre. Some years later, I believe it was rechristened Smirnoff Music Center and then Mr. Sparkle Splendid Home of Songs before becoming Gexa. Forgive me for sounding like Andy Rooney, but I'll continue to call it Starplex, thank you very much.

The second and third runners to reach the water station at mile 7 and 9 (it was a pseudo out-and-back course).

I spent Monday morning volunteering at the Patriot Half Marathon in Rockwall. That city sure has grown. I remember way back when (yes, yes, Andy Rooney voice again) when the only reason my family went to Rockwall was to shop at Wal-Mart — y'know, back when the stores didn't cover every corner of Dallas-Fort Worth. Truthfully, present-day Rockwall looks more like Frisco in spots.

I had an excellent time helping out as a course monitor and cheering on the runners. I even got a good workout chasing after cups and picking up used chill towels. I must have looked like a deranged, overgrown Wimbledon ball boy trying to do so in between waves of passing runners.

Last year, the city of Dallas decided it would no longer mow the majority of the "park" across from my house. Roughly 70 percent of the year this land looks awful. Sure does look lovely right now.

If you're ever in Phoenix, check out the Musical Instrument Museum. A hands-on section (you can play a friggin' theremin!) and tons of odd and famous instruments from every country and culture fill this impressive building. In order to really appreciate everything the MIM has to offer, it would probably take three trips. 

That awesome double-neck axe above is Elvis Presley's ultra-rare Gibson EBS-1250. On loan from Graceland, this half-bass, half-guitar was featured in the film "Spinout" (yes, no one has seen it). Similar to the familiar 12-string guitar EB models Jimmy Page plays, this one features a six string bass. Tuned like a guitar but an octave lower, only 22 of these instruments were made; some day, I will find one that isn't hermetically sealed and play it reverently.