August 13, 2016

14 Aug

Hello family and friends, 

It has been two weeks since we completed the Ragbrai event in Iowa. It has been a busy and eventful two weeks which I will summarize here.

At the completion of Ragbrai, we headed southwest toward Texas since we were expecting the birth of our first grandchild any day now. On Sunday  (7/31) we were passing the southeast corner of Kansas. Since we had never ridden our bike in Kansas, we decided to stop and ride a short section of Historic Route 66 which pass through the corner of Kansas. There are only about 16 miles of Route 66 in Kansas and we rode out and back over a  7 mile stretch so 13 miles round trip. It turned out to be an interesting section of route 66. 

We started at the Old Riverton Store which was a deli/ice cream shop with lots of antique decorations. 

There was one of the original bridges on the old route.

In the town of Baxter Springs there was one of the original Phillips 66 gas stations. 

It was a quiet little town with a historical museum and log cabin of an early settler from Germany (built a still – imagine that). 

Of course on Sunday evening everything was closed. It was somewhat refreshing to ride on quiet deserted roads after the week on Ragbrai. 
At the end of our ride we had a great Mexican diner in Gelana, KS witch is another small town trying to make a come back on route 66.

On Monday (8/1) Manny stopped to visit a business client outside Tulsa, OK and then we traveled on to Dallas, TX. In Dallas we stopped to visit our Son Troy’s in laws, Bill and Diggy Pagels. We visited for two day and joined Bill’s bike club for the Tuesday night ride. It was a fast flat ride and a good workout to keep up, but it felt good.

Wednesday  (8/3) we traveled to Lake Jackson, TX and the home of Troy and Laura who are expecting any day now. Well that any day came on Thursday (8/4). Lucy Marie Menendez was born at 9:56 am and came home that very afternoon. 

Here she is a happy girl to be home in her bassinet and brining joy to our lives.

Bill and Diggy Pagels of course were also visiting so Bill and Manny took a few hours out on Friday morning for a bike ride with the Braszosport bicycle club (BBC). It was a great ride at again a fast pace on this flat coastal area.

On Saturday morning   (8/6), Marsha and I decided to give the kids some time to themselves with Lucy so we pulled out the tandem to join the BBC for there morning  ride. We made it to the start just as the riders were pulling out so we fell in behind for another fast ride. It was basically the same route as the day before but faster. After 25 miles they took a rest stop at a convenience store were we got a chance to catch up and introduce ourselves to everyone. One young woman in the group turned out to be a co-worker with Troy. We went another 5 miles after the rest stop before having an unfortunate accident. We were riding right with the group but last in line on a very wide shoulder. A drunk driver came up behind and decided to use the shoulder to pass another car. Marsha and I did not see any of this coming nor do we remember any of it. All we remember is waking up in a fog and people talking around us. Fortunately we were the only bike hit and we thank God to be able to tell this story.

Although the driver who hit us did not stop, many others did and along with the BBC cyclists were all wonderful. We both suffered concussions and multiple cuts and scraps from our slide down the road. Marsha took the brunt of the hit being on the back of the bike. She had a very deep cut on her left elbow requiring 9 stiches. We were taken together by helicopter to a hospital in Houston. I  was released Saturday afternoon, but Marsha was admitted and released Monday afternoon. 

We are both recovering remarkably well at Troy’s home. Our cuts and scraps are healing well, but we are still a bit slow particularly getting up and down. Instead of being a help to the new parents we are somewhat of a burden. Our oldest son, Eric, has come in to stay a couple of weeks to help us out. We are very grateful to Eric and his employer for helping us out. Nathan, has also come in this weekend in route to a plant next week. It is great to have everyone together. Unfortunately Kelly (Nathan’s wife) could not join us this weekend – somebody actually needs to do some work. 

As for the driver that hit us, another motorist did follow him and call police so that he was apprehended. The police held our bicycle for evidence, but I can pick it up this week.

I did see a picture of the bike which just reinforced how thankful we are to God and all the people who helped us on the ground and through prayer. Here we are a week later recovering well and enjoying our family and especially our newest member, Lucy!

Love M&M

July 31,2016

2 Aug

RAGBRAI ended today after cycling 433 miles across Iowa with cyclists of every age and size. 

  We began this journey in Glenwood, Iowa where we camped along with thousands of other riders.

 On Saturday,July 24th,we rode with Linda and Rob Young,9 miles further west to dip our bicycle tires in the Missouri River. 

Today we finished this ride by dipping our bike tires in the Mississippi!
The scenery of souhern Iowa is rolling hills amidst many farming communities! 

As we did cycle in an easterly direction the hills did lessen and the daily climbs decreased from a high of 4000 ft to only 1500ft . The sun was strong and shade always at a premium.  Our comfort level improved dramatically with cloud cover on Friday and Saturday!
 Each day we improved in managing the crowds of cyclists.

 We had thought it was only 10,000 riders but we learned later that the number of cyclists was between 17,000 and 18,000 each day. Manny did an amazing, excellent job of steering us safely though the masses. The hill steepness could be assessed by the throng of cyclists working their way to the top.We were surprised to see some cyclists walking their bike up the first hill on  the first day. But we never saw anyone give up! There were some unique ways of completing the route. One man rollerbladed,

one man ran each day from dawn to dusk pushing a baby stroller which held his supplies ,not a child.One guy rode a pennyfarthing cycle, at least one of the days. There were 2 guys each on their own unicycle.Two people each  on their own elipitical with wheels which meant they stood the entire time,and 2 ladies on what can best be explained as a side by side bike like you would find at the beach. We also saw riders with artificial legs,riders with leg paralyisis using adaptive bikes so they could use their arms to pedal the route and on a tandem the captain of the bike a man from San Diego who was with a veteran from Florida  who was blind, being the stoker. These sights only increased one’s determination to complete this event. 

Of note also was The United States Air Force Cycling Team. We saw them each day and they were extraordinary!  At every accident,yes unfortunately there were some,and every bike  breakdown they were there providing first aid to both people and bike and also directing bike traffic.We did learn that they are not first a cycling team in the fact they really are our Air Force men and women.

On their own time they gather together to train and also  learn every nuance about bike repair. They are given orders for the week to do exactly what we saw them doing. Their presence certainly was needed! They did not need to take PTO time for the week which was great to hear! Certainly also  great PR for the USAF.

The food is a story on it’s own! Each day along the route are vendors! These vendors set up each day along the route at about the same mileage. Initially, it was overwhelming to figure out when to stop. Of course,you can stop anytime you wish but the idea is to finish the day’s ride certainly before sundown! There is much discussion along the route and at the end of each day as to which foods were not to be missed!  These included the breakfast guy gridlling up fresh eggs or pancakes,Mr. Porkchop, Beekman’s Amish homemade ice cream,Mr. G’S Burnt Brisket ends and Iowa Corn on the cob! We did manage to sample them all and  many more during the week. I must mention here,that despite all these wonderful food offerings,the vendor of the week for us was Munchkins! No fancy food here just good old PB&J and cold chocolate milk. It is what we usually have when we are biking. It powers us on to get those hills done! We learned to stay true to our usual biking style especially with eating!

The food story contines with pies! There were pie slices everywhere!  Take your pick of flavors- cherry,peach,apple,rhubarb,rhubarb-strawberry,blackberry,gooseberry and raisin- or have one of each! Every pie was delicious!  I did ask one of the lowa women if the pies were just unique in Iowa during RAGBRAI and she replied,”No,we like our pies through out the year!” 

At each town ,the riders amass in large numbers so everyone has to dismount as you cannot ride thru the streets! 

 We walked thru town with 3 main objectives. Finding the shortest port a potty line,getting a cold drink and ,for Manny and I,getting out of town as quickly as possible!  This did relieve the bike congestion for quite a few miles as so many bikers stayed in town for a awhile

For the first few days,we thought it best to get our luggage and tent first when we arrived at the day’s destination. The campsite was always crowded and not usually level. But this always took a good bit of time and we were hot,tired,hungry and thirsty as well. Once we talked about how miserable that part of the day was we decided to ride directly  to one of the churches in the destination town. They all served a fabulous meal in an air conditioned hall where we could sit down at a table  in relative quiet with a nice restroom with no line! It was a great thing to figure out! We always got some tent site and certainly felt more relaxed with  setting up camp for the night  

Friends from Kansas City ,Michele and Mark Maur joined us for the ride!

Also ,Susan and Dan Kutvirt from Alburquique  joined us as well! We came in close together at the end in Muscatine. 

Here is as close as we got to a group picture.

We thank these friends for coming to enjoy RAGBRAI with us! 

What an adventure,what a ride! 



July 28, 2016

29 Jul

Hello friends and family,

 This week we have been riding RAGBRAI across Iowa. For those who don’t know, this is an group ride with up to 10,000 cyclists. We have been camping in small towns across the state who have opened their towns, homes, churches, and parks to accommodate 10,000 hungry and tired cyclists. Generally this large crowd overwhelms the local Internet service so we have not tried to make any posts. Rest assured that we are alive and well. 

That being said after 5 days and almost 300 miles riding the rolling hills of Iowa in the sun, we are tired. Two more days and we’ll be able to dip our front wheel in the Mississippi River. The scenery has been great, the food abundant at every turn in the road, and navigating thru 10,000 cyclists on the road a continuous challenge. 

Our host town this evening, Ottumwa, is a bit larger than the others and Internet service seems good so far. I’ll  attach a few pictures in the hope that this post goes thru. We’ll provide more on the classic ride when it is done.

A town stop along the way.

Enjoying some pie after the ride – a Ragbrai requirement !

A long line of cyclists on the Iowa road.

Riding across Rathbun Dam.

Until later,

Love M & M

July 21, 2016

22 Jul

Today ,we left Lincoln but stopped to visit The Arbor Day Park and home of J.Sterling Morton in Nebraska City,Nebraska. This man  who started Arbor Day also served as the Secretary of Agricultural under Grover Cleveland.  It is a beautiful 240 acre estate, now a park,with many trees and given to the State of Nebraska by the Morton family. If the name sounds familiar that is because his oldest son did start The Morton Salt company.Each of the four children were very successful with another son starting the Argo corn starch business. 

After taking,I-80 across the state of Iowa  today, this evening, we  are  in Coralville, Iowa. We are just an hour away from Muscatine, Iowa where we will board the bus tomorrow at 1:30. The bus ride back to the western end of the state takes us to Glenwood,the start of RAGBRAI. On Saturday, we will ride with Rob and Linda Young ,20 miles  round trip,to The Missouri River to dip our bike wheels in the water and also ride a little in Nebraska.  Rob and  Linda are also working on riding their bikes in every state. Even though we rode in Nebraska the past 2 days, we can’t pass up getting Nebraska on their list as well! The RAGBRAI start is actually early on Sunday morning . We expect to be up every morning at 5am! The sun just gets too strong to ride late in the day!We are looking forward to a fun week!

Love M& M

July 20, 2016

21 Jul

We headed off this morning again on the bike path to see The Capitol Building here in Lincoln. It is truly impressive taking 10 years to build and costing $10 million 

We took the elevator to the 14th floor where we saw these views of Lincoln.

Our tour guide was a young adult who has a vision problem and will eventually go blind. The State of Nebraska has a program here at the Capitol which teaches them job skills as well as life skills so they can care for themselves now and in the future. They come from all over the state and are housed close by the capital for the duration of the summer program. Seems like a great program. We biked a few blocks and were on the City campus of University of Nebraska.  The university has 2 campuses,the other being east campus were the tractor test lab and dairy store are located. They are about a mile apart and easy to bike between.  On the city campus,we visited the football stadium which can hold 91,000. 

We rode around the campus and then rode on back towards our hotel by a circular route. On the way was a nice park with picnic tables in the shade which provided a great spot for a stretched out rest from the sun.A on Friday relaxing day. After dinner,we started gathering our stuff together for RAGBRAI.  It is coming soon!

Love, M&M 

July 19,2016

21 Jul

For the next couple of days we are in Lincoln, Nebraska which in addition to being the state capital is also home to the University of Nebraska. Today we headed out on the bike path to pedal into Lincoln to go see a few sites of interest. Marsha went to The International Quilt Museum. Their goals are to have quilts from around the world as well as across the centuries. They also have a commitment to analysing quilts which are brought to them. They have a large storage facility for the quilts they own and thus can change their displays often. The 2 displays there now are one from Southwest China and one from the Mountain Mist Batting Company (who make the filler used in quilts). Both were terrific! 

Meanwhile,Manny was at the tractor test lab at the University of Nebraska just a few blocks from the Quilt Museum. 

The origins of the tractor test lab is rather interesting. In about 1915 when powered tractors where just coming on the market,  a Nebraska farmer named Wilmot Crozier purchased one of the new tractors to replace his horses. However the new tractor broke down before he ever reached his farm. Crozier actually purchased three tractors before he got one that actually worked. Apparently other farmers had similar problems. A few years later Crozier was elected to the state legislature where he introduced and passed a law that any tractor to be sold in the state of Nebraska must first be tested at the University of Nebraska to prove performance ratings published by the manufacturer. This law is still in effect today. As a result the work done at the University of Nebraska test lab has developed into an international standard for tractor testing. Since 1920 pretty much every tractor model ever built has been tested at the University of Nebraska. The tour of the test lab museum showed many of original tractors tested as well as video of tractors being tested on the dirt track outside the building. Some of the old tractors have been restored to working condition by students at the University. In the last 20 years a new test lab has been built with state of the art instrumentation. Also the old dirt track has been rebuilt with concrete equivalent to an airport runway. Testing is conducted by students in the agricultural engineering department. 

After these museum tours, we meet up again for lunch in a local pizza place and them a stop at the University dairy store for a sample of Nebraska ice cream.

Refreshed with the cold treat, we rode the 10 miles back to our hotel on the city bike paths. The bike paths in Lincoln are very nice with many parks and gardens along the way. 

Love M & M

July 18, 2016

21 Jul

We slept in Monday morning as both of us felt like we were low on actual sleep due to the high altitudes we had been at. While the feeling of shortness of breath got better as we were in Colorado, it was still affecting us so more sleep sure felt great! On the way to Lincoln, Nebraska today,we decided to take US route 34 to see more of the towns than if we drove on I-80. It was very interesting!  Some towns very small with nothing but a crossroads but some with actual small main streets with a few stores. We stopped in a little park in Trenton  to eat lunch.

We had hard boiled eggs,cheese,humus,carrots,and crackers left over from Vail so we finshed up quite a few of these goodies. As we continued driving across Nebraska, we saw three large cattle ranches,one even with a cowboy rounding up the herd. These ranches were quite large,cattle as far as the eye could see! No wonder the restaurants here in Lincoln were offering 100% Omaha Steak!

The big town coming across Nebraska was McCook with many stores including 3 Casey’s  (which are like Wawa but not nearly as good). We did get on I -80 just north of Holdrege to finish the last 160 miles into Lincoln. We took a Hampton about 9 miles out of the city and with a bike path very close.

A good traveling day even though it was  in the car .


July 17, 2016

20 Jul

We went to mass this morning at St. Patrick’s  in the town of Minturn. I mention this as the pianist who was also the singer/ cantor had a beautiful voice and was a very gifted pianist. In such a small town ,it is not that common to have someone with so much talent.  So nice! We returned to Vail for the lovely brunch that Lisa and Dave Cicchenelli hosted for everyone! Again what a gracious and generous gift. We were able to get a Menendez Family picture with many of the family but we still missed 8 Menendez who were there at the Wedding just not at the brunch when we took the picture. Wish we could have gotten everyone! 

After saying goodbyes to some of the family leaving,Manny,Eric and I did walk down to the Solaris place courtyard to hear a Jass quintet play. They were good and we listened to 3 of their songs but felt the 3 songs were very similar. With this area in full swing for the Sunday Market Day,we did buy 3 fresh Colorado peaches and then at the Left Bank restaurant tent purchased a peach cobbler, a vanilla scoop of ice cream and a scoop of peach sorbet.  Finding a shady spot to sit down ,we shared the 3 choices and found each of them to be fabulous! The peaches we actually had later and they were juicy and perfect! We headed back to our car,packed and ready to go,said goodbye to some more family,and headed East towards Denver. Eric came with us and being the good sport he is figured out a way to be seated in the back of our van now converted for traveling. The traffic heading out of the mountains was just like the Jersey  shore traffic heading home on a Sunday! Packed,slow and stop and go! When we  finally were able to get off I-70 we took a short break from the traffic. After stretching,a bathroom stop, a cold drink and switching drivers,we were finally doing the last 8 mile descent to the flatlands heading into Denver.Eric goggled a great restaurant in The North field shopping area,called Salati Italian Street Food. It was super good and all fresh ingredients!  We walked around outside at this shopping area (set up very much like Exton Main Street) just alot more stores. We then had ice cream before we headed onto the Denver Airport to drop Eric off for his flight back to San Francisco.  Unfortunately, Eric had a long haul to get back. His 9pm flight was delayed to 11pm. He never got home till 3am on Monday morning! Ugh! We did not want to stay at a hotel at the airport as it was only we traveled on for another hour to Fort Morgan,Colorado where we pulled into another Hampton Inn. Too bad we did not know Eric would be so delayed. We would have taken a hotel room at the airport so he could have at least hung out in our hotel room. The joys of airplane travel. Even the hour further east in Fort Morgan,we noticed a good deal of lightning which is what delayed Eric”s flight. We are very glad that he made it back to San Francisco safely!  



July 16,2016

19 Jul

This morning,Manny and Eric did the Berry Picker hike,which was 3 miles up the mountain right from our condo in Vail. My leg is still being bothered by phelbitis and I needed to organize and pack clothes so I took the gondola ride up to the top and met Manny and Eric there. We strolled around on top for an hour and took in the views below.

The picture above is taken on top as well but is where Eric came in after running 26 miles on Thursday. 

The big event of the day was our niece,Jessica getting married to Erik Anderson.  The outdoor setting was lovely and the reception after was a big party with much dancing as the band was terrific! A beautiful day from beginning  to end!

Manny and his 4 sisters. 

Jessica  and Erik entering the reception. 

Father,daughter dance.

A great time was enjoyed by all!



July 15, 2016

18 Jul

Today Marsha relaxed at the Vail condo and sewed Jessica’s initials on a handkerchief to be used during her wedding ceremony. This is a long standing family tradition. Jessica’s initials were added to a long list of previous brides in the family. 

After a day off yesterday, I (Manny) joined 10 others in the family for a hike to Booth Falls and beyond to Booth Lake. This was a strenuous hike and rate by Lisa as a “Black Diamond ” hike. The hike followed Booth creek up the mountain through Aspen groves and alpine meadows.

Two miles up the trail we came to Booth Falls which were really a series of water falls. The upper section is pictured below. 

Here we had some snacks and the majority of the group decided it was time to turn around and head back down the mountain. Four of us  (Eric, Jacob, Elisabetta, and I ) continued on up the mountain to Booth Lake. The scenery and wild flowers high up on the mountain were fantastic including this backwards view of 14,000 ft Mount of the Holy Cross.

Indian paint brush was in full bloom on the mountain and we learned that this flower grows in a symbiotic relationship with hummingbirds which were also frequently seen.

Finally we reached Booth Lake at an elevation of about 11,500 ft. The lake and the surrounding snow packs made an awesome view which the picture below only catches a glimpse. 

This was an awesome hike which truly displayed the splendor of God and I felt like I was walking through Heaven. I am thankful for the opportunity to accompany these young people in my family on this hike. All in, it was 10.2 mile round trip, 3200 ft of climb, and just over 6 hours in duration. 

Love M&M