I should be studying…

but sometimes I just a need break. And yes, writing can be a break for me—fun writing anyway, so I believe a little update to the blog is in order!ferrisbueller_069pyxurz

It’s Labor Day weekend and school is out, but really it just began two weeks ago, so I sort of feel like I’m skipping out with Ferris Bueller. What a great opportunity to log some serious mileage on the bike though…well, that would be the case if I hadn’t crashed my bike the previous weekend.

Yes, I finally got my first (road) bike crash over with. It’s always when, not if it will happen. The story goes something like this:

Kristine has actually been coming out with me on the Saturday ride with Pearland Cycling Club (yay!), and last weekend I talked her into doing the full 60 mile route. Everything was going great until about 20 miles in when a little chihuahua ran toward the group determined to claim the entire road as his turf.tumblr_lo25n9EVPA1qgnp30o1_500_large

You gotta give the little guy credit for being brave. Not really a smart thing to do though as we were bearing down on him at 20+ mph. I went off the front attempting to chase him off the road; however, I cut it too close and my front wheel slid over the edge coming out from under me quicker than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking competition. I don’t even remember actually hitting the ground, but I remember vividly the excruciatingly long slide across the chip seal surface as it ripped layers of skin off my shoulder, hip, elbow, and fingers. Kristine was behind and saw the whole thing happen. She said I slammed on the ground hard, then just slid while I was stuck on my left side.

Another element to this story is that I just got a new bike only a couple of weeks prior. My old Tarmac frame was cracked which the mechanics noticed while installing some new components I had bought. What was going to be an upgraded crank set, rear derailleur, front derailleur, and brake calipers, turned into a new frame as well. Fortunately, Specialized honored their warranty and not only sent me a replacement for free, but they also upgraded me to a Venge frame. Very cool!

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It was also fortunate the new frame and components were undamaged in the crash. The left shifter got a little scratch on it, but otherwise there was no damage—not even the saddle or bar tape was torn!

After the crash, I took a little time to lick my wounds (not literally of course) and collect my thoughts. Physiologically speaking, I just waited for the adrenaline and the shock to wear off. We also waited for an animal control officer to show up to ensure the dog owners were cited for failure to keep their dog on a leash or behind a fence. The group was really great and stayed with us to make sure I was OK. I sent them on their way while Kristine and I got back on the bike and rode home. It was painful, but at the same time it felt good to finish the ride.14107863_10153718260191631_5690632712564917285_o

They say the shower after a crash hurts something fierce. I can confirm that. They also say things are more sore after the second day. I can also confirm that. A week later and my road rash is healing nicely. My hip and elbow are still sore, so that any motion that involves twisting my torso or laying down happens slower than a Sunday afternoon, but it is getting better. I also have some pain in my lower back, which ties into the sore hip, so I have schedule a massage with my good buddy Noel. Anyone looking for a massage should absolutely schedule with him; he is excellent at what he does. Stop procrastinating and treat yourself to a massage already!

Although I am sore from the crash a week later, we still got out there and rode with the club this weekend. I am staying disciplined and working back up to the high mileage and intensity after healing, so for now we kept it around 40 miles. It may not be the Labor Day weekend of riding I envisioned, but we always manage to make the most of it.

As a bonus, I have an opportunity to get ahead on school work for the Fall semester. This will be my final semester and it is a busy one with classes like Biology, Comp II, Statistical Methods of Psychology, and Public Speaking among others. I’m looking forward to wrapping up my degree and putting in my application soon, but I’m also a little sad that it has gone by so fast. I have really enjoyed my time in school, the people I have met, and the great professors who I have become friends with.

Until next time, stay safe friends, and enjoy your Labor (hopefully free) Day weekend!

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Confession Time

It’s confession time.

A little over a year ago, with Christmas only a few days away, I posted about a change in direction. My plan was to attend college for the first time in my life in order to begin a new career in law enforcement. It has been a pleasant surprise to see how well I have done in college. After this spring semester, I will have 34 out of 60 credits necessary to graduate. Because of my achievements, I was honored on the Dean’s List for the fall semester of 2015. I also accepted an invitation to join the Mu Upsilon chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society this semester. 12806102_1265854173426192_4954070660957403113_n

School for me as an adolescent was harder than it needed to be. I just didn’t have the motivation to obtain the same level of achievement I have today. Things are quite different attending college as an adult. We tend to be more focused, and we maintain the ability to cogitate the larger picture. While learning a new subject is intriguing, I propose the most important skills from college are time management, effective study habits, improved writing abilities, and professional ethics. I strive to succeed at all of these endeavors, not only for academic achievement and more prosperous career opportunities, but also for psychological fulfillment. If you are interested, I created a blog for publishing my academic essays throughout my college years.

I have to give much credit to my wonderful wife for her inspiration which has driven me to be a better student, and a better man. I was also extremely fortunate to have a wonderful history professor in my first semester. Her friendly personality and enthusiasm for teaching is evident in the classroom. She has genuinely enriched my college experience, and she has become a good friend.

So what am I confessing? Well, it’s nothing as serious as the Sacrament of Penance.

Clearly I haven’t been active on my blog, but sadly I also haven’t been as active on the bike. I found that going to school full time, owning a business, and still having a semblance of a personal life really takes a lot out of you. To compound matters, my job involves physical labor; thus, when I have school and work in the same day, it has been difficult to find the time or energy to don a kit and hop on the bike. Honestly, these are just excuses for the fact that I have gained weight—nearly as much as my pre-cycling days. However, in my defense, the Huffington Post Canada reported a study published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism journal “[which] found that in over four years, at least 70 per cent of students gain weight, according to Auburn University”. Although there have been contradicting results from other studies, at least in my case, it seems the ‘freshman 15’ theory holds—er—weight.

It is now time to hold myself accountable. At this point, I still have no immediate plans to race my bike, but it is time to get back on the saddle, or as Willie Nelson would say, “on the road again”. For the first time in my life, I have joined a gym. This is something I never thought I would do. Admittedly, I have enjoyed it so far! The classes are good for motivation and they are helping to develop muscles I never knew existed.

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Put simply: Squats. Are. Evil. In the wake of a body pump class, the simple task of nimbly sitting on the toilet turned into a lumbering collapse on the seat, accompanied by a painful shriek. But, things are improving. I’m beginning to feel stronger which will surely help me on the bike when I can get outside.

So, the goal for this year: Get back in shape. More specifically, to develop muscle definition—particularly in the core, shoulders, and arms—ahead of police academy training. And finally, to find the cardio fitness I once had.

Compassion Shines After Frightening Crash

In the evening hours this week, with the promise of spring in the air, it was set to be a beautiful end to the day as Local Bike Racing hosted a weekly criterium here in Houston. However, we were all devastated to learn about a tragic accident involving Chuck, a good friend of the cycling community. Erin Urban, a local competitive cyclist with Haute Wheels Racing and a great blogger, published a post about the incident saying, “last night a friend, staunch supporter, avid race volunteer, and all-around good guy was severely injured during a local race. This news hits hard with deep sadness because we all know and appreciate our cycling buddy, Chuck”.

Indeed, Chuck is genuinely a great guy who does not deserve the pain he is experiencing right now, but it has been truly inspirational to see the community come together in support of a fallen friend.

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Chuck on the front. Photo credit: Corvin Alstot.

Chuck is a successful entrepreneur; he is a selfless and hard-working individual, someone who never complains when the going gets tough. I recall riding next to Chuck on many occasions, often struggling to breathe at blistering speeds, my legs agonizingly painful as I’m telling them to ‘shut up’ in my best Jens Voigt expression, yet Chuck would always greet you with a warm smile. His diligent and altruistic character is visible not only in his career, but also with his involvement in the cycling community—all of whom have a great deal of respect for him. In her blog post, Erin Urban adds, “Chuck has volunteered quite a bit of his time and energy to the advancement of the cycling community and competitive cycling events. . . . Chuck has been there when he didn’t have to… and today, our cycling community is there for him”.

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Photo credit: Creative Cycling

While those of us who race are aware of the risks, a fact that we have to be comfortable with to some degree, it is never easy to completely push the fear of injury to the back of our mind. As it has been brought to the forefront this week, I would like to reach out to my friends and followers from all walks of life. Please, if you are able to, consider making a donation on his Go Fund Me page—no matter how small—to help our friend recover. This accident will impact his life beyond the time we all share with him on the bike as he faces the road to recovery ahead.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of experiencing the open road on two wheels; that intimate connection between man and machine as one foot turns over the next. It’s almost a meditative experience at times. As cyclists, we share a unique bond in this sport. One of trust, respect, and compassion. There are those who stand out among a group of good people—those who are genuinely great. Chuck is one of those great people. Let’s help him get back on the road, and most importantly, back to his life.

Thank you for taking a moment to read his story. I hope you will consider making a small donation.

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Be sure to check out Erin Urban’s blog and read more about her here. Special thanks goes out to Corvin Alstot and Creative Cycling (Ray ‘Trey’ Currid) for granting permission to publish their photos on this blog.

First Police Ride Along

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As I drove down the freeway headed to the city of La Porte where I scheduled my first ride along, I couldn’t help but feel excited about the coming experience. I knew this was an important step in my process of changing careers into a civil service role. First impressions are very important and I am taking this new direction seriously, so I made sure that I gave myself plenty of time to reach the station before the shift began. In fact I was nearly 30 minutes early, so I had some time to wait in the lobby while the evening shift was in their daily briefing before heading out on patrol.

10995601_10152902508556631_1536601040518068456_nI chose the evening shift on a Saturday since I was told it would provide the most opportunity to see a variety of calls and situations. The officer I was riding with, his name I will omit to respect his privacy, was a really nice guy. He would explain things as they happened and answered questions I thought to ask throughout the shift, which was between 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM. One of the draws for me to this line of work is the fact that unlike so many other jobs, you have no idea what sort of challenges you will face during your shift. Working with people and serving the public appeals to me as a person who is happy to assist those in need and focused on safety.

image1Our shift began with a missing persons case which we took before even leaving the station. Once the officer collected all of the information, we headed to our car. Sitting in the car, he had to get the computer up and running which he would then use to enter notes about the missing person just reported. Most people have seen police officers working on the computer in their cars, but it’s quite impressive to see just how much they can do with them. It’s definitely an invaluable tool in their job.

We were assigned to district 2, which would cover the east side of the city. As a patrol officer, you patrol your district looking for any signs of trouble, but ready to respond to calls as they come in from dispatch. The officer may also handle traffic control in the form of observing vehicles failing to follow the posted speed limits, failure to stop at stop signs or red lights, to vehicle safety and registration requirements. I believe many people are most familiar with that side of policing as it’s probably what we see the most during our daily commutes while ensuring that we follow traffic laws. I was looking forward to seeing traffic control procedures, but calls for assistance take priority and we were not short of those during the shift. One of the best features of the in-car computer is the ability for the officer to view a map of the city which places a marker at the destination of a call when it’s received from dispatch. It also shows other police units location and status in real time, which officers can use to better locate calls for assistance and allocate resources. When the officer initiates a traffic stop, dispatch is able to see that, so they immediately know the officers location before he even calls it in on the radio, improving their safety on the road. Technology is indeed a wonderful thing. image2

Throughout our shift, we responded to lots of information type of calls, a welfare check, a report of two men wielding a machete, a noise disturbance, a report of someone drinking alcohol in the park, an alligator on the loose in the middle of a busy road (pictured at the top of this post), and the worst call being a death on arrival. Sometime between all of the calls, we managed to work traffic at a stop sign where people frequently fail to stop. We initiated two traffic stops, but based on the officers discretion, only verbal warnings were given. For safety reasons, I had to remain in the car for traffic stops and for most calls we responded to, however the non-dangerous information type of calls I was allowed to exit the vehicle with the officer to observe.

Reflecting on my first ride along experience, I feel more confident in my direction as I learned a lot about the procedural side of the job. From working on the computer to filing reports and notes, to handling the radio, calls, traffic, and even driving. It was certainly a different experience from what I believe most of the public sees and it exposed a lot of parts about the job which helped me to ensure this is the direction I want to go. I’m looking forward to doing more ride alongs with other departments as it will be good to see policing from different departments and officers. For now, I can say without a doubt that I am more focused and committed than ever to pursuing this career.

California Vacation

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When we visit a beautiful place, it’s always hard to come home, no matter how good it does feel to be safely home. The long lines at the airport and the inconsiderate person who jams their seat back into your knees on the airplane is all worth it when given the opportunity to visit California.

We stayed in the Sonoma area for four days, followed by three days in San Francisco. This was my second trip to California, having been to San Diego about two years ago. I really enjoyed California on my first visit; this trip would also prove to be rewarding. However, I much prefer San Diego weather. I didn’t realize how chilly northern California was in late May to early June!

We landed in San Francisco and drove a rental car to a beautiful home rented through Airbnb. It turned out to be a really nice area with a spectacular view of the valley below. Although not technically in Sonoma or Napa, it was within reach after a drive equivalent to the distance across Houston—minus the chemical plants and smog of course.

I was looking forward to the next few days in which we would tour the area, and of course drink some wine! I didn’t bring my bike on this trip, but I did bring my gear so that a bike rental was possible.

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Delicious and oh so bad pastry from Bouchon Bakery.

Yountville is a quaint little town nestled between Napa and St. Helena where we enjoyed fine dining and delicious pastries at Bouchon Bakery. I can highly recommend the cream cheese blueberry jam pastry which I had already begun to devour as the picture here shows. North of Yountville, we toured several wineries, including Beringer and Inglenook. I personally love a red zinfandel, so it was quite pleasant to relax outside with a glass of wine on these beautiful vineyards.

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Obligatory picture of grapes!

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It was hard to contain my excitement about the chance to ride in California again. I had mapped out a challenging route that included a lot of climbing. The ride was a blast, but some of the climbs were extremely hard and very steep, which caught me by surprise when I struggled to get over them. I rented the bike in Yountville and rode to our house in Novato. It ended up being 60 miles with about 4,800 feet of climbing. You can view my ride data here and watch a video of my ride below. The following picture gives you an idea of the elevation and gradient profile over the route, with the hardest and steepest sections at the beginning.

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On Monday morning, we packed up and drove into San Francisco. This was quite an experience to see such steep hills in the middle of an urban environment. After settling into a new house, also rented through AirBnB, we headed out to explore the city. Of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get a panoramic picture of the Bay Bridge.

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IMG_3260We walked 4 miles observing the diverse cultures throughout the city, though admittedly I was more excited to reach the bike shop! I finally reached my destination after what seemed like 20 miles of walking to rent another bike, this frame fitting me much better than the first. I planned to ride 100 miles down to La Honda the following day. While riding the bike to the house that evening, I found Filbert Street, one of the steepest in the city at 31.5% gradient.

lombard6This seemed like such a cool challenge to climb. I was pedaling in the smallest gear I had while standing up and leaning as far forward as I could, yet the front wheel was STILL lifting off of the ground as the bike rocked from side to side! It was a unique and scary experience. I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to or else I would have crashed right there, and then likely slid to the bottom of the hill. You know it’s steep when the side walk has stairs in it!

Although it was great seeing San Francisco that first day, I knew the entire second day would be spent on the bike as the ride out to La Honda is quite a haul with a lot of climbing. It was definitely worth it though, with stunning scenery and challenging mountain climbs and descents. I rode 105 miles and climbed just over 9,000 feet. You can see the route and data here and the elevation profile below.

Screenshot 2015-06-05 10.56.40I tried to stop and take pictures and video often, but I also had to navigate with my phone. I felt good for the first half of the ride and over the mountains, but I was really struggling on the trek home. The wind kicked up adding insult to injury as I attempted to finish the ride. I was determined to do it, even though I haven’t actually gone 100 miles in quite a while…not to mention with all of that climbing too. At the end of the day, I was tired and my legs hurt bad, but it was totally the good kind of hurt.

Reflecting back, you could say that I missed out on some of the touristy things to do in San Francisco, but I’m having a hard time believing that I truly missed anything. I look forward to seeing more of the state in the future, but for now I can say that once again California has been good to us and provided a wonderful vacation experience.

Change in Direction

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First I must apologize for the long delay in posts. While there’s not a million people who actually enjoy reading my blog, I realize there are a handful of faithful followers who mean a lot to me. Thanks for taking the time to follow my fitness accomplishments and life journeys.

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This has been a very special year for me. While I haven’t raced much this year, I have certainly been through some exciting changes in my personal life. Most importantly being my marriage in June to the most beautiful and perfect woman for me. My best friend and partner for life. I feel extremely thankful for the events which lead to us finding each other, especially when I consider her journey from Vietnam as a young girl, to the Houston area for a career, to being a part of the cycling club which brought us together on a weekend bike ride.

My career for the past 13 years has been working as a commercial diver, mostly on yachts in our area. I’ve owned and operated the business and enjoyed doing it. After some conversations with Kristine, I was considering where I might like to be in the future. After a lot of consideration, I decided that I would really like to move in the direction of civil service as a police officer. I was a volunteer fire fighter when I was younger and really enjoyed the opportunity to help others and the community. I feel that I have unfinished business there, so becoming a police officer feels like the right direction.

You may ask, why!? Well, I suppose the only way to answer that question is that it just ‘feels’ right. You either want it or you don’t. However, there’s a long ways for me to go before I can start applying for the job. Even though it feels right, wanting to be a police officer and actually being good at it or really liking the work are totally different things. The first step on this change in direction is with school. I don’t have any college degrees, so I am enrolled in college next semester. I plan to work toward an associates degree in Psychology with some additional hours in law enforcement. Also on the to-do list will be ride alongs with local police departments. This should give me a more realistic idea of what it’s like to be a police officer. We all know they do a hard job, but actually seeing it first hand will be an important step along the way. Finally, I will need to complete the police academy, which on its own requires about 6 months to finish. This will be the final process to ensure that I’m ready for the job and that I really want it.

I’m really excited to pursue this new career and all of the challenges along the way. Police work will bring unique challenges everyday, some good and some not so good, but at the end of the day I believe it will be more rewarding than anything else I could ever do. With all of the negative feelings toward our hard working police officers these days, however small it may be, I hope that I can give back to the community in a positive way.

While I would love to race next year, realistically it’s not practical for me to do so. I certainly don’t make it out to as many bike rides as I’d like to either, but I will not give up on cycling! I’m starting to run more to prepare for the police academy, however I’m always excited to get on the bike. I’m confident once things settle down that I will have some desire to do more racing. Right now I have to get focused on returning to school after 16 years! So much to do, and so much to remember. Very exciting times indeed!

Boston Marathon and Vacation

While boarding the plane, I have to admit to the excitement of taking my first trip to the east coast. We flew into Boston with plans to pick up a rental car, then drive to New Hampshire where we would stay with some close friends for a couple of days. boston-landing

One thing to consider if you go to Boston and get a rental car: as soon as you leave the airport, you’re ejected right onto a tollway that goes through a long tunnel. GPS signals typically don’t work underground—go figure, so don’t make the mistake we did! Be sure you know what exit you’re taking before going into the tunnel.

We stopped at a bike shop before leaving the city to pick up some CO2 cartridges since I was able to bring my bike on this trip, but naturally compressed gas is not allowed on the plane. After the quick detour, we made it up to New Hampshire without any major problems; except for the the fact that it was still WINTER up there! Bear in mind that I am a native (south) Texan who can wear flip-flops year round. The next morning dropped down to 25F; nevertheless, I was determined to ride. I put the bike together and headed out on a 60 mile ride through New Hampshire, just crossing the state line into Vermont before turning back. Because it was still so cold, the trees didn’t have leaves on them yet, and in fact there was snow on the ground in some places!

There was a good amount of elevation with some decent climbs along the way which was a nice treat for me. Overall it was a great day on the bike exploring a different part of the country. Below are pictures from my adventure.

 

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Picturesque!

 

 

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Just to prove it was cold, obligatory snow picture.

 

 

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Nice climb here with a flowing creek on the left side.

 

 

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Love historic covered bridges.

 

 

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Bienvenue to New Hampshire. On my way back from Vermont.

 

 

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Fitzwilliam: The quaint small town we visited with friends.

After a couple of days, we drove back to Boston and moved into our hotel room for the remainder of our stay. Kristine was getting really excited about the marathon. We used the subway to get around the city, but we mostly just took it easy until race day. We spent some time at the running expo, which was big and exciting as you might expect for such a big event. Kristine got all taped up with KT tape hoping her hip would hold out through the race which was still causing some pain. We also did the pasta dinner the night before the race. I wouldn’t recommend it. The food was bland—basically noodles and spaghetti sauce. Although it was included for runners, family members had to pay to join the dinner. Topping that off, we stood in a line that wrapped around 3 blocks for nearly an hour just to get our food. Next time we’ll make reservations for sushi.

 

The day before her race I was lucky enough to get a ride in around Boston in the morning. I just wanted to explore the city, so I went easy and took lots of pictures. The route traversed through downtown, MIT, Harvard, and back to the hotel. Here’s some pictures from that ride.

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Race day!

RacedayAfter all the training and hard work, the big day had finally arrived! The morning air was crisp and cold, but the afternoon forecast was expected to be warm and sunny. Kristine had to wear some old warm clothes over her running outfit which could be discarded at the start of the race. The classic ‘California Raisins’ sweater was the choice of the day. Sad to see that one go!

Unlike Houston, the runners are transported on school buses from Boston Common out of town to the starting point in Hopkinton. They run a direct route back into the city, so it wasn’t practical for me to see her during the race. Although I had my bike with me, we opted not to try that this year. As they were loading the buses, I gave her one last kiss and wished her the best of luck. I told her she had this, and this was her time to shine. Just enjoy the moment.984056_10152065093421631_8095361839667973647_n

All I could think about as I watched her leave was how proud of her I was. I said to myself, “my sweetie is running in Boston!!”

After seeing her off, I met up with our friends from New Hampshire who had come in to the city to watch Kristine race. We made our way near the finish line where we must have stood there for over 3 hours waiting to see Kristine finish. It was simply incredible to see how many people get involved in this event. It’s like nothing else. The streets were jam packed with people!

We finally got a spot right on the fence where we could practically touch the runners finishing. It was shortly after when we saw Kristine coming across the finish line. What a sight! She made it, and faster than we expected! She’s now a Boston marathon finisher!! How cool is that!?

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BostonMedal

That night we enjoyed a nice sushi dinner with some sweet treats from Mike’s Pastry. We relaxed and planned to explore the city together the following day.

After nearly a week away from home, we were looking forward to getting back. It was really a positive trip and already we’re thinking about returning to visit our friends in New Hampshire this fall to see the changing colors. What a sight that must be!