The Long Strange Trip to the Cowtown Half Marathon…

Two years ago, this past January I started down a new path.  One that I had no idea where it would take me.  I was overweight, taking insulin for diabetes, pills for high blood pressure, high lipids and for GERD, among other issues.  A year and a half prior, my wife had surgery for a Vertical Gastric Sleeve (VGS) and had lost almost 100 lbs, and had gotten off most of her prescription medications.

My mother survived colon cancer x3 only to be taken by diabetes several years ago and in 2012 a good friend lost his battle to diabetes.  At that point, I made the decision to do ‘something’ and started my new journey.  The VGS surgery was on Jan 30, 2013 and there were some complications so another surgery had to be performed on Jan 31.  The road  to recovery was tough, I have to say.  But the weight started to come off (almost to fast), I returned to work but really did not have much energy so started to walk a little at a time just to build some strength.

Fast forward to Dec of 2013, after a 3rd surgery in Oct and I bought my wife and I both a Fitbit to help us track our activity a little better and downloaded MyFitnessPal app for the iphone so we could track how much we ate each day.  Both have been great tools to help us stay on track and keep the weight off we had both worked so hard to lose.  After the last surgery, the energy finally started to come back and I felt like I needed to do something, I was after 60 years old now.  So, I started to walk – slow at first and not very far.  Those first walks were not bad or uncomfortable.  I think the first time I completed a mile it took something like 20 min.  Everyone said I had been through a lot the past year and to not expect so much.

So, the walks became a bit of a routine for me, and I looked forward to them.  The Fitbit was telling me I needed 10, 000 steps a day to be ‘healthy’, so that was my goal – which was really hard to meet at first.  Then I started walk in all sorts of weather – cold, wet, it did not matter I was going to do this.  Spring came and I was reaching 10,000 steps more often so I decided to up my goal to 12,000 steps most days, then 15,000 steps.  By Summer 2014 I was getting 5 miles on Sat and Sun and feeling really good.  Fall of 2015 I had reach a few days with 10 miles each day and up to 30,000 steps and my per mile times had dropped to 14 min, even a few 13.5 min miles.

Jan 2015 rolled around and I had dropped almost 100 lbs from my high weight of 240 lbs and thought I would try a 10 mile walk, which I did.  Talking with co-workers about it they suggested I should consider ‘doing’ the Cowtown Half Marthon on Mar 1.  I thought about it and looked at the website and could see that it was a walker friendly event and so in early Feb sent my money in for the Cowtown Half Marathon and the Adult 5K (what the heck I walk a 5K every weekend anyhow).  I had just completed a 13.1 mile walk on a Sat, just to prove to myself that I could do it.  The blisters on both heels and both big toes made me question if I was really ready or not.  These were on top of blisters I had gotten on the 10 mile walk 3 weeks prior and 3 weeks before the Cowtown.

So, I talked with other runners that had gone the distance, stopped by Luke’s Locker Room in Fort Worth to look at new shoes.  The sales guy there was great, though he was a little surprised I wanted new shoes that close to the race.  I knew it was NOT a good idea, but needed some kind of help.  The shoes were great!

The week prior to the Cowtown we had freezing rain and sleet on Monday.  On Thursday/Friday before the race we had SNOW, SLEET and Freezing rain – Great I think, nothing like a challenge. Friday was the day to pick up my packet for the 5K on Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday.  Watching the website and social media, just before leaving the house I saw where the Expo was delayed, then canceled mid-day Friday.  Next the bad news, all of the races for Saturday were canceled and Sunday’s race was in question.  My first race might have to wait.

There were 3 races scheduled for Sunday – the Half, Full and Ultra Marathons.  Late Saturday, the staff of the Cowtown Marathon made the decision to cancel all races – EXCEPT the Half Marathon.  Game ON!!  Saturday evening I laid everything out I thought I would need, prepared to try and sleep before getting up at 5 AM, so I could be at Will Rogers Exhibit Hall for the 8 AM start.  There was all that snow and ice to drive through and wanted to give myself plenty of time to get there.

RACE DAY: I arrived with layers of clothes on – T-shirt, long sleeve T, another T-shirt and light running jacket (it works for walkers too!).  Running tights and short and of course those shoes that were already broken in by now.  Since I knew I would be walking and slower than most of the runner’s I gave myself time and was in the last corral – #8.  My goal for the day was to first finish and then if I could do it in under 3 hours.  The temp was 32 degrees F, cold damp and really not that bad.  But my hands were numb, even with gloves on.  At 8 AM the first group started and then each corral every 5 min.  So corral 8 was off around 8:35 AM.  Since most everyone was running I took off on a slow jog and then realized I would be spent before really starting and slowed down to a fast walk pretty quick.  The roads were in pretty good shape considering how bad it had been.  Before I knew it I was headed up the first step hill at mile 4.  My 5K split was about what I had hoped for, but then had to stop for a pit-stop (I did mention I am a 61 y/0 male, right).  The next few miles were kind of a blur as we moved through the Stockyards in Ft Worth and on to Main St.  This was the longest stretch of the race (and wouldn’t you know it had to make another pit stop).  There is a pretty good hill between mile 9 and 10 heading into downtown and I was determined to make up some time here and just focused on making up the hill at the pace I was at (according to the FitBit I was hitting 12:30 to 12:45 splits – walking).  Down Houston St. to Lancaster and almost there.  There was one more hill at Henderson to Summit on Lancaster and then the bridge on Lancaster to the finish.  By now I am a little more than worried I will not break my 3 hour goal, at mile 13 I see I have 6 min and change to make the last .1 mile and start pushing as hard as I could.  My wife was waiting for me just before the finish line but I could not see anything except the finish (she later told me she did not see me pass by either).  The crew waiting for us when we finished was GREAT!!  A bottle of water, a space blanket to keep warm and of course the medal for finishing – the lady that placed mine around my neck said – ‘You earned this’, and I thought to myself – yes I did.

I was tired, my legs hurt and I just wanted to keep moving because I was afraid to stop.  I stopped to check my time and saw that I made it in 2 hrs 59 min and 46 sec – 14 secs to spare.


Grand Canyon – 2013 Why did I wait so long to get here?

Grand Canyon


Have wanted to see the Grand Canyon for a long time. Have seen it from the air, at different times, but to be honest it is just not the same. So after 60 years, had the chance to make a short day trip to see the canyon.

Below are some of the images made from the various overlooks, and rim trail. All I can say is, now I have to go back with more time to spend and the Big Camera to try and do it justice.

NOTE: We were there the Tue before Thanksgiving between the snow they had the weekend before and the rare event of fog inversion that occured the weekend after we were there. Timeing is everything, but I would not have missed what we saw for anything. Enjoy.




December Break – Day 2 continued

After we left Palmetto State Park, we headed east to Praha. Praha is a small Czech community and home of St. Mary’s Church – Praha (or Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church) and one of the painted churches found in Texas. This was one of several churches we visited while working on the Texas Church Project a few years ago.

Facing the front of the church
Rear of the church

St. Mary’s has some really nice detail work on the ceiling, as well as some beautiful carved stations.
Note the detail at the bottom of this photograph, and you can see the image of two other churches that I would guess the original members attended before they left their homes to come to Texas. The church was built in 1895, not old by European standards or even early American history, but still it is such a thrill to visit.

Ceiling detail above the alter
Ceiling detail

After we left Praha, we headed back west to Luling, best known for Bar-B-Que and the annual Watermelon Thump. Like many of the small towns in the area (and most of Texas) they have several events to draw tourist into town. They take watermelon serious here, just check out their water tower.

Water Tower Luling, TX

I hope you have enjoyed the read and photographs, traveling to small towns in Texas accounts for some of my most relaxing trips. Texas is a BIG place and I have many more miles and many more small towns that I hope to share. No matter what part of the world you live in, get out and go visit those places you have not been to and please share your photographs. It is a great way to relax, visit with the family and see something new. Oh, and don’t forget to sample the local food…always worth the time to stop.

Safe travels and enjoy.

December Break – Day 2

The second day out was just as much fun as the first day and I retraced my steps, but this time with my wife.  Wanted to share some of the places I had been, and wanted to show her some places I had been on previous trips.

We started the day visiting the power plant in Seguin (see day 1), and then headed East to Palmetto State Park.  The park is between Luling and Gonzales and was built with aid from the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), it takes it’s name from the dwarf palmetto palms that grow there.

Detail of a Palmetto Palm
View of the dense forest, there are several trails that you can take to see the flora and fauna of the area.

There is a nice group pavillion (built by the CCC) that can be rented by the day for larger groups, that has a nice view of the San Marcos River.

Group Pavillion

back of Group Pavillion and patio

Patio overlooking San Marcos River

There are several hiking trails, that appear to be maintained very well. There are also boat rentals for anyone that would like to explore the area in a canoe or even a paddle boat. Ther park also has a large number of birds in the park, some will even pose for you.
White Crown Night Heron

Will continue Day 2 later, with one of the Texas Painted Churches.

December Break

Took some time off work and the wife and I spent a few days with family.  It was a great break, and though there was not room in the car for the ‘BIG’ camera (7×11 view camera) did take the DSLR and got to explore some new places.

First stop was in Seguin, TX that started with an older movie theater (have a co-worker that loves these), as you can see the weather was great.  Cool, but not cold and clear sky’s.

Palace Theater, Seguin TX

On to the Guadalupe River via one of the City Parks.  Light was not that good at the time, so headed off to Gonzales and the Texas Independence Trail.  Found some great ghost signs on some of the buildings and some really nice period architecture.  The town of Gonzalez was settled in 1825, and was where the first shots of the Texas Revolution were fired.  There is a nice little museum, the Gonzales Memorial in town that has many photographs (tin types, ambrotypes and daguerreotype) as well as artifacts from local citizen from that time (1836).

Gonzales Memorial
Memorial to citizens of Gonzales that died at the Alamo
Memorial to the Old Eighteen


It was time to head back, so I stopped back in Seguin to check the light at the city power plant on the Guadalupe River, and found the light much better (after all photography is all about the quality of the light).


Old Seguin Power Plant on the Guadalupe River

That was the end of the first day, day 2 to follow.





A Visit with the Past..

It was early summer 1973, and I was stationed at Fort Polk, LA when I was given a temporary assignment to Fort Wolters, TX.  I figured they knew I was from Fort Worth so they got me close to home.

Anyhow, the photo is of the US Army Hospital at Fort Wolters, TX.  I stopped by this week, while out doing some old school  photography, yes big camera and big sheets of film.  It was kind of strange to drive around the post and see how things had and had not changed.  Some of the areas are being put to good use, other areas – well other areas made be quite sad.

The old hospital was  one that made me sad, it sets empty almost 40 years later, yet it was quite a modern facility in the day.

US Army Hospital, Fort Wolters TX

View of three building

The following 3 photographs are a story of the fate of many building in so many small towns.  One is getting a fresh coat of paint and appears to be almost ready to be put in use, one is already restored and is serving the public once again as a bank, the other sits abandoned and waits for time to decide its fate.  While it is not unusual to see these old buildings crumble or have to be torn down, it always makes me a little sad.  These were places of commerce, they were offices or stores and people lived parts of their lifes in them – there are stories that may never be told, but if the walls could talk. 

Many of the small towns cannot afford to keep these buildings, they offer nothing to the town.  Some, though, find new owners that see the possibilities and they are saved and become part of the town once again.  I hope more business will find these old buildings and place them back in service, many are certainly a joy to look at.

1st Nartional Bank,
Forgotten Building

More Texas Small Towns – B

Bartlett, TX – Visited my Dad yesterday, and took the opportunity to scout some small towns that were on the list.  Bartlett was one of those towns.  If you drive down TX95 from near Temple you find some really classic small Texas towns.  Holland, Bartlett, Granger, Taylor (not really a small town more of a small city).  

The area around Bartlett, like many small Texas towns, is farming country.  There are fields and fields of corn and other crops around these small towns.  They were once quite prosperous, as you can see in the buildings that were built.  Today some still are, others struggle to keep the building from falling down.  

I will try to capture photos from the surrounding areas to show the farms and how they are still important to the local economy, as well as the economy of the county and state.  These towns are remind me of the town by grand parents lived in and remind me how important the people who live there are.  Good people, many who work hard from sunrise to sunset just as my grand parents did. 

Still have not taken the 7×11 camera out yet, but have enjoyed the freedom the Lumix LX3 has given me.  Here are some views from Bartlett, TX. 

Bartlett, TX


Bartlett, TX view the other direction


Time for New Project

View of downtown Abbott
Abbott, TX

Time for a new project.  Sometimes a project starts itself, and only after it has started do I realize it IS a project.  Other times, a seed starts to grow and a project begins.  This one is a bit of both I hope and for the first time it will contain both traditional photography and my first attempt at some serious digital photography.  It should be interesting to say the least – with process from the 19th Century and the 21 Century.

The concept of the project is small town Texas, those remarkable towns that have endured the growth and loss of population as well as the rise and fall of the economy.  These places are farming communities, there are no shopping centers, many are not large enough to have a chain grocery store.  The residents may have to drive miles just for the necessities yet they continue to live in the small towns.  Their populations range from 100-300 to over 5,000 residents.  These places will be the focus of the project – ‘Small Texas Towns from A to Z’.  I hope you can drop by from time to time and see where I have been.

Here is the first – Abbott, TX  Some guy named Willie Nelson used to sing at the old Methodist church here as a young man.

A Place for an Amateur Photorapher and Texan to Ramble