Thursday, May 31, 2007

Passport Frustrations

I'm nearing my vacation but I'm missing on item: my passport! Despite sending it about about 3 months ago, I have yet to get it back.

I've been checking the status of my application via the page on the State Department's website, but all it has said is "processing" for the last few weeks. They don't want to talk to you unless you are leaving within 2 weeks.

When it did get less that 2 weeks for me, I started calling, but it is hard to get through to someone at the National Passport Center. I finally did after calling for 45 to 60 mins over a few days, and the rep looked up my info and only said that it is still being processed in New Hampshire, and that she could mark it "expedite" and try to get it to me next Monday. I am not optimistic this will happen.

If I had to do this over, I'd do a few things differently:

1) Send in the passport even earlier. Apparently 3 months isn't enough time for them to handle it.

2) Expedite it. I just sent mine in normal and I think that just means your application gets ignored versus ones applications that include the extra expedited fee.

3) Fudge your travel date. I think I made the colossal error of listing the date I need my passport as the date I actually need it. Big big error. I see now what you want to do is sent it in 6 months early and also say you need it a month earlier than you actually do.

4) If you live near a passport center, just make an appointment there, and again claim you need it within two weeks. It looks like even if you send it in early you might wind up being forced to do this anyway so just skip right to this step.

5) My biggest recommendation is never ever book a trip unless you have a passport in your hands, with an suitable distant expiration date. My passport is due to expire in late June 2007, and I thought back in February it wouldn't be a problem to book a trip in June and also get the passport renewed by then. Ha!

The rep said that if I didn't get the passport Monday, I could always go to a center, and wasn't I lucky that one was in my same state! Well yeah, except the center is in Miami and that is a 5 hour one-way drive... not exactly an afternoon trip.

It is just a disaster and part of what upsets me is that I didn't anticipate this enough to game/outwit the renewal system.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Dog Walk

For Memorial Day I decided to take it easy, and go walk dogs with my friend Jennifer. We did 5.2 miles (yes... I wore my Garmin GPS to see how far) and it was a pretty good workout, because I spent most of the time restraining the dogs, who were eager to move a little bit faster, or cross the path and search the grass.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Mikey almost pulled me over when he spotted a squirrel crossing the path.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus

Libby didn't pull as much, but she veers all over the place, so it was tough getting her to walk straight.

Afterwards, we got smoothies and water for the dogs, and then found some bike club members who passed us towards the end. I didn't feel like biking today, since I wanted to sleep in a bit after Islands of Adventure, and this was fun and got me outside to enjoy the beautiful weather.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Islands of Adventure

A friend Tim had a visitor Bryanna in from Delaware, so I met up with them today. We went on a airboat ride, a very reliable fun activity everybody I've gone with enjoys. We saw a few gators including one sunning himself on the bank, even though it was overcast.

After that we went to Islands of Adventure, the Universal Studios traditional theme park - as opposed to the "movie ride" other park.

The big coaster there is "The Hulk", which is a great coaster. Midway up the initial incline, the coaster shoots forward into the first dip and subsequent rolls and loops.

After that we rode "Dr. Doom's Fear Fall", which basically launches you straight up, back down, and then bounce back to the ground. Pretty decent as well.

Then we tried out the water rides, Popeye's Barge, Ripsaw Falls, and Jurassic Park River Ride. And let me say, I've been on water rides in other parks that basically splash a bit. These rides utterly drenched us: head to toe soakage.

Then we tried on of the Dueling Dragons coasters: Ice. This one was fast, smooth, and had nearly nonstop horizontal rolls and vertical loops. Excellent ride!

By this time the park was closing, so we left to eat outside where the prices weren't so jacked up. I bought a season pass, since I'm sure to return at least once or twice before another year.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Diana and Travis' Wedding

My friends Diana and Travis were wed today, in a beautiful outdoor ceremony in naerby Winter Park. I met Diana last year in the Y's running group, and I've become friends with her and Travis, now her husband. She's an English teacher at a nearby middle school, and always has some crazy/unbelievable stories about her workday to tell me while we run.

Wedding Ceremony
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

It was a warm day to be outside in a suit, but we had a few clouds pass over, and the ceremony wasn't too long.

Happy Couple
Originally uploaded by klbarrus

The reception was in a hotel ballroom and we filled it up! They had lots of relatives and friends in town (e.g. count how many bridesmaids Diana had, hehe) for the weekend so it was fun meeting and talking to everyone.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Florida Half Ironman

Ok, the official name of this event is the "Ironman 70.3 Florida", but I can't get used to that.

My buildup for this event suffered towards the end, but I wanted to do the event anyway. Yesterday I drove out to pick up my packet, and rack my bike. In the transition zone I thought I saw Karen Smeyers, so I wandered over closer... and indeed it was her! She was really friendly and I took a picture with her. I joked that standing next to her is as close to an Ironman Hawaii championship as I was going to get. :)

I had a tough time at this one, starting about a third the way through the bike, where my back started to feel stiff. I slowed up and finished the bike, stretched a bit, and started the run. And my lower back stiffness didn't go away, I had to stop and stretch out quite frequently to prevent cramps. Ugh.

Originally uploaded by klbarrus
Wearing the spiffy jersey at the event.

Bike course

Originally uploaded by klbarrus
Chugging along...

Run course

My overall time was a sluggish 7:28:03, from a 3:23 bike and a 2:56 "run" (which was really a walk due to my lower back).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Eye Check

I broke my glasses last night, snapping the frame in the middle. I had to dig out my old pair just so I could get around. I went into the optometrist and asked about getting new frames, and got talked into a new exam. This was fine since it had been 18 months since my last one.

The good news is my eyes are healthy and my prescription didn't change at all from the last time. In turn, that prescription was only slightly different from the time before (i.e. my old pair of glasses was fine to use for a while).

While I looked over new frames I decided to try more a more rectangular one. I've always had round lenses/frames and over time I've been picking smaller and smaller ones, so the lenses have shrunk. So in that trend the new pair will be about the same size or slightly smaller, but more rectangular.

I also decided to try Transition Lenses, the kind that darken in sunlight. Part of that was forced since the frames I chose don't have clips available - although I might be able to find something good enough from a drugstore. But, I seem to misplace the clips about once a week and wind up searching all over for them, so I decided to give the Transition Lenses a whirl.

On top of that, I also ordered a pair of prescription sunglasses. I've never had those either, but here in Florida I wind up wearing sunglasses quite a bit so I thought having a pair might be nice. Those lenses are rounder and larger, to better block the sun. They will also be polarized and all around be nicer than clip on sunglasses.

Another friend of mine is getting LASIK - Diana, my friend from the Y running club. She's cutting it close to her wedding on the 26th, by having the procedure on May 18th! I've lost track of how many people I know who have gotten this procedure done. It is very tempting but as of yet I have resisted. I suppose I am nervous about complications.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Lake Mary Magazine

Something exciting for the bike club: the Seminole Cyclist club made the cover of a local magazine! There is also an article and some pics. In fact if you look at the slideshow, I'm in the lower right corner of picture #1. It was taken before our Diabetes Ride back in February.