Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | April 9, 2012

Nearing the finish line and other stuff


A few random thoughts:

— Jenna surprised Melody for her birthday and it was amazing. I wish I could share the video I shot of it, but I’m afraid Melody doesn’t want that out on the interwebs. Let’s just say that there were a few profanities uttered, many tears were shed and, in the end, it was a most happy occasion.

The short story is this: I told Melody I was going out for beers with a friend from school. Instead, I borrowed a car, drove up to Sofia, picked up Jenna (who had surreptitiously flown half-way around the world to surprise her mom on her birthday). Suffice to say, I was gone for a LONG time. Long enough, as it turns out, to put Melody in a panic. She figured I was dead, drunk, or dead-drunk.

When I finally arrived home — with a woman and her suitcase — it freaked her out (temporarily). Until she figured out that the “woman” I was bringing home was her daughter. Good stuff.

— Jenna’s visit was a blur (though we did see Dennis Rodman in Sofia — long story), but one of the highlights for me was when she visited my class and spoke to my students in “Writing for Media.” It’s a class with mostly freshman who are prospective Journalism/Mass Communication students.

Obviously, I was thrilled to be taking the “day off” from teaching, but Jenna (now in her first hear at Edelman PR in Chicago) was a pro. She talked about the challenges of her job, the joys of seeing a story she pitched in print and the skills necessary to do the job well.

She also connected with students, I think, when talking about how to pursue and land an internship while in college and how to network — all the time. It’s strange to see your kid “all grown up,” but it’s a prideful moment when you get to watch them, poised, grown up, professional. Yeah, she’s less than a year removed from college, but I can confidently say she’s MILES ahead of where I was when I was just out of school.

— We’re running out the clock on the semester here in Blagoevgrad. The students are sensing it, too, I think. I’ve got to write a final exam (for one class) and grade a bunch of writing assignments (for both classes) before we’re done here. Yeah, I’ve got to plan some class time, too. But it’s been a blur.

Because of this (and the spotty weather here), I haven’t had enough time to bike. But rest assured, my good friends, my beer drinking muscles are in solid shape.

— Speaking of biking (and the other thing), we’re planning our trip home. We expect we’ll be in Chicago sometime around May 15, in Brantwood, Wis., a few days later and in Minnesota sometime in the May 20s. I am anxious to get my bike out of storage (photo below) and get riding soon. I need to put on a lot of miles before the RAGBRAI on July 22.

Our plan right now is to spend about a month in Minnesota and then hit the road for an epic driving trip around the States, from Minnesota, out east, down the coast, before heading out to Denver (perhaps) before ending up in Western Iowa for my second go-around in the RAGBRAI, the annual bike ride across Iowa (about 450 miles — 750 kilometers for my European friends). It’s a week of hard riding but also eating and drinking and socializing.

I did the trip last year with some good pals from the Strib (you know who you are). This year, I’m going along with two of my cousins who have been working out for weeks already, thanks to the amazing warm winter y’all have enjoyed back there.

So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. But I’m hoping I’ll be able to get in some rides with my biking buddies when I get back. And when we do our drive around the country, the plan is to have a bike rack on the back of the Saab. I’ll ride out of wherever we are and Melody will catch up to me a few hours later … wherever.

So hopefully I’ll get to see you all there. In the meantime, stay well and get ready to line up those beers at Groveland Tap for when we return.




  1. I hope to connect with you guys when you’re in the states–unknown as to where, though…

  2. Put me down for one of those Minnesota rides

  3. Good lord, we have lots of lamps.

  4. wow. your year has gone so fast! and what a great present for melody. wow.

  5. oh and did i mention this was the best birthday ever??? i think you totally captured the moment by saying ” a few profanities were uttered” when Jenna was at the door instead of you….

  6. […] Chicago for 4 days, which was the best birthday present ever–you can read more about it on Mark’s blog), we went to see an All-Star basketball game. The big draw was Dennis Rodman, who didn’t seem […]

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