Ironman Stories: Talking To Strangers At The 2014 Maryland Race

Roxana talks to FirtOldDog in Cambridge Maryland

I had a delightful conversation with Roxana, in McDonald’s of all places (only place I could find both power and Wifi, and a latte). We talked of many things. Photo with permission, by FitOldDog.

One of the things I like about attending Ironman races is the way they get me to see new things and meet new people. In fact, I realized on this trip that the Ironman is really all about stories; so many Ironman stories.

Liz and Kurt Kahl

Liz and Kurt Kahl, FitOldDog’s heroes of the Maryland Ironman, 2014. More about remarkable Kurt in my next post. You have to wait. Photo by FitOldDog, with permission.

I decided to postpone my race report for the 2014 Maryland Ironman until I return home, as it will take too much time away from enjoying my trip. Instead I’m writing random thoughts, and will leave until later the inspiring people I met, such as Kurt Kahl, who, at age 77, went by me at mile 44 on the bike. As I pedaled against the wind, I heard the rich voice of Karl, coming up behind me, saying, “Seventy-seven year old man passes FitOldDog on the bike.” He had big smile plastered over his face, and on by he went.

Pending my race report, for now I’ll provide two vignettes from my trip.

The Missing Key: First there was the man who lost his key near my campsite, at the Taylors Island Family Campground on the Chesapeake Bay. He and his wife were muttering and frustrated, searching the ground around their trailer. Clearly very distressed. I left my breakfast, cooking away, and joined the search. The three of us looked in vain for a while, then I said, “Where did you have it last.” The man, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “Well, I took it out of my pocket here, and…” I interrupted him, with a flash of insight, an epiphany you might say, and said, “Is it in your pants turn up?


He found the key in his shoe, thanks to FitOldDog. Photo of strangers boot by FitOldDog with permission.

He looked down, found that it had fallen in his shoe. They were so happy and appreciative, which made me feel good too. Funny how that works!

The Young Lady In McDonalds: On the way to town from my campsite, I was listening to National Public Radio, and a speaker said, “People born before 1985 were raised without the Internet, which gives them a totally different perspective on life to that of the younger generation.” This interested me, and prompted me to risk speaking to a young lady in McDonalds, as my computer was booting up. This, I know, is a risky thing to do as single male. But Roxana was not weird with me, or suspicious, she just welcomed the conversation. I opened our discussion with the statement, “Have you ever known the world without the Internet.” Her reply, which came after a little reflection, was, “No, but I didn’t have access when I was younger, as I’m from Romania.” Furthermore, she stated that she almost never ate in McDonalds or consumed fast food, normally, it was just the only place she could reach on her bike from her place of work.


Roxana loves cats, and she really liked my picture of my beloved, and now deceased, cat, Alobar, who I still miss years later. I carry his picture everywhere in my Nook. Photo by FitOldDog.

We then entered an interesting conversation about the changing nature of journalism, her chosen area of study in college in Romania (she is in the American Experience Work And Travel Program), the closeness of the war in Ukraine to her home country, the ISIS problem, the obesity of many American kids, which we don’t notice anymore, sadly, and the dangers of riding a bike on the roads in America. I asked her what she had learned in America, she replied, “It has helped me to understand Americans better, to value the great food of Europe, that I miss, and to really appreciate the European transport system, but I liked very much the positive, optimistic, and powerful approach of Americans, doing big things and wanting to do their best at everything they tackle. They are also more relaxed than Romanians.

Yes, travel, meeting new people and seeing new places is one way to break down barriers, and I consider this young lady to be very brave to take on this trip alone, earning her way as she goes.

I wonder if she’ll read this on my blog?

Happy Trails.



  1. Yes. I just read it and I loved it! It was great meeting you.

    • It was a great conversation, thanks. Enjoy your chosen career, and mold the future of Journalism for the next generation. Kind regards, and let your Dad know you’re ok regularly, or he’ll worry even more.

  2. Wonderful story! I can’t believe Americans are more relaxed; however, I moved from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and it is much more relaxing…

    • Hi Michelle, I wonder about that. It can be hard to read the underlying reality of people’s lives. I suspect that social memes have more to do with the appearance of serenity than their actual mental/emotional states. Staying calm and centered is certainly a healthy goal. Cheers, Kevin

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.