On The Way Back Home–Jacksonville Airport

Helaine said it reminded her of prison.

The last night on a cruise is sad. Everywhere you walk bags line the hallways. Things are shutting down. Accounts are settled up.

IMG_7814.jpgWe went to the late show and saw Frank Del Pizzo‘s “R” rated show. Now I’m a huge fan. He was side splittingly funny. Were there curse words? Sure. But he wasn’t crude or inappropriate. He also did more “callbacks” than any other comedian I can remember!

He’s coming to New Haven. Maybe we’ll see him again, though I suspect it’s the same act.

We headed to the casino. I sat at the single poker table and won a few bucks (literally), but by midnight an unfriendly looking man in an Austin Powers Nehru suit came to tell us the casino would close at midnight. For whatever reason the ship was heading into Jacksonville early. We spent the overnight hours docked and out of international waters.

Helaine took care of packing. Most of it was done during the day. She finished when we returned to the cabin. For the Foxes, this was a lightly packed trip and that paid off.

I’m writing this from the Jacksonville Airport. The TSA screening area was very busy as we walked the rat maze. The TSA’s domain is totally lit with fluorescent lights. Helaine said it reminded her of prison, though

  • How would she know what a prison is like?
  • Wouldn’t prisons use more soothing lighting to cut down on violence?

Just asking.

IMG_7818.jpgFinally, the end of Concourse “C” at Jacksonville has a large 30 foot tall window. A semi-transparent applique is affixed to it showing a giant woman with a shopping bag.

Today’s flight leaves at 12:55 and stops briefly in Baltimore before heading to Bradley International.

I am tired.

Steaming Northbound Toward Jacksonville

Our ship left Half Moon Cay under cloudy skies. No sunset pictures for me.

It was windy–meaning choppy seas. I estimate 2-4 foot swells with small whitecaps. Yes, you can feel the ship sway through the water. I stopped the Dramamine a few days ago and, knock wood, no queasiness.

If there was a show, we didn’t see it. After dinner Helaine and I walked to the casino where I redistributed most, not all, of my winnings.

There is no shortage of eating opportunities onboard. We had sushi at a small stand between the casino and theater last night. There is also pizza available 24 hours a day at the cafe at the aft end of the ship. There are freshly baked sweets in the same area. Cofffee, iced tea and juices are available and served without charge.

Some ships have ‘extra cost’ restaurants. Not this older ship.

Helaine and I have discussed the cost of this cruise more than once over the last few days. It’s really quite reasonable. Here’s my guess. The cruise itself is a break even situation for the line. The real money is made in ancillary sales. This ship–all cruise ships exist to be stores.

From the time you board until your disembark there are things for sale. Sometimes they are items you can’t get on land–not always. They are always priced high. We have heard, more than once, of 4-figure bar bills! Not being drinkers has its advantage.

The ship has a crew of staff photographers. They are visible any place people aggregate, whether it be the entrance to the dining room or theater or the gangway while in port. They print every photo and cover a large open area with them. They are sold at outrageous prices.

There are also shops selling watches and jewelery and knick-knacks. It’s tough for me to make a judgment call on price, but experience says no bargains. The ship also sells, or actually resells, shore excursions, cellphone service and Internet access.

I don’t hold any of this against the cruise line. This is their business and they are entitled to make money.

On the other hand, I am distressed with the cruise business and its removal of assets from US rules and taxes. This ship is registered in the Bahamas. Others are registered in Panama. The ship’s officers are Italian. The remainder of the crew is a virtual United Nations of the seas reperesenting dozens of countries–not the U.S. Other than a few entertainers I saw no American staff. None.

Make no mistake–this ship and dozens more like it would make nothing without US passengers and ports. Virtually every passenger boarded in the United States and is an American resident. If there was a distress call it wouldn’t be the Bahamian Navy coming to our rescue.

As I remember, even the owner of this cruise line personally left the United States for tax purposes (please correct me if I am wrong).

Back to the trip… after breakfast we headed to the pool deck to watch an ice carving demonstration. With a few hand tools one of the kitchen staff transformed a huge block of ice into a pair of love birds atop a heart. He attracted quite a crowd and plenty of photographers and videographers.

—pause—

We’ve just gone for the galley tour. Years ago there were galley, bridge and even engine room tours. Now, post 9-11, the other two are out but the galley tour persists. I suppose it’s tougher to poison a ship full of people than steer us into rocks.

It is astounding to see the method to the madness of service a few thousand guests. Even though first seating is only a few hours away there wasn’t that much hustle and bustle going on. As Helaine pointed out, if we’re having guests there’s plenty of action two hours before!

Back in the room Helaine is packing for departure. We’ll be in Jacksonville early tomorrow morning and hopefully through customs and at the airport in time for our 12:55 PM flight to Bradley.

This was a wonderful vacation. It’s not for everyone. We made a list of our friends who are ill suited for cruising. It’s a long list. For us it’s nearly perfect.

My next post from dry land.

—-

Oh–I almost forgot. Carnival has towel animals. Each night when we get in after dinner Andy, our room steward, has fashioned one or more towels into some sort of critter. Last night’s was probably a cat–we’re not 100% sure.

We’ve been on lines that didn’t have towel animals and missed them.

We’re Onboard

It’s a chilly day in Northeastern Florida. There is a significant breeze. Still, I don’t need a coat. That covers a variety of sins!

Good grief–so many lines… so much security… and here we are.

Our ship is the Carnival Fascination. It is pretty and well kept, though you can see its age showing in some places. We are docked in Jacksonville on the St. Johns River.

It’s a chilly day in Northeastern Florida. There is a significant breeze. Still, I don’t need a coat. That covers a variety of sins!

Boat drill has been called. Gotta go.

On The Way To Jacksonville

When a TSA agent opens my bag and sees a camera, lenses and myriad of cables, does he really know what he’s looking at and that I’m OK?

FlightAware_BWI_APD_AIRPORT DIAGRAM.pngIt’s just after 8:00 AM. Helaine and I are sitting, back to the window, at Gate 2A BWI.

I am old enough to remember this being Friendship International Airport. Little is friendly in airports now. We are on our way to Jacksonville to pick up our ship for a five day cruise.

No free WiFi. I pulled a cable out of my bag and hooked the computer to my cellphone. Ran a quick speed test. 1356 Kbps down/306 Kbps up–not bad.

Helaine went upstairs and pretended to sleep early. I pretended late. I don’t think I got an hour. I can’t imagine she got any more.

Saturday morning travel is different than weekday. More families. More confusion. More guys, like the guy I saw, baffled as TSA asked about the three drinks in his carry-on.

Bought a magazine and book. Went to the gate. Four TSA agents were there going through bags. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but all I could think of was the Gestapo in a World War II movie. They were polite, but you had no choice but to be quiet and submit.

When a TSA agent opens my bag and sees a camera, lenses and myriad of cables, does he really know what he’s looking at and that I’m OK?

I fell right asleep on the plane. Now I a more tired.

I told Helaine I was looking forward to getting into our cabin so I could nap.

Right now I feel like the clipped sentences I am writing.

Lucky Timing

We’ll be leaving from Jacksonville, FL and cruising to the Bahamas… as the shuttle takes off!

I have “use it or lose it” which must go within the next few weeks, so in spite of being off much of 2009 already, I’ll be taking another week. With a few free Southwest passes in the drawer and cold weather still dominating Connecticut we’re heading for a short cruise.

This was one of those what’s available decisions. We needed something that matched up on dates, available flights and price. We didn’t want to spend a lot.

We’ll be leaving from Jacksonville, FL and cruising to the Bahamas… as the shuttle takes off!

Date: Feb. 22 *

Mission: STS-119

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Launch Time: TBD

Description: Space shuttle Discovery launching on assembly flight 15A, will deliver the fourth starboard truss segment to the International Space Station.

These flights to the ISS head northeast at launch. Most of the non-ISS flights headed south of east. I’m not sure how close we’ll be, but I’m hoping the cruise line keeps us close enough to watch. When you’re launching a roman candle the size of a large office building you don’t have to be right on top of it to get a glimpse.

The Numbers Are In

Nielen ratings are in for last night’s debate

The Nielsen ratings are in for last night’s debate. I’m confused by the list of stations aggregated which doesn’t include Fox News and MSNBC, both of which would add significantly to the final total.

If these overnight numbers stand, the ratings are well below other recent debates.

OK–I’m a little surprised. I thought for sure there would be a lot more interest considering all the buzz.



DMA Rank Market RTG Rank RTG SHR (000) 21 St. Louis 1 52.1 82.0 649 48 Memphis 2 49.5 67.0 330 26 Baltimore 3 47.1 66.0 515 9 Washington, DC (Hagrstwn) 4 44.6 68.0 1030 29 Nashville 5 44.0 66.0 424 46 Greensboro-H.Point-W.Salem 6 42.2 61.0 285 32 Columbus, OH 7 41.5 63.0 377 43 Norfolk-Portsmth-Newpt Nws 8 41.4 59.0 298 58 Richmond-Petersburg 9 40.3 55.0 211 18 Denver 10 39.7 65.0 586 24 Charlotte 11 39.3 54.0 426 7 Boston (Manchester) 12 39.3 58.0 944 22 Portland, OR 13 39.0 74.0 450 31 Kansas City 14 37.7 61.0 350 16 Miami-Ft. Lauderdale 15 37.2 52.0 573 38 West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce 16 36.4 55.0 282 27 Raleigh-Durham (Fayetvlle) 17 36.2 54.0 377 51 Buffalo 18 36.1 54.0 230 25 Indianapolis 19 35.3 59.0 379 53 New Orleans 20 34.8 48 209 11 Detroit 21 34.3 55.0 661 59 Knoxville 22 34.3 51.0 185 61 Tulsa 23 34.1 55.0 178 45 Oklahoma City 24 34.0 55.0 231 40 Birmingham (Ann and Tusc) 25 33.5 48.0 245 52 Providence-New Bedford 26 33.5 50.0 211 15 Minneapolis-St. Paul 27 33.4 59.0 569 19 Orlando-Daytona Bch-Melbrn 28 33.4 52.0 479 62 Ft. Myers-Naples 29 33.3 51.0 164 28 San Diego 30 33.0 59.0 349 50 Louisville 31 33.0 48.0 218 17 Cleveland-Akron (Canton) 32 32.9 55.0 505 37 San Antonio 33 32.9 48.0 261 20 Sacramnto-Stkton-Modesto 34 32.7 55.0 454 4 Philadelphia 35 32.1 51.0 941 44 Albuquerque-Santa Fe 36 32.1 50.0 218 23 Pittsburgh 37 32.1 51.0 371 6 San Francisco-Oak-San Jose 38 32.0 62.0 779 13 Tampa-St. Pete (Sarasota) 39 31.7 49.0 569 49 Austin 40 31.6 52.0 201 36 Greenvll-Spart-Ashevll-And 41 31.5 46.0 265 64 Dayton 42 31.4 50.0 161 1 New York 43 31.3 48.0 2317 8 Atlanta 44 30.9 52.0 714 3 Chicago 45 30.7 51.0 1067 14 Seattle-Tacoma 46 30.3 58.0 541 30 Hartford & New Haven 47 30.2 45.0 306 47 Jacksonville 48 30.0 47.0 196 33 Salt Lake City 49 29.9 63.0 261 35 Milwaukee 50 29.2 49.0 262 34 Cincinnati 51 28.3 49.0 256 42 Las Vegas 52 27.9 46.0 196 5 Dallas-Ft. Worth 53 27.7 46.0 671 2 Los Angeles 54 26.4 50.0 1484 12 Phoenix (Prescott) 55 24.8 47.0 448 10 Houston* 56 0.0 0.0 0 Weighted Avg. of 55 markets* 33.2

Saturday Night Concert

There are a few things we knew we’d be doing on this vacation before we left Connecticut. We came with tickets to see Rick Springfield in concert at the Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella.

Google directions in hand, we set out across town, past the airport, Kirk Douglas and Bob Hope Roads, then east on the Interstate. We were heading toward Indio, though the highway continues to Phoenix and then all the way to Jacksonville, FL.

That reminds me – Here in Palm Springs they’ve got streets named after Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, and other show business luminaries. I’m not sure how that compares with New Haven’s Whitney, Goffe and Whalley, though my suspicion is, on this one New Haven wins.

We expected Spotlight 29 to be a little skeevy. Not so. I’m not saying this is Mirage or Mohegan Sun, but it was a passable ‘locals’ casino. I poked my nose into the poker room and saw three tables in use. You can gamble at 18 here, but these were grownups.

We went to the restaurant. My hamburger was pretty good and the meal uneventful… until I walked out to meet up with a friend of Helaine’s and forgot to pay the check!

I had it in my hand, as I walked across the casino floor. I guess I would have gotten away with it had I not looked down, let out a little shriek and run back to the restaurant.

Dinner was cheap – around $16. I wouldn’t normally mention that, except that’s what I won on a slot machine. Free meal. Thanks Spotlight 21.

We headed into the theater for the show. I was impressed. It was a nice room with a large stage. There was no curtain, so we watched the last minute on stage preps as we took our seat in the center of the first row.

Oh… yeah… one more story. I was there as Helaine purchased the tickets online, though it’s still tough to believe. They went on sale one morning at 10:00:00AM and Helaine bought our two at 10:00:05 AM.

They were truly the best seats in the house. I was surprised they hadn’t been held for the casino’s use.

Rick Springfield took the stage around 8:15. This was my fourth time seeing him, though not all the others were complete shows. Helaine has run out of the necessary fingers and toes to count her attendance.

As you might expect, the audience was heavily female and mostly old enough to remember his first trip through General Hospital. Lots of them were hard core fans who attend his concerts on a regular basis.

What most people don’t realize is, Rick Springfield is a real rocker. Honest. Sure, my wife would want me to say that, but it’s still true. There’s really no way you’d know without seeing him perform.

The guitar work is much more energetic and rough edged than you’d expect and I don’t remember any ballads. This is not a pop show from a pop artist.

Before General Hospital, Rick Springfield was a musician. He had a minor hit that I played on the radio: “Speak to the Sky.” That was long before GH and Jessie’s Girl.

As the band opened, playing “Who Killed Rock and Roll,” the audience came alive. As it turns out, the regulars are a bonus to those who are casually coming to see that “Jessie’s Girl guy.” They’re already sold on the fact they’re going to have a good time – so that’s what they do. In an audience, a good time is contagious.

The concert continued and I snapped pictures. It’s a Fox Family tradition, passed from mother to daughter and now father. Being in the first row helped, but there were other interesting picture taking opportunities as he went deep into the audience.

Both Stefanie and Helaine have taken some great photos at Springfield concerts. I wanted my turn. Though I know more about the camera, their advantage is being able to predict his moves.

I have some good shots, but I know when I’ve met my match.

Helaine had a great time and so did I. Part of my enjoyment was turning around and just watching the crowd. To me, that was part of the show. Some of these women were quite emotionally involved with what was going on on stage.

We’re back at the hotel now. Helaine’s gone to bed. I’m near the pool with my feet up on the brick ledge of the gas fire pit. I see tall, thin palm trees in every direction. They tower over the mostly one story buildings in this older neighborhood.

It’s a little chilly tonight, but my feet are warm.

Why Ophelia Worries Me

Tonight, Tropical Storm Ophelia became Hurricane Ophelia. What, no graduation party? Mazel tov anyway.

This has been an interesting storm to watch, even if it seems to be working in slow motion.

If you looked at it yesterday, closed your eyes for 24 hours, and then looked again today, you haven’t missed anything. Though marginally stronger, Ophelia hasn’t really moved. That, to me, is where the fear is.

Hurricanes are steered by upper level winds. Any small puff will push them along. But there’s barely any upper wind at all in the vicinity of Ophelia. She is spinning like a top on a table… including the wobble.

The more well defined the upper winds, the easier it is to predict where the storm will go. Even if those winds waver, inertia is at work. An object in motion wants to stay in motion.

Conversely, light winds make forecasting ridiculously difficult. Yesterday, one of the official Hurricane Center forecasts had this storm dead in its track for three consecutive days. It’s not that they really felt that way… it’s that they didn’t have anything better to put.

It was as close as you’ll ever get to a non-forecast!

This would all be academic if Ophelia was out in the Atlantic. She’s not. She’s under 100 miles off the Florida Coast.

If I were living in Daytona Beach or Jacksonville or Charleston, I’d try not to be far from the radar until Ophelia moves out, if she ever does.

Adventures in Spam

I swear by Popfile to rid my inbox of spam – but it’s failing me now as spammers are getting more crafty. Within the past few weeks, messages that look very ‘spammy’ to the naked eye have been buzzing through Popfile. It was easy to figure out how.

Popfile compiles a ‘corpus’, a list of words that normally do or don’t appear in my emails. Spammy words are likely to get an otherwise nice mail kicked out.

These new emails take a paragraph or two of text (it looks like AP wire copy or something similar) and inserts it in the message. The text is so long, it overwhelms the spam content.

The really sneaky part is how this long text is displayed. Unlike the ad copy, these innocuous words are displayed in the smallest possible size. It is so small that the letters aren’t even formed. It’s just a blur of small smudges. I had to copy it into a text editor to see what was really going on.

It’s my guess that Popfile will be strengthened to fight this new scourge. And the spammers will come up with something else. It seems to be a never ending saga.

Here’s the part that I totally don’t understand. Hasn’t everyone who wants Cialis or Viagra, and is willing to blindly buy on the net, already gotten it? I’ve gotten thousands upon thousands of solicitations for this kind of drug. I understand why someone wouldn’t want to go to their doctor or pharmacist to explore this problem, but the numbers can’t be this great.

Then there’s the question who is going to ingest a substance that comes from a website which has to spell Viagra, V1@GR@ and falsifies its return address?

The products sold using spam have changed greatly over time. Bootleg software and prescription drugs seem to be the hot items at the moment. Many things I might have seen advertised a year or two ago are gone.

The quantity has also changed. Since January 6, 2004, 61% of my email has been spam (and that doesn’t count the untold thousands of messages I filter out before they get to my mailbox)

It all boggles the mind.

Blogger’s addendum – This morning, another similar spam came in. Here’s what it looks like:

A new head start for elite women, a new course and an Olympic year couldn’t stop Meb Keflezighi from making it the same old story at the Gate River Run.Keflezighi, of Mammoth, Calif., became the first man to win four consecutive River Run titles, catching Colleen De Reuck on the Hart Bridge and outrunning Abdi Abdirahman to the finish to win by 2 seconds on Saturday.”It was a fast pace from the early going and Abdi gave me a run for the money,” said Keflezighi, 28, who finished in 43 minutes, 10 seconds, to win $15,000, including a $5,000 bonus for being the top finisher.De Reuck, of Boulder, Colo., led most of the race after being one of 25 elite women to get a head start of 5 minutes, 16 seconds, longer than the 5-minute planned advantage because of technical problems. The head start was instituted for the first time to add drama to the race. De Reuck, 39, said she knew her split times were not fast enough to hold off the men.”At least for the first 7 miles, I was just trying to secure the [women’s] lead,” said De Reuck, who finished first among the women in 49:02 and took home $10,000. “When I heard [from spectators] they [the top men] were there, I knew they were going to fly down the bridge.”But the men’s leaders really made up most of the time on the bridge incline, cutting a 40-second deficit in half.Race officials said the finish was one of the closest in the 27 years of the River Run, but did not have records available to confirm where it ranked.A clock problem caused the extra advantage for the elite women, but USA Track and Field men’s championship liaison Mark Zenobia said the problem would have been more damaging if De Reuck had finished first overall and by less than 16 seconds.Race officials said they had to be certain the start was done properly because the race is the U.S. 15K championship. The event had 7,601 finishers, a River Run record.Abdirahman, who finished second last year by 28 seconds, said he ran a strong race but was not happy with second.”I thought I might outkick him, but … he had a little more surge at the end,” said Abdirahman of Tucson, Ariz. “I wish I had another 50 meters.”Catching the women was not important. I knew I would catch them, but I didn’t get the bonus, so it didn’t matter.”But Keflezighi, a late commitment to the race because he was recovering after qualifying for the Olympics in the marathon last month, said he didn’t think he would have caught De Reuck without the 25-year-old Abdirahman pushing the pace.Keflezighi beat the record of Todd Williams, who won three consecutive titles from 1994-96.Race director Doug Alred said the extra 16 seconds made the race more exciting and he might adjust the equalizer bonus based on the field next year.De Reuck pulled away from Sylvia Mosqueda by 25 seconds in the fourth mile and won by 1:06 over the fellow marathon trials qualifier.”I felt OK for the first mile and a half,” said Mosqueda, a Los Angeles resident. “But right around 3 miles, my legs were like lead. I didn’t feel like I was racing; I felt like I was running.”Tatyana Pozdnyakova, a Gainesville resident who won the Los Angeles Marathon on March 7, finished third among women (50:15) and first among Masters women — ages 40 and older. Pozdnyakova, 49, won the $50,000 challenge bonus in Los Angeles where women received a 20:30 head start in the 26.2-mile race. Dennis Simonaitis, 41, of Draper, Utah, was the top men’s finisher in the Masters division. He finished in 48:31.Kim Pawelek, who finished 10th among women (52:54) and is also going to the marathon trials April 3 in St. Louis, was the top women’s finisher from Jacksonville. Zepherinus Joseph was the top Jacksonville runner (23rd, 48:34) and is awaiting word on whether he will be representing St. Lucia in the Olympic Games at Athens.One of the worst runs of his career probably helped Dale Earnhardt Jr. save his season.A week after he nearly was parked for running too slow, Junior zoomed by Jeremy Mayfield with 15 laps to go and sprinted to an easy victory Sunday in the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

He also won the season-opening Daytona 500.”Last week was as bad as it ever gets,” Earnhardt said. “But we didn’t get on each other too bad, and we stayed pretty focused.”Rookie Kasey Kahne was third — his third straight finish in the top three — and Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman followed him across the finish line.Defending series champ Matt Kenseth, who had won the past two races, rallied from a lap down to finish sixth.At Las Vegas last Sunday, Earnhardt started 26th and quickly drifted to the rear of the field at the start. His Chevrolet was so far off the pace that NASCAR warned his crew he was right at the minimum speed.After eventually finishing 35th, Earnhardt and the team spent Thursday testing at Kentucky Speedway. Just as their session was ending, they hit on a setup that worked, and Earnhardt was fast all weekend at Atlanta.”We went testing, and we’re going testing this week,” Earnhardt said. “We’re going to test, test, test, until we lap the field.”I’m determined and devoted to running like this every week, no matter what it costs.”He qualified seventh and stayed near the front, then dominated the latter stages. He passed Mayfield’s Dodge for the lead with 60 laps to go and held the top spot until the leaders made their final pit stops under green.Mayfield came in with 26 to go and his crew changed four tires in 14.3 seconds, then Earnhardt followed three laps later. His stop was nearly a second faster, but he came back on the track in third, behind Mayfield and Johnson.With 20 laps left, Earnhardt drove by Johnson on the inside and set his sights on Mayfield. He didn’t take long.Junior ran up high in Turns 1 and 2 to get momentum, then swooped underneath Mayfield down the backstretch, moving into the lead with hardly a struggle.”We had a great car to start with, but it just seemed as the race went on, the tighter we got,” Mayfield said of his car’s handling. “Dale Jr. and those guys got ahead of the track and we didn’t.”Kenseth started 30th and was up to 13th after 15 laps, and eventually got to sixth before the first pit stops. But he made a rare mistake, spinning his Ford as he came into the pits, and dropped a lap down after a drive-through penalty.He made up the ground during the second caution for oil on the track, because he was the first lapped car behind the leader, and got his fourth straight top-10 finish to start the season.Kenseth leads Tony Stewart by 82 points, with Earnhardt another eight points back.

And, here’s what those little lines say:

A new head start for elite women, a new course and an Olympic year couldn’t stop Meb Keflezighi from making it the same old story at the Gate River Run.Keflezighi, of Mammoth, Calif., became the first man to win four consecutive River Run titles, catching Colleen De Reuck on the Hart Bridge and outrunning Abdi Abdirahman to the finish to win by 2 seconds on Saturday.”It was a fast pace from the early going and Abdi gave me a run for the money,” said Keflezighi, 28, who finished in 43 minutes, 10 seconds, to win $15,000, including a $5,000 bonus for being the top finisher.De Reuck, of Boulder, Colo., led most of the race after being one of 25 elite women to get a head start of 5 minutes, 16 seconds, longer than the 5-minute planned advantage because of technical problems. The head start was instituted for the first time to add drama to the race. De Reuck, 39, said she knew her split times were not fast enough to hold off the men.”At least for the first 7 miles, I was just trying to secure the [women’s] lead,” said De Reuck, who finished first among the women in 49:02 and took home $10,000. “When I heard [from spectators] they [the top men] were there, I knew they were going to fly down the bridge.”But the men’s leaders really made up most of the time on the bridge incline, cutting a 40-second deficit in half.Race officials said the finish was one of the closest in the 27 years of the River Run, but did not have records available to confirm where it ranked.A clock problem caused the extra advantage for the elite women, but USA Track and Field men’s championship liaison Mark Zenobia said the problem would have been more damaging if De Reuck had finished first overall and by less than 16 seconds.Race officials said they had to be certain the start was done properly because the race is the U.S. 15K championship. The event had 7,601 finishers, a River Run record.Abdirahman, who finished second last year by 28 seconds, said he ran a strong race but was not happy with second.”I thought I might outkick him, but … he had a little more surge at the end,” said Abdirahman of Tucson, Ariz. “I wish I had another 50 meters.”Catching the women was not important. I knew I would catch them, but I didn’t get the bonus, so it didn’t matter.”But Keflezighi, a late commitment to the race because he was recovering after qualifying for the Olympics in the marathon last month, said he didn’t think he would have caught De Reuck without the 25-year-old Abdirahman pushing the pace.Keflezighi beat the record of Todd Williams, who won three consecutive titles from 1994-96.Race director Doug Alred said the extra 16 seconds made the race more exciting and he might adjust the equalizer bonus based on the field next year.De Reuck pulled away from Sylvia Mosqueda by 25 seconds in the fourth mile and won by 1:06 over the fellow marathon trials qualifier.”I felt OK for the first mile and a half,” said Mosqueda, a Los Angeles resident. “But right around 3 miles, my legs were like lead. I didn’t feel like I was racing; I felt like I was running.”Tatyana Pozdnyakova, a Gainesville resident who won the Los Angeles Marathon on March 7, finished third among women (50:15) and first among Masters women — ages 40 and older. Pozdnyakova, 49, won the $50,000 challenge bonus in Los Angeles where women received a 20:30 head start in the 26.2-mile race. Dennis Simonaitis, 41, of Draper, Utah, was the top men’s finisher in the Masters division. He finished in 48:31.Kim Pawelek, who finished 10th among women (52:54) and is also going to the marathon trials April 3 in St. Louis, was the top women’s finisher from Jacksonville. Zepherinus Joseph was the top Jacksonville runner (23rd, 48:34) and is awaiting word on whether he will be representing St. Lucia in the Olympic Games at Athens.One of the worst runs of his career probably helped Dale Earnhardt Jr. save his season.A week after he nearly was parked for running too slow, Junior zoomed by Jeremy Mayfield with 15 laps to go and sprinted to an easy victory Sunday in the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

He also won the season-opening Daytona 500.”Last week was as bad as it ever gets,” Earnhardt said. “But we didn’t get on each other too bad, and we stayed pretty focused.”Rookie Kasey Kahne was third — his third straight finish in the top three — and Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman followed him across the finish line.Defending series champ Matt Kenseth, who had won the past two races, rallied from a lap down to finish sixth.At Las Vegas last Sunday, Earnhardt started 26th and quickly drifted to the rear of the field at the start. His Chevrolet was so far off the pace that NASCAR warned his crew he was right at the minimum speed.After eventually finishing 35th, Earnhardt and the team spent Thursday testing at Kentucky Speedway. Just as their session was ending, they hit on a setup that worked, and Earnhardt was fast all weekend at Atlanta.”We went testing, and we’re going testing this week,” Earnhardt said. “We’re going to test, test, test, until we lap the field.”I’m determined and devoted to running like this every week, no matter what it costs.”He qualified seventh and stayed near the front, then dominated the latter stages. He passed Mayfield’s Dodge for the lead with 60 laps to go and held the top spot until the leaders made their final pit stops under green.Mayfield came in with 26 to go and his crew changed four tires in 14.3 seconds, then Earnhardt followed three laps later. His stop was nearly a second faster, but he came back on the track in third, behind Mayfield and Johnson.With 20 laps left, Earnhardt drove by Johnson on the inside and set his sights on Mayfield. He didn’t take long.Junior ran up high in Turns 1 and 2 to get momentum, then swooped underneath Mayfield down the backstretch, moving into the lead with hardly a struggle.”We had a great car to start with, but it just seemed as the race went on, the tighter we got,” Mayfield said of his car’s handling. “Dale Jr. and those guys got ahead of the track and we didn’t.”Kenseth started 30th and was up to 13th after 15 laps, and eventually got to sixth before the first pit stops. But he made a rare mistake, spinning his Ford as he came into the pits, and dropped a lap down after a drive-through penalty.He made up the ground during the second caution for oil on the track, because he was the first lapped car behind the leader, and got his fourth straight top-10 finish to start the season.Kenseth leads Tony Stewart by 82 points, with Earnhardt another eight points back.