Orlando bicyclist starts a blog to chronicle his bike trips — and to pay tribute to the man who gave him that bike.

Dave McConnell has started a blog that will chronicle his activities on his mountain bike -- while also paying tribute to someone special.

ORLANDO – About a year ago, Dave McConnell’s love for biking across Central Florida attracted the attention of his cousin Nathan, who had just bought a new Schwinn Mountain Bike.
“My cousin Nathan decided he wanted to get a bike and start riding,” McConnell said. “We rode one time, on May 1, 2010. We went out to Snowhill,” the mountain bike park in Sanford.
“That was the first time that I know of that Nathan rode his bike, and probably the last time,” McConnell said.
On Tuesday, McConnell, who lives in Orlando, started a blog, one he refers to as “a sort of online journal of my bike rides. Nothing extreme. Not making any Mountain Dew commercials.”
He plans to routinely update the blog with photos and narratives of his travels around Greater Orlando – “just me using a bike instead of a car whenever possible,” he noted on his Facebook page.
There’s a larger purpose to this blog than describing great places to ride a bike in a region where the auto is still king. The blog is being called, “Nate’s Bike,” because McConnell is now riding that same Schwinn Mountain Bike that his cousin Nathan bought last May. It many ways, the blog is a tribute to his cousin.
“I’m always riding a bike, so rather than my own, I want to ride Nathan’s,” he said. “I’m going to keep riding, but I want to take him with me. I’ll ride his bike for him.”
To Dave McConnell, this blog also says a lot about how close his family really is – and how much the family came together last summer, following a horrible tragedy that shocked not only the McConnell family, but the entire state.
Last August, McConnell’s uncle Elroy “Roy” McConnell, 51, a triathlete and accountant, was taking a beach vacation in St. Petersburg with his sons Elroy “Roy” III, 28, Nathan, 24, and Kelly, 19.
All four family members were tragically killed by a drunk driver ooperating a Chevrolet Impala who ran a red light, hitting the family head on. Demetrius D. Jordan, 20, the driver of the Impala, was later charged with four counts of DUI manslaughter, DUI causing serious bodily injury and possession of alcohol by a minor.
Dave McConnell, who also participates in triathlons, said it was his Uncle Roy who got him involved in this enhilarating outdoor physical activity.
“The whole reason I do these triathlons is Uncle Roy,” he said. “Uncle Roy got into these triathlons running and swimming. He was really big into it. When he died in that accident, my Uncle Jim, his brother, got into it as well. He spoke at Uncle Roy’s funeral, and one thing people kept asking me was, ‘Has this tragedy brought your family closer together?’ Uncle Jim said it best at the funeral – ‘We’ve always been close.’ ”
McConnell, a local educator, said it’s been difficult coping with this tragedy, particularly by taking the advice most people offer him: to moveg on.
“That whole move on thing … what philosopher or genius said ‘You have to move on,’ “ he asked. “I don’t believe it. Who is to say that the future is any better?”
If it’s been difficult to put the deaths, and the impact they had on his family, fully behind him, McConnell said he has drawn some strength from thinking about the way his late Uncle Roy viewed triathlons as being a spiritual as well as athletic mission.
“I got involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes with Roy,” he said. “It’s a global organization of athletes who, rather than compete for personal gain, use sports as a ministry. Uncle Roy, he was a good steward of what God gave him. Uncle Roy said, ‘I pray while I run.’ He was competing for Christ, that’s what he does. That’s the kind of guy Uncle Roy was.”
Is that why McConnell started the blog? Probably not, he said.
“This is not necessarily spiritual for me,” he said. “Right now, it’s Dave out riding, having a good time, taking Nathan’s bike with me.”
After Nathan’s death, he said, “his wife called me. Nathan had a lot of friends and a lot of things that went to a lot of people, and she called me and said, ‘You know he got this bike so he could ride with you,’ and she wanted me to have it.”
The blog, then, is McConnell’s way to share his love of biking – and to remember Nathan, his beloved cousin.
“Have you ever seen the bridge that goes over Semoran Boulevard? That’s a bike trail,” he said. “It’s a really cool view. You get to see and do a lot of cool stuff on a bike, and ultimately you get to shed calories.”
How long does he plan to keep blogging?
“I’m going to do it until the wheels fall off,” McConnell said. “That’s just me. I’ll do it until I can’t any more.”
To view the blog, log on to http://natesbike.blogspot.com/ and become a subscriber.

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Local actors and directors recall the lasting legacy of Liz Taylor.

ORLANDO – She may have been an actress – and celebrity – like no other, one who claimed two Academy Awards honoring her work on the big screen, while in later years carving out a legacy as an activist for AIDS research and awareness.
Today, social media sites are lighting up with people fondly remembering the life, work and career of Elizabeth Taylor, who died on Wednesday at the age of 79. To some, Taylor will always be remembered for her work in cinematic classics like “National Velvet,” “A Place in the Sun,” “Giant,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Taylor won the Best Actress Oscar for that last film, made in 1966, and also for “Butterfield 8” in 1960.
“On the acting side, Elizabeth Taylor was at her best,” said Paul Castaneda, executive director of the Greater Orlando Actor’s Theater. “There never was or will be anyone better. There may be actors, some would argue, who are just as talented, but I’ll fight anyone tooth and nail who says there are actors who were better than she was.”
Castaneda cited “Cleopatra” in 1963 and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 1958 as being among Taylor’s best movies, although he singled out her work in the groundbreaking “Virginia Woolf,” where she co-starred with her husband Richard Burton, as being particularly memorable.
“ ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ is the one that everybody goes to as a fierce performance, just raw and incredible,” Castaneda said. “It’s a really raw performance, but she opened herself up as much as any actress has to get where she got.”
Noting that Taylor and Burton also played husband and wife in the Academy Award-winning movie, based on the play by Edward Albee, Castaneda said Taylor clearly reached deep into her own soul to capture such a vivid performance.
“It was just amazing when you understand the dynamics of who was in this movie with her and she did it anyway, and it must have been so personal to her,” he said. “That’s probably my favorite.”
Taylor had a larger than life acting style, said Laurel Clark, executive director of the Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Theatre. No matter how many different characters she played, in some ways she always ended up playing herself.
“She was in the movies for so long, her whole life,” Clark said. “It made her more of a personality actor. They don’t transform themselves. She never looked like someone else. She doesn’t morph into another person like Meryl Streep does. She’s more of a personality actor, where she brings herself into the role. She made the role about her.
Clint Eastwood is that way. Today, being the role is the style, whereas in her day, the role was you.”
John DiDonna, founder of the Empty Spaces Theatre Co. in Orlando, agreed.
“I think my favorite acting that she did was ‘Virginia Woolf,’ “ he said. “It was free of that mask of Liz Taylor. Her film version of ‘Virginia Woolf’ was pretty raw and free of herself. It was gritty and she threw herself fully into that role, and that’s why I think it was her best work.”
But Taylor was also known for the path she took after leaving behind the world of Hollywood in the late 1970s, when she embarked on a long crusade for everything from AIDS research and children’s rights.
“For me, she’s a little out of my era,” Clark said. “For people like me, who are not of that generation per se and didn’t watch movies in the 1940s and 1950s because we were too young or hadn’t been born yet, we know her more for her private life.”
And that, Clark said, is where Taylor truly shined.
“It was more memorable than her film work,” she said. “All her charity work stands out a lot. She did a lot of that in the last 20 years, and she was more of an ambassador from the Old Hollywood system. You didn’t see Joan Crawford and Betty Davis out doing charity work. Nobody did it. My biggest memories of Elizabeth Taylor would be her charity work and her being the face of Old Hollywood. Nobody else really was.”
“It’s amazing to remember someone with that amount of fierce energy and talent, both on the screen and with some of the fights that she took on for those who were woefully under-presented when she first got involved,” Castaneda said. “Simultaneously, in public appearances she could come across as so sweet and gentle and loving. I can still remember when I lived in New York, back when I was still in college. I attended Madison Square Garden for a benefit concert that her foundation put together for people with AIDS. I remember being struck when she finally took the stage and they had her come up there — just the beauty of her spirit showing through when she spoke about what she wanted to do. The human side of it is incredibly touching, and we were all very lucky to have it.”

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