Sunday, November 12, 2017

Le Pup Walks, Le Ride and Le Riding

I've been getting in some nice walks with Toby and Charlie in the cooler weather. I use various Garmin devices to track my activities throughout the week and I recently decided to track my walks with the pups separately rather than mix them in with my solo walks or golfing; mostly so I could more easily see how far we're walking together each week. The results are in -- here's a typical week for us. That's 13.45 miles (21.65 km). Or viewed another way. I mentioned in a previous blog post how Toby loves to run. He's not at all an alpha-male but when he's leading us in a run and Charlie tries to take the lead, Toby runs even harder to stay in front, sometimes leaning his body into Charlie to keep him from passing him. I think that's so cute!

Tammy and I went to see Le Ride a few nights ago. It played across the country for one night only in select theaters. I was prepared to go alone but Tammy was also interested in seeing it. There was a time when we both used to love to watch coverage of Le Tour de France but that was when Lance Armstrong was winning it. It's not quite the attraction for me now that it once was although I still maintain a passing interest in it.

The movie/documentary chronicled Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race host) and his riding partner's attempt to circumnavigate France along the same route that was ridden in the 1928 Tour de France, and they did it on bikes from that period with very few upgrades! Intertwined in the video shot by Phil's crew were historical accounts and footage from the 1928 tour, focusing on a 4 man team made up of 1 rider from New Zealand and 3 Aussies -- a team that wasn't expected to survive the 1st stage. The word "epic" is too often used to describe long distance cycling efforts but this one is truly worthy of that descriptor. The only thing lacking for me in the film was any discussion about forms of "doping" that were likely employed by riders back in the day to get them from one stage to the next -- but it was legal then so maybe that's why there was no mention of it. I would guess that the movie will be available to download or purchase at some point. We both highly recommend it.

I've dusted off my indoor trainer and fired up my Zwift program once again to enable me to ride throughout the winter in the comfort our basement. I've been riding indoors for more than 37 years and never in those early days (or even 10 years ago for that matter) could I have imagined indoor training being what it is for me today. It's incredibly motivational. My nephew Brent picked up on my enthusiasm (at least I think he did) and recently purchased a smart-trainer and signed up with Zwift. Brent lives in Texas but we were able to ride together for an hour early Saturday morning on the roads of Watopia. It's quite cool! I kept him working hard for the 3 laps we rode together but he beat me in the sprints. Too fun! I can't say enough good things about this setup for indoor riding.

After my rendezvous with Brent I had to hurry to get refueled and out the door to meet up with a group ride on some gravel roads south of Lakeville. I'm typically a loner out there but it's nice to occasionally have some company to ride with. I think I see more of this in my future.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

There's No Sweeter Guy In My World

I was hoping to get in at least a few more rounds of golf this year but my golf season has come to an abrupt end. Our temps have cooled considerably to where we're hovering around freezing with no relief in the long-range forecast. But even if the weather were to cooperate I still can't play. I crashed my fat-bike at Murphy last week and landed hard on my chest, injuring my ribs on my right side. I think I may have caught my right pedal on something causing me to crash on a part of the trail that's not at all technical. I was down before I had a chance to react. My left leg was cut up as well as my face just to the right of my right eye. I hurried home and cleaned up before Tammy could see me but there was no hiding from her that I'd crashed.

Crashing goes with the territory, especially on the trails.

And if I'm honest with myself I have to admit that I've avoided trail riding for much of the summer because I know there are risks on the trails and I didn't want to be sidelined and have to sit out much of the golfing season. I tried to hit some balls yesterday at an indoor golf simulator as part of a group lesson but I had to quit early. I could tell I was doing more damage to my injured ribs. Between golfing and riding I seem to injure my ribs quite a lot, and it's always around a 6-week recovery. I rode indoors today but I really need to get back on the trails and sharpen my skills there.

Toby turned 14 last August and he's showing his age. He struggles to see, mostly in dim light, and his hearing is all but gone but when we're out walking he's happy to run and run and run. I have to give an occasional tug on his leash to keep him out of storm drains and to make sure he safely negotiates curbs but for the most part, he does well without my help. He'll sometimes be looking for me in the house and he'll walk right by where I'm sitting and not see me. I'll wave my arms to get his attention and that usually works. There is no sweeter guy in my world. Charlie is a close 2nd but he's such a taunter and a dickens -- Charlie Dickens as we sometimes call him. He's a precious guy as well.

Steve came by a couple weeks ago and we were able to get the wisteria stained glass lamp hung above the table in the front room. I find it a nice place to plunk down with my laptop, and Charlie enjoys being able to watch the world go by from his new perch. I made the windows in 1994 and they've been displayed there ever since but they were always somewhat hidden away. Now that we've mostly removed the wall separating the kitchen from the front room they're much more noticeable and I like that. The wisteria lamp used to be above the kitchen table. This is a new and improved place for it. We're really happy with the new look and the function of the space.

Rachel and Drew went to a Halloween party last weekend dressed as John and Yoko. I told her I had to have a photo for my blog. I think they nailed it! We're looking forward to seeing them in a few weeks. Drew will be playing with his band at a gig in Rochester and they've invited us down to watch them and shoot some video.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Goodbye, Eva, and Just a Normal Day

Last week was a full week. My aunt Eva passed away on Monday, the 16th; her funeral service was last Friday morning. Eva was just shy of her 92nd birthday and by all accounts was ready to move on from this life, wondering why it's so hard to die and why was she still here. She was a part of every one of our summers growing up as we'd vacation near her and her family in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I can easily hear her voice in my head with her Yooper accent filling her kitchen. I had so little contact with her in the last 45 years but still, she will be missed. Visits to the U.P. won't be the same without her sweet presence there.

My aunt Maria flew in from Florida and kept me company on the 6 hour drive to Winona, near where we stayed. It had been more than 11 years since I was last in the U.P., and being there made me realize how much I miss it. We only stayed 2 nights but I was able to manage to get in 18 holes of golf at the local course where I'd spent many days as a boy. It was so nice to walk the fairways again and reminisce. It's been more than 20 years since I last golfed there. I recalled on the 5th hole how my dad hooked his drive into the woods on the left. He played his 2nd shot from more than 200 yards away, over a small rise in the fairway that blocked us from being able to see it land. We looked and looked for his ball but didn't find it until walking up to the hole and finding it in the bottom of the cup. I'll never forget that. I was maybe 12 years old.

I played two rounds of the 9 hole course and would've stayed longer but I wanted to meet with some cousins at my cousin Bobby and his wife Tina's home for dinner. We had a lot of laughs and good conversation. I was so glad to be able to make the trip for Eva's funeral and connecting with everyone there and for the time spent chatting with Maria in the car.

Today was the sort of day I envisioned my retirement days would look like when I was still employed as an air traffic controller with the FAA. It began with more than 8 hours of sleep, which is a few hours more than I'd typically get when I was a slave to my alarm and the ridiculously early wake-ups that were part of my normal work week. I made my way downstairs with the pups in tow. I let them outside while I prepared their food, tuning in to the last segment of Morning Joe to break the quiet of the day. I thawed a frozen breakfast sandwich and had it with a bowl of cereal then proceeded to pop the top on my pill box and wash Tuesday's contents down with a big swallow of orange juice. I take a daily multi vitamin; 1500 mg of glucosamine and 1200 mg of chondroitin to help minimize knee pain; 10 mg of claritin for seasonal allergies, and my warfarin dosage (blood thinner) for my Factor V Leiden condition and because I want to keep living.

A check of the weather showed it was going to be too windy for Frisbee golf, an idea I was kicking around last night, so I opted to go for a longish walk after taking Toby and Charlie for a 40 minute walk. I rode yesterday and was fine with giving my riding muscles a break. After completing yesterday's ride my Garmin 820 told me to give them 40 hours to recover. That sounds about right. I was pushing pretty hard trying to keep my watts and heart-rate up the last half of the ride. My riding has taken a backseat to golf this year and I'm okay with that.

I came home from my walk and chatted with Tammy for awhile before laying down for an hour-plus nap. I seldom took naps when I was employed because they nearly always made it too difficult to fall asleep at night when I needed it most. I no longer have that concern. I woke up from my nap and went out and got both my flu and shingles vaccinations. I'm good to go!

And here I sit, by the fire with the pups by my side, listening to Supertramp's Crime of the Century on my Stanton T-92 turntable. It's a vinyl kind of night. Tammy is upstairs plotting out a course for a vacation we're taking this spring to the Pacific Northwest. We'll be traveling with our pups and staying at AirBnb's along the way. We're overdue for a little get-away.

Here's video from possibly my last longish ride of the year from last week to close this entry out.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reminiscing, Flying the Flag Again and Smooth Streets

The leaves have been piling up fast in our yard and rather than wait a week between mowings to vacuum them up, I've been out there every 2 to 3 days. They're a lot more manageable that way. I love fall but not this aspect of it.

Two more metro area courses were added to the PCC membership I have for golfing, bringing the total number of courses I have available to me to 57. The two newest additions are courses I'm familiar with from when I was a boy: Hyland Greens and Dwan Golf Club, both in Bloomington. Dwan is an 18 hole course but not particularly long while Hyland has gone from an 18 hole par 3 course to 9 holes, all still par 3. They removed the inside 9 holes and turned them into a driving range. I went out to Hyland Thursday afternoon to play it for old time's sake. I remember the last time I played there -- it was 22 years ago and I was with my former stepson, Dave. I returned home to a message from my sister on my answering machine that our dad had died. It's one of those memories that stays with you.

I had to pause when I got to the 4th hole because that's where, as a boy, for a few summers I'd spend my days in the field off to the right of the hole hunting for golf balls that had been hit out of bounds into the tall prairie grass. I'd ride my bike there and bring along an egg carton to display my finds along the fence for the golfers who were teeing off. I'd earn maybe $5 for a few hours of work. It was good money for a kid of around 12 years old, plus, it was fun. I still remember the first ball I found -- it was a Dynaflyte. I'd never seen one before or since but it was a beauty -- new, shiny and with no cuts in it. I probably sold it for .75c.

I was in a discussion yesterday on Facebook about flying the flag. Two people in the thread touched on why they stopped flying theirs and affirmed for me that I wasn't alone in my feelings that there's a strain of patriotism out there that some of us would rather not be associated with -- a hardline crowd that's co-opted what it means to be patriotic. I find it very off-putting. So, about 5 years ago I quietly packed up our flag and in an unpatriotic moment I tossed it in the trash. That's not something I'm proud of because I used to love to fly our flag from our front porch. It's very much the same way I feel about the Christian fish tattoos that Tammy, Rachel and I had tattooed on our ankles 10 years ago to signify our walk with Christ.

Hardline Christians are changing the face of the religion I used to be proud of into something I at times want to run from. I'm considering having my tattoo removed. Tammy would like to have some other design tattooed over hers to hide it. I hate that we're even thinking like this but it's where we're at. I have to wonder -- if we're feeling this way about this faith of ours, what does that bode for anyone on the outside looking in who may be considering becoming a Christian?

But all is not lost. I'm happy to say that I'm flying the flag again, although the flag I have now is slightly different than the standard stars and stripes I used to fly. The focus of our new flag is on peace. I simply want to fly the flag while at the same time differentiating myself from those I feel have given the practice a distasteful meaning, at least to me.

The city of Lakeville replaces about 7 to 10 miles of road each year. It's quite an undertaking from all I've learned watching them working in our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods this summer as they replaced our streets. McNamara Contracting wrapped up the project a few days ago. It's nice to have smooth roads for a change. We got 30 years out of the original roads so I suppose that's not bad. I was out there with my video camera at several points along the way collecting video to splice into an upload for YouTube. I sat down last night and assembled it, hoping to keep it to something less than 5 minutes. I failed miserably!

Each homeowner was assessed around $3000 for the cost of repairs, a price I think was well worth it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lacking the Will and Some Full Days

It's been more than a week since the largest modern day mass killing in the United States. Republicans were all on point in the days after the shooting, stating that now was not the time to talk about any sort of meaningful gun control legislation. They were apparently too busy organizing their thoughts and prayers. People of all political stripes were posting their favorite memes on Facebook -- memes which best aligned with their convictions about what to do, or not to do.

The meme to the left is a good example of what conservatives were posting. I couldn't help but notice that the examples used in that particular meme all resulted in stricter controls for each of the methods listed. Timothy McVeigh used a fertilizer bomb to kill hundreds, and the government responded with much tighter controls on the sale of the kind of fertilizer he used to make a bomb. The 9/11 terrorists used box cutters to commandeer aircraft and fly them into buildings, and the government responded with tighter controls on what's allowed onboard an aircraft. Richard Reid tried to blow up a passenger jet with a shoe bomb, and the government responded by requiring people to remove their shoes for inspection before boarding an airplane.

Do you see a pattern?

Twenty children between the ages of 6 and 7 were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in a mass shooting in 2012. Republicans responded that it wasn't appropriate to use the tragedy as a reason to discuss gun control legislation because it would only be politicizing it. And nothing was done in the months and years that followed to try and minimize the risk for such a tragedy ever happening again. And these sort of senseless tragedies continue to happen again and again and again and again without even a discussion among our politicians about the problem because republicans won't partake in the discussion.

I don't have any delusions that we'll ever come to some reasonable laws to drastically reduce the amount of gun violence in our country. As others have said, if we couldn't find the will to do it after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, it's not likely to happen. We spend trillions of dollars chasing a bogeyman in the Middle East while for every life lost at home or abroad to terrorism we lose 1049 lives here due to gun violence. And yet republicans won't even have a discussion about it. Where is the sense in that? And where is the sense in continuing to spend trillions on wars we'll never win? But that's for another discussion that republicans won't partake in.

Here's a link to a Wiki page detailing what other countries have done in their efforts to control gun violence. Why do we in this country have to stand in such stark contrast to every other developed nation in our number of mass shootings and deaths? My god -- can't we do better?

Switching gears...

I was at a gathering of fellow Jefferson high school alum on Saturday night where I learned that Amy Ebner passed away last March from lung cancer. She had also been suffering from MS. So sad. I always thought she was the prettiest girl in school. She lived just a couple blocks from us in Bloomington. I didn't have any contact with her from middle school on as our paths diverged. I have two lasting memories of her from some 50 years ago. I recall us chatting in front of Hubert Olson Elementary where she was on her bike and I was asking her who her teacher was for the upcoming year. We were going into 6th grade. The other memory I have of her from all those years ago was of Amy beating everyone in our class in a running race. She was taller and faster than all of the boys. Those memories have always remained with me.

I woke up Sunday morning to a beautiful blue sky and light winds. We had a full day planned but my Serotta was begging me to go riding first. And so we did. I needed that, and I felt so refreshed when I was done. I've not been spending enough time on my bikes lately because golf seems to be winning out for my attention. I can ride throughout the winter but I can't say the same for golfing so I'm trying to get my fill while I can with just a few weeks remaining in the golfing season.

Tammy and I stopped by to see Steve where he was displaying his blown glass at an art fair in Sogn Valley, about 45 minutes away. The fair had lots of talented artists but it also had lots of biting beetles. We spent most of our time there chatting with Steve before leaving to meet Rachel, Drew and Drew's mother Jenny at Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings for a wine tasting -- and to meet Jenny. We had such a nice time! We spent a couple hours there sipping the various wines and munching on an assortment of cheeses, crackers and olives while chatting our time away.

I hadn't planned to do yardwork today but I did and I'm glad because I got lots done! All of our gardens are cleared of both healthy and dying flowers and all of our hostas have been cut back. And I mowed the lawn again to vacuum up the leaves after having just done it on Saturday. It was a full day of work; I finished in the dark and the drizzle.

I think I hear my golf clubs calling me for tomorrow -- or is it my bike? I'm quite sure it's my clubs I'm hearing. Can you hear them?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

I've Moved On

I've completed tapering off prednisone and I'm steadily seeing glimpses of my old self. There were a few difficult days last week where I had to force myself to get out of bed but I can tell that my adrenal gland has awoken from its prednisone induced slumber as color slowly returns to my world. I'm still struggling to push hard on my rides but that will come. The headaches have been done for more than a month but I'm reluctant to send my oxygen bottles back for fear that another phase is just around the bend.

I've been absent here for more than a couple weeks. I tried to sit down several times to tap out an update but every time I did it felt like I was forcing it and I never like to approach this hobby of mine with that mindset. And where do I even begin with so much of what's happening in our world with Trump* behind the wheel; threatening to destroy North Korea and its population of 25,000,000 while his evangelical followers cheer him on; his continual comments about crowd size at his rallies -- crowds that are becoming ever smaller despite his assurances otherwise; his continual blatant lies about anything and everything; his disparaging, juvenile Twitter rants and just about anything else he involves himself with. I'll go to my grave shaking my head in disbelief that this guy conned and continues to con as many people as he has.

But conservatives got a United States Supreme Court pick out of the deal in Neil Gorsuch and he's going to give them the firepower they need to finally put a stop to abortions in this country! Keep dreaming. The United States Supreme Court has been controlled by conservatives for nearly 50 years and it was a strong conservative majority that gave us Roe v Wade in the first place, legalizing abortions -- a decision that saw 5 conservatives casting 7 of the votes which made abortion the law of the land. So there is that.

Historians will look back on this period and point to the stranglehold of conservative media upon so many unwitting followers of theirs who were duped into believing the bigoted, hate and fear filled propaganda they were selling while they divided our country in ways I never imagined were possible. I've lost a sister to this madness.

As for me, I've moved on. I'm no longer the pro-birth (disguised as pro-life) guy I once was. I see how Democratic administrations foster an environment that reduces the need for abortions and I see how Democrats are the party much more likely to come alongside mothers in need, giving them the help they're lacking to raise their children which encourages them to keep, rather than abort their babies. That's what being pro-life should be about. It stands it stark contrast to those who are merely pro-birth, like I used to be.

I've been occupying my time with biking and golfing. I've even managed a couple of indoor rides to check out the new updates to Zwift. They've added new routes to the London course and an overhead map view to show you where you're at on either of the 3 courses. I get such a good workout riding indoors.

And speaking of riding -- Rachel and I rode the St Paul Classic a couple weeks ago. A fun time was had by all!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Tapering, Midnight Oil and Seeking Refuge

I'm in a bit of a funk as I complete my taper from prednisone, a drug I use as a prophylactic to minimize the disruption of my life from cluster headaches that I recently wrote about here. Prednisone is both a godsend and a curse. I'd be lost without it for those weeks and months when I'm desperate for relief from severe headache pain but it comes at a price: irritableness, aggression, mood swings, shakiness, sleeplessness, and lethargy bordering on depression. Those are just some of the more obvious side effects for me. There are other, less noticeable but more adverse reactions that come with the prolonged use of prednisone. But still, I readily take it for the relief it provides.

Prednisone suppresses the body's adrenal gland and its ability to manufacture natural corticosteroids (especially cortisol). It shuts it down completely. Weaning off the drug is important to allow time for the adrenal gland to once again begin its own cortisol production, and that takes time. I hope to be back to normal in a few weeks to a month provided I don't relapse into another phase of the headaches as has been my experience all too often over the past 10 years or more.

I got a call this morning from a representative for a drug trials company called Science 37. They would like me to participate in a trial for a drug called SOM230 which works to both abort a cluster headache and to prevent them. I told her I was interested. She would like me to contact her when I'm next in a cluster headache phase and they will fly me out to Los Angeles for 1 to 2 weeks to take part in the trial. It's always been my hunch that there's not enough research being done to understand and treat cluster headaches so I'm happy to do my part to help.

On a whim, I went to see Midnight Oil at First Avenue last week. Ed in Seattle highly recommended not passing them up so I took his advice. It was a nice whim! I got there an hour before the doors opened and found my place in line next to Phil, a friend from work. We passed the time catching up with one another.

Phil and I both found spots on the rail, stage left from which to watch the show. It was an excellent time even if it meant being on my feet for 5 hours to secure my place. I won't hesitate to go and see them again should they find their way back here.

For many in the States, their world is being rocked by hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) in the southeast and forest fires out west. I find myself somewhat amused by those on the political right who rail against democratic socialism until they need help, and then they've got their hands out. I'm left to wonder where their free-market spirit and pulling-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps mentality escapes to in times like this. Sure, these are tragic events and we should all step up and help those who are suffering, but how is this any different than a family who is stricken with cancer or some other catastrophe? There is no difference.

And for a few, perhaps, as they abandon their homes to flee the fires and storms seeking refuge, this will give them the inkling they need to better understand just a little of what desperate families fleeing Syria and other war-torn countries are feeling as they too leave their lives behind seeking safety, looking to us for help while we slam the door in their faces. This travesty continues to haunt my thoughts. I'm not expecting many conservatives to make that connection because it's not a sentiment that would ever be expressed on right-wing media -- the place that has so warped their minds and is the primary source for the divide we're experiencing here.

I'm frustrated.

I see a country that is becoming more and more unrecognizable with each passing day. Just 2 days ago Trump* proposed deporting 800,000 young people, people who were brought here illegally as children but people that have only ever known this country and its language, and yet he's prepared to send them back to where they came from -- many with no connection to their past. And these are good, decent people who are in school or working or both while contributing to the fabric of our country, serving in our military and giving everything they have for the betterment of us all. What purpose does it serve to threaten them in this way? What purpose does Trump* serve?

What a fucking dope!

On a happier note, Keith McKay was in town over the Labor Day weekend and we were able to get together and ride the river bottoms with some friends; always a nice time!