Friday, July 14, 2017

Retracing Steps and Reminiscing

This is a continuation from my previous post.

I left the gravel road and drove north along Lincoln Ave toward the west side of downtown Huron. I was reminiscing about the time I went for a run early in my running days and rather than the typical 5.25 mile loop I was accustomed to I kept running up Lincoln Ave into downtown then east beyond the James River and past the beef processing plant. I didn't stop until 9.6 miles later when I returned home. My quads were so sore. My cardiovascular system was up to the task but my legs weren't quite there yet. I soaked in a warm tub to try and ease the pain.

The demographics of Huron have changed considerably since the mid '80s when the population was overwhelmingly white. There's now a noticeable presence of Hispanic and Karen people (an ethnic minority from Myanmar) who came for jobs in the turkey processing plant -- by far the largest employer in town. The beef processing plant is long since gone.

I doubt there's any hope for The Huron Mall but how nice it is to see the city doing as well as it is.

Following the route of my first long run (mentioned above) I drove toward the James River and the Memorial Park Golf Course -- a small 9 hole municipal course that I'd occasionally play when I was new in town before I made the switch to the longer course near the airport. I parked my car in the gravel lot and went inside the metal shack of a clubhouse. I believe it's the same clubhouse from the days when I used to play there. I spoke with the woman inside and she gave me some history of what's been happening in the area, focusing mostly on a flood in the late '90s that left all of Memorial Park and even the clubhouse under water. The course layout has changed some to accommodate an expansion of the minor league ball field adjacent to it. I asked her if it was okay if I walked the course for old times' sake. She was happy to give me the go-ahead. I pocketed a scorecard with the course map and made my way to the 1st tee.

The greens were in very good condition with the exception of two of them where ants posed somewhat of an obstacle. There was only one other golfer out there. I eventually caught up with him and tagged along for a couple holes making small-talk before going on ahead to complete my lap. I made it back to my car and took my clubs and cart out to have a go at it. For old times' sake.

By the time I took the 1st tee I was the only other golfer out there. I finished my nine holes in record time (for me) at around an hour. I got back in my car and continued to retrace the steps of my run, all the while feeling like it was only recently that I lived here. How can 32 years get away so quickly I kept asking myself. It was a sobering thought that kept coming back to me.

My plan had been for me to walk this old running route of mine but I was heading back home the next day and there wouldn't be enough time. I got back in my car and slowly drove the rest of the route, taking it all in as my brain accessed memories that had been dormant for so long. I eventually ended up back up at my old apartment and parked in front. I got out and walked around a little, grabbing a few photos before driving back to the hotel and the restaurant there for dinner. I tried to find the old local FM station, KURO, on my car's radio but it's no longer there.

While seated in the restaurant I was able to get a possible number for a friend I used to work with. I texted him. "Is this Willy Kutter's phone? This is Kevin Gilmore and I'm trying to reach him. Thanks!" I didn't know Willy well enough to stay in touch with him over the years but how nice it would be to reconnect and catch up on each other's lives.

Before long my phone lit up with a call from Willy. He invited me over. It was getting late so I quickly paid for my meal and navigated the 6 minute drive to his home. He met me at his front door. This must be the Twilight Zone I thought because none of us ever changes in the eyes of the other. A few more wrinkles, yes, but I'd have recognized Willy and his wife Joan anywhere. He expressed the same sentiment toward me. We chatted for 3 hours about so many things. I enjoyed our time together a lot. We could've easily kept chatting but it was after 11:00 and I was feeling tired. It was a nice end to a very full day and I'm so glad I reached out to him.

I woke up early the next morning with a pounding headache that wouldn't allow me to sleep due to what I figured was dehydration from my ride the day before. I had one last thing on my list before refueling and heading for home, and that was to play a round of golf at the course near the airport that I'd spent so much time on when I used to live here. Except it wasn't the same course at all anymore. I'd looked online at the layout days earlier and saw that it bared little resemblance to the course that once occupied this plot of land. Where there used to be only 9 holes of what could fairly be described as "prairie pool", there were now 18 challenging and beautifully maintained holes of golf that I was so impressed by. If only my pounding head would allow me to fully enjoy them.

I walked the grounds and tried to imagine where the previous tees and greens used to be while a flood of memories came back to me -- good memories. Small and mostly meaningless memories I suppose but they are mine from a lifetime ago and they add to the pages of my life so they're not insignificant to me.

And all too quickly I was back at my car, loading my clubs in the back for the ride home and feeling grateful for my time spent in Huron -- for the blessing it was to me then and now.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Quick Getaway

Because of our ongoing main floor remodel project I've been relegated to mostly hanging out in our garage and trying to stay out of the way of those doing the work. In a spontaneous moment this past Wednesday I packed up my car and headed for Huron, South Dakota to do some golfing and riding. NPR, Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot kept me company along the way. I used to live in Huron in the early to mid '80s when I worked for the FAA there at the Flight Service Station. I don't get to revisit the city often enough.

No visit to Huron is complete (for me anyway) without a stop at the Prime Time Tavern for dinner and a margarita. And so I did before going back to my room and getting my things set out for the next day.

I got up early Thursday morning intent on riding 50 to 60 miles. I was on the road by 6:43 and heading north out of town, fueled by the decent complimentary spread put out by the staff at the Crossroads Hotel where I was staying. The temperature was to quickly climb into the mid 90s and I wanted to get a jump on it. I don't mind the heat but staying hydrated was my main concern and I wasn't sure how that would work for me logistically. Riding through the desolate prairies of South Dakota is considerably different than the riding I'm accustomed to where opportunities to top off my water bottles are plenty.

There are days when I can ride for hours and never become thirsty. This wasn't one of them. At 40 miles into the ride I had just a couple sips left in my remaining bottle of Cytomax mix and I was feeling a little desperate. Turning back would mean another nearly 40 miles before I could quench my thirst so I opted for pressing on to Redfield 10 miles ahead with the understanding that I was committing myself to a century ride. (That's bike-speak for a ride of 100 miles.) I didn't mind because I was feeling strong and I had no place I needed to be. Plus, I was riding some roads I hadn't been on in 32 years! I'm big on reminiscing so this ride was working well for me.

I have to say that the drivers I encountered that morning were the friendliest, most respectful drivers toward cyclists that I've ever encountered. Nearly everyone who passed me from behind did so from the oncoming lane when it was available. I began to think that it must be a state law but I would learn later that it's not. It wasn't necessary to give me that much room but I appreciated their thoughtfulness.

I must've rediscovered my youth out there that morning because I was riding the way I did all those years earlier averaging 19.3 mph (31 kph), but at 10 miles from the hotel my bottles were dry once again and I was fighting to hang on. I had cottonmouth and I knew I'd have to tough it out for the next 30 minutes until I was back in my room. I focused on maintaining my speed and knew that once I made it to the transition where the road goes from asphalt to concrete on the north end of the city I had it made. That was a welcome sight!

All in a day's ride.

I laid down for an hour before venturing out into the city and points beyond. I walked through the mall where the last store, Kmart, the anchor store for the mall has folded its tent -- and Amazon claims another victim. I left the mall and drove slowly along a gravel road south of town that I used to run on -- part of a 5.25 mile loop I would to do from my apartment at 2121 Ohio Ave SW when I first became a runner in 1984. I imagined myself running again along the same road and I thought about all that has transpired in my life since the days when I used to live in Huron. I got out of my car and surveyed the setting as I would've seen it 32 years earlier. I felt sad for how quickly the years have gone by and contemplated how the next 32 years will surely pass by even faster. I got back in my car and continued my drive, allowing my mind to wander as different scenes and intersections evoked a variety of memories.

There's more from my short time away in Huron that I'd like to make note of so I'll conclude this as it's getting kind of lengthy and continue where I left off in another entry in day or two. Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Mini Reunion, a Project Update and Bike Time

Sue and Bryan came into town last week. They had been in Nebraska where Sue's side of the family had a reunion. It was nice that they took the time to go out of their way to spend a few nights in Minnesota so we could visit with them as well.

I met them in Northfield at Keith and Tracee's Tuesday night. We had dinner and drinks at Fielder's Choice. It was such a nice time. I would like to have hosted them here but that wasn't going to happen with our remodeling project in full swing -- plus, Bryan commented that they were fine with staying in hotels along the way. He doesn't think they'll be back this way again for a long while so it's up to Tammy and I to make the trek to Portland, Oregon if we're going to get together. I look forward to doing that at some point. We're overdue for a road-trip.

Our remodeling project continues to move along at a steady pace. Joe was working on removing baseboards. He's replacing our 2 3/4" oak trim with 5" white trim. Jeff put in quite a few hours priming the trim on our windows. We seldom open our windows and Jeff found one where the sash was rotting away. The others appear to be fine.

Karen and I made a trip up to Hennepin Made (Jackson's studio) to have a look at the pendant lights I ordered. They're awesome! He'll have them ready for us this week. We also stopped in at Above All Hardwood Floors to select a stain color for our floors. We chose 4 somewhat similar colors. They had a rep from the company come out the next day to sand a section of our wood floors and apply the stains to see how they look in the lighting of our home. We're going with Coffee. It works best with the floor color in our sunporch. It's such a departure from what we currently have and I look forward to the change.

Drywall work will take up most of this week with the sanding and staining of our floors next week. The project has ballooned in cost but we expected that. We look at it as an investment in our home.

It's so convenient that Tammy is able to spend this time up in Babbitt with her sister, Cindy. She's been as busy as ever sorting through a lifetime of mementoes and things her parents had squirreled away. One of her finds was an envelope with newspaper clippings and magazine articles about then newly elected President Obama, saved years before Alzheimer's disease took over. Elaine commented back in the day that she was doing it for her grandchildren. She understood the significance of his presidency.

I'm finally getting back out on my bike after several weeks of being distracted from it. My fitness has taken a hit from the time away, most notably in the form of a painful right knee. It sounds counterintuitive but for my knees to feel fine I need to ride regularly. It's when I rest them too long that they become sore and don't allow me to ride aggressively.

I went out on Friday intent on doing something less than 40 miles but I didn't make home until 77 miles (124 km) later. My hamstrings were cramping after 3 hours from a lack of fluids. That's almost never an issue for me. I was more careful yesterday making sure to drink enough. I ventured into Wisconsin where the best roads in a 50 mile radius can be found. Lots of rolling, desolate highways. The sort of roads I imagine will be waiting for me in heaven if I make the cut.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Busy Week, Retirements and a Nifty App

Last week was one of the busiest weeks I've had in awhile. A good friend offered to run the necessary wiring for our main floor remodel and much of it required us to be up in the attic spaces pulling wires through to the electrical panel in the garage on the other end of the house. Neither of us realized how laborious a job this would be and I feel bad for taking Steve up on his offer to help. He didn't bail on me and for that I'm grateful and thankful.

There were some key decisions to be made along the way with respect to the placement of lights and for the most part I've got once chance to get them right. I think what we've got will work but it won't be until the project comes together more fully that I'll know for sure.

Tammy will be in Babbitt with the pups (Dublin got to ride up front) for another couple weeks while construction continues. This is definitely not the home I'm used to. There are no wagging tales as I come in through the back door by the garage and no sniffing noses to see what I'm eating. This is not normal.

During the course of the week we made quite a mess. Even though it's all going to get trashed again when our drywall guy comes in later this week, I spent a few hours cleaning it up. I like the openness of the new look having removed most of the wall between the kitchen and front room and the additional light through the window Joe added to the west side of our front room. As Karen said, "It should've always been there."

I ordered some glasses for viewing the upcoming eclipse in late August. What fun is an eclipse if you can't look at it?

Mark Lapham and Steve Mechelke have left the building! Mark hosted a nice get-together at Lakeville Brewery to celebrate his retirement. I always enjoy these parties and the chance to catch up with friends.

My walks and rides and time spent on the golf course have come to a grinding halt for the most part but I hope to find a more normal routine soon. I spent some time on my bike this morning after the drizzle stopped before going to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls.

While Tammy is away I'd like to fit in a spontaneous, quick day trip to Huron, South Dakota for a round of golf on the course I used to play when I worked there with the FAA in the early to mid '80s. Tammy and I stopped there a few years ago on our way out to western South Dakota but I didn't play. It's been on my bucket list for awhile.

Here's video from a nifty little app called Relive that takes data from my rides or walks and displays it in an overhead view. I had intended to be out there longer but a half hour into my ride I realized that the battery to my rear blinking LED light had died. I really depend on it to feel safe against distracted drivers so I opted to head for home instead. Times have changed.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Nothing is Routine

My former supervisor Otto Pluntz used to say that with respect to sick-leave usage, the lack of a pattern was itself a pattern. I think the same could be said of what used to be my normal routine. I no longer have one and that has become my new routine. We're getting ready for a bunch of dominos to fall in our main level remodel project and Tammy and I are doing our best to stay ahead of the tasks we need to accomplish. Normal routines have been put on hold for the next 6 weeks or more. 

Keith and Jason were here Tuesday morning to remove our kitchen cabinets. Keith has a friend who wanted them for his basement and garage so I gave up my parking space in the garage for a couple nights until Emmett could pick them up. We're happy to know they'll have a fate better than a landfill.

Our kitchen is mostly useless now so we're sorta camping inside, eating off paper plates with plastic utensils. I'm not complaining but I do miss my routine -- and our kitchen sink.

We stopped by Keith's shop to see how our cabinets are coming along. They look like they're ready for their new home!

This coming week will be a busy one with Joe coming tomorrow to begin opening the wall between our kitchen and front room as well as some other construction related jobs on his to-do list for us. Steve will also be coming sometime this week to help with the electrical once Joe is ready for us. I spent a few hours in the attic space above the kitchen yesterday building a catwalk from plywood sheets Keith cut up for me to use. Rachel and Drew spent the day spelunking and I couldn't help but think they could've enjoyed the same experience in our attic and allowed me to relax and enjoy televised coverage of the U.S. Open golf championship.

Tammy leaves with the pups for Babbitt tomorrow to spend time with Cindy for the next two weeks. Not having the pups to worry about will help, especially with Charlie. He loves to sneak out and explore our backyard and Ruth's yard behind us where she has two pups. Jenny (our neighbor across the street) saw a coyote walking across her front lawn with a small animal in it's mouth a few days ago. That's my biggest concern.

Dublin is staying with us again while Claudia is away. This is his 3rd extended stay here in the past year and he's become quite comfortable with us, barking at visitors and protecting our home like it was his own. He's quite the character.

I've spent so little time online lately and I'm finding I like life better that way. I still make a quick lap around the pattern in the morning and at night but for the most part I'm avoiding the touch-and-goes throughout the day the way I used to. The news is too depressing to subject myself to more of it than is necessary. There's enough other things to easily fill my days.

Here's a quick snippet of some video I took from yesterday's attic project. Note the creepy heavy breathing through my face mask. It sorta reminds me of a horror movie scene where the methodically moving, relentless bad guy is seeking his prey.

And speaking of the attic project -- it's time to don my mask and headlamp and get busy again. My work isn't done up there.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Kitchen Remodel Project and Bike Path Dangers

Tammy and I went to the Edina Art Fair last Friday morning. The closest parking we could find was a few blocks away and on our walk to the fair we met a man walking an older dog, a Lhasa Apso named Lily. Lily was moving a little slowly. We stopped and chatted with her owner and he commented that Lily is 20 years old. Wow! We were both stunned to learn a dog could live that long.  Lily doesn't hear much anymore and her vision is lacking some; just like Toby -- and like Toby she enjoys her daily walks.

On our drive home from the fair Tammy looked online and found that the oldest living dogs live nearly 30 years. I wouldn't have guessed that.

We're gearing up for a remodeling of the main level of our home and busting out of this oak look that was so common back in the day. We've been busy emptying the contents of our cabinets and cupboards and storing it all downstairs, or in some cases, giving it the heave-ho. I didn't realize we had so much stuff! Tammy was in overdrive yesterday making lots of headway on the project. We spent this morning looking at slabs of granite for our counter tops.

We had planned to do this project last year but we could never settle on a design that got us excited enough to move forward with it. We have that now. Keith came up with an overall idea. We then handed his sketches off to Karen for her to add her touches before going back to Keith for some more tweaks, and then back to Karen. I think we're nearly there but the entire project has us both a little anxious. There are still a few key decisions to be made.

The biggest change will be a large opening we're making between our kitchen and front room where there's currently a full wall. The front room will see the most dramatic change and will no longer be a quiet sitting room. Instead it will be an extension of our kitchen. Here are 3 different views.  View A; view B, and view C. The eyebrow arcs into the front room in the plans have been changed to horizontal lines after a discussion today with Karen. I liked the idea of a slight arc but this makes good design sense. Also, the columns into the front room will be squared and not cylindrical. We're also adding a window to the front room on the west side; something I've always felt was lacking.

We made it out to Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings Saturday afternoon. We try and get there both spring and fall and spend a couple hours listening to the music, tasting the wines and chatting over a tray of olives, cheese and crackers. It's always a nice time.

I texted Tracee to ask if she and Keith had ever been there. They hadn't. I think we'll insist they come with us next time.

We talked about possibly volunteering this fall to help with the harvest. The man pouring our wine told us it's a lot of fun and that they're always looking for extra help.

I don't typically ride bike paths unless they're on a stretch of road where there are few if any crossing streets, and there's a reason for that. I recorded the 9 second video below when I was on a ride last week. I'm riding with the flow of traffic with a bike path off to my right -- a perfectly good bike path but I opt for the road instead. A car abruptly stops for the light and positions itself directly across the bike path. Riding the path would've forced me to yield to the vehicle when I actually had the right of way. I could tiptoe through each intersection but I'd prefer to not have to break my rhythm and the zen feeling I'm likely experiencing. I too have been guilty of being that driver who straddles a crosswalk just like in the video.

Most drivers are happy to share the road with me but as I've shown here on a few occasions lately that's not always the case. I hope this helps to give you a better understanding for why I ride the way I do in case you were wondering.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Golf Speak and Playing the Fool

I'm whipped! I went out for a ride tonight (a 20 mile loop to the trails at Murphy) and my legs were dead. I'm terrible at taking a day off and just putting my feet up to get the rest I need. I suppose that's why I welcome rainy days. I'll typically either ride or walk or golf each day but not a combination of those. I've not been so good about limiting my activity lately, and often times I'm finding myself riding in the morning and golfing in the afternoon.

I'd planned to volunteer for a few hours tomorrow morning working on the new mountain bike trails in Lakeville but I think I may take a pass. There's a chance I'll be golfing in the afternoon and I really need some down time. I'm not complaining. I signed up for this when I retired. I just didn't know it would be so much work!

I'm enjoying my time on the golf course as much as ever and while I'll still play a pitiful round of golf some days, I can see where I'm making noticeable improvement. I played at Legacy Golf in Faribault yesterday (my favorite course of late) and was +1 after 8 holes. I tired on the back 9 and posted an overall score of 85. I had the dreaded 4-putt on the 12th hole. How does that even happen!? Anyway, I'm really enjoying my time out there, especially now that I've got my PCC membership and the variety of courses that it offers. I've yet to break 80 but I sense I'm going to reach that milestone soon.

And speaking of golf -- I've been using the 18Birdies app for tracking my golf stats and for yardage help during a round. I really like the app a lot. Check it out and see if you agree. It's free and free of ads. I believe there are promotions that you can opt into and that's how the developers generate an income but those promotions happen behind the scenes of the app and aren't noticeable while you're out on the course.

Switching gears.

For those of you who feel you're getting your political and world news in a "fair and balanced" way I have something for you to read. This article is from a 14 year veteran at Fox News. In the article he details how nearly every program and discussion on the network is scripted to provide a win for the conservative home team. I fully understand why you believe as you do if this is where you're putting your trust (in addition to the numerous other far-right voices of deception on talk-radio) but I would also tell you that it's not too late to stop playing the fool, and I say that in the kindest of ways. But you have to be the one to make that choice for yourself.

I don't have any illusions that it will happen in my lifetime but I'm hopeful that at some point reasonable people will be able to look back and see this time in our country for what it was -- a massive brainwashing of a large percentage of our populace, too willing to turn over their critical thinking ability to others to manipulate or too comfortable with the message of fear and hate that Fox and other deceptive voices were feeding them while conning them into supporting people that don't have their best interests at heart, nor those of our country or the world.

On what planet is it okay to applaud the rollback of regulations that help protect our sources of fresh water or dismiss regulations that protect our air quality? How can people honestly say that they're in support of those who seek to abolish regulations that are there to protect consumers from those who would prey on them and take advantage of them? Do you really believe that our mainstream news sources are "fake news" as Trump* likes to assert? And how does one get to the point where they listen to a man like Trump* and believe the propagandists that assure them he's not only the right one to lead our country but that he's a godly man?

Faith can be a beautiful thing, but it can also make a fool of you.