Thursday, December 30, 2004

I'm Still here

It seems all of my blogging time has been devoted to our basement blog. That's about to change though as the basement project is finished and so is the blog. I told Dan I'd leave it up because I'm not at all pressed for web space and if he wanted to he could send prospective clients there to watch one of his projects come together. I really pray he's able to continue to find projects to do and that he's able to carve out a nice living for him and his family. He's such a nice guy and so deserving of all the good which may come his way.

I find myself feeling guilty at times when I look at how blessed I and my family are and I contrast that with what I see happening in Asia with the Tsunami and the tens of thousands of lives ended and ruined. There is so much death and destruction there. It's hard to comprehend from our comfortable homes as we watch and read about their horror. I pray that God comforts them and gives them the strength and determination they will need to carry on and overcome their grief. It's so sad.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Thank God

I got my medical back at 1:20 this afternoon. The whole area gave me a round of applause when they told me I had my medical back. I'm very thankful to God for this happening. I'm a bit rusty in the sector but I'm hoping that after a few days I'm back to my old level of proficiency again. Tammy will be happy to hear the news. I spoke with my union rep, Rob, about the approach we'll take when and if the headaches return. We'd like to keep from having to go through the regional flight surgeon and having my medical pulled on that level. We're hoping we can manage the issue within our facility in the future.

My uncle, Elvin, died yesterday morning at the age of 87. He left behind a trail of broken lives from the sexual abuse he visited upon so many young girls. He was always my favorite uncle before we discovered his problem. Of all the adults in my life while I was growing up I'd consider him to be the least threatening. How ironic. Fortunately for me his fascination wasn't with young boys.

I have an older sister whose life has been a shambles the past 6 years or so. I'm a bit conflicted by the reasons why though. She never made an issue of the abuse until she was in her mid 40s when she lost her job. All of a sudden Elvin became the reason for all of her failings. I don't doubt that the fondling Elvin did left a lasting impression on her and who am I to say that the problems she's encountering now aren't a result of what he did to her. I just don't know. The other part of me thinks he's a convenient scapegoat for her problems. I'll never know.

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Hello

I've been posting daily to our basement blog so this one sort of gets forgotten about. I lost my medical certificate at work over two weeks ago after I came forward and told them of my Cluster headache condition. I'm awaiting approval from our regional flight surgeon to give me the okay and to reinstate my medical. It should have already happened. I'm hoping this next week sees me retuning to life as normal. I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

As Expected

I got a phone call at 8:45 this morning to inform me that my medical certificate was being pulled pending a review of my condition. I was expecting that to happen but maybe not so quickly. It's a bit odd going back into the control room and having to explain to those I work with that I can't plug in and work traffic with them. Everyone is very respectful of my privacy but I know they're curious as to why I've lost my medical. I've gone into some detail with a few and expect the word will filter down to the rest.

I came into work tonight on the mid shift. There isn't much for me to do so I put up some new nav charts which go into affect tonight. I had to laugh...as I'm putting up the charts, John is coughing so bad he can barely get his composure to give clearances to the planes on freq. And I'm the one who isn't fit to work traffic?

I came home from work and finished putting up Christmas lights outside. They look nice. As I was working on them last night Rachel came out to have a look. "Oh, pretty" she said. That's all I needed to hear to make the whole effort worthwhile.

I think I'll go find a couch and catch a couple hours of sleep. I'd like to get out on a ride tomorrow before heading over to Mom's for dinner.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Real Waiting

I had my meeting yesterday afternoon and it went about how I thought it might. Garry couldn't say much but did say that decisions would be made outside of our facility and it is most likely out of his hands. No doubt he will have some input but just how much I have no way of knowing. He did mention that I will most likely lose my medical and will be assigned other duties until I get it back. I'm relieved but I'm still concerned about my future. The tension between management and workers is at an all time high for the nearly 23 years I've been doing my job.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Waiting

Tomorrow is an important day for me and my family. It's the day I disclose at work my headache condition and leave myself totally exposed for whatever repercussions management may have for me. I'd first mentioned the headaches on my physical in the mid '80s. They asked for specifics and I told them whatever I felt would help them to understand the headaches and how I coped with them. There wasn't any medication then. It's probably more the use of medication the past several cycles and my failure to disclose that than the failure to mention the headaches on subsequent physicals which will cause me problems. I met with my union president this afternoon and we discussed a bit about how we'll approach Garry with this news tomorrow. Garry is the number 2 man at our facility and we've known each other for nearly 20 years. I'm somewhat confident Garry will go to bat for me but I'm afraid this whole issue will quickly be elevated out of his hands and into the hands of somebody who doesn't know me.

I've been working with a Flight Surgeon out of Colorado the past few months in an attempt to try and gain immunity for me from the FAA but we've gotten nowhere. The FAA isn't interested in granting amnesty/immunity to anyone because they fear the precedent it may set. I somewhat understand that but at the same time they're in effect forcing many people like myself to remain underground and that's not a good thing.

I considered remaining underground for the remainder of my career but should my condition be found out by means other than me disclosing it I would likely be fired with no grounds for appeal. That simply isn't an option anymore...not that it ever was. It's a different FAA today than it was 5 years ago. There is no love lost between controllers and management and I don't think I could've picked a worse time to try and resolve this.

Anyway, that's what's been on my mind for 90% of my waking moments for the last few months. I really have to get this situation resolved and tomorrow is a big step in that direction. I lay myself at the mercy of the FAA courts and hope that they will find some compassion within them and direct it my way.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Last Warm day?

I'm afraid yesterday may have been our last warm day of the year. The temp got up into the upper 60s. I started doing some yard work and then I figured that was pretty stupid with my bike begging me to ride. I had a good ride. The wind was pretty stiff out of the west so I headed out 169 south toward Shakopee. I crossed the Minnesota river a couple mile north of where I usually do on the bike path in Bloomington. I picked up Old Shakopee Rd and followed that to where it turns into Homeward Hills Rd. There's a nice hill which was registering 7-8% and had my heart rate pegged for a time. There was a car behind me not wanting to pass and I was trying to keep the speed up. It felt soooo good to be working so hard and feeling fine. The feeling you get when your heart is beating so hard must be an addictive thing. I have to have it and I get anxious if I haven't experienced it in a while. That's usually not a problem for me. I picked up Flying Cloud Dr and followed that past the airport and took that to whatever the road is which I took back across the river to pick up hwy 169. As I was crossing the river I spotted another rider at least a half mile up ahead. I worked hard and managed to catch him just before he turned off.

Dan called me on my cell while I was riding to say that neither he nor John are happy with the way the arches are looking in the basement. They want to meet with me tomorrow and discuss a different solution. Tammy and I talked about a couple of options and this morning I drew up a design which I think gives it a nice look. I talked with Tammy on the phone tonight and she likes it too. I'll show Dan tomorrow and see what he thinks.

Friday, November 5, 2004

22 Years Ago, Carla and Nate Anderson

I got on the road this morning at 8:30 and headed into Minneapolis to stop at a lighting store which I didn't know if it even existed any more. I came up Lyndale and turned right on Lake Street but didn't find it. I circled back and headed west toward the other side of Lyndale. Sure enough, there it was just before Colfax...Moen Electric...just as I remembered it the last time I was there about 8 years ago. I needed to buy a canopy and some fixture parts for the lamp we're making which will go above the pool table in our basement. I got there at 9:00 but they didn't open till 10:00 so I took a drive and headed toward where Noy and I used to live together 22 years ago. It was a little sad to see the house again as it hasn't been kept up well. The wood trim needs paint and it looked like the front porch was sagging and in need of maintenance. I got out and stood at the fence looking into the back yard and shot a photo looking toward the back of the house and the garage. I reminisced about the days I lived there and how fast the time has gone. It wasn't until I was walking away that I noticed the house next door was gone. Carla and Nate Anderson lived there and had it looking so nice. Nate was a natural when it came to home improvement stuff and he put a lot of time into his home. They were such good, Christian people. I know it was their prayers which brought Noy and I together all those years ago. I remember going with Noy and their family to their church in South Minneapolis. I can still hear Nate's booming voice singing so clearly above all the others. They left for a home in the country up toward Duluth sometime around '83 or '84 and I never heard from them again. I was always hoping to take a trip up there and see how they were but I never did. I'm sure they would be sad to hear that Noy and I are no longer together. They had a daughter, Naomi, who would be in her late 20s...I wonder how she's doing?

I drove back toward Moen Electric and stopped at a light on Lake St and Park ave. There were 3 brothers on the corner just as there were on nearly nearly all the street corners. I glanced over toward them and in an instant one of them made eye contact with me...I don't want to jump to conclusions but I'm sure they get good at picking up on people in search of what they sell. Sorry...I'm not looking. I used to walk my old dog, Sparky, along those streets at night never worrying about trouble. I'd never do that today...it's a much different world and I don't belong there.

I got the stuff for my light and headed for home. Ran downstairs to see how John and Dan were doing then I took the pups for a quick walk before work which is where I am now.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Election Day 2004

Tammy got us four tickets to see President Bush last Saturday at the Target Center. We began our day early as we headed out at 9:00am...trust me, that's early on a Saturday for us. We caught the light rail at the VA center and took it into Minneapolis where it dropped us off within a block of the Target Center. The train tickets were reasonable at $3 each for a round trip. I'm not sure I like the way it works though...it's on the honor system and there is absolutely nobody to check and see if you paid. By December the light rail will run all the way to the Mall of America and what's to stop anyone from jumping on the train and not paying. Maybe this would have worked 30 years ago in a different town but not today the way it's set up.

We got to the Target Center around 10:00am. Large crowds don't do much for me but I was enthused to see such a large turnout so early in the morning. The lines were over 3 blocks long outside. Theresa (Tammy's sister) noticed that there were also people waiting in the skyway above to get in. We opted for the warmth of the skyway and I think a much shorter line. After 45 minutes the lines began to move. We had to pass through security similar to what you would find at the airport. Theresa had to leave her fingernail file behind as that was a no no. We found some nice seats just above the main floor. It was actually nice to be among so many Bush supporters. The one thing which struck me and kept coming back to me again and again was the diversity of the crowd. It wasn't a bunch of middle age white guys in suits. There were so many young people which gave me a lift to see. I'd like to have seen more people of color but still there were many. Rachel was pretty psyched to see the president.

We had to wait a few hours before he made his appearance. He wasn't expected to speak until 1:30 but we had to wait until 2:00 as he was running a bit behind. The crowd was there for him and I doubt there were many undecided voters there.

When he finally took the stage he spoke for 45 minutes. Rachel had the great idea to stop into the public services office earlier and get earplugs for us. They came in handy as it got quite loud at times. There isn't really much new being said at this late stage of the campaign and today offered nothing I hadn't already heard. Still, being there and sharing that with family is something I'll never forget. Here's a panoramic view I stitched together taken from our seats.

As we were leaving the rally there were very vocal Kerry supporters lining the street across from the Target Center. It didn't take but a moment to notice them and you could tell that they weren't happy with us or President Bush being there. We gave them the thumbs down signal and shouted back at them as they shouted at us. As it turned out we walked the wrong way for a block and had to double back in the direction of the protesters. We approached them from behind and when we got right next to them I yelled 'Hey everybody, how about a big cheer for President Bush? Four more years, four more years!' Several of them quickly converged on me and I went toe to toe with them. We were all shouting our support for our man and it went on for several minutes. One guy in particular got right in my face and I reached forward to blow him a kiss and decided that a photo of him would be nice for the archives...

I departed the area with a big grin on my face but that was mostly because of Rachel. As I was confronting and being confronted she went running by me yelling 'Hey everybody, I'm a right wing nut job!' It was the funniest moment of the day and one I'll never forget. We jumped back on the light rail and headed south out of the city.

I noticed a couple Kerry supporters on the train and I felt a bit bad for them as they were surrounded by people who don't think very highly of their man. It was all friendly though and nobody had any cause for concern. We all enjoyed our little road trip and got home around 4:00pm. It's going to be an interesting Tuesday night. Let's all say a prayer that God will guide whoever is elected to do what is right and give him the wisdom to know.

I wrote the above for our family forum a few days ago. Now to today...I stopped by our church, Hosanna, to vote after getting off work this afternoon. There was no line to speak of and I was in and out in just over 5 minutes. I'm growing a bit weary of all the politics and I'll be very glad to have this election over with.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

46,466,465 and Counting

I’m appalled at the beheadings occurring in Iraq but I have to wonder…are we as a society really any better than the terrorists who would do such a barbaric thing to another person? Is a partial birth abortion any less gruesome than you average every day run of the mill beheading? It’s not. But hey, we need to get Bush out of office because he wants to make it illegal to do such a thing and for those who lean left I suppose that’s a bad thing. I hope I’m able to one day enter the Left’s stream of consciousness so I too can be enlightened and join in the fun and be able to say that I’m helping make the world a better place. Maybe in another life.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

What Do You Do?

Here’s a hypothetical I wrote as I ponder the situation America finds itself in today. Feedback is welcome.

You’ve been elevated to the highest office in the world and for whatever crazy reason it dawns on you that the world is sort of dependent upon oil for its very survival. You’ve seen the bumper stickers, ‘no blood for oil’ but you never really gave it much thought…I mean, it sounds good…doesn’t it? So you start to wonder…okay, let’s say that all the oil producing countries are overthrown by some radical Islamic sects and they collectively decide that they don’t need our money any longer and they turn off the spigot. What do you do? It’s not our oil after all and we really have no right to take it from them. You try to imagine an America without oil to fuel the cars which take people to their jobs. For a moment you imagine an America without jobs. You picture deserted highways void of the never ending whine of 18 wheelers as they transport goods from manufacturers to consumers. Wow, the ramifications on our economy and the world as we know it are frightening. And you thought the lack of a flu vaccine was an outrage. It occurs to you that this is maybe just a tad bit more pressing.

As the president you have a choice…you can go about your busy schedule and pretend all is well while schmoozing your way toward a second term or you can exercise your vision and see the situation for what it is. Doing this though will no doubt cost you serious political capital and will most likely weaken you in the short term as there is no sanitary way to do what needs to be done. The other option is to accept the tough choices which go with the job and do what will be in everyone’s best interest years from now no matter how distasteful it may seem at the moment. Your opponent knows that you’re an easy mark in the upcoming election because there is no way that the fruits of your labor are anywhere near ready for market. All the public sees is the turmoil fed to them daily by a giant media only concerned with bringing the public sensational headlines everyday to sell more papers all at your expense. Tragedy sells and there’s certainly no lack of it. There’s no lack of war ravaged Iraqi families to turn to when they want to make their point. It’s sad though that the people who are experiencing freedom for the first time aren’t being paraded out in front of the camera to show us their brilliant smiles so we can also understand that we’re doing so much good for these ever oppressed people.

But that’s just part of the story. Did I tell you that I do think that a good part of the reason we’re over there is because of the oil? I’m very upfront about that because I think it’s an acceptable reason especially given all the other humanitarian causes we can list for being there. The problem with that thinking though is that the American left in all their glorious ignorance would scream bloody murder if we actually came out and said that.

So what do you do? You’ve got your UN resolutions in hand and you’ve supposedly got the support of the entire coalition…that is until you actually say you’re going to follow through with what the resolutions have given you the authority to do. You can continue down the road of inspections all the while knowing that those have been a farce and will never amount to anything. You also have to remember that Saddam did possess the WMD at one time and never accounted for their destruction so given that little bit of information, common sense tells you that he still has them. Your intelligence also tells you that the Oil for Food program is certainly enriching Saddam and quite possibly the UN leader’s son. You remind yourself that the only people hurt by sanctions in a dictatorship are the bottom feeders. What other leverage to you apply?

Have you seen enough yet or do you need more? What do you do with the position you've been given to see to it that a small number of evil minded people aren't allowed to wreak havoc upon the rest of us?

Extreme Basement Makeover

We're finally doing it...we're finishing our basement. We'll take this baron, cinder block lined enclave and turn it into a warm and cozy family place. I say warm because part of the plan is to build a sauna where we can melt away the cares of the world. I'd love to be able to do the work ourselves but I'm no pretender when it comes to matters such as this and I think it's best left to the pros. Keith will be doing the cabinets and bar for us while his friends, Dan and John, will do the rest of the work.
Dan is a former Northwest Airlines mechanic who began his remodeling business after being laid off several years ago. John is also a laid off airplane mechanic and together they come highly recommended from Keith.

We had a garage sale a few weeks ago and were able to part with all sorts of stuff we'd been storing in the basement. It actually looks pretty nice down there now without any clutter.

Today was day one of the project. They mapped out some room dimensions on the floor then left to go shop for supplies. I think one of the first things they plan to do is to punch another sump drain in the concrete on the opposite end of the basement from the existing sump basket. That was my idea in an effort to help prevent any water damage from future heavy rains. It also affords us the protection of having an extra sump pump online should either one fail. I'll need to get a battery backup for at least one of them though for those times when you lose power during a storm. It's the nature of the beast I suppose when you finish a room below ground and the potential for water damage is there. We're investing too much to not try and do all we can to protect it.

Another big obstacle they'll tackle early is to remove the support post which is in the way but does serve a vital function. You can see it in the photo above. The post is positioned on a seam in a 26 foot beam which supports the main level. The plan is to jack up the main level and remove both the post and beam while replacing them both with one continuous 26 foot laminated beam. It will be nice to not have the post in the way.

There is so much to do to pull this whole project together. Tammy and I will be doing some stained glass for the cabinets Keith is making. We still don't have a design figured out, much less an idea of what we'd like. I began work on a stained glass lamp to hang above the bumper-pool table. We're making the same 18" Tiffany reproductionTulip lamp we made for Don and Dorothy. Yea, I know...it's not your typical pool table lamp but I think it'll look nice.

I spent last week trying to figure out what to buy for a TV. We initially bought a 50" Sony but then Tammy got to thinking that a little bigger might be better. Keith agreed and so I canceled the order and continued shopping. I stumbled upon an online Sony forum and found that they'd organized a buying group. I was able to buy a 60" set though the group for $900 less than I would've paid at BestBuy. It was delivered today...it's a monster! I came home from work to find it sitting in some free space in our family room. I couldn't get over how big it is. For all its size though it weighs just a little over 100 lbs.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

John Kerry

I worked the all night shift last night. I took over the sector at 3:20am just in time to vector John Kerry's Lear jet (N93LE) into Sioux City, IA. He was coming in from Glendale, AZ having just finished the last debate with President Bush. I didn't get to see the whole debate but what I did see seemed to be a repeat of the first 2 debates.

It's anybody's guess as to who will win the election. I'm tired of the divisiveness but I don't blame the president for that. I think the left has been relentless in their attacks and have done nothing to further unity. I could go into a long list of what I'm bothered by but I don't have the stamina for that tonight.

Tammy bought the DVD, Fahrenhype 9/11 at BestBuy a couple nights ago. It debunks Michael Moore's claims against the Bush administration. Check it out if you're at all interested in hearing the other side.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Goodbye Summer

We've had a string of nice warm days but it appears they're coming to an end. I got out on my bike today and had a very good ride. There was little to no wind and I made tracks to Northfield getting down there with an average speed of just over 20mph. I headed for home and found a good rhythm until I flatted with 10 miles to go. Just as I pulled over, Keith came up behind me in his truck and stopped to see if I needed any help. We chatted while I got my tire fixed. I found my rhythm once again and pressed for home coming in at 20.24mph over 50 miles.

I spent a good part of yesterday trying to decide if I'd made the right decision in buying a TV from BestBuy. I had a coupon which saved me 12% off the price of a 50" Sony but then a couple days later I began thinking that maybe we'd be better off with a 55 or 60" set. I went back to BestBuy on Monday night and changed our order from a Sony to a 60" Panasonic. Then yesterday I searched the net and found a buying group from a Sony online forum which had secured some very good prices on all sorts of Sony sets. I ordered one from the group and it will be shipped out on Friday. It was all a bit of a hassle and I can only hope I made the right decision.

We're still waiting to begin work on our basement. We've got it all cleared out and ready for the workers. We're supposed to meet with Dan next week to get his bid. I'm thinking he's going to be up over 50K and that doesn't include Keith's work. If we can get it done for 60K I think I'll be surprised.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

My Last Long Ride of the Season

I took today off work to go out for what may be my last long ride of the season. The temp got into the upper 70s today and for this late in October that's pretty nice. Actually, the next few days are supposed to be well above normal.

I got up early and couldn't go back to sleep I decided to get a jump on my ride and made it out the door by 8:00. It was a bit cool at 52 but I rode hard for the first 30 minutes and I was comfortable. I headed out County rd 46 and rode that west then took Hwy 5 north to Hwy 13. The traffic was pretty busy along 13 but I always get a rush from it. It also helps to have some good tunes to motivate you. I remember having the New Radicals pushing me along as I caught drafts from the passing traffic. Cruising past Valley Fair now and thinking about all the fun times we had there this summer. I remember a few years ago when I couldn't pay Rachel to ride the Corkscrew. She was maybe 10 at the time and still a bit afraid of most of the larger rides. Within a month of that visit she went back with her friend, Camille and came home to tell me that she did all the rides...even the Power Tower! I guess she didn't want to disappoint Camille and found out they weren't so bad after all.

By the time I rolled into Shakopee the temp was in the upper 50s but the wind was pretty stiff out of the southwest. Once I left Shakopee it would become a head wind. Just outside the city I saw the sign for Mankato...56 miles. Did I have it in me today? I briefly thought about doing that trip but in the back of my mind I didn't think I would because of the wind. Anyway, I hadn't totally discounted the idea.

>I took this photo on Hwy 169 after recalling the time a few years ago along this same stretch of road when a dump truck pulled out slowly well ahead of me. After a short time I was able to catch up to it as the driver cycled through the gears. I tucked in within a few feet of his rear wheels and stayed with him for a couple miles as I reached over 50 mph. It's probably not one of the smarter things I've done on my bike but definitely one of the more exhilarating. I remember thinking that if there was some road kill to avoid, I'd never see it in time and I'd likely crash. I decided on self preservation and backed off.

Once I saw this sign I started doing some figuring trying to calculate what time I'd get back home if I decided to press on to Mankato. I'd pretty much decided I'd go to St. Peter and make a decision then based on how I felt.

My cellphone rang around 10:30 and it was my doctor. I decided a month ago that I wanted to be up front with my employer about my headaches so that when they return again I can pull myself from controlling until they're gone after a month or so. It's not so easy to just come forward and admit that you have a disqualifying condition. My fear being that they may say my controlling days are over and put me behind a desk pushing papers or worse yet, they may terminate me for not divulging the condition sooner. The doctor I'm working with presents my case to the Flight Surgeon of the region I work in with hopes that I'll be granted a waiver to continue as a Controller and immunity from punitive measures for hiding my condition. The news he had for me was that my case has been sent out of the region and elevated to a higher level where it's anyone's guess what they'll decide. The higher it goes I think the more less likely I am to receive a favorable decision...not to mention, it'll probably take them much longer to decide what to do. In the mean time, I have to hope my headaches don't come back and if they do I'll have to come forward then as I'm not putting myself in the position of controlling with these again. I spent about 20 minutes off my bike as we talked. I also gave Tammy a call to explain it all to her.

A few miles up the road I pulled over again and ran inside the DQ for what I was hoping would be some fast food but it was anything but that. The service was quick as they took my order right away but I had to wait over 10 minutes for my food. I just wanted to get back on my bike as quickly as I could. Another 20 minutes delayed and now I'm 40 minutes down from where I'd hoped to be. Hey, it's really hard to complain when it's such a beautiful day out. I convinced myself that I was on my bike and it was really warm and so what if I was running behind.

I pressed on past the Le Seuer exit with St. Peter about 40 minutes up the road. Hwy 169 south of Le Seuer is a very pretty ride. The wind was keeping me from fully enjoying the ride but hey, I wasn't at work. I rolled into St. Peter and decided I'd keep heading toward Mankato.

South of St. Peter the leaves are beginning to turn. Tammy was mentioning the other day that she'd like to take a drive and see some Fall colors. I think another couple weeks and they'll be peaking. So many of the leaves along the way were still green with the occasional stand of trees which were tuning sooner than the others.

Finally, 75 miles into the trip I rolled into Mankato and got off on Riverfront Dr. I got back on the other side of the road and dialed the speed up the 25-35 as I had a nice tail wind which I was very happy to have. My legs were a bit tired though so I couldn't push as hard for as long as I'd like to have.

As I passed through Belle Plaine on the way home I caught my odometer as it turned 7000 miles. That was nice to see and it got me wondering if I can make 8000 before the snow flies? I think it's a bit of a long shot but I'll see what I can do.

The rest of the trip was good and I was focusing hard to keep the negative thoughts at bay and keep my speed up. I couldn't believe the traffic jam in Shakopee and wondered if it was this way every evening during rush hour. The cars were backed up for over a half mile standing still. I'm so glad my commute to work has none of that.

I got home around 5:30 and 151 miles later. It was a good ride. I tried to lay down and catch a couple hours sleep before tonight's all night shift but I just laid there. I gave up after 30 minutes and came down when Tammy came home. We chatted for a bit then I headed to work. I'm so tired as I write this and can't wait to get some sleep when I get home. We've got a big day planned tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Quit Claim

As of yesterday, my obligations to Noy are finished. I paid her off early so we could get our home loan processed. They couldn't give us a home equity loan as long as Noy still had a lean against the home. It was a bit of a hassle getting her to make it to her attorney's office to sign the Quit Claim but she finally did that for us yesterday. It's sort of odd but for the first time in over 20 years I have no obligations to her. I know for certain that she would like to talk occasionally to see how I'm doing and what is new with my mom and siblings and I'd like to stay up with what's happening in Joe and David's life but I don't think that will happen. We need to go our own ways now and if fate has it we will meet again someday. If her kids ever do make it back into town I hope they would give me a call and we could meet for lunch but I don't even see that happening. I don't think Joe and Dave are very interested in having much to do with me. I'd be surprised if Noy doesn't now move to California to be closer to her sons and grandkids. She has no family here...just some friends. Had it not been for the friends her life would be much different (in a good way) than it is today and I'm sure she knows that. It's been one of my continual prayers for her that God would bring good people into her life who would lead her in a more positive direction.

I wrote this while going through our divorce several years ago...

1-23-97

Emptiness owns my life tonight
But I'm focused on getting well
Do you know what it is to be afraid
To stop
To listen
To tell

When all I believed was important and true
Has left me broken and feeling used
My heart feels heavy
My head feels dizzy
I question what's right
I'm so confused

I try to be Strong
I try to be kind
I need my freedom
I need peace of mind

Where do I go
And when will I get there
I'm scared
It's my life
And I've lost all control

Will I be happy
I don't want to be angry
Will I find someone
To love and to hold

I'm trying not to worry
I have to keep myself busy
I'm trying to understand
What's important to me
I've spent time by myself
Too much time by myself
I'm much more lonely
Than I wanted to be

I hope Noy finds happiness
I hope she remembers
The good times
The better days
The love we once knew
I'm hurt
I'm not bitter
I'm sorry
I'm tired
I need to move on
It's what we both must do

I was going through my old writings and I found this written a couple days later...

1-25-97

I think too much
I don't sleep enough
I care too much
I never give up
I'm too organized
I need a close friend
I'm much too shy
I'm at my wits end
I could use some advice
I could use affirmation
I'd like a one way ticket
Not an explanation

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Jars of Clay

We saw Jars of Clay at Grace church in Eden Prairie tonight. What a good show they put on. Rachel has really developed a taste for Christian rock in the past few months. I know she can't wait for The Elms to come back through town so we can go see them again. Here's a song they played tonight called, Show You Love. It's a song about stepping outside your comfort zone and reaching out to those in need around the world and giving of our overflowing abundance.

Speaking of abundance...Tammy and I went to a few homes on the Parade of Homes list to get some ideas for our basement. Some of the homes were in the million dollar price range. It was interesting to see what you get for that price. We found a townhome we both liked very much and could probably very easily be talked into something like it after we retire.

I made my last payment to Noy yesterday. I dropped off all my canceled checks from the previous year's payments at her attorney's office so he could review them before she signs the Quit Claim on the home. I want her to be certain that I haven't short-changed her and that everything is as it should be. Her attorney called back today and said it appears I've overpaid her by $250. I told him to let it go and asked that he send me the bill for overseeing everything. He was expecting her in his office today to sign away her interest in the home but she never showed up. I'll need the Quit Claim signed before we can get our home equity loan to complete our basement. I can't help but feel that she's hoping for a different outcome which keeps money going from me to her indefinitely. I could be wrong. I have no idea if she knew this day was fast approaching. It's a significant amount of money she won't be receiving any longer and that has to be hard for her to accept.

I'm actually very sad for her. I know I shouldn't be after all she put me through but I still am. I'm sad for what has become of her life and the hopes I once had for our future. I used to be so happy to provide the lifestyle I did for her and her sons. I've only ever wanted what was best for her and I still feel that way. Everyday she is in my prayers. I pray that good people will come into her life and that they will lead her in a positive direction. I pray for her well being and peace of mind. I pray for her happiness and that she is able to move forward and find love again and I pray for her protection.

It's strange how life plays out though. Had Noy and I not divorced I never would have become a part of Tammy and Rachel's life. They are such a part of who I am and my reason for living that I can't imagine life without them. There's no question that God brought us all together. I don't question why anymore...I just accept that I'm where I'm supposed to be and that I've never been more in love with both Tammy and Rachel. Thank you Lord.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Rachel

I can't begin to say how much I love my daughter. She is such a good person and her heart is in the right place. Tammy has helped to give her a very good foundation upon which to build her life...oh, I suppose I have helped some too. I'm worried though that she seems to be drifting apart from her father the past few months. When he has her for the weekend he seldom engages her and when he does it's usually in a critical way. I dunno...I think maybe he's a bit insecure and becoming more so as Rachel grows and matures. I think his heavy handedness is some sort of a control that he feels he needs to maintain.

Last week, Rachel put a tattoo on her arm of Jesus' name in the shape of a fish. She had it there several days and proudly displayed her devotion to Christ. She mentioned to me that she filled out a questionnaire in choir class and one of the questions had to do with what are you passionate about. She wrote down Jesus Christ. Wow...I'm so impressed at her openness and her faith. We've been trying to set aside one night a week where the three of us sit on the couch and do a devotion from a book of stories and talk about what it means to us. We'll also pray together and bring up concerns we have. Rachel mentioned that she'd like to have the devotions two nights a week if we could...again...wow. She's got such a hunger for Christ right now and I don't want to get in the way. I simply want to be a facilitator and help her however I can. It didn't dawn on me until several days later that the tattoo of Jesus on her arm was really meant to advertise to other kids at school that she's a Christian and she's searching for Christian friends. I mentioned that to Tammy and thinks I may be right.

Rachel went with her church group back to Spencer Iowa this weekend. It's a 'recharge' weekend and picks up where the summer bible camp left off. She was very excited to go. I talked with her on the phone from work this evening and she said she had a good time. When I got home and talked to Tammy she said it was another very positive experience for her. She mentioned how she's such a happy kid...she was singing away in the shower and she mentioned that she wished I was home tonight. I won't see her till tomorrow night and that will only be for about 15 minutes before she'll have to go to bed. As I said...I sure love that kid!

Rachel and I have this elaborate hand shake we do together. It's evolved over the past 18 months and last week we added two more segments to it. It's something just she and I do together...our own little thing.

Anyway...I have to run as it's getting late.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

The End of Summer

Do you ever wonder how your world would change if you lost your job? How would you react? Would you be bitter or would you strive to be better? Would you be angry at God or would you feel that everything happens for a reason and continue moving forward not knowing how you're going to manage in the weeks and months ahead. Would you crawl into a shell and withdraw from those who love and care about you?

I think I'd first do a lot of thinking about what is really important to me and begin to understand that possessions take much more of a secondary role than we realize. Houses, cars, furniture and other material trappings can be sold or they can hold you back.

I've been doing some thinking along these lines lately because I'm at a bit of a crossroads at work. In a worse case scenario I could be without the job I've had for over 22 years. I pray that I'll be able to work through all of this and come to a realistic agreement with management about how to proceed but nothing is certain.

Love Break Me by Starfield

Mark me with Your grace
Shape me in Your wisdom
Place in me a heart
Of mercy
Open up my eyes
Let me see Your glory
Lead me to the place
You want me

Love, break me now
Strip me down
May Your beauty
Deep inside of me resound
Through me be found
Come break me now

Guide me in Your truth
Mold me in Your nature
Birth in me a hope
To hold on
Show me how to wait
Teach me how to listen
Be in me the strength
To let go

Break me now…

Love, hear my plea
Rescue me, bring Your peace
I have come to You on bended knee
I’m desperate for Your breath in me
Your ears to hear, Your eyes to see
Set me free, come set me free
Like rain flowing over me...


Saturday, September 4, 2004

I'm Outa Sorts Tonight

I don't know why but I'm feeling out of sorts tonight. I think I'm preoccupied about some issues at work. I have no idea how this is going to play out and it has me worried. I went for a long ride Thursday after I woke up. I was hoping to sort through some things and I think I did that but it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered and that is the source of my anxiety.

Thursday was a hot day with the temp well into the 80s. It's been so cool the entire month of August so I really wanted to be in the hot sun. I rode out Cedar ave into a southwest wind gusting to 25 mph. I zigged and zagged until I got to hwy 2 and took that west through New Market I continued on hwy 2 struggling to maintain a good speed with the wind making the ride difficult. It had been years since I'd taken hwy 2 this far and I really wasn't sure what to expect. I went through the town of Union Hill and remembered how I used to come through this area on my trips back from Huron with Noy 20 years earlier. I contemplated how fast my life was moving and wondered if I'd still be actively riding in another 20 years or would I get my clubs back out and rediscover my passion for golf.

Hwy 2 abruptly turned into a dirt road at the junction of hwy 11 so I headed south on 11 until I picked up hwy 19 and rode that west to hwy 169. I took 169 south into Le Sueur and stopped to refuel at the Holiday station. Back on the road about 15 minutes later and I found myself climbing 169 with a tail wind out of Le Sueur. It's a steady 5 percent grade, not quite a mile long and I always enjoy the challenge. It was odd when I came upon a bunch of corn stocks along the shoulder of the road. I'm guessing some grain truck must've spilled the corn last season and they sprouted there. It's amazing what can grow out of asphalt.

Along the way my mind kept returning to my situation at work and I was working through several different scenarios in my head trying to decide what to do. Just as I got to Jordan I decided I needed to approach management and level with them about my troubles. It could cost me my medical certificate to be a controller but I had to do this for my peace of mind. I'm hoping the loss of my medical will only be temporary and that we'll be able to work out a solution where I'm able to take myself off the boards when it becomes necessary to work through the headaches. I stopped at the Burger King in Jordan and sat with a drink while I phoned Tammy and told her of my decision. She's very supportive and is in agreement that I should be up front with management about my situation.

I pedaled home with what felt like renewed energy from the weight that was lifted after making this decision but I think it may have simply been the 10 minute rest and bottle of water. Anyway, I decided that rather than go straight home I'd stop at Mom's and visit with her and her company. Some of my aunts and uncles are staying with her for a couple days and I really haven't had much time to visit with them. I rolled in there as they were sitting out on her back patio enjoying some drinks and conversation. I'm not sure how many times we'll all see each other again as some are getting quite old. They were all interested in my bike and its technology...my mp3 player, heart rate monitor, shoes and all the other stuff that goes into riding. They brought up the time in '81 when I rode to Michigan for the family reunion and had to do 196 miles on the last day to make it. I have one photo of myself from that day but apparently both Maria and Eva have other photos as well. I'm hoping they can send them to me so I can scan them. That was one of my more memorable days as there was no way I was trained to do that many miles but I was able to and I was and still am very proud of that achievement. I sat around with them for 45 minutes then had to hit the road and get home for dinner. I finished with 111 miles on the day and my 20 century ride of the season completed.

After dinner I sat down and composed an email to my union rep at work...oh yea, I'm in the union now as of last Monday. There are so many problems with management now that I had to finally join. I think our membership stands at around 76%. Many of the controllers I associate with aren't in and most likely never wil be but that's their decision. Anyway, I wrote Rob, my union rep and told him of my situations with the Cluster headaches and what my intentions are. It's Saturday night and I still haven't heard back from him as to whether or not he agrees with my intended approach. I'll see him tomorrow at work and talk with him about it then.

We went to the Minnesota State Fair today and totally wore ourselves out. We got up way too early for us...6:00am and got there by 8:30. It was another hot day so it was nice to beat some of the heat. Rachel had her picture taken with the Lollipop Kid munchkin while we were there. His name is Jerry Maren and he was there with another one of the munchkins to sign autographs. Tammy asked if she could take Rachel's photo with him and he was happy to do that. Just as Rachel settled in next to him he pulled out a lollipop and presented it to her in the same way he did to Dorothy in the movie. It was very sweet.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Jerry and Jackie

My brother-in-law, Jerry, lost his job a few months ago. It was a job he began in 1970 with Northwestern Bell as a cable splicer. It morphed over time and he spent the last few years in a supervisory position with Qwest. Qwest has been struggling for years but I don't think Jerry was overly worried about losing his job. He was always so busy with not nearly enough time in the day to do all that was expected of him. Nonetheless, he was terminated and given one years severance pay. I suppose some would say that's great but Jerry would much rather have put in another 7 years and taken his full retirement. They still have 2 kids, Kelsey and Cole at home.

Jerry didn't sit idle very long. He decided to take the leap and begin his own company wiring new construction homes. His son-in-law is working on a website for the company and he's already got one major job lined up. Jackie, who has always been a stay-at-home mom has also stepped out of her comfort zone and taken a job at Cub Foods as a cashier.

Sometimes when I'm talking with Jackie I find it hard to know what to say to encourage her. I try to tell her that there will come a day when she can look back on this time and see how God saw her through it. This is a storm in her life and it will one day be over. I know it's hard to have the necessary faith but there isn't any other option. I admire them both for taking control and moving forward no matter how humbling it can be at times. I keep them in my prayers.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Ordinary Life

I've been listening to a relatively new band from Canada named, Starfield. This song is excellent...

Ordinary Life,

Take me and invade me
Make me someone new
Wake me from the dead
And break me with the truth

Move me and disturb me
Interrupt my peace
Tear open my heart
And pull me to my knees

There's a world outside
That is burning
While I'm turning blinded eyes
While I stand by

I won't survive
To live this ordinary life
I'm not alive
To live this ordinary life

And I will try
To see this world I live in
With Your eyes
To love this world You've given
With my life
To see this world I live in
With Your eyes
To love this world You've given
With my life

Tammy's Gift To Me

I knew Tammy had been working on a photo album of my bicycle ride to Babbitt in July but I had no idea how nice it would be. She gave it to me yesterday as a birthday gift to me...I think it's probably the nicest gift anyone has ever given me. She put so much time and thought into it...I had tears in my eyes as I was looking through it at the thought of her doing this for me.



Here's another photo of the album...



She used the online diary of the ride to narrate the journey and included some photos I hadn't seen before. The little doo-dads and phrases she added to the pages gives it a very nice and thoughtful touch. I've got the best wife anyone could wish for...oh, and the best daughter too. I love you guys so very, very much.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Happy Birthday To Me and What's That in the Sky?

Happy birthday to me! Wow...where is my life going so quickly. I turned 47 today but I still think my outlook on life is about 20 years younger. I went out for a 100 mile bike ride then came home and cooked some steaks on the grill with Tammy, Rachel and Mom. I'd invited Tim over but he couldn't make it. I'm sitting here with a glass of wine as my day unwinds. Oh, I also reached a milestone today when I went over 6000 miles on my bike for the year. I'm thinking that 8000 miles isn't out of the question before the snow flies...we'll see. Usually I'm glad to have 4000 miles in by my birthday so I'm running quite a bit ahead of my regular pace.

We had an interesting event happen last Thursday over the Minneapolis area. Tim called me to see if I'd seen the UFO in the sky. He'd heard about it on the news. I stepped outside off the front porch to have a look and spotted it right away. It wasn't as though you were looking at an obvious spacecraft of some sort. It was a bright light in the sky, hovering motionless. Initial reports claimed it was a weather balloon but the National Weather Service said it wasn't one of theirs. I called Mark at work and had him check the upper winds for me. From the mid levels all the way up through 60,000 ft the winds were moving from west to east at 60 knots. There's no way a balloon could have remained in the same place as this object did. I was able to observe it for several hours before the sun went down and even after dark it was still visible. Rachel and I were able to get a video of it. In the video the object looks smaller than it did in real life. To get a better feel for the actual size imagine taking a pea and holding it at arms length. The pea would be about the same size as the object in the sky. Anyway, click here for the video. Here's the YouTube version.

Friday, August 6, 2004

500 Mile Week

I think my weekly total of 517 miles is the most I've ever done in a seven day stretch. I sort of thought I'd get several good days of riding in during my week off but this is probably more than I'd hoped for. I rode 60 today, 111 yesterday and 108 the day before. My right knee is a bit sore so I think I'll go easy tomorrow. I think the only riding goal left for me this season is 6000 miles by my august 25th birthday. That's a reasonable goal and about 2000 miles more than I'd initially set when the season began. I'll need to average 40 miles per day to reach the 6000 mile goal. That's only 280 miles a week and well within reach.

We went to see Irobot last night. I think we all liked it even though I'm not one for scifi.

The media has been on my mind lately. The double standard with respect to network news programs is important for the average Joe to realize. It's one thing to tune into Rush or one of the cable programs where you have a moderator who obviously leans one way or the other but it's quite another to believe you're watching an impartial person deliver the days news only to find out that this person has his own agenda which taints the news you're watching.

Do you remember when Bob Dole was running for president 8 years ago and he fell off a stage? They replayed that incident over and over again for all to see. Do you recall a couple months ago when Kerry fell off his bicycle on a city street with news cameras all around? Why then weren't we treated to footage of him falling down the same way we were with Dole? I think the major news programs are doing all they can to cast Kerry in the best light possible and this little incident would best be ignored.

How about the time when Bush called some news reporter a 'major asshole' and again we all heard about it time and time again...we still do. Why then don't we see footage of the time just a few weeks ago when Kerry shot the finger to a protester at the Vietnam Memorial who was heckling Kerry? I mean, here's the democrats' presumed presidential candidate flipping some guy off and there are cameras all around to capture it but the whole thing is stifled. Why is that?

There was also the incident in March where Kerry took a tumble while skiing and swore at the secret service agent who he bumped into saying 'I don't fall down.' He then used an expletive to describe the officer who 'knocked me over.' Pick either of these examples and imagine if it were Bush in the place of Kerry. Do you imagine for a moment that the press wouldn't have it all over the papers and television? That's the double standard which frustrates me.

Actually, I'd like to see all of these gaffes eliminated from the evening news as I think they're best ignored. But, if the media is going to continue to fixate on them I'd like to see them spread them embarrassment around a bit more evenly. Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Musings

I was out on my bike today and without even realizing it I had reached that surreal state where the endorphins take you where the fast paced world is all around you but you’re really not aware of much other than some obscure thoughts and the sun on your back. I’d just finished climbing out of the Minnesota River bottom and I was coming up on the approach path for runway 29L, east of the MSP airport. Coming into view from the right I noticed a 747 with its wheels extended on final approach. At first glance it looked to be a KLM flight arriving from Amsterdam but then I noticed the American flag on the tail. As I got directly off to its side from about a quarter mile away I could see the word ‘United’ and I thought that maybe United Airlines had a new paint scheme I wasn't aware of. I watched as it descended off in the distance and then it struck me that it was Air Force One. It did seem odd that there was very little air traffic in the area and now I understood why. President Bush was in town today and I’d just watched him pass by.

I got to thinking about an interview I’d seen earlier in the day with Laura Bush and how gracious she was when the reporter asked her to comment on Theresa Kerry’s remark about ‘four more years of hell’. I got to thinking about what a phony Kerry is and how the left have gotten so ugly in the last few years and how mislead people have become. I thought about how Kerry, during the convention said absolutely nothing about his 20 years in the Senate while he couldn’t seem to say enough about his 4 months in Vietnam. I thought it was odd that a guy who detested the war and all it stood for would now want to wrap himself in the American flag and memories of that war.

I thought about the half dozen or so men who served with him in Vietnam who dispute all he said and I wondered if they’ll be interviewed on 60 Minutes this next week as there is a book coming out titled, Unfit For Command, which details their claims. I seriously doubt they’ll get any coverage on any of the network news programs and I felt disappointed at the double standard. Is this a double standard?

I thought about Tommy Franks and his book, American Soldier, which is more supportive than critical of President Bush and I wondered if 60 Minutes will be interested to hear what he has to say…I doubted that they would. Again, I felt disappointment at the obvious double standard.

I thought about the debates which will take place and I remembered how four years ago nobody thought Bush would have a chance against such an intellect as Al Gore. I remembered how Gore made a complete ass of himself and I wondered what people saw in the man that I didn’t which would lead them to cast a vote for him. You only needed to look to his own state of Tennessee to see that they didn’t want him either. He lost there.

I think the left is again underestimating Bush and that will be their downfall as he will handily defeat Kerry in the debates and the small amount of undecided votes will begin to lean right. The small bump Kerry got from the convention should have those on the left worried. We’ll see…I could be all wrong and the liberal media will bring this one home.

Just one question…is my thinking there is a double standard unfair?

Monday, August 2, 2004

Monday, August 2nd, 2004

I found a wallet on my ride yesterday. It was a red, woman's wallet with all her important stuff but no money...a credit card but no cash. I put it in my saddle bag and continued on my ride. I gave it to Tammy when I got home and she tried to locate the owner...no luck. Her phone was disconnected and the only link we found was a card for a doctor's appointment. Tammy called the doctor's office this morning and gave them our number so they could relay it to the woman.

I found it on Hwy3, across the road from a bar out in the country. I was thinking that someone lifted it from the woman's purse while they were in the bar and threw it out once they took the money and left the bar. As it turned out, the woman's fiancé called our home shortly after Tammy called the doctors office and said it's possible that the woman's 3 year old son threw it out the car window. Anyway, we were glad to find the owner.

When I spoke with her fiancé, Ron Collins, on the phone I mentioned that there was no money in it and he said that he would expect that as she doesn't have much extra cash now with a wedding in the near future. I got an idea and found Tammy to run it by her. I thought it would be nice to put some money in her wallet with maybe a bit of scripture. I wanted her to be able to say that not only did she lose her wallet but it was returned to her with more money than when she lost it. Tammy found a small card with some scripture on it and she wrote a short note and put it with $20 in a zippered part where she may not find it for a little while.

We went out to Hard Rock Cafe' in Minneapolis last night. It was something we've been wanting to do for a while but had never taken the time...until last night. It was fun. We came back and played a few rounds of Slap Happy Mammy.

I worked in the yard for a few hours today then got out on my bike for a lack-luster ride. The humidity was so high that I just decided to do some soft pedaling and brought it home after a short 26 miles. I'd like to get out tomorrow for 120 but I'll see how I'm feeling in the morning.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Stop Raining

Okay, I've got stuff to do today and the rain is getting in the way. I shouldn't have slept in so late as I would have at least gotten my ride in. Mowing the lawn can wait till tomorrow but I'd really like to ride. I did manage a longish ride yesterday of 121 miles when I rode out to St. Peter along Hwy169. I was intending to go to Mankato but I cut it short.

Tammy is working and Rachel is with her dad. She didn't sound all that happy to be going to see him yesterday. She called me around 11:00am and said her dad was picking her up around 12:30. I told her I'd see her tonight and that we'd all do something...I think that something is going to be dinner at Hard Rock Café in Minneapolis. We'll pick her up around six and head over there on the way back.

Rachel has been disappointed with her visits with her dad and step-mom for quite a while now. They speak Vietnamese around her and so she's not a part of their conversation. Her step-mom's english is very marginal and I sometimes wonder if that's maybe the way her dad wants it to be. He was very controlling with Tammy and he's in a perfect position to have total control over his new wife. Rachel is very bored at their apartment and I think she's glad her visits are only every other week. That's sad though as I can't for the life of me understand why her dad isn't more interested in Rachel's life. She's such a good kid. If I were her dad I'd be over here all the time, at the risk of being a pest to be spending time with her. I just don't see that with him.

It won't be long though before Rachel probably won't have much time for Tammy or myself as she begins to explore her world and seek more independence. We want to have the best foundation for her that we can so she's prepared to be able to make appropriate decisions for herself. Tammy and I engage her quite a lot...certainly more than our parents ever did with us. We make a point of often times including her in our conversations and getting her opinion. I don't think she has any doubts about our love for her.

Still raining.

My sister, Claudia has been making sure there's no lack of drama in our family. She's been suffering with depression for the past seven or eight years and only seems to be getting worse. Both she and my sister Jackie were molested as young girls by our uncle, Elvin. Jackie has been able to put the whole mess behind her while Claudia doesn't appear to even want to begin to look forward. I can't begin to understand the dynamics of being molested but I'm a bit confused/curious that the molestation was never an issue until she was fired from her job around the same time the depression began.

To me it almost seems convenient that she was able to go on disability due to her depression as it was a nice segue out of the working world and onto the government doles. Maybe I'm wrong and that she really needs to be on disability.

The problem I'm having with the whole situation is that she's on all sorts of meds now and I think there may be an addiction problem as well. It's been a couple months since I've talked with her but the last time I spoke with her was at night and she was so out of it from her meds. I'm not the only one who has noticed this trend. She obviously needs help for her mental health but a part of me thinks she's comfortable in her role of not having anyone have any expectations of her because she's depressed.

I can't offer her any constructive help because she turns it around on you and tells you you're attacking her. I asked her once what sort of coping skills her therapist was giving her and she couldn't think of any. I mentioned that she may want to keep a journal and make note of good things which happen to her throughout the day so when she's feeling down she can go back and see that all is not negative. I don't think she was very interested in my idea. I'm not sure if I believe her that her doctor hasn't been giving her advice of a similar nature.

Anyway, back to the drama. She knows that she can manipulate our mom and get her to feel sorry for her. She stopped calling mom and didn't give her any reason for pulling the plug. She just clammed up. Mom was having difficulty sleeping as she was upset that Claudia was isolating her for no reason. Our mother is nearly 80 years old and she doesn't need this sort of stress in her life. Claudia's self- centeredness is getting very old.

Hey, you know what? The sun is beginning to shine and I really need to put this away and get outside on my bike. I'd like to do a quick 40 miles then get back home and mow the grass before going out with Tammy and Rachel tonight.

I think I just needed to vent more than anything.

Friday, July 30, 2004

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

We headed out for a few days in the Black Hills in South Dakota last week. I put together a digital diary of our trip.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

My Bicycle Ride to Babbitt

Wow, what a trip. In planning for this ride I figured I’d have only two weekends this summer where all of our schedules could come together to give it a go. The first of those two times came and went two weeks ago when a steady north wind kept me grounded. There’s no way I could have gone the distance into the wind and what I was really hoping for was a stiff southwesterly breeze but that wasn’t in the cards either. After looking at the wind forecast on Wednesday I told Tammy that it looked as though we were looking at another no go. I’d been watching the forecast the previous 5 days and they were consistently saying to expect a light wind from the southeast. It wouldn’t be a headwind but it wouldn’t be of much help either.

I came home from work on Thursday morning and looked at the forecast once more but it hadn’t changed. I got a couple hours of sleep then woke up to go work in the yard. It was then that I decided I wasn’t going to let the lack of a tailwind keep me from going…just so long as it wasn’t a headwind. I told Tammy I’d trained too hard to not at least try and that I thought I could make it. I’d done several rides between 135 and 150 miles and one of 202 miles a month earlier.

I spent the rest of the day working in the yard and getting my bike ready. Rachel and I stopped out at Keith’s in the evening to get some photos of his race cars. He was getting them ready for another trip to Brainerd International Raceway. I’m sure Keith is doing what he’s meant to do but I could also see him as an over-the-road trucker. Anyone who can drive a truck pulling his 50+ foot trailer has some talent I probably don’t have. We didn’t stick around long because he was busy trying to get his cars ready and I needed to get home to finish readying my bike.

It had been a busy day and I was getting tired. The main concern I was having was that I’d spent most of the day on my feet and I was worried about having dead legs for the ride. Around 9:30pm I took out my map to go over the route with Tammy to make sure I knew which way I needed to go. I’d jump on 160th street and take Lac Lavon Drive north to McAndrews. East on McAndrews to hwy 3 and take that north into St. Paul. The trickiest part of the whole trip would be getting out of St. Paul. I’d take 7th street east to Arcade and go north on Arcade to where it turns into hwy 61.

I got to sleep sometime around 11:30 and woke up a few minutes before my alarm at 4:15am. Tammy got up and took some photos of me before I left.

She was rightly worried about me and afraid for my safety but we both believe in prayer so we prayed before I left. I rolled out a few minutes before sunrise at 5:24 and could tell that my legs felt good. Some days you know right away that your legs aren’t up to the challenge. I just wasn’t sure if they had what it would take for later in the day. I was on familiar roads for the first 25 miles but once I got to 7th street I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was rush hour now but I didn’t find the traffic to be all that bad. I found Arcade Street and headed north.

The shoulder of Arcade Street was scattered with pot holes and debris and I was anxious to get off it. I eventually did but not before picking up my one and only flat of the trip about 30 miles into the ride. I had that fixed in record time and was now on hwy 61.

I followed hwy 61 through the suburbs of St. Paul until I got to Hugo where I picked up a bike path which would carry me to North Branch. Normally I avoid bike paths as they don’t generally lend themselves to long distance riding but out in the country where I now was, it was some of the best riding I’d ever experienced. I could see the busy highway off to my right with its cracked and debris strewn shoulder and I was so thankful to be on such a smooth and clean path with no traffic. It was nice to put my mind on autopilot as I knew I’d need all my efforts to focus on getting through the later parts of my ride. I gave Mom a call but she wasn’t home so I left her a message because I knew she’d be wondering how I was doing.

It was nice to be out of the hustle of the cities and into the country. I had a light quartering tailwind of 5 to 10 mph which I was appreciative of. The sky was overcast which I was also enjoying. Having the hot sun on me all day would’ve grown tiring so I looked at this as a positive too.

The first larger city north of Hugo was Forest Lake. I brought my itty-bitty camera to snap photos along the way so I could bore you with them as I put this story together. I was hoping the pictures would add another dimension to the story…if they do, great. If they don’t, just ignore them.

Just south of Stacy, I gave Tammy a call to let her know how I was doing. I was really enjoying my ride and I think more than anything I wanted to share that with her. I could see 35w off in the distance to my left but all around me was tall prairie grass, wooded areas and the most inviting bike path you could imagine. I was curious how far the path went so I slowed and asked a couple women. They said it went all the way to Duluth. If that was true then I would have several hours of nothing but pure beauty. I only wish it were true.

When I got to North Branch the path abruptly ended. I went up the road a little further expecting to find the trail again but there wasn’t one. I started up hwy 30 which went in the direction I’d been going but I couldn’t be sure if I was really on the right road so I headed back and went east hoping to find the trail. After a few miles I’d made it back into town where I stopped at a gas station and was told there was no trail going north out of the city. Highway 30 was the same as hwy 61 so I got on it once again and began heading north having wasted 10 minutes being lost…sort of.

Highway 61 wasn’t the nice path I’d been on but it wasn’t bad at all. There was a nice 8 foot shoulder and little traffic. I pedaled steadily and found a nice rhythm. The few cities such as Harris, Rush City and Rock Creek were a nice diversion. I took my first break about 90 miles into my ride in Pine City. I sat on a pallet of Morton Salt and ate a sandwich watching people watch me. The little kids are cute as they’re not shy about looking at me in my strange outfit. They almost always smile.

Coming out of Pine City I encountered the worst roads of the trip. The sign said, ‘Road construction next 4 miles.’ The pavement had been ground down in preparation for a new layer and it made for a lousy surface to pedal on. The shoulder was a hard packed sand and gravel mix which I used instead. A few times the sand got very soft and I nearly lost control as my front tire dug into it. I spent my time alternating between the two surfaces. Just when I figured that 4 miles was about through I came upon another sign which said, “Road construction next 5 miles.’ I thought maybe it was better they broke the news to me in short increments rather than the whole 9 mile warning at one time. I could do another 5 miles but I was hoping I wouldn’t find another similar sign 5 more miles up the road. I didn’t.

I left the torn up road behind somewhere just north of Beroun and made my way to Hinckley. I knew for sure that the bike path resumed out of Hinckley and would take me roughly 50 miles to Carlton. I thought for a moment that I may never make it out of Hinckley as I had two people run stop signs and pull out in front of me at intersections. I didn’t see any signs for the bike path so I continued up hwy 61 and figured I’d see it sooner or later.

I came across the only jerk driver of the whole trip about this time when a woman in the oncoming lane yelled at me to get off the road. I politely waved back at her and proceeded to happen upon the bike path I’d been looking for. Ah, yes, back to the seclusion of the path. I liked it except that it often times wound its way through the woods and added miles to my trip when I really wanted a more direct route. For the most part it followed hwy 61 with the exception of maybe 10 miles where it wandered.

Tammy called to say they’d just gotten to Jackie’s and that they’d be leaving soon. She and Rachel stopped there to drop off Toby and Allie. I did some computations in my head to try and figure where on the road they might catch up with me. I thought somewhere north of Cloquet if they came straight through. As it turned out they would wind their way along hwy 61 following the same route I took so they could photograph the city signs. Tammy hasn’t outright told me but I have a hunch they’re putting together a scrapbook of my trip and they’ll use those photos.

My next stop was Finlayson. I figured I’d be in and out of the local gas station inside of 90 seconds but I figured wrong. The line was at least 5 people deep and it wasn’t moving. There was an older guy at the front of the line who was disputing the price of something and the younger gal behind the counter was seeking direction from the only other worker there. I put my bottle of Gatorade back in the cooler and went across the street where there was no line and a much better selection. I was tempted to tell those back at the other store still waiting in line of my good fortune at the Spur station but I was in too much of a hurry. Clipped in and rolling once again I’m back on the trail and closing in on Willow River.

It’s kind of a blur but I think Willow River is where I next stopped. I had to get out of my shoes and give my toes a chance to relax. I sat outside a Holiday station drinking my Gatorade and munching on a Chuckwagon sandwich. Yes, you can get away with eating such awful food when you ride.

The towns are passing by at the rate of one every 20 minutes or so. I breeze through Sturgeon Lake then find my way into Moose Lake where I lose the path and proceed to get lost…again. The signage telling you how to find where the path resumes was lousy at best as there was more than one bike path in town and I couldn’t tell which path the sign was referring to. Anyway, I go a few miles out of my way before I’m back on track and so glad to be headed in the right direction. The thought crosses my mind that I should just stay on the highway but I’m enjoying the solitude the path offers even if it does cost me a bit at times.

I’m cruising along with not much left of a tailwind but it’s still not a headwind. I’m steadily averaging 18.9 mph which over this distance is good. The sun broke out some time ago and the temp is in the upper 70s. It’s really a great day to be out here.

Tammy calls just as I’m getting into Carlton and helps me navigate my way off the bike path and back onto the highway as I head in the direction of Cloquet. I stopped in Carlton and refueled. If my memory is correct I’ve put in about 165 miles to this point but I’m still feeling good. I have to be careful not to become dehydrated or my performance will suffer.

I notice quite a few other riders with panniers coming from the direction of Cloquet. It appears to be some sort of organized ride but I never get the chance to talk with any of them. I approach Cloquet from the east and try to take a photo of the gas station in town which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The station is obscured by a tree which jumped in front of my camera. Oh well. I get through town only to find that hwy 33 is still under construction. There’s no shoulder, it’s late afternoon and it’s a bit busy out there. I dial the speed up to 30 and hold that while keeping a semi behind me at bay until the road opens up after a half mile.

Getting through Cloquet was a milestone for me. I’d imagined many times what it would feel like to be in that position while doing the ride to Babbitt. At about 180 miles I notice that the winds are beginning to pick up out of the northwest and I have to work a lot harder to maintain my speed. Tammy and Rachel are coming up on Finlayson and having a nice drive. I’m looking forward to seeing them.

About 30 miles out of Cloquet I pass through the town of Canyon and it’s then that I begin to feel that I may be bonking. If you’re not familiar with the term ‘bonk’, it’s when your muscles run out of their glycogen stores and your body switches over to burning fat for fuel. It’s a helpless feeling. You begin to get weak and your ability to make good decisions suffers. I put in a call to Tammy and ask her if she could stop and get me something from a fast food place in Cloquet. She’s just passing through Carlton so I begin to try and calculate how long I can hold on before I have to pull over and get something to eat and drink. Both my water bottles are empty. I figure we’ll rendezvous within the hour so I decide not to pull over. That was a mistake. I would have been better off stopping and getting some sugar in me so I could maintain my speed but I didn’t want to stop because I was worried I was running out of time to complete the ride…see what I mean about affecting your decision making ability?

When I was just north of Cotton Tammy called and said she was at mile marker 42. I was just coming up to a side road at mile marker 47 so I pulled over and waited for them. I was so happy to see them and the double cheeseburger they got for me. I sat on the tailgate of the truck while I ate and we talked about how the ride was going. I think they were a bit surprised at how dirty I’d become. My legs were filthy but that was mostly from the roads which were under construction. I’d come 208 miles to this point and I said I wasn’t sure if we had enough daylight for me to make it all the way to Babbitt. It’s amazing the spark they gave me…or was it the cheeseburger? I think it was a combination. Anyway, I started out again with renewed vigor and I could feel my strength coming back with each mile. Tammy would drive ahead a few miles and park while Rachel would get out and video tape me while I rode past. We did this a few times and I was relieved to see that they were both enjoying themselves. I had to smile when I saw them take off ahead of me and pull over so Rachel could jump out, take a picture of the city sign and hop back in. Rachel did a good job of photographing the journey.

Tammy would call me to see if I needed anything from the next town and if I did she would be waiting there for me. That helped a lot to minimize my time off the bike. Sometimes we’d go for a half hour or more without seeing each other but it was nice to know they were nearby should I need them.

Our usual route takes us along hwy 53 through Eveleth and into Virginia where we pick up hwy 169 but we would have to go another way due to construction on 169. Tammy decided it would be best for us to take the Gilbert exit which would take us through Gilbert, Biwabik and Aurora. It would likely add a few miles to the trip but she said it would be a beautiful drive and we would avoid the construction on 169. I agreed and said that I’d like to try and ride 250 miles and at that point we could load the bike into the truck and call it a day. I was losing hope of making it to Babbitt by sundown.

I’d looked forward to riding into Eveleth and Virginia but this would be as close as I would get. It was nice to turn off on the Gilbert exit as it took us out of the wind and I was able to bring the speed back up again. Tammy was gassing up the truck when I went through Gilbert. They passed me and waited for me about 9 miles up the road in Biwabik. I stopped and refueled again while we talked about how far I might make it. I mentioned that the town of Biwabik looks a bit like one of those Dept. 56 villages. Rachel said she knew I was going to say that…an inside joke. It’s a cute town. I told them I’d really like to see if we could make it to Embarrass. We’d pick up hwy 135 at Aurora and head north. I thought we could make it there by about 8:30 and that would put us at about 250 miles. I’d be happy with that and I wouldn’t feel so bad about not making it all the way to Babbitt because I initially thought it was going to be a 250 mile ride.

Highway 135 out of Aurora is a beautiful tree lined road with a nice shoulder for the most part. Tammy said it’s gorgeous in the fall with all the color. There was a steady climb out of Aurora and when I got to the top of the hill I stopped to eat a package of cakes Tammy bought me. I figured I was good for another 10 miles until I’d need to eat again.

I hadn’t seen Tammy and Rachel since leaving Biwabik 30 minutes earlier and I expected to see them each time I crested a hill or rounded a bend. I finally came upon them pulled over on the shoulder. Tammy said a police officer had just stopped to ask them if they were okay. She explained how they were shadowing me to Babbitt and that we’d come over 240 miles so far. I’d seen him pass me by a few miles earlier and I remember having this dazed feeling as it was just before I pulled over to snack.

I mentioned again how I’d be happy to make it to Embarrass and that we could pack it in then. I would sit in the bed of the truck as I was pretty dirty…remember my legs? We’d roll into Babbitt not quite the way I’d intended but it would still have been a very good day. Embarrass was about 6 miles up the road and I’d meet them there.

Tammy and Rachel were parked at the local gas station in Embarrass waiting for me but as I got into town I saw the sign for Babbitt…’Babbitt 14 miles’. I looked at my watch and it was around 8:30. I said, ‘Hey, we can make it!’ Tammy had this big grin as she’d just told Rachel that she knew I was going to say that. For some reason I thought Babbitt was 25 miles or so from Embarrass but I was wrong. I was very happy to be wrong. Tammy ran into the station to get me a candy bar and some Gatorade. She mentioned to the lady behind the counter what we were doing and then they both wanted me to come into the store so she could see my dirty legs. I didn’t mind as it was all becoming part of a day of memories I’ll never forget.

I wasn’t hungry but I ate the Snickers bar knowing I’d need it soon. There wasn’t much daylight left as the sun would be setting at 9:00. I didn’t really have to focus as hard as I figured I would at this late stage of the ride as I was actually feeling pretty good. It helped so much to have the interaction with Tammy and Rachel. I was surprised when about 6 miles from Tammy’s parent’s home I saw Tammy parked on a side road off the main highway with her dad parked next to her. They cheered me on as I went by and it felt good that I was going to make it. I said a few prayers about not flatting as the sun was down now and I was on borrowed time with just the ambient daylight.

I pulled over one last time a couple miles from home to give Tammy my sunglasses. We had a laugh as I nearly fell off my bike trying to get turned around in some sand. She cautioned me to take the bike path when I got to the golf course as we were quickly losing our light.

When I rounded the street for home I could see Tammy’s father standing on the street corner in front of their house with a couple young girls sitting next to him on the curb. I later asked him who they were and he said he didn’t know. He saw them walking by and told them there would be a guy pedaling his bike all the way from Minneapolis coming by in just a couple minutes…so they decided to wait and see as it was a slow night in Babbitt.

It was a great trip and I was glad to have arrived safely. I started out about 10 minutes before sunrise and finished around 15 minutes after sunset. I had a feeling the entire trip that I was going to need every bit of daylight to make it in time. Looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t have the strong breeze I’d hoped for to push me. Having been pushed there by the wind would take away from my effort and that would’ve been a somewhat hollow victory.

The total distance ridden was 266.27 miles at an average speed of 18.8 mph. Oh, and I did 4732 feet of climbing along the way. I hope you enjoyed the ride.