Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mind Drift

I spent most of Thursday working in the yard and came to the conclusion that it's past time to replace the edging around a couple of our trees. It no longer looks attractive since the trees and their surface roots have distorted it. My plan is to make a much broader, irregular shape edging to replace the old ones and fill them in with plants and shrubs like the other islands around our yard. I thought about doing it yesterday but I came to my senses and went riding instead.

I was overdue for a long ride.

I waited for the temp to warm enough so I didn't need to wear anything other than my summer gear. I got away at 11:15 into a sunny day with a breeze from the southeast and the temp in the mid 60's. I don't understand why but with my reduced mileage my knees have been much more sore than usual. I've experienced this before. When I dial my summer mileage up to the usual 300-500 miles a week my knees seem fine. I'm averaging less than 200 miles a week now and the soreness in my knees has me riding much less aggressively than I'm used to. I would think it would be the reverse of what it is.

I'd intended to ride to Redwing with the winds out of the southeast as they were but the forecast had them becoming more southerly later in the day. I always try to plan my ride so I've got the wind at my back on the return. I decided to head toward Le Sueur instead where I'd then track east toward Montgomery to position myself for a direct tailwind on the push home.

My ride came to an abrupt halt when I got to Shakopee and found myself among a long line of cars waiting for what was probably one of the longer trains I've ever seen. I should've turned back and taken a different route through town but I kept thinking that the caboose would be in view any second. My Garmin told me I spent over 7 minutes waiting for it to clear. I'm too patient sometimes.

I opted for the quietness of county road 40 and worked that toward Belle Plaine. I found a nice rhythm and let my mind wander. I hate it when I'm on a ride and my thoughts keep turning to work but that's where they kept going on this stretch of road. I was thinking about a briefing I'd attended earlier in the week which had to do with error reporting and a kinder, much less punitive approach toward controllers that the FAA is about to embark on. It's a good thing in my opinion but there are many of us who have a lot of trust issues with turning ourselves in to management when we mess up and that's only being smart in the current environment management has created. For this program to work there needs to be a good amount of trust from controller toward management but trust has been a rare commodity of late.

Twice in my briefing it was mentioned that controllers are at the razor's edge of critical decision making. The further one gets away from the job being done behind the radar scope the less critical the decisions become with respect to safety. I get that and agree wholeheartedly with it. But yet, management sees fit to marginalize the job a controller does by capping their pay as we're in the 3rd year of a 5 year pay freeze while management continues to receive raises. Did I mention here before that of the 1,800,000 federal employees only air traffic controllers have had their pay capped and we number less than 15,000? Go figure.

A controller recently made the mistake of saying in an editorial on Focus FAA that air traffic controllers are the backbone of the FAA. He took a good amount of heat for it and deservedly so in my opinion. I think that maybe what he meant to say was that a majority of jobs within FAA are there to support the person sitting at the sector separating aircraft. I don't think it's much of a reach to conclude that nor is it intended to diminish anybody else's work by saying that; it's simply the way it is.

With that in mind, why is it that of all the people in the FAA, it's been the controller on the front lines in that 'razor's edge' position who has been the target of so much harassment and ridicule the past few years? Wouldn't you think that of all people you would want to keep focused on the task at hand it would be the controller? I speak from experience but I'm certainly not alone. There are other good, dedicated controllers who have suffered similar harassment for no reason other than people abusing their position.

Gerald Lavey has once again penned another opinion piece suggesting that it's time for all of us to make peace. No kidding but why now? Why not three years ago when management set out with their scorched earth agenda in hand and declared war on air traffic controllers? I saw Lavey's article Tuesday morning at work and quickly sent off a response not thinking that it could possibly make it in time for Focus FAA's weekly post of editorial comments to be published that same day but surprisingly it did.

My main hope is that those who have been appointed by Obama to lead this administration are truly paying attention to what is being said. I also wish there were more people speaking out; so many that we couldn't possibly be ignored. We'll know soon enough as both sides are currently in talks to hammer out an actual contract which restores fairness to the men and women who put their very careers on the line each time they plug into a sector.

I got to Le Sueur and took a seat on a pile of salt bags outside the door of the Holiday station while I refueled. My knees were no longer aching as they'd been earlier in the ride and I was thankful for that. I picked up Lexington Rd out of Le Sueur and took that east toward Montgomery. There would be no more headwind for the rest of the ride.

I was finally getting to put my new seat to the test. I'd purchased a Selle SMP Evolution saddle last fall but was having no success finding comfort with it. The pressure it puts on the sit-bones was too focused and my butt simply couldn't adapt. I bought a Koobi PRS Alpha after reading a recommendation from a cross country racer written on a forum I frequent. I took a chance. It's easily the best saddle I've ever used. With my Selle, I always knew the saddle was there. I don't notice my Koobi at all; it's that good. The yellow and black inserts in the rear of the seat are spongy shock absorbers. They come in varying densities depending on your weight. Five out of five stars for this saddle!

Lenny from work lives just off highway 13 in Prior Lake and he's mentioned to me a few times that I should stop by his place when I'm riding by as I'm on that stretch of road often enough. I doubled back on 170th street and made my way toward Lenny's house. I found him out by the pool and he went about showing me the projects he's working on; his garden, landscaping, deck, pool and garage. He's got enough to keep him busy for the next few summers. He recently made the switch to the same end of the week I work so it's been nice getting to know him better.

I took off from Lenny's with 101 miles completed and with a goal of 120 before I'd bring it home which is what I ended the ride with. I'd like to shoot for 150 miles in the next few weeks before setting out on a double century sometime in late June when I've got the most daylight.

But, before I can work on my cycling goals there's a couple of trees in our yard that need my attention. First things first.

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