Sunday, January 17, 2016

Retirements And A Remedy

Barry Vig had his retirement party yesterday afternoon at Celts Pub in Farmington. It was a nice turnout of both people from the workplace and his friends outside of work. I arrived just as Keith and Tracee were getting there. I apologize for the fuzzy photo. I was using the panoramic feature on my phone in marginal light conditions. You can maybe make out Barry toward the back right of the photo wearing a gray sweater and sipping a drink. I totally forgot about getting a photo with him.

It was interesting talking with some friends I used to work with and to hear how they're managing with the continued exodus of controllers opting to retire. Staffing levels are down considerably from a few years ago and at levels not seen since the days of recovering from the PATCO strike of August, 1981. They expect staffing levels to bottom out sometime in the next 18 months. There's a ton of training to do and Minneapolis Center currently has the highest washout rate of any similar facility in the country. That hurts.

Several other controllers also retired this past month: Jon Otto, Todd Amerman, Kim Bowe and Danny Reinders. Come on in...the water's fine! (Ha! I'm just barely wet myself but I believe I'm qualified to say that.)

I think I may have solved my dilemma of frozen toes that result from riding for 90 minutes in sub-zero temperatures and no, it doesn't involve staying inside. (I can read your minds!)

I went out to Gander Mountain to pick up some toe warmers to go with my Vasque boots and the salesman who was pointing me in the direction of the warmers suggested I consider some heated insoles. Say what? Gander Mountain sells them? I had heard about something similar several years ago for cycling but at around $600 I figured the pain to my wallet would be significantly worse than the pain of frozen toes. He showed me a display of ThermaCELL Heated Insoles that go for around $180 and added that he sells hundreds of them. I took his word for it, found my size and made my way to the checkout.

When I got home I went online to Amazon to see if they had any reviews on what I'd just purchased. They did and unfortunately they weren't all that good plus the price through Amazon was considerably cheaper. I opted to return them before using them, possibly making a return more difficult and instead bought the insoles through Amazon where I think I'd stand a better chance of getting a refund after using them should they not live up to the hype. Did I mention they were considerably cheaper through Amazon? (Yes, I'm somewhat conflicted about deciding to use Amazon and stiff a local store but $45 is $45 to this newly minted pensioner.)

Anyway, I was able to try them over the last few days and while they aren't the game-changer I was hoping they'd be, their benefit is noticeable. I was out this morning in temps ranging from -10ºf to -3ºf (-23ºc to -20ºc for my metric friends) for not quite two hours and between my heated insoles and the disposable toe warmers I had no problems whatsoever with frozen toes. In those temps I'm usually more than ready to pack it in after 90 minutes. I don't think that either the heated insoles or the toe warmers by themselves would've been enough.

Isn't my blog just the most interesting site!?

Surprisingly I didn't have the trails to myself this morning. There was one other fat-biker and his dog as well as two runners taking advantage of a beautiful winter day.

I've been riding a lot lately; 15 of the last 17 days. I remember how before I retired I'd often dream of being able to wake up and get out on my bike in the morning with no reason (such as work) to have to hurry home for; to be able to take the day as it unfolds and shape it the way I want to. This is nice.

Where will tomorrow take me?


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