Tuesday, December 10, 2019

40 Years and Whatcha Doing This Afternoon?

I was discharged from the Navy 40 years ago today. How did that much time get away so quickly? I need to make an extended trip to San Diego (where I was stationed for most of my enlistment) and retrace some of my steps from all those years ago—preferably on two wheels. I have so many fond memories of my time spent on my bike in the greater San Diego area. I'm curious what sort of memories and emotions I would experience riding on those same roads again—roads that for the most part have changed little since I last rode them. I need to get more serious about making it happen before another 40 years get away from me. I've already got at least one route mapped out to ride.

Tammy and I spent Thursday celebrating her birthday. We drove up to Excelsior to check out the many shops that line the streets while on the lookout for a few gifts for people on our Christmas list. We found the best cafe tucked away inside a small complex of shops. It alone was worth the 35 minute drive up there.

After our time in Excelsior, we drove over to Stillwater for more of the same. We've done this same loop to Excelsior and Stillwater before on Tammy's birthday. It works well for us. We finished out the night at a wine tasting event. It was a full and enjoyable day.

Tammy and I were driving to Costco last Friday morning to pick up my car after having new tires mounted on it when I got a call from my brother Keith. After some small talk, he asked me what we were doing that afternoon. He'd called to invite us to take part in a small gathering of people at a bar in Northfield where he and Tracee were being married in a few hours. Their wedding was to be a private ceremony at Imminent Brewing but Keith was hoping we could join in the celebration after the wedding.

I hated to tell him that we already had plans. Had our plans been for only Tammy and me we would've canceled them but we were meeting our friends Joanie and Rob at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre to see Mama Mia. We couldn't back out.

We're so happy for Keith and Tracee. They make such a good couple. We need to make plans to meet up with them and have our own mini celebration together.

And speaking of Mama Mia—what a fun and funny show! We laughed a lot and all of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It's playing through the 3rd week in February. It was probably our 4th or 5th show we've seen at CDT and we've never come close to being the least bit disappointed by any of their productions. I'm in awe of the talent on the stage and all it must take to put on a production such as that. The dinners they serve are just so-so but the show more than makes up for it. 👍👍

I'm continuing to add to my Etsy shop as Christmas shopping heats up. I had 4 sales last week. I've tried in the past to come up with a simple design that I can produce relatively quickly (in comparison to some of my other pieces) to offer at a more reasonable price but each time I sit down to come up with such a design I get carried away and it becomes more complex than I'd intended. I finally succeeded. This is a design that I can knock out in a reasonable amount of time and sell for a more affordable price. I made 5 of them in the last few days.

Tammy and I were going to skip setting up our Christmas tree this year but Sunday morning she had a change of heart and asked if I wouldn't mind getting it down out of the loft in our garage and setting it up. I was happy to. We've both moved away from showy Chrismas decorations inside and outside of our home but not so much that we don't still enjoy the look of our tree glowing in the corner of our sunporch.

That's all I've got.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Winter Has Definitely Arrived!

I was on a gravel ride last Sunday that took me past one of the golf courses I frequent—Boulder Pointe in Elko. I noticed they were still open and was somewhat surprised to see that considering how late in the season it is. I called the clubhouse when I got home to see if they were going to be open the next day. They assured me they would be. I got my clubs out of storage and planned to play one last round the next day in the breezy, cool conditions the forecast had promised. It had been two weeks since I last played.

I got to the course a little after 10:00 on Monday morning and saw only two other cars in the lot. I got my clubs out of my car and made my way up the steps of the clubhouse to present my PCC card to the attendant at the front desk. I tugged on the door to find it was locked before noticing the sign to the left.


I walked back to my car while going through the Rolodex of courses in my head that may still be open so I could get in one last fix for the year. Just as I popped the rear hatch on my Forester, the golf course manager rolled up in his golf cart and told me nobody had called to make a tee-time and that he'd just put up the "closed" sign a few minutes ago and that he'd pulled all of the flags off the greens but if I still wanted to play I could. I didn't hesitate to tell him I'd love to. He said there were only two other golfers on the course and they were just finishing the 16th hole. I would be the last player for the year at Boulder Pointe. I kinda liked that.

I found a nice rhythm to my game and tried as much as I could to live in the moment, reminding myself what a blessing it was to be out there. I have a friend who lives off the 2nd fairway and I texted him to see if he was available to join me. He replied: "Diehard. I like it. Good luck out there. Stay warm and don't hit em thin." By the time I finished the front nine my car was the only one in the lot.

I spent several hours on Tuesday making one last sweep of our yard for leaves ahead of a major snowstorm. Monday's strong west winds had filled our yard with leaves. Again. I love the look of a leaf-free yard and I love before and after photos.

(Blog continues below.)

Winter has definitely arrived! We've had off-and-on snow for the past couple of days.

We made a trip to Rochester last night to help celebrate Jenny's 60th birthday (Drew's mother). It was a very nice time but we had to make tracks for home sooner than we'd like to have because of continued falling snow. I hadn't done that kind of white-knuckle driving in a while. It was extremely slippery conditions. For a drive that typically takes us 1:15, it took us 1:55. It didn't help that my tires have 59,000 miles (95,000 km) on them so they didn't provide the best footing. I went out to Costco today to place an order for a set of 80k Michelins.

I've done so little riding at the river bottoms lately. I avoided them most of last winter due to ice and I wasn't down there at all this past spring, summer and fall due to flooding. I finally made it back yesterday morning and had such a nice time. There's an easy flow to the trails there, making it the perfect place to lose yourself in thought or no thoughts at all. Video embedded below.

Rachel and Drew stopped by tonight on their way back from visiting Rachel's sister Amy. They were rear-ended as they were on the ramp from eastbound Hwy 62 to southbound I-35W. Rachel was traveling at 30 mph in slippery conditions when a white SUV hit them from behind and veered off the shoulder. Rachel pulled over while the SUV backed up, took off and sped past them. Drew was able to get a photo of it as well as its license plate number. It was too slippery for any kind of chase. Rachel's rear bumper suffered some damage but she and Drew are fine. They phoned the incident into the police when they got here.

My Etsy site has been quiet for the past few months but I had two sales yesterday. I was up early filling those orders to get them out in today's mail. One of the panels that sold is a style I've sold the most of—I would guess I've moved at least 5 of them. I think I know what I'll be working on tomorrow. Here's my most recent addition to my Etsy store.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Good Neighbors and a New Wifi Password

I spent the better part of the past two months going through each entry in my blog to ensure that photo links (previously directed at my soon-to-be-defunct websites) now point to my Google Photos where they should live on indefinitely and at no cost to me. I'm glad to have that job behind me because dead links in any blog, especially mine, cause me to frown.

I was sidelined for more than a week recently with some sort of virus that sapped nearly every last bit of energy from me as my body tried to fight it. Fortunately, that doesn't happen very often to me. Whatever it was has settled in my chest where it's reluctant to give up the fight but I'm doing much better overall. I was laying in bed last Monday trying to get up the energy to go out and vacuum up leaves one last time to have them out for the compost truck the next morning. I heard the sound of a lawnmower outside my window and figured it was our neighbors. I looked out to see that it was Mark working in our yard. I hurried to get outside to help him but he waved me off and insisted I go back in and rest. I put up no fight. Good neighbors are a blessing.

I was finally able to get out for a walk yesterday afternoon and feel the sun on my face. It was nice. And Charlie is happy that we've resumed our walks so he can check his p-mail.

Our country remains in a state of conflict with people choosing sides as we head down the road to the impeachment of Trump*. Congress spent the last two weeks taking testimony from State Department officials and others about what they observed from their positions on the inside while Republicans and conservative media asked us to not believe what our eyes and ears were telling us and to instead focus on a false narrative that Republicans were pushing on behalf of Vladimir Putin—that it was the Ukranian government that interfered in the 2016 election and nothing else appeared to matter. You couldn't script this and expect people to believe it, yet, here we are.

Trump* has blocked key witnesses to his alleged crimes from testifying, instructing them to defy subpoenas with promises of protection for anyone who fears legal retribution. What I don't understand and have yet to hear any of his defenders explain is why a man would work so hard to discredit an investigation that would surely prove his innocence? But hey, it worked for Mueller's investigation.

I was struck by the irony of so many immigrant State Department officials testifying before Congress, seemingly more concerned with our democracy and Constitution than those who looked down their noses at them from their lofty seats in the chamber and castigated them for daring to speak against the President.

I'm also struck by the fact that this is the same Republican Party who impeached Bill Clinton for lying about an affair—that lying about an affair was where they drew the line then but it's a meer yawner when a President abuses his power by withholding nearly $400,000,000 in promised and approved military assistance to a country in exchange for publically sullying the reputation of his chief rival in the upcoming election. I honestly don't know how one gives a pass to that.

I remind myself that there was only 30% approval for Nixon's impeachment when the Watergate hearings began but that number slowly grew over time as witnesses exposed a more sinister side to the man. It's my hope that Democrats have a plan to ensure that there's public testimony from all of the key players in this mess so that when the Senate gives a pass to Trump*, the voting public will have a full understanding when election day comes around for why he and his entire administration should be turned out.

On a brighter note: I finally made it back down into my glass studio a few days ago to knock out a piece for my Etsy store. It was so nice to be down there again losing myself in the process of bringing a piece to life. Temps are expected to be in the mid-40s tomorrow so I'm feeling torn about spending the day working on a stained glass project or possibly trying to battle the wind to play golf or ride. I suppose I could do both.

That's all I've got, well, except for this. 😁 Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 11, 2019

No Thanks Needed and Changing Lanes

I was telling a friend today that I'm somewhat self-conscience when anyone thanks me for my military service (not that it happens very often) because I didn't enlist out of a sense of patriotism. I enlisted because I was a kid who had no plan but knew enough that I couldn't continue working dead-end jobs. I don't think I should be thanked for that. Enlisting in the Navy was simply a card I played from a hand that made little sense at the time. But it was a good card to play and I'm grateful I did.

I wrote about my decision to commit to a 4-year enlistment six months out of high school in a series of blog posts beginning with this link. It was an enjoyable series of posts to write as I recalled so many memories (aided by a journal I'd kept) from my time in the Navy.

I'm not much for expressions of patriotism but that's just me. I respect those who feel otherwise. Still, thanks to all who have served and thanks to their families for keeping the home fires lit in their absence.

My brother Keith and his business partner are in the process of closing their cabinet business after some 30 years together. They sold the building they work out of last week and will continue making cabinets in their same location for another 6 months while they look for a buyer for the business. I'm happy for them both. Keith is the hardest working guy I've ever known and I'm glad that he's going to be able to move over into a slower lane for a change. He's earned it.

I took part in Random Relay 2.0 last Saturday morning at the West Lake Marion single-track MTB trails with the guys from Silver Cycling and others. It was a relay race put on for the purpose of raising money for trail grooming equipment for the WLM trails. It was a lot of fun—so much fun that I have no idea what place our team finished in.

That's all I've got

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Halloween Cuteness and Cutting the Cable

We had 44 little ones ring our doorbell Halloween night. That's up quite a lot from last year when we only had 33. I find them all to be so adorable. The highlight of our night was a group of 4 girls (3-4 years old) who paused in front of our inflatable Dracula to wait for him to show his face. They screamed and laughed when he did then waited for him to make another appearance. It was so cute to watch. (Thanks for the photo, Natalie.)

We received our bill from Spectrum Cable (formerly Charter) in the mail this week. Our monthly rates had risen from $248 to $262 for our not very extravagant cable package. This most recent increase was the one that finally put us over the edge and prompted us to call and cancel our cable service (we'll remain with Spectrum for the internet). We've been toying with the idea of leaving Spectrum for more than a year but the inconvenience of switching over to some other form of service or provider seemed daunting.

It wasn't at all.

I disconnected all 6 of our cable boxes and Tammy and I brought them over to Spectrum's outlet on Friday morning. We then went to Best Buy and purchased a bunch of Roku Streaming Sticks for $45 each that allow us to stream to all but one of our TV sets. It's a much simpler process than I was expecting it to be. We couldn't be happier having made the switch.

If you're considering cutting the cable, take a look at YouTube TV. It's a little more than $50 per month and it provides us with pretty much all of the programs we were enjoying before with Spectrum—plus, the service provides unlimited storage for recording shows. Our bill is now closer to $113 per month than the $262 it would've cost us to remain with Spectrum (not including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO Now which we already had. This is just an apples to apples comparison using YouTube TV in place of Spectrum Cable.)

I was going to spend the afternoon working in the yard vacuuming up leaves but an invitation to golf proved too strong to turn down. I met Steve at Oneka Ridge Golf Course late this morning for 21 holes of golf. We extended our stay by 3 holes because it was too nice out to call it quits. That will likely be Steve's last time on the links this year but I'm hoping to get out one last time tomorrow at Crystal Lake. I called and they said they'd be open tomorrow but that it's anybody's guess after Monday. My rider works fine in the dark.

I finally made it back to the trails at Murphy Hanrehan Park earlier in the week. I was so overdue for some time there. If I wasn't into golfing I'd likely spend more time there but the increased chance for an injury (I have some history in that regard) to sideline me from golfing is always a looming thought when I'm riding singletrack. Golf is winding down now so it's time to take advantage of this remarkable mountain bike playground 6 miles (10 km) from home.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Gone Too Soon and an Impressively Frightening Makeover

My dad would've turned 94 today had he not passed away so soon, 6 weeks shy of his 70th birthday due to emphysema.

There was a side to him that he was never comfortable opening-up about—mostly related to his childhood and losing both of his parents at an early age. I respect that decision of his to keep that to himself. I do wish, though, that I had been closer to him. I didn't need to know the details of his past but I would've liked to have had a more meaningful relationship with him.

I can't recall the two of us ever sitting down and talking about how I was doing; what were my interests or plans for my future. I was so in need of his guidance and assurance but that need seemed lost on him. With 5 other siblings contending for his time in addition to his frequent business trips away for days on end, I suppose we all just accepted what little he could give us in the way of attention. But having said all that, he did offer sage advice to me when I needed it most after I was offered my job with the FAA. It was my dad who suggested I take the job offer when I was unsure about what to do—that I could always quit the FAA and return to college if that's what I really wanted. It was some of the best advice he ever gave me as well as some of the only advice he'd ever offered me and for that, I am grateful.

The last 5 years of his life were especially difficult for him, tethered to an oxygen tank where even the most basic tasks had become arduous. He had occasionally tried to shake his smoking habit over the years but I don't think he ever managed more than a few days smoke-free. He tried to substitute a pipe for his Winston cigarettes in the late '60s but that too was shortlived. I saw his passing as more of a relief than a time of sadness, especially for my mother who was there to tend to his every need in his final years. She loved him dearly.

Rachel and Drew's Halloween costumes were quite sick, as in, I think they need a doctor! It's not the first time she's pulled off this effect. She's getting quite good at it. It's a combination of latex, toilet paper, and fake blood along with some of her own makeup, she said. It's all layered until the desired look is achieved. She told me that her makeover took about 45 minutes and Drew's took a half-hour. As an added bonus, their contacts glowed in blacklight. Impressive!

I'm up to 64 leaf bags this year. Yes, I actually track that meaningless stuff. I'll have a few more to add to the total after tomorrow's yard work.

Charlie isn't too happy about a Halloween display along one of the routes we walk. He always has to stop and voice his displeasure.

Our Tuesday night and Saturday morning gravel rides are drawing to a close with the colder temps and lack of daylight. I have enjoyed these rides so much these past several months since diving into the world of gravel riding. It's everything and more than I was expecting. I've also made several new friends along the way. Win-win!

That's all I've got.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Chilling, Protesting, and Riding

I had my day fully planned. I was going to process some video from last night's ride then head off to the links by mid-morning. Charlie would get his walk in the afternoon before Tammy and I left on a dinner date with friends. The golf part of my day has been canceled and I'm sitting here chilling on the couch with Charlie and Dublin—my sister Claudia's cute little Yorkie with a cockeyed ear.

I got the video processed but that's it. I'm content to watch the world pass me by today. I need to allow for more of this in my life. I golfed yesterday so that itch has been scratched.

I was thinking recently how when I was working, I was always checking to see what time it was as I attempted to stay on task to get done whatever needed getting done before I had to leave for work. It's nice not to have that urgency about my days anymore but honestly, a little bit of urgency to jump-start the day can be a good thing.

We made arrangements to meet some friends and take the light rail into Minneapolis to protest Trump's* rally at Target Center a little more than a week ago. Fortunately, the rain held off but we were prepared and determined to make a showing regardless of whether the rain did or not.

As we were boarding the light rail I was tapped on the shoulder from behind. A friend from work, Chet, was traveling into the city for Trump's* visit as well. He would be observing it from inside Target Center. It had been 4 years since I'd last seen Chet. We'd both stopped following one another on Facebook a while back. We spent part of the ride catching up on each other's lives. It was nice to see him again. We got off the light rail and resumed our separate paths. It's a microcosm of what's become of our country.

Tammy wasn't one to stay put once we got to the protest gathering outside of Target Center. She was off and running with her cellphone in hand taking photos. I put together a collection of both hers and mine for the video embedded below.

I'm in full fall cleanup mode now but you'd never know it by looking at our yard. I vacuumed up all of the leaves a few days ago but they're back again, taunting me to rid our yard of them once more but I'm not taking the bait. I've got a blog entry to write. While blowing out our underground irrigation system I noticed that zone 5 had a major leak somewhere but I couldn't locate it without charging the system with water again. I found a guy blowing out lines nearby with an air compressor hooked to his truck. For a quick $20 he was happy to hook his commercial-grade air compressor to my line and easily locate the source of my leak. I fixed it the next day.

I've been doing less riding the past month and it shows. I can feel my form slipping away. I've been missing from the gravel scene in Northfield for the past few weeks but I was able to make it last night, lousy form and all. It was a good workout. We're finishing our rides well after sunset as you'll see in the video below. Always a fun time.

That's all I've got.