Sunday, February 9, 2020

A Winter Wonderland and Cycling Without Age

I've been neglecting my stained glass art for the past 5 weeks as I find myself enjoying our Minnesota winter like maybe never before. It began when I studded the tires on my fat-bike and took to the trails; something I've not been able to do the past few winters because of ice and a promise to my doctor that I wouldn't get too crazy on my bike knowing that head injuries and coumadin don't play well together. It also helps that we've had some very reasonable temps for being outdoors—just a few degrees below freezing for the most part.

I woke up this morning to see that we were living in a snow globe. It was beautiful! This winter finds me looking forward to snow in the forecast, whereas recent winters not so much—even the 8" (20 cm) variety of snowfalls we received overnight and today is perfectly fine with me. I waited for the snow to stop before clearing our drive and walkways then I suited up to snowshoe the river trails.

I arrived to see that several fat-bikes had already begun to reestablish the trail so I did my best to work the outer edges of the track with my snowshoes to add some width to what was already there. I considered bringing some tunes along but music would only disrupt the solitude of the river bottoms on this beautiful late afternoon. My thoughts and my surroundings were the only entertainment I'd need. I may try and make it back tomorrow with my bike.

Some photos from my hike.

I saw a featured segment on a local newscast last spring or summer about a program called Cycling Without Age (CWA) where volunteers (aka pilots) take elderly and disabled people on bicycle rides using a rickshaw, or in this case, a trishaw. There was a new chapter of the program in St. Paul and the news segment featured the man who'd organized it. The program has its roots in Denmark where Ole Kassow began it there in 2012. I'll let Ole explain CWA in detail in the video below.

I tried to contact the man I saw in the video on the local newscast but I never received a reply (I'm guessing my email ended up in his spam folder). CWA is something I think I would love to be a part of and fortunately for me, I have some friends in Northfield that I ride with who are beginning a chapter of the program in their city, about a half-hour drive away for me. And not only that but there's also a chapter being formed in Lakeville (where I live) that I've committed to helping out. From all I can see, it's an excellent volunteering opportunity for me

I attended a CWA presentation in Northfield two nights ago featuring none other than Ole and his partner Pernille from Denmark. They literally travel the globe putting on presentations for cities where people have expressed an interest in opening a chapter, and luckily for my friends in Northfield, they were able to have Ole and Pernille schedule a stop in their city after having done a presentation in Rochester earlier in the day.

They told stories of people living in care facilities who were somewhat reluctant to climb aboard the trishaw but once they were out on the road feeling the wind in their face, they came alive and absolutely loved the experience. But more importantly, Ole and Pernille talked about how the trishaw is actually just a tool, a tool used to create an environment where those, oftentimes living out the twilight of their lives, can feel validated as they chat with the pilot who is providing the ride and recall for them memories from their youth. Their lives have a newfound meaning they might not otherwise have for the time spent with their pilot. Relationships are formed and future rides give them something to look forward to. How awesome is that?!

Ole and Pernille spent most of last week in Minnesota with a trip into Wisconsin yesterday before returning to Copenhagen this afternoon. It's truly an amazing thing they're doing!

After their presentation two nights ago, we went out for beers and a bite to eat while getting to know them better and learning even more about their organization. I'm impressed by all I've seen and heard.

If this is something that interests you, please know that there's no requirement to be a strong cyclist to volunteer as a pilot. The trishaws are actually e-bikes with a motor and powerful battery to aid in propelling the bike. I'm excited about it and am looking forward to being a part of Cycling Without Age!

The video below is from a ride I did a week ago with the guys from Michael's Cycles in Chaska. Check out the pup in the video. She had a blast out there!

That's all I've got.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Goodbye Sweet Sue

Sue, my brother's wife, and life partner passed away in their home with family at her side late this morning at 11:00 Pacific time after a nearly 5-year struggle with cancer. They were married for more than 47 years and together for more than 50.

I was just a boy when she came into our family. I've added two videos at the end of this post from those early years where Sue can be seen in her early 20s.

I admired her for her never-wavering faith and for her kindness toward others. Sue also had a keen eye for design and turned that into her profession. She was always such a sweet and beautiful presence to be around.

Tammy and I took a trip out west to see Sue and Bryan (aka Dave) where they live near Portland in the spring of 2018 while Sue's cancer was in remission. We had such a nice time and are so thankful for having made the trip. We will miss her greatly.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Mark Kooiman, a Mini Reunion and Movin' On

I got word last week that Mark Kooiman passed away just weeks after his 60th birthday. Mark and I worked together in the late '80s to early '90s but our paths then diverged and we saw very little of each other after that. That wasn't uncommon working in the kind of 24-hour facility we worked in. Mark was a quiet type who mostly kept to himself. I didn't know him well but still, it was shocking and sad news to learn. I've looked for Mark's obituary but I haven't been able to find it.

I was out riding on Monday and feeling like I should've stayed home. My adrenal gland was still in its prednisone induced slumber and I had so little energy since coming off the drug 6 days earlier. I tell myself that by forcing my body to workout, I'm encouraging my adrenal gland to re-engage. I doubt it works that way but it's what motivates me to get off the couch. I was back down riding the trails again Wednesday afternoon and I felt so much better. The old me had returned and I was feeling normal again as well as thankful. There's some video of Wednesday's ride embedded below.

Keith McKay and Cindy came into town for a few days last week from where they live in Fort Worth, TX. Keith and I worked together early in our careers before he transferred to a different area and then years later to Albuquerque Center. I'd lost touch with Keith for a number of years until we reconnected 5 or 6 years ago. We tried to get a mini-reunion of friends together but we were mostly unsuccessful. Still, a few of us met at Mall of America for dinner and conversation Monday evening. It was nice to do some catching up. It was fun seeing how none of us has aged at all. It's amazing how that works!

The 3rd time turned out to not be the charm I was hoping it would be when I placed yet another order for a lava lamp. I'd returned the previous two because of cloudiness that wouldn't clear up. I wasn't going to bother ordering another but then I noticed the price of them had dropped to $25 so I figured, why not? I was disappointed to see that this latest one was also cloudy but rather than send it back, I decided to see if I could use a remedy I'd found online from others who had experienced the same problem. It sort of worked but the blue food coloring I used to color the water was nowhere near the original color I was trying to achieve. I ended up adding some other colors to see what would happen and I eventually settled on a reddish/purple color. The video doesn't quite capture the actual color. At least it's clear.

Tammy and I drove down to see Drew's band play at a bar/restaurant in Rochester on Friday night. They've played a number of gigs there but it'll soon be closing so we wanted to be sure and see them play because we're not sure when we'll get the chance again. My favorite song of theirs, Movin' On, written by Clay their lead guitarist is embedded below. It was a song that I instantly liked the first time I heard it a couple years ago.

We try and take in the Lake Harriet Annual Kite Festival each year if it's not too cold. The temperature was ideal this year (for late January) but the winds weren't quite strong enough to get the larger kites aloft. The kids didn't seem to mind as you can see in the video below. If you have little ones and you want to take them to a fun event, put this kite festival on your calendar.

That's all I've got

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Schitt's Creek and Prednisone Blues

I received a message last week through my Etsy account from a couple in Michigan inquiring if I'd be interested in making 4 smallish stained glass panels for them. They gave me some ideas of what they were after based on some examples they found on my Etsy site. I opened my DeltaCad program and proceeded to sketch a design that I thought might appeal to them. It did. We exchanged a few more messages to iron out the details and then I got busy breathing life into their request.

I've had other inquiries for custom work through Etsy but never one that resulted in someone commissioning me to do a project for them. It was a good experience to walk through the process of putting an order together, completing it and sending it off. Honestly, tho, I have to be careful about commission work because it's not the same as when I'm producing work that I'm moved to make. I don't suppose I have much to worry about in that regard.

I can't say enough good things about Etsy. I could never imagine a better way of being able to showcase my artwork and offer it for others to purchase. And the cost to sell on the platform is very reasonable.

I've been binge-watching Schitt's Creek on Netflix. I started watching it a few months ago but didn't get very far into it before moving on. Tammy watched it and loved it so I thought I'd give it another try. The writing is brilliant! Seriously, if you're looking for something funny and lighthearted, this is it. Check it out. My favorite character is Alexis. They're all good but she's so believable in her role.

Is it wrong for a guy in his 60s to love his lava lamp? I've had one for the last 30+ years and while it still works well, the lamp's glass is becoming etched. I purchased a new one recently and I'm really happy with it. I ordered another in a different color scheme from the same manufacturer but it's cloudy and shows no signs of clearing up. This is actually the 2nd one like this that I've bought and they've both been cloudy. It looks like I'll be sending this one back as well. Is the 3rd time a charm?

My headaches have run their course and I'm no longer carrying around a dose of Imitrex in my shirt pocket. It's been 10 days since they left and I've spent the past week weaning myself off prednisone, the drug I use as a prophylactic during a headache cycle. I'm done with the drug as of this morning and am patiently waiting for my adrenal gland to wake from its prednisone-induced slumber and begin to once again produce the cortisol my body needs. Until that time, fatigue has me more or less sidelined—at least for today, anyway.

I'd planned to spend a good part of my day riding the fresh snow on the trails along the river bottoms but it's not happening with my energy levels ebbing as they are. That's okay. I had a good week last week riding the trails at Murphy, Lebanon, and the river bottoms. Between them all, I had 144 miles of fat-bike bliss thanks in part to my newly studded tires.

I've taken a pass on adding studs to my tires until now because of the cost which was typically around $1 per stud. With 320 studs per pair of wheels, it gets a bit spendy and I was content to ride indoors. But they've come down considerably in price and now cost about 1/3 of what they used to. It's nice to be riding outdoors again and I'm so impressed with how my studded tires handle on both the slick trails and icy lakes. I've been enjoying my fatty as much as ever. I hope to be back doing my thing again tomorrow, energy levels willing.

That's all I've got

Thursday, January 2, 2020

2019 By The Numbers And Goodbye Old Friend

I'm on a sardine kick lately. I know, I'm weird. I hadn't had a can of sardines in dozens of years until a few weeks ago. I was strolling the aisles at Cub Foods when I spied the sardine section and for whatever reason, I placed a few cans in my cart. Tammy gave me a sideways glance when she saw my purchase after returning home. Fast-forward to a few days ago when I was back at Cub to replenish my disappeared sardine supply—I think I must've had 20 cans in my cart. I'm at the checkout bagging my groceries when the guy ringing up my order yells down to me, "What's up with all the sardines!?" "I like 'em!" was my quick reply. And I do! I'm glad I wasn't buying 20 packs of condoms.

I continue to add to my inventory of stained glass sun-catchers (my most recent creation) but I think I'm about to focus my attention on the openings above our main-level cabinets and come up with a design for stained glass panels for them. There are 15 panels in total to be done. I've got some ideas kicking around in my head but I've yet to sit down and sketch something out.

There will be no New Year's resolutions for me. There never are.

My riding mileage goal going into 2019 was 5000 miles (8000 km). While I met my goal, a lot of those miles were done on my indoor trainer, and while it gives me a great workout, it gives me credit for going faster than I otherwise would on the road. But even factoring that in, I surpassed my goal. I'll use the same goal of 5000 miles this year. I suppose that's a resolution of sorts.

2019 by the numbers (thanks to my Garmin devices):

road bike: 1200 miles
fatbike: 90 miles
gravel bike: 2097 miles
Kickr Core (indoor trainer): 2346 miles
total: 5733 miles
Elliptical: 74 miles
golfing: 279 miles
walks with Charlie: 198 miles
treadmill: 69 miles
walking: 207 miles

I've been reluctant to do any outdoor riding while I'm still in my cluster headache phase for fear of an attack while I'm out on the trails. I carry an Imitrex nasal spray with me but those don't always work and the last thing I want is to be far removed from a place to comfortably and quietly manage my pain. I've got a portable tank of oxygen that I keep in the car and it's my go-to remedy for these beasts when they appear either at home or away. Thankfully, this phase of headaches isn't as bad as previous cycles and I'm fairing well. Where I'm typically on a daily dose of 50 mg of prednisone as a preventative to the headaches, I've been able to get by only 35 mg so far.

I felt well enough yesterday to take to the trails along the river bottoms. What a beautiful day it was to be out riding. I had such a nice time. One sad reality, though. As I approached Black Dog powerplant I got my first glimpse of it minus its large smokestack. The smokestack (along with two smaller stacks) was dismantled last summer. I've mentioned before how I've been doing workouts in the shadow of that stack for decades—34 years. In the mid-'80s and into the '90s I used to be a runner and would run thousands of miles along Black Dog road. I've also done my share of cycling on that same stretch of what used to be a pothole-strewn surface, abandoned by the city of Burnsville some 10 years ago and since reclaimed and resurfaced by a cooperation between the city and the powerplant. Honestly, I would like to have stood under that familiar, ever-present stack one last time and said a proper goodbye. It was like an old friend.

Embedded below is some video from yesterday's ride.

That's all I've got

Monday, December 23, 2019 and an Exit Ramp

I've come to appreciate more than ever the beautiful red barns and stately trees I pass on my gravel rides—and I'm not alone, at least when it comes to admiring trees. A friend recently began a challenge in a Facebook cycling group—the challenge being to post photos of lone trees (preferably with a bike in the photo—thank you, Bruce!) to see if others can identify the location of the tree. How one marks the location of the tree is quite unique. It's done using the what3words app.

Check it out.

I'll have to wait until springtime when I'm back on the gravel roads near Northfield before I can play along.

But until then, my current location is:

What 3 words mark your location?

And speaking of mapping: Google Street View made its rounds of our neighborhood again this past year—May 23rd to be exact while our roof was being reshingled.

I can't publish this blog post without making mention of Trump* being impeached along party lines last week. I don't feel Nancy Pelosi had much choice in the matter. When you have a president acting as criminally as he was, there's no way to excuse that without turning one's back on our Constitution although Republicans intend to.

Never have we witnessed an innocent man work so hard to obstruct investigations into his conduct that would prove his innocence. It defies any sort of logic other than to obstruct the public from learning the truth.

I was lying awake in bed last night, restless because of too much prednisone in my body, when I had a thought: the GOP can't afford to have Trump* removed and replaced by Pence. If he's removed, can you imagine what will happen to the Republican Party once Trump* trains his sights on it as the target of his madness for allowing him to be removed? He surely will. And a good percentage of his base will likely stand with him but who will be left to vote for Pence and the down-ballot candidates? The GOP's Frankenstein is poised to do serious damage to their party if they don't defend him, while their ridiculous defense of him poses a serious threat to what's left of their credibility. I don't see where either hand is a winning one.

Christianity Today (a Christian magazine publication) came out with a scathing rebuke of Trump* a few days ago, calling for his removal from office because "The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral." And no, Christianity Today isn't a far-left publication as Trump* claimed/lied about. It's actually right of center according to Media Bias/Fact Check.

Christianity Today's opinion piece wasn't the only Christian publication calling for him to step down. The Christian Post (much further right on the bias spectrum than CT) ran an editorial yesterday calling for his removal from office because, "While Trump has an excellent record of appointing conservative judges and advancing a prolife agenda, his criminal conduct endangers the Constitution. The Constitution is more important than the prolife cause because without the Constitution, prolife advocacy would be meaningless." That to me sounds like an exit ramp for those caught up in the quandary of wanting to hold fast to their prolife convictions but having grown tired of the nonsense.

And those are hardly liberal mouthpieces calling for his removal. But I'm conflicted. I actually want to see him remain because I worry that with Trump* out of the picture next November, there will be many who won't feel the need to show up on election day to cast a vote against not only Trump* but the entire Republican Party. Every vote matters.

Rachel and Drew came by last Friday to spend the afternoon and evening with us. Tammy oversaw lefse making production and we all contributed to a super meal before finishing out the night exchanging gifts and playing Balderdash. It was an excellent time.

Happy Holidays!

That's all I've got.

Monday, December 16, 2019

A 27 Month Break And Opportunity Knocks

It's been more than 6 weeks since we cut the cable and we couldn't be happier that we did. We're left wondering why we didn't do it sooner. It was sorta like when we divested from Wells Fargo two years ago after getting caught up in having them make changes to our accounts which resulted in service fees that were no small hassle to reverse. We had better things to do but we were glad to have taken the time to break free from them. The only glitch in our move away from cable TV was our TV in the kitchen—it has a built-in Roku but it was continually freezing as it buffered the signal. I added an external Roku stick to it and that solved the problem.

One of our local news stations did a report on a pack of coyotes that attacked and killed a family's two dogs that they had let outside for a few minutes. This all happened about a mile from our home. I've seen coyotes outside the window on the side of our house but it's been a few years. Last week I saw a fox walking along the street in front of our home in the early afternoon. I'm careful about keeping an eye on Charlie whenever I let him out but lately, I've taken to standing out there with him while he does his business. I found a cat's collar last year after tearing out the shrubs in front of our house. I can only imagine how it got there.

I've written about cluster headaches in my blog and my struggles with them over the years. It's been 27 months since I've had to deal with them and that's by far the longest period of time I've had relief from them since I first experienced one at 17. But it appears 27 months is my limit. My headaches returned a few nights ago, forcing me to adopt a regimen of a daily dose of Prednisone and Imitrex for the headaches that get past the Prednisone. One other thing in my arsenal to fight them is inhaling 100% oxygen at a rate of 12 liters per minute. It's usually a very effective treatment provided I've got an O2 tank nearby to use. I'm awaiting a delivery of oxygen tanks that I'll keep by my bedside.

They're called cluster headaches because they come in clusters, usually lasting 4-5 weeks (for me, anyway). I can typically expect a period free from them of 12-18 months. The headaches present themselves as an intense pain behind one eye that is very similar to the pain you get when you drink a frozen slushy too quickly—but the pain can last for hours. This is a video of a guy in the throes of an attack. I've been there countless times. When I was younger, they only lasted 15 minutes and I had no idea what was happening. I assumed they were possibly related to some illicit drugs I'd messed with. They would leave after a few weeks and I'd forget about them. It wouldn't be until the mid '90s before I'd receive a proper diagnosis.

I'm curious how I managed to get a reprieve of 27 months. I want to credit occasional cannabis use and it may well be that but I can't be sure. There are studies of the effect of cannabis on cluster headaches but they're not conclusive. It's possible that the drug can help stave off a cycle and that may well be what I've experienced but I wouldn't expect it to be of much use once a headache phase has begun.

I spent much of Friday and Saturday breathing life into my most recent stained glass creation. It's one of the more difficult pieces I do simply because the pieces are so small. Fortunately for me, I don't have fat fingers. A guy from NYC purchased this same suncatcher last week and I wanted to make another for my inventory. Here's a link to it with more photos on my Etsy site.

The FAA will soon be hiring for the position of Air Traffic Controller. I can't say enough good things about the career I had as a controller and the job satisfaction I derived from it. If you know anyone who may be interested (who's 30 years old or less), they may want to throw their name in the hat and take a chance on being hired. You can maybe start by sending them a link to the video below where they can gain an idea for what the job is about and get a feel for whether or not it's something they might be interested in pursuing.

That's all I've got.