Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summer 2010, That's a Wrap

I think I may have said this before: the thought of Rachel leaving for college (in just a few days) is bittersweet. Tammy and I are excited for her but it's happening all too quickly. Many of her friends have already departed so it's unusually quiet around our home. The upside is that we're getting more time with her before she leaves. In fact, the two of us spent the evening at Valley Fair together last night while Tammy was working in the office. We had fun reminiscing about coming to the park when she was younger and even before I was ever in her life. She told me about the time she fell out of one of the bumper boats when she was maybe six years old. I'd heard the story before but I didn't mind hearing it again. We laughed and wondered how that could've happened?

My new favorite ride: the Renegade. Awesome, especially when it's dark and difficult to see the next bend in the track. The Extreme Swing is also a favorite and probably does the best job of taking my breath away.

Our time at the park gave us several hours to talk about all that's happening with her. I was pretty much up to speed already but I always enjoy feeding off her enthusiasm. She was especially excited talking about all the mixers they have planned for the first week of school. She was saying how she's going to put herself out there and get to know as many people as possible. That would be Rachel.

The ice-cream truck made its rounds through the neighborhood the other day and she ran out to meet it. I had to wonder if this would be the last time I'd watch her do this. Most likely.

2-ball screwball for ya, Kev?

I put her car for sale on Craigslist and found a buyer for it in not much time at all. She's sad to see it go and had to come out to meet the people who are buying it so she knows it's going to a good home. She's going to miss her Tank as she refers to it.

Mom continues to make slow improvements and is occasionally driving again when she feels up to it although she's still extremely tired most of the time. She's going in for a procedure for her heart but has to wait until her blood level readings (INR) are more normal. I believe it's some form of angioplasty she's having done but she's not sure. It was nice to see her in church again last Sunday. It hasn't helped her that we're experiencing one of our hottest and most humid summers in what seems many years. It's a struggle for her to venture out into those conditions.

Another orbit completed around the sun for me—that makes 53. I spent my birthday morning with Tammy at Foci Studios in Minneapolis blowing glass with a very talented glassblower named Steve. He offered to help us with our technique and get us on the right track. It was extremely helpful working with him. We hope to be back in the studio again this week after we've got Rachel moved into her apartment in Rochester.

Rachel celebrated a birthday this past week as well. We went to dinner at Osaka Seafood Steakhouse in Apple Valley. The photo to the right is of Rachel and me enjoying a "happy happy birthday" chorus from the staff which I think may have been accompanied by a boombox. Tammy couldn't resist outing us. It was a fun night.

We made it to the State Fair on Thursday, opening day. The last two years we've picked up the shuttle at Mall of America where for $5 you can purchase a round-trip. The buses run frequently enough that we've never had to wait more than a few minutes on either end for a ride. Rachel came with us but only stayed a few hours as we had tickets to see The Bodeans and she didn't. She left us and sat and watched the equestrian show for a while before leaving for home.

Our seats were in the grandstand and the view was fine but Tammy wondered if I was up for moving a little closer? We're still not too old for that. We grabbed a couple of beers and mingled with the crowd while steadily making progress toward the front of the stage. Before Big Head Todd and the Monsters finished their set we were in pretty good shape. With a half hour left in The Bodeans performance we'd reached the rail just left of center-stage. My only regret was in not having my Sony Handycam with me. My Panasonic Lumix would have to suffice and it did a nice enough job with the exception of the audio; it's a little weak. I eventually maxed out its memory but still managed to get some decent video to splice together for YouTube.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reconnecting and a Solo Double

It's been a week of getting in touch with several people I worked with as a specialist at the Flight Service Station in Huron, SD early in my career with the FAA. It began a week ago when Scott and Judy stopped by. They're both specialists at the Flight Service Station in Princeton, MN about 75 miles to the north. Neither are employed with the FAA anymore since their jobs were contracted out to Lockheed Martin a few years ago. Scott and I worked together for a two years in Huron before I transfered to where I am today.

Scott has had a love of Corvettes for the 28 years I've known him. His newest (2008) is by far nicer than any other he's owned.

We used to golf a lot together. We were competitive with each other and usually enjoyed ourselves most when the other was duffing a shot. A typical remark was something along the line of, "oh, that's unfortunate" then a biting of the lip to keep from laughing knowing full well that the favor would be returned before long. Those were some fun times.

I was Facebook creeping a couple days later when I stumbled onto Larry Munson's profile. Larry was my supervisor at Huron. I honestly didn't expect to find Larry on Facebook but there he was. From his friends list I found another specialist, Jim Anez, and sent both of them friend requests. I heard from each of them later in the day and we exchanged emails outlining the last 25 years of our lives. From Jim I also gleaned the email address for Joe Gray. Another very nice find for me. A reunion with them and others would be nice and probably not so out of the question as Joe lives in Las Vegas.

Tammy and I finally made it back to the glassblowing studio at Foci on Thursday. It had been two months since we were last there and it showed. It's such a humbling endeavor but we're both determined to learn the art. We'll be back again on Wednesday with plans to work with Steve, an experienced glassblower.

I was looking around on the Garmin Connect website earlier in the week to see what sort of rides others were logging in the area and I came across the annual Dawn to Dusk double century (200 miles) ride the Silver Cyclists from Lakeville had done the previous weekend. It was my plan a few weeks ago to do one of my own yet this summer but it didn't appear it was going to happen. I put in a nice effort last Tuesday with a 131 mile loop to St Peter and wondered if maybe I could at least put together a 150 mile ride to either Rochester, Mankato or Princeton depending on which way the wind was blowing for whatever day I decided on.

I kept my eye on the forecast over the next few days while mentally preparing myself for at least a 150 mile effort with an outside shot at a full double century. We've lost nearly an hour of daylight off the end of the day and if my legs weren't up to it there was little chance I was going to conquer a double especially since I'd be out there alone with nobody to draft from.

The forecast was for temps in the upper 80s to lower 90s with light northeast winds. I've been saying all along this summer that I've been loving the heat. Did I really mean that? I set my alarm for 4:45 and hoped for the best.

The best it wasn't. I woke up to some very thick fog which nearly had me crawling back into bed. I got prepared anyway in case it looked okay once the sun worked its way around. Tammy saw the fog outside our bedroom window but didn't have her glasses on so I assured her it was only moisture on the windows. She said a prayer over me then went back to dreamland.

I rolled out at 6:35 with very little traffic and a similar amount of visibility. I measured it at 1/10 of a mile in most places but I at least had an 8 foot shoulder to work with for the first couple hours of the ride.

I was feeling good and glad to be making tracks before the real heat set in. I pedaled east along county road 46 working my way toward Hastings. The fog was more of a mist at times and I noticed I was becoming soaked as I rode along.

The loose plan was to head north out of Hastings and cross into Wisconsin at Prescott but just before I got to the bridge to cross the St Croix, I noticed county road 21 off to my left which followed the river north along the Minnesota side. I'd been by this way dozens of times but had never noticed this road before. I had no hard plan so I opted for this route to add some exploration to the ride.

The fog began to lift south of Afton and I could finally stop wiping the mist off my glasses every few minutes.

Before long I was in Stillwater and wondering how it was that with all the riding I've done over the years this was my first time biking through this river town.  I got in line with the rest of the traffic heading across the river for Wisconsin and dialed my speed up to match theirs as I'd be taking the lane for this crossing.

The roads in Wisconsin are tough to beat—at least any of them I've ever been on. Not that Minnesota's roads are bad—maybe it's less traffic. I'm sure that plays a part.

I made my first stop at 65 miles in New Richmond. My focus was on making sure I was taking in some protein in addition to the usual carbs. This wasn't my typical day in the saddle.

FIve hours into the ride and I was still waiting for the day's heat to arrive. The low overcast that hung just above me was doing a good job of holding the temperature down and I was fine with that but it wasn't putting my new insulated water bottles to the test. I wanted to see if it's true that they can keep drinks cool on a warm summer day as this was my first ride with them.

I picked up highway 63 and headed south through Baldwin thinking about the last time I was on this road on my bike. It was July, 1981 and I was on a three day trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for a family reunion.  I was 23 and thunderstorms forced me to have to combine three days of riding into two. I'd do 196 miles the third day with my mom meeting me out on the road and driving behind me the final four miles with her headlights lighting my way.

At 92 miles along this stretch of road my cellphone chirped to alert me to a new email message. There was no traffic in sight so I reached back and grabbed my phone. It was an email from Joe Gray and it looked to be lengthy. It had been 25 years since I'd heard from him since leaving Huron Flight Service. I read the first couple paragraphs and they brought a smile to my face but I closed the message down opting to read it later when I could more fully enjoy what he had to say.

It was around this time that I had to make a decision as to how far this ride was going to be. I could head west toward River Falls and Prescott for home and a sure 150 miles or I could press on south and east toward Maiden Rock for what would be my longest ride in years.

I phoned Tammy and asked her if she could get a distance for me from Maiden Rock to Lakeville. Less than two minutes later she texted back the answer: 68.2 miles. I did some quick calculations that took into account the amount of remaining daylight and mulled over my options.

Did I mention that I've got the most awesome wife? I wasn't going to do this ride because she's been stuck at home nursing a back injury and I figured my place was close by her but she insisted I go. I feigned disapproval of her insistance but I'm sure she saw through it.

I descended into Maiden Rock with just over 120 miles done. A large group of motorcycles was cruising through town which caused me to have to wait before crossing the street to my next much needed stop for fuel.

I hurried to get back on the road. I was now committed to doing at least 200 miles and didn't have a lot of extra time to play with. What if I had a mechanical issue or two? I wanted somewhat of a cushion but there wasn't much of one to be had. I attacked the hills the best I could northwest of Maiden Rock and Bay City but my right knee was beginning to protest. My left wouldn't be far behind.

I rolled into Prescott with 48 miles to go and caught my first glimpse of the sun all day. I was having a hard time keeping enough calories in me to propel me. A Chuckwagon sandwich would have to suffice. I grabbed a couple bottles of Powerade for the usual 2 for $3 price and stood outside while I ate my sandwich with my shoes off trying to give my toes a break as they were beginning to protest as well.

I crossed back over the Hastings bridge noting how much the day had improved from earlier.

I was feeling good about being back on the Minnesota side of the river with a direct shot home not much more than an hour away but I needed more miles than what a direct route would give me. I worked my way south and west toward Vermillion (my last fuel stop) then highway 52 to Hampton before the final push west toward Farmington and into Lakeville.

I considered adding some style points at the end by tacking on an additional few miles with a loop around Orchard lake but I was losing daylight fast and didn't want to do anything stupid that would mess up a fine day.

I settled for one style point with a total of 201 miles and 15 minutes of daylight to spare.

Funny, but as I was finishing the ride I was thinking how this will likely be my last 100+ mile ride of the year and I'll shift my focus to shorter stuff.

Really, that's funny because by the time I got out of the shower I was already looking forward to my next adventure.

Friday, August 13, 2010


When I had to have Snickers put down several years ago after 15 years of loyal companionship, it was the most difficult thing I'd ever done, and still is. I remember driving home from an after-hours vet in Golden Valley at 3:00AM barely able to see the road through a blur of tears.

I came back from a ride a few days ago and Tammy told me that her good friend Sue had to have her dog Emma put down. She read for me an email that Sue had sent her. It was a poem she'd just written about Emma and I listened as Tammy fought back tears reading it to me. Susan does such a beautiful job of capturing all of the small details that define Emma and many of our dogs' character.

Thank you, Sue, for allowing me to reprint your words.

For Emma, my dog, April 1993 - August 11, 2011

My Little Em

That hippity hoppity happiness, you brought when you pranced through my door

That piddity paddity paw print, you left on my kitchen floor

Your fantastic, fanatic, warm welcome, came with a barking applaud,

As you were my faithful worshipper, I was your image of God.

Your damp little nose on my neck line, would wake me, to bright morning sun,

A new day, to do nothing more, than to eat and to sleep, and to run

So out of the door you would scamper, to greet every spider and snail

And chase all those squirrels from the garden, propelled by a waggily tail.

Your speed was as fast as a bullet, and lighter than air you could fly,

But never a varmint, you’d capture, no matter how hard you would try.

So faithful and funny and fearless, my furry and frolicking friend,

A formidable force at the fence line, each linear link to defend

Alerting intruders, with your bark, to let every earth dweller know,

That you were the guardian, at large, to ward off each eminent foe

To lie in the grass of the summer, to role in the leaves of the fall,

To twirl in the snow flakes of winter, to greet the spring wind with a howl

To sit or to stay or to come, could bring a rewarding treat,

While excitement lay just at the doorway, with plenty of people to greet

To jump on the lap of each person, and nudge out a stroke or a pat,

To sleep in the light of a sunbeam, there’s nothing quite better than that

In winter the form of your body, would lay like a quilt on my lap,

As I would sit reading the Scriptures, you would lie taking a nap.

The years seemed to pass by so quickly, much faster than your fastest run,

And whistling winds of the ages, were bidding your being to come.

While subtle and almost unnoticed, the tolling of time had its way.

Though eyes became dim and ears became dull, your spirit still longed to obey.

So where I would go, you would follow, a heartbeat that stayed at my feet,

A life form so simple and solid, so loving, and loyal, and sweet

Contented to be in my shadow, indomitable, adorable friend,

My canine, courageous, companion, my cuddle bug, My Little Em.

Blessings Always,
Susan Peterson

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bloomington Jefferson Unplugged, 35 Years Later

I attended my 35-year high school reunion over the weekend. It was a quickly arranged get-together but still, maybe a tenth of our class of 700+ was there. I've only made it to one other reunion and that was 10 years ago when my neighbor who was on the planning committee guilted me into going. 35 Year Class Reunion, 2Both reunions were painless although I couldn't help but go into each with a little trepidation. That feeling usually fades after a conversation or two and the realization that it isn't high school anymore.

I was living in Huron, SD for our 10th reunion and had forgotten about it until I saw it mentioned on Johnny Carson; no kidding. I had the TV on in our apartment where I lived with my first wife on the south side of town. The blonde actress Johnny was interviewing mentioned that she was attending her 10 year high school reunion that weekend in Bloomington, MN. That piqued my interest because it was the same weekend as mine. I stopped whatever I was doing to pay close attention and realized that the blonde woman sitting on his couch was Terry Ganzel; the same high school girl who woud walk along the sidewalk in front of our house on 102nd St on Saturday mornings on her way to drama class (I assumed) at the high school. No longer a brunette and now going by Teresa Ganzel with a different emphasis being placed on the last syllable of her last name than I remembered.

Sandie, my high school sweetheart for a year and a half wasn't at last Saturday's reunion. I was hoping to introduce Tammy to her. But there were others whom I hadn't had a chance to talk with since June 1975 and it was nice getting to know them again.

Mark Hanson was a friend from both grade school and Jr high whom I long ago lost touch with. I mentioned Mark's name to Bill Bliss and with that Bill took out his phone and dialed Mark's number in Florida. He got his voicemail and after leaving a brief message handed the phone to me. I babbled on about how I can still remember when Mark introduced Bill and me to one another and how he had us shake hands.  We were maybe 10 or 11 and it seemed such a grown-up thing to do. It happend right about where the pine tree is in this link.  We were playing around among the prairie grass, woods, and pond where our high school would soon be built. I closed my message with an invitation for Mark to look me up on Facebook.

Sure enough, while at work the next afternon I got a Facebook friend request from Mark with a message to call him. I didn't hesitate. We spent 25 minutes catching up on each other's lives and I found the whole thing fascinating. I was surprised at how much he remembered about my family. I felt guilty for not being able to respond in kind. We said goodbye and then it hit me that it'd been nearly 40 years since I'd spoken with him. I last remember seeing Mark at the McDonald's in Bloomington not far from where we went to school and the site of an earlier blog post. I don't even recall if we talked with each other back then as we'd drifted apart as kids do.

I was on my bike yesterday thinking about my conversation with Mark and the thought struck me that it would be neat to meet again and walk through our neighborhoods together and reminisce. Maybe end up at McDonald's for lunch.

There are others I'm hoping to reconnect with; Miles Harvey for one. Miles, are you out there?

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Um...we're in Rochester"

I was out in the yard Friday night when I saw Rachel leave in her car. I got a text message a few minutes later saying "at sams". I responded, "OK thanks" and didn't think much more of it. We're glad that she tells us where she's at but Tammy and I are both at a point where we don't feel a need to keep close tabs on her. Still, we're glad she clues us in.

I got an excited call from her less than two hours later prefaced with a confession: "Um...we're in Rochester". Before I could say anything she was telling me how they were there to see Mat Kearney who was playing a very-little-notice concert and that they actually got their picture taken with him. They were 45 minutes late for his show and running up the steps of a community college where he was playing in a small auditorium when they realized that Mat and his entourage were just ahead of them. He was late too but happy to accommodate them.

The concert was free and part of an MTV production for the series The Buried Life which was doing an episode about an organization called To Write Love on Her Arms. By the time they got in line the auditorium was nearly full and they ended up getting turned away some 20 people from the front of the line. Not to be deterred, they walked the halls of the school and took seats on some steps in a hallway off to the side of the auditorium where they could hear the music. Rachel noticed an unlocked door, peeked her head in and much to her delight Mat Kearney wasn't much more than 20 feet away singing on-stage. She motioned for Sam and Trina to follow her inside and they quietly watched the show from off the side of the stage.

As Mat was playing, one of the cast members (Ben) from The Buried Life approached the girls and asked them if they were going to be there for a while and would they do him a favor if they were? He was going to tell the crowd that Robert Pattinson from Twilight was backstage and that he was going to bring him out but what the people in the audience didn't know was that it would only be a life-size cardboard cutout of the actor. Rachel didn't hesitate. She said the crowd was going crazy until she walked the cutout on-stage as she hid behind it. She hammed it up a little by poking her head out from behind it and smiling at the crowd when she set it down center-stage before running off.

She thinks it's possible she'll be on the MTV show when it airs. That would be fun to see.

She says it was the best night of her summer. It's fun that it happened in Rochester where she'll soon be living and going to college.

She's already leaving her mark and she's still living at home!

That's a lot of sentences that begin with "She".

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's Time for a Cool Change

This is a continuation of a series of writings about my time in the Navy. The first in this series of posts can be found here or go here for the most recent.

2nd week of December 1979. (5 days to go)

Jack was strumming his guitar down in our compartment.  There was a song he'd occasionally play that he wrote with a friend which I liked a lot and I asked him if I could hear it one last time. I got out my Panasonic tape player and recorded him.

The Whale Song

Stan put together a small going away party for me at his apartment a few nights before I left for home. Not that we needed any special reason to get together for beer but it was nice of him. I commented in my journal how some of the talk that night was about the speculation of a coming recession and the prospects for jobs. It's possible I was observing the successes of Navy career counselors doing their best to retain sailors nearing the end of their enlistment but a recession did, in fact, loom just around the corner.

The night before I re-entered civilian life, Paul Smurawski surprised me with tickets to see Fleetwood Mac at the Arena. Fleetwood Mac was in their prime and it was a show I'll never forget. There I was, watching the concert knowing that my enlistment would be over the next day and I was about to take back control of my life. At my young age of 22, it seemed that I'd been waiting a long time for this and I was enjoying the moment.

Monday morning finally arrived and it was a typical sunny blue-sky-day in San Diego. There was nothing anticlimactic about it. Howard loaned me his truck to run some errands and as I was cruising the San Diego Freeway, Supertramp's Take the Long Way Home was playing on the radio. I let out a scream that I couldn't contain; a scream that expressed joy, happiness, and freedom. Funny thing though—I stayed on the ship that night even though I was technically a civilian as my flight didn't leave until early the next morning. After four years, one more night wouldn't matter.

Taken from my journal, 12-11-1979

Well, so much for the Navy. Airborne somewhere over Colorado on the last leg of my journey. The morning came early at 3:45. Stan gave me a lift to the airport.

What are my feelings? Euphoric, apprehensive, and a little scared. What's next? You tell me. The Navy was quite an experience to say the least. As for future plans, the next 8 months are mine to do with as I please. School begins afterwards. Architecture remains the goal but yet tentative it is. I've never been able to plan too far in the future. I can but then it's not uncommon to find myself making new plans. It used to be I wouldn't pursue much of anything because the Navy occupied so much of my time. I must scratch that excuse and be a do-er. Time to see what I've got...lose the inhibitions and take on a more aggressive view.

And that was it. Done.

I found work at Medical Inc making artificial heart valves while looking through a microscope 8 hours a day. It was tedious but enjoyable work. They paid me $5.50 an hour to start; the same wage they'd have paid a kid right out of high school.

Several months after getting out I enlisted in the Navy Reserves to make some extra cash while going to school but it was a short-lived experience. I quit after one weekend after observing the unit I'd be assigned to sweat a whole lot of small details about an upcoming inspection. I was done with that.

I did indeed begin classes at Inver Hills Community College in the Fall. I found myself enjoying school much more than ever and maintained a 4.0 for the time I was there before hiring on with the FAA the following Spring on the heels of the PATCO strike of August 1981. I nearly took a pass on the FAA's offer because I wanted to remain in school. At my dad's urging, I followed through with the interviews and hiring process with the idea that I could back out of the job at any time and continue the life I was living. Thanks, Dad. (I'm not sure I ever got to express my thanks to him before he died too young.)

The last line from my journal is a lyric from Gerry Rafferty's song Baker Street:

And when you wake up it's a new mornin'
The sun is shinin' it's a new morning
You're goin'
You're goin' home

The lyric was appropriate but Cool Change by The Little River Band was the song that caused me to pause each time I'd hear it; it still does. I felt that while all of my family was encouraging to me, they'd all be watching me to see what I'd do with my life and would I pick up where I'd left off? I needed to find my own way and I still wasn't sure what that would look like.

You can never be sure.

Thanks for reading.

4 years of photos: page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Last Man Standing

11th Anniversary at Jax11 years gets by much too quickly. Tammy and I celebrated our 11th anniversary at Jax Cafe' in Northeast Minneapolis Thursday night. I can't begin to express the richness and love that both she and Rachel have brought to my life. Dr Laura would never have given us the green light to marry considering how little time we knew each other when we married and because Tammy was a single parent whose primary focus was raising Rachel. I am forever grateful that we listened to our hearts.

Tammy was in the office yesterday and I had nothing much on my to-do list so after getting a late morning start I spent most of the day on my bike taking a route I hadn't been on in a few years. My main escape to the northwest (McColl Dr) is under construction so I'm left with county rd 42 or highway 13. I hadn't had my bike on 42 in a while and I probably won't again for another long while, at least not on a Saturday morning. There's way too many people pushing and shoving their way to spend tomorrow's money today and not much of a shoulder to work with.

It was a made-to-order day for cycling with temps in the low 80s and light winds. I considered staying out another couple hours but brought it home early with 111 miles done.  I used the extra time I had to do some bike maintenance in the garage while watching Cops and Myth Busters with the pups to keep me company. It was a relaxing end to my weekend.

Friday was Mike Deml's last day of work. We both hired on in the same input in March, 1982. While I had been exiled to Huron, SD for a couple years, Mike spent his entire career at Minneapolis Center as (just) a controller. Of the twenty-some people in our class, all are gone now except for me; I'm the last man standing. The first of our class to retire was Pat Guider and that must have been 7 or 8 years ago. Pete Brandt, Doug Ratfield and Jeff Ofthsun all left within the last few years.

I'd love to join them but I'm not one to wish my life away. I'll be there soon enough.

Best wishes, Mike. Enjoy your retirement—you've earned it!