Saturday, October 30, 2010

Miscellaneous Musings Late on a Saturday

I came home from work late last Sunday night and noticed the backyard light was on. A doe and her fawn had tripped the motion sensor light and were nibbling on some Euonymus shrubs that line the side of our yard. I watched them for ten minutes before going upstairs to show them to Tammy. They're beautiful animals and I felt privileged to be able to watch them as they cautiously made their way around our yard. It's not in my makeup to hunt them or any other animal. I'm conflicted though because I'm no vegetarian either. I don't have issues with hunting or the processing of animals for food when it's done the right way; it just won't be me doing it.

There was a recent story in the news about singer Troy Gentry and his bogus claim to have killed a dangerous bear while on a hunting expedition. It turns out it was a total fabrication and what actually happened should cause any of his fans to use their CDs of his for skeet practice. See for yourself.

Like any sport, you've always got your cheats. Bicycle racing is deluged with them.

I saw one other video this week that caught my eye. I can tell you that I definitely don't buy into the time traveler theory but I do find the image in the video intriguing and wonder exactly what the person is doing?

Suppose for a moment that somebody was so forward thinking that they were able to plant a person in the film pretending to do something that would only be relevant nearly 3/4 of a century later. I wonder what a film producer might do today that somebody toward the end of this century would find themselves using stop-motion to watch again and again not believing what they were seeing?

Rachel texted me a few nights ago: "So a bunch of kids are dressing up like faculty tomorrow. Guess who I'm dressing up as?"


"The chancellor :)"

And she did. She said he saw her in costume the next day and smiled but then began laughing really hard after he'd passed her by when he realized who she was pretending to be. So did the rest of the staff. Somebody took a photo of both of them together and I'm hoping she'll get me a copy of it.

Mom had another appointment with her doctor last Tuesday and the news she received wasn't good but I think it was expected. The doctor told her that her heart was too weak for any sort of procedure that could maybe help it beat more efficiently. That included another shocking of her heart as she had done last month. That procedure lasted only 10 days before her heart returned to its fibrillating state. I think she had her hopes up that they would be able to do that procedure again with better results.

She returns on Friday for a test to determine her heart's efficiency/capacity on its own. If it's at least 35% she'll have the option of having her pacemaker/defibrillator replaced. Anything less than 35% and it won't be an option for her. The doctor also stressed that a procedure of this sort on someone in her condition is risky and that they do lose people.  She's willing to pursue it as it appears she has no other option.

I spent some time with her last Wednesday and we talked openly about what she's facing. She seems content with her situation. She commented that she's not in pain and that she has a comfortable, warm home. I hope to be that accepting should I find myself in her shoes one day. Her doctor told her that it's a sudden death when people die from her condition. She repeated this to me a few times; I'm sure it's weighing on her. How can it not?

We've got to have the least inspiring collection of gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota this election cycle than we've had in a long time. All of Mark Dayton's signs must be confined to Minneapolis because I'm seeing very few in the rural areas or wherever I find myself out riding. For every single Dayton sign, I'm seeing at least a hundred signs for Emmer, his main opponent.

Dayton will be getting my vote. He's at least being honest about the need to raise taxes—none of the rest of them are.

I thought I was done with my long rides for the year but I was wrong. The temp was in the 40s today with sunny skies and all my yard work was done. I tried to get out early enough to beat the wind (9:30) but it didn't help much. It's late October though and I'm still cranking out the miles so I was smiling.

The plan was to add a couple cities to my Edge 305's database: namely Winsted and Watertown. I got those plus a few more.

133 miles

Usually, I'll shoot some photos along the way but this time I thought I'd stitch together a few videos from the day instead. No doubt a real yawner for anybody else but this is stuff for me to look back on years from now, so humor me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Breathing New Life Into Old

My truck is nearing ten years old. Between new tires, ball joints, front axels, and a fuel regulator, I've had to sink more money into it in the last few weeks than I'd care to think about. I gave it a coat of wax last weekend for whatever protection that may provide from the salt of a pending winter season. I also spent some time cleaning the engine. Before and after.

With Rachel at college, it's not likely I'll be driving something newer anytime soon. But that's okay. It fits me like a worn pair of jeans and I don't worry about small scratches and stuff. I just want it to run well.

Speaking of Rachel: she was elected to Student Senate for Student Affairs Committee, U of M Twin Cities. She'll be UMR's representative. Our little go-getter.

Mom is off to the doctor once again this morning, still in search of a solution for a weak and inefficient heartbeat that has her tired much of the time. She'll have an occasional good day but they're too few. They gave her heart a shock last month that restored her heartbeat to a normal rhythm but it was short-lived. She said the procedure sometimes has to be repeated a few times before it takes. There's also a heart ablation procedure that her doctors are considering for her.

I started my riding season last spring with intentions of keeping my mileage on the conservative side, just as I had the previous two years. I figured I'd be happy with anything over 4000 miles and I was pretty much on pace to do exactly that through the first few weeks of June.

Funny how a trip to the bike shop and a few minutes with Scott Flanders can change everything.

I'd been having saddle issues and had been through several different saddles in the last couple of years in a futile attempt to find one that allowed me to be in it for more than just a few hours at a time. I'd have small successes but nothing sustained. Scott set me up with a Turnix Pro and made some adjustments to my position on the bike which gave my cycling new life.

A new pedal stroke that eliminates mashing of the pedals on the downstroke while emphasizing more glutes has also been key.

Since June 22nd, I haven't looked back. I've ridden more in these last four months than any other four-month period. Ever.

A bit of geek extrapolation for me to look at many years from now (the blue line being this year's progress):

The first half of the year comparisons

Last half of the year comparisons


I got out Friday morning for what may have been my last longish ride of the year—133 miles along the Minnesota River Valley down to Le Sueur then points east. Some of my favorite riding of the year was done along the part of the route that follows the river. It's lightly traveled and scenic with several rolling hills. The ride put me over 6000 miles on the road for 2010. Can I make 7000 before the snow flies? I'll soon know.

I'm a solo rider out there battling the wind on my own so when the occasional farm machinery happens by, I'm quick to catch a draft. They're thick out there this time of year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Fall Ball

Toby is back to his old self and we're all grateful for that. He's snuggled into my lap as I type this.

We made it out to Ritter Farm Park with our pups this week and they were thrilled (at least they seemed to be) to see the llamas again. They were off in the distance when we came by their field but we were able to call them over. Before long, the llamas had their noses through the fence trying to get a better look at the little guys who were being so vocal toward them but sticking close by us for protection.

The high water table I was talking about in a recent post that I thought was causing our sump-pumps to run was actually a leak in our underground sprinkler. I was out raking leaves last weekend and noticed a wet area near the surface not far from where the mainline to the sprinkler runs. I shut the system down and sure enough, our pumps quit running not long after. It was a sizable leak and I'm glad I stumbled onto it when I did. I spent too long repairing it Tuesday on a vacation day from work but I'm glad to have it fixed.

Rachel is having a blast at UMR. She's home for the weekend—sort of. We don't see her much but that's expected. So far she's not feeling overwhelmed by the curriculum but it's early in the year yet so there's still plenty of time for that.

I'm glad that Tammy and I are connected with her on Facebook because it allows us to have a piece of her in our daily lives as she posts photos from her world and updates her status. We get our own personal texts and phone calls from her too which keeps us connected.

Did I mention that she has a crush on her Humanities teacher? Apparently, he's "so hot!"

I can't remember a better fall season for riding and I've been taking full advantage of it. It's been a ball! The only tricky part is waiting for the temp to climb enough in the morning so I can leave without needing a base layer (with the exception being knee-warmers) and for me that's 45 degrees. That's too cold for most to be dressed so lightly but I find that once I'm working it, I have little trouble staying warm. Better to be a little chilled early on than overheating later once the temp is well into the 60s with the sun shining.

I managed 135 miles on Wednesday and 118 miles on Friday; both part of a 410+ mile week on the road. I don't think I've ever put up those sort of numbers this late in the season. It helps to have a wife who encourages me to go out and enjoy the weather while I can. I'm so spoiled.

Tammy and I have never been ones to decorate for Halloween—much. We were walking through the Burnsville mall late last year when we saw a little guy on clearance that we had to have. I'll bet you'll want one too...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Toby's Troubles and Full Fall Days

My typical routine on my way into work for the all-night shift is to stop at McDonald's in Farmington for a large, light Lemonade. It's always $1.07 and I usually have the exact change in hand for the person at the window. I placed my order last Wednesday night and the total came to $1.70. Huh? I asked the cashier and she said that all their prices were raised since they're having their Monopoly promotion. Again: huh? I paid the extra amount and proceeded to the next window to get my drink. I looked at the advertising on the cup as I drove away and was somewhat miffed to read that 1 in 4 players wins; the other side of that coin being that 3 in 4 players lose out. I'd say that .63c is a considerable amount extra to pay for a $1.07 drink to play their silly game. Oh, and the real kicker...the peel-off game piece on my cup wasn't even there. My guess is the person who handed me my drink had a nice collection going.

Somebody please let me know when the promotion is over.

Toby gave us a scare late last Sunday night. Our pups sleep in bed with us and I woke up around 2:30 AM to find Toby sitting up with the sheets wet around him. I turned on the light and saw that the wetness was actually blood from his rectum. I woke Tammy and she got on the phone with an emergency vet clinic in Apple Valley to make arrangements to have him seen. They told us it was likely a ruptured anal gland and that we should bring him in.

And so we did.

And that's what it was.

They took him into surgery and we left for home to get some more sleep. We returned a few hours later to pay the balance of our $580 bill and bring him home. The poor guy had a few miserable days to follow.

We brought him to our regular vet Thursday morning for follow-up and to have the sutures removed. The doctor said he looked good and impressed on us that in the future, a situation such as what he had isn't considered an emergency. It may look bloody but it will heal with or without surgery. But, she also said that the vet in Apple Valley did the right thing by having us bring him in to confirm that's what it was. I don't recall the Apple Valley vet stressing that surgery wasn't necessary although he may have.

We stopped at the desk to pay on the way out and Kris told us that there was no charge. Wow—we weren't expecting that but then it's one of the main reasons we use their facility and will keep coming back; they're very reasonable.

We've been having the most unbelievable weather the past couple weeks with temps making it into the upper 80s both Friday and Saturday. I took full advantage of both days to do some serious riding and yard work.

I got away just before 10:00 Friday morning and began working my way into a 10 mph southwest wind with thoughts of riding to St Peter. It was a perfect day for a Mankato loop but I didn't think I had the daylight for it. I could realistically get 135 miles out of the day but not 150.

I was feeling good as I approached St Peter and looking forward to my headwind becoming a tailwind as I crossed over the Minnesota River into the river town sometime before 2:00 where I headed north. Little did I know of the ordeal that awaited me getting back across some 50 miles ahead.

Tammy was in the office and knew I'd be gone all day.  She asked if I'd text her occasionally to let her know how I was doing. I gave her a quick update then jumped onto highway 169 and had no sooner dialed my speed up and gotten comfortable when I passed a sign giving distances to a few different cities ahead. I stopped and backed up to grab a shot for a Facebook status update.

I was also using the ride to store the names of several cities into the data base of my Garmin Edge 305 as I passed through them. Unlike my 705, it has no map capability and the only points it stores are those I manually enter into it. Since having it refurbished a few months ago I've had to reload all my cities. This would be a good ride for adding detail southwest of home. There's a sense of accomplishment with each city added, at least for me.

The east side of 169 was closed for a stretch of maybe 5 miles and traffic was shuffled to the other side of the highway where I had much less shoulder to work with. I did my best to keep my speed as close to 30 mph in the 40 mph zone as I could to minimize the impact I was having on traffic hurrying to get home at the end of their workweek. One woman shook her fist as she passed me for causing her to have to slow slightly. Whatever.

I got off Hwy 169 just long enough to pass through Le Sueur and mark its position then made my way back to the highway with my sights set on Henderson to top off my water bottles and get some food, something other than the gels that had been sustaining me.

I left Henderson around 3:00 with 80 miles done thinking I'd have plenty of time to tweak the ride to maximize my time on the road and arrive home just before sundown. I did all that and more. Rather than taking the most direct route home through Chaska and highway 41 toward Prior Lake, I stayed north of the river opting to add a few miles and get across in Shakopee. Normally this would've been a good plan but the road was still closed due to flooding and this I didn't know. Once I realized my dilemma I could've turned around and taken highway 41 across but I decided to gamble with the remaining daylight and pressed on through Eden Prairie and into Bloomington for a crossing over the river on the bike path on the south side of 494. I briefly considered mingling with rush-hour traffic and crossing at Cedar but didn't.

I figured at worst I'd be without sunlight for 15-20 minutes. I'd just have to ride more cautiously.

Working my way back over Cedar on highway 13 I was casting a long shadow with 10 miles to go and only 15 minutes before sunset. Fortunately, every stoplight except for one worked in my favor and I made it home a mere 15 minutes after the sun went down. 147 miles total. I could've done the Mankato loop after all.

I was fine with leaving my bike stabled on Saturday and used nearly the entire day to work in the yard. The next few weeks the leaves are going to own me. Still, I was able to make a big dent in the job and am ahead for now. In true geek fashion—a little before and after...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Charlie is 2, A Flood Day Riding and Strike 2

Charlie turned two last Wednesday. Tammy got him some new stuffed animals to go with the dozen others the pups already drag out regularly. I've never had a more playful pup and he knows I'm a soft touch for indulging him. His big thing lately is to taunt us with his toys as if to challenge us to try and get them from him. Or being a mop. Toby and Allie are content for the most part to watch rather than partake in his antics although they both engage him regularly, too. We're careful to spread the love around to them all.

It's been 9 days since the rain stopped after dumping anywhere from 5-7 inches (or more) in a day. What's odd is that our sump-pumps are still being triggered occasionally which must be a symptom of an unusually high water table. You read that right: we have two pumps to be extra safe. We put the additional one in several years ago when we finished our basement. They've never run this long after the rain quit and I'm curious to see how long it continues.

I took to the road Thursday afternoon completely forgetting that my normal access points across the Minnesota River were closed due to flooding. I'd intended to ride out to New Germany crossing over the Minnesota River in Shakopee but soon scrapped those plans after seeing the barricades. I continued on southwest through Chaska toward Jordan wondering if maybe I could get across there but no such luck. I'd given up on making any tracks into the wind in a northwesterly direction so I was content to follow the river and observe the flooding for myself while putting in some beautiful 66 degree fall miles.

I was finally able to get across in Belle Plaine where I followed the river along the other side while wondering if I might be able to get back across near Blakeley but figured those chances were rather slim. And they were. I didn't really care; I was riding and feeling good, plus, it was the beginning of my weekend.

I noodled around out east and south of Belle Plaine before working my way through New Prague while doing some calculations to make sure I was giving myself enough daylight to make it home. I've been cutting it close on a lot of my rides lately. I finished the day working the hills of Judicial with a Loop Road kicker to put me over 100 miles.

I got a message from YouTube a few days ago informing me that our Judge Judy video was being pulled for copyright violation. I'm guilty. That was our 2nd of 3 strikes. The first being for a compilation I'd put together of the Wizard of Oz/Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon synchronization. All of those videos were generating lots of hits so I was disappointed to see them go. I got busy going through our account looking for any other videos that might garner us our 3rd strike so as not to have our account deleted. I took down all of Rachel's dance videos due to their soundtracks and any other videos I could find that had any sort of music playing in them. Some record companies are more aggressive than others about protecting their music with Warner Bros probably being much more of a junkyard dog than any of them.

But all is not lost.

I've resurrected our Judge Judy appearance here.

Our church, Hosanna, has taken a stand on beverages in the sanctuary; or have they? Cup-holders appeared over the last couple weeks and it's now permissible to have covered beverages with you during worship. I'm not sure what to make of it. My understanding was that it was done as a lure to encourage the younger crowd to attend. I get that but I wonder what the next step is in this evolution? A snack to go with your coffee? Why not? The lines between worship and entertainment may be becoming blurred. As I said, I'm not sure what to make of it just yet.