Monday, February 25, 2013

Saying Goodbye to a Friend of 30 Years

I took off from work early Tuesday afternoon to go with Brad and Lee over to Mike's house to spend some time with him and say our goodbyes. Mike is in the final stages of bone and lung cancer. It was nice to see him one last time but also as one would expect, very sad. He's lost so much weight and has become so small. Even his voice is tiny. The 3 chemotherapy treatments he received did nothing but hasten his failing health. We spent 25 minutes with him and he did well to stay alert but I could see that he was at times struggling to focus on our conversation.

I wanted to get a photo of us all but I didn't sense that it would be right. I think I'd prefer to remember the vibrant Mike Koch I've known for 30 years and not the one left beaten by cancer. He managed to get up out of his recliner as we were leaving and see us to the back door. It was a struggle for him but I wouldn't expect anything less from Mike.

The cancer was such a blindside to Mike and Lyn. He didn't get the diagnosis until around Christmas and I don't think he could've imagined then that his time would be so short. He will be missed by many.

I wrote the above yesterday afternoon and just received word before publishing this that Mike passed away last night at 11:10.

So sad. We will meet again, of that I am sure.

I got out for a fun, 34-mile ride last weekend, back down to the Minnesota River bottoms along the trails east of the Cedar Avenue bridge. I'd promised Tammy I wouldn't go back there because that was where I'd had my share of spills that we think led to my pulmonary embolus a little over a year ago but I wasn't venturing on the part of the trail where I'd had my troubles. Where I was going was quite tame, serene and beautiful. I really enjoyed being out there again as I maneuvered through 5" of freshly fallen snow.

I noticed an update on Facebook Friday night that Sam Llanas, formerly of the BoDeans would be playing at a small venue in Minneapolis in a few hours. I dismissed it because it was getting late and I was tired but I really wanted to go. I finally gave in to that unrelenting inner voice beckoning me, kissed Tammy goodbye and in an act of spontaneity rolled out of the driveway at 10:30. The show wasn't to begin until 11:00.

I got to Icehouse with the opening act underway and found a seat, center-stage not more than 15 feet back. How could that be I wondered. I would only have to wait 30 minutes for Sammy and his band to come out to our small smattering of applause. There couldn't have been more than 40 people in the audience and many of those appeared too busy talking to even notice the band.

The chatter continued around me as they played and I couldn't help but feel a little bad for Sam and his band. Didn't these people know who was up there performing I thought to myself? My disappointment grew even more as the crowd began to thin with people moving toward the exit an hour into the set. I figured it had to be the demographics of the crowd—middle-aged people past their bedtime. Whatever. I was enjoying the show.

Here are some videos from the night.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More of the Planning Stage

We spent most of the weekend driving around to too many furniture stores to recall as we looked for possible furniture ideas for the 3-season porch we're planning to have built this spring. In all reality, it's probably more accurate to refer to it as a 4-season porch as we'll have both heat and air-conditioning out there. We're working with our neighbor, Karen, who is an interior designer and someone that Tammy and I both have a lot of admiration for. She's done so many cool and fun things with her home. She's loaded us down with a ton of home interior design magazines from which to get ideas. And speaking of ideas, I've signed up for a Pinterest account and have created a page called Sun Porch Ideas where I can pin anything that catches my eye. There's not much there yet.

Karen is working with us to help develop our style which is something that could best be described as a hodgepodge of sorts. We've got some traditional pieces that we purchased early on in our marriage that no longer fit with our current tastes which over the last several years are trending more toward prairie style with some contemporary leanings. We both like clean, simple lines with nothing too overstuffed or large although you'd never know that by looking at our living room furniture. But hey, the pups love it!

Joe will be doing the construction for us. He's good enough for Karen and her many projects both large and small so that means he's good enough for us. We met with both Joe and Karen yesterday morning for a couple hours to go over some of our concerns and ideas we've been discussing. There's so much to consider in a project such as this but having both Joe and Karen's expertise available to us definitely gives us a sense of confidence as we move forward. But still, I don't want to be too overconfident about any of this. There's a part of me that is inclined to wait until fall or possibly even next spring to break ground, not wanting to rush it.

As with most any project of this sort, it's grown to become more expensive than we'd originally budgeted for. I'm still trying to come to terms with that too I suppose.

We were sitting at a stoplight Saturday afternoon at County Rd 5 and 42 with Pandora playing a Led Zeppelin track while Tammy knitted a scarf. She commented that this is the face of the young side of the senior generation—Led Zeplin and knitting. She then went on to ponder out loud what retirement homes will sound like as our generation eventually makes the transition into them. Move over Perry Como and Andy Williams. Hello, '60s and '70s rock! There's something that just seems wrong about that.

I'm leaving work soon with a couple other guys to go say our goodbyes to a friend of ours. Mike retired 12 years ago and isn't much longer for this world as his body succumbs to cancer. His wife talked with Lee yesterday and said that if we want to see him again we need to do it now. This won't be easy.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Planning Stage and Mukluk Heaven

It was 21 years ago that our home was being built and I can say without any doubt that I never imagined then that it would take this long to put a deck on the back of our house. It was never a priority. I always wanted one but I also had plans in the back of my mind to do more than a simple deck and unless and until I could realize those plans, I would wait and leave well enough alone. I suppose after a while I even stopped seeing it as unfinished.

Anyway, that's all about to change.

The dream I've had all these years is to have some kind of screen or 3-season porch extending out from where you see the sliding door in the photo with a deck working its way to the right along the back of the house. My most recent ideas have all been leaning toward a screen-porch, wanting the feel of being outside but without the nuisance of bugs. But now that we're getting much more serious about moving forward with this project and have taken some time to weigh our options, we've decided to go with a 3-season porch that we can utilize year-round, full of windows to let in the sunlight and give us the feeling that we're not simply in another room in our home.

I think it's time to sit down with some graph paper and sketch up some basic ideas.

I had a blast riding my Mukluk on Friday. I got out mid-morning and headed toward some gravel roads southwest of home near Murphy Hanrehan Park, an area where I had so much fun riding last winter before being sidelined. I hadn't intended to use the snowmobile trails that often shadowed the road, thinking that I didn't belong there on my bike but the lure of them was much too strong especially considering that there was no traffic on them whatsoever. And so I did. I doubled back and picked up the trail and soon realized that I was in Mukluk heaven! It was so fun out there. For the most part, the trail is actually on county land and is part of a park system. I'm not exactly sure what the legalities are for snow-bikes being on the trail. I would never attempt it on a weekend with increased snowmobile traffic.

I took a road-trip with Toby yesterday afternoon down along the Mississippi River past Red Wing and toward Lake Pepin in search of eagles once again. We saw a few but none that got very near to us. Still, it was nice to be out and while Toby didn't exactly come out and tell me, I just knew he really enjoyed the one-on-one time with me as did I with him. He's a special guy.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Got Any Dub?

Tammy got a text message the other day from an unknown number.

U: "hey whats up its jerrid you got a dub?"
T: "no dub here"

...and again the next day...

U: "hey its me again wondering if you had a dub or no"
T: "i only have a few shihtzus"
U: "who is this?"
T: "and an ant farm...but they're not for sale"
U: "again who is this i think i got the wrong number"
T: "i think so bro"

It turns out that "dub" is slang for narcotics. And now you know.

Our weather has been bitterly cold this week but not so much that it stopped us from getting together with Mom and taking her out to Red Lobster a few nights ago. She was so pretty. I sometimes don't think that most of us realize how much discomfort from arthritis and other pains she endures much of the time—seldom complaining. She just goes about her day, taking in stride whatever obstacles present themselves. I will do well to remember her example when and if I ever reach her age of 84 years.

Since purchasing my CompuTrainer one year ago, I've been enjoying training with watts rather than my typical focus on mostly average speed and heart-rate stats—the way I've done it for more than twenty years. Training with watts is I think a more accurate way to judge one's effort especially out on the road in the face of a strong wind where average speeds plummet. The amount of wattage you're producing isn't affected by wind and gives a clearer indication of effort.

I've been eyeing power meters from a distance for a few years, somewhat hesitant to jump into that pool of technology, not sure it was worth it and somewhat waiting for it to become less involved to incorporate one into one of my bikes. I first noticed Quarq power meters a couple years ago but wasn't sure then that they were ready for prime-time.

Well, they were ready then and are even more so now.

I made the move this last week and pulled the trigger on a Quarq ELSA 10R crank-based power meter. I'll go into it in more detail in a future blog entry. I ordered it through Flanders Bros in Minneapolis and had Adrian do the install for me. It will pair nicely with my Garmin Edge 705 cyclo-computer although I'm not sure my 705 will have all of the functionality that the Garmin 800 offers with respect to power data. An upgrade there can wait.

I'm excited to get it out on the road and begin working with it and to see what sort of results it yields. I haven't been pushing myself hard enough out on the road the last several years and I think this training tool coupled with my CompuTrainer will work to stop my slide into further mediocrity on the bike. I'm excited.

We've been considering replacing windows in our home because of some condensation problems on them that we've been having. My assumption was that our windows are bottom of the line, builder's grade and that they have poorer than normal insulation properties. I was wrong. Joe, our contractor who will soon be adding a 3-season porch and deck on the back of our home came by yesterday and he said that our problems aren't with our windows at all but rather with the humidity level in our house. We've got the humidity set at 35% but he said that's too high. It should be down around 19%. That seemed too uncomfortably low to us both but we tried it last night with the outside temp dropping to near 0ยบ f and sure enough, no moisture to speak of on our windows this morning plus it wasn't at all uncomfortable. He said our windows are actually of very good quality and should easily outlive us. That was really nice to hear.

We had intended to put the addition off until next year but we're going to move forward with it now and get one last piece of the puzzle to fall into place before retirement.

Did you hear that? Listen closely...can you hear it?

It's the call of the Mukluk!