Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Scooter Girl, Cuyuna Trails and a Companion

There was a wake for Mike Blume on Tuesday afternoon in Burnsville. It was nice to see so many people turn out. Lots of retired controllers, some I hadn't seen in years were there. Just before 5:30, they had us all gather in the parking lot to observe a Missing Man formation flyover in tribute to Mike. It was very moving. We would all do well to be remembered so fondly.

Rachel posted on Facebook a few days ago: "Someone on the lightrail exclaimed today, ""you're the scooter girl!"" Made my day." Tammy texted her to ask her what she was referring to and she replied: "I'm a 22 year old riding a razor scooter around the sidewalks of mpls. That's what it means!"I love how she's out there doing her thing and leaving impressions on people along the way.

Tammy has been spending time down in the shop working on some fused glass projects. She had an idea for a small wall vase that could hold a few flowers and came up with the design in the photo to the left. Very fun.

I got up way too early Friday morning trying to get a jump on peak traffic for a quick trip up to Cuyuna mountain bike trails near Crosby and Ironton. It's a part of the state I've spent very little time in and I don't know why. It's so beautiful up there.

The 25 miles of trails are relatively new and the mountain bike community is breathing new life into an area that could use a little help pumping some money into the local economy. I saw a few cars loaded with bikes making their way to the area as I drove the 150 miles to the trail entrance.

I knew the minute I stepped out of the car that I'd forgotten one thing: bug spray. As long as I was moving I was fine but if I had to stop for any reason I'd be doing some sort of slap-happy dance so I kept my stops to a minimum.

I spent a little more than two hours playing around on the trails, trying to ride as many as I could but all too often finding myself on sections I'd already ridden once or more. Even with my Garmin Edge 705 to show me where I'd been and with trail markers along the way it wasn't always easy to get to where I wanted. I'll do better next time. There will be a next time!

The trip gave me a chance to try out the Garmin NĂ¼vi 2597 that Tammy gave me for Father's Day. It's got some nice features that our previous Garmin didn't have such as Garmin Traffic which warns you of delays ahead while offering alternate routes. I actually got to see this in action on my return when I got a voice message alerting me of a delay 48 miles ahead. It then recalculated my arrival time by adding 7 minutes to my drive-time and telling me that I was on the fastest route. The Garmin continued to count down the miles remaining until the congested area and when I got within a few miles of it, a small preview box appeared on the display focused on the area with both red and yellow shading depicting the areas and levels of congestion. Within one mile of the delay, it started counting down by tenths of a mile and sure enough, when it reached zero so did my speedometer. Quite cool!

I occasionally have a companion with me on my walks now. Tammy made it out with me twice this past week. She's intent on getting in shape for some hikes we have planned for our South Dakota get-away later this summer. We did a couple of 6+ mile walks together and plan to gradually increase the distance. When she's breathing hard up a hill I remind her of Harney Peak and that's motivation enough.

I'm happy to have her out there with me.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A 'Mike' Story

We lost one of our former controllers/supervisors last Tuesday afternoon. Mike Blume retired eight years ago and the last I'd heard, he was flying corporate jets. He had been a pilot for years. I never worked directly with or for Mike but I'd only ever heard good things about him.

The photo to the right is the actual plane Mike was piloting when he died. Photo courtesy of John Meneely.

I do have one 'Mike' story to recount from about 15 years ago. I was working a low altitude sector in Iowa and one of the planes in my sector was a single-engine aircraft that had come up from Omaha, Nebraska and was attempting to land at Mason City, Iowa. The low ceiling and poor visibility that had settled in the previous night and was forecast to lift hadn't improved at all. The pilot was qualified to make an instrument approach but if I remember correctly, she didn't have the approach plates (diagram of the approach) for Mason City. Controllers in the sector can relay the pertinent information to the pilot to enable them to do the approach but it's seldom ever done that way and when it is there are very few non-pilot controllers who feel all that comfortable doing it.

The weather was at minimums and she'd missed the approach at least a couple of times when she commented to me that she didn't have "an incredible amount of fuel left". Knowing the weather was low IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) throughout the area I asked her how much fuel she had remaining. She replied "20 minutes". I turned to the supervisor at the desk in my area and said "I need a pilot. Now!" 20 minutes of fuel remaining would be enough to execute one more full approach and one last shot at breaking out and getting the aircraft on the runway. Although I didn't convey to the pilot that I was declaring an emergency for her it was being treated as such.

Mike was in another area and was brought in to help. I don't think I could've hand-picked a more competent pilot/controller for the situation. He sat down at the sector and I quickly briefed him on the dilemma. He calmly reassured Lisa that he'd walk her through the approach and get her on the ground. Over the next several minutes he put himself in the seat next to her and talked her through the approach just as he said he would.

At the end of each instrument approach is a point called decision height and it's where the pilot either has the runway in sight and lands or doesn't and has to perform a missed approach where they go to a specified fix and hold while awaiting further instruction. When Lisa got to decision height she still didn't have the runway in sight. Mike and I were certain that she didn't have enough fuel for another approach. He calmly told her that if he was in her situation he'd nudge the nose over and try and lose another 100 to 200 feet of altitude in hopes that the aircraft would break out of the clouds. It wasn't a clearance or instruction Mike could legally give so he had to be careful not to state it that way. There really was no other option. The flight was coming down through the clouds eventually and this would be as controlled a descent as could be hoped for. She did as he suggested and moments later came back over the frequency stating "I can see the airport!" There was a big sigh from all of us.

It was less than a minute when she radioed back that she was on the ground.

I was impressed watching Mike virtually take over the controls of her airplane and both calm the pilot and be there with her for every mile of that approach. It couldn't have been done any better and I was grateful for his presence.

Months later I asked the Quality Assurance people if the incident was ever processed as a save. It wasn't. All in a day's work I suppose.

So long, friend.

Mike's obituary

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hi, I'm Troy McClure and You May Remember Me From...

Wow, halfway through June already! The weeks seem to come and go so quickly now without any hesitation at all. I remember as a kid my older brother Bryan explaining why that is. He said that each year is less of a percentage of your life when compared or contrasted against all of your previous years and because of that, each subsequent year seems shorter than the previous year. It makes sense. As a 5-year-old, a year would seem like such a long time at 20% of your life but at age 56 (where I'm at for another couple months), one year equals only 1.8% of my life. There is no slowing this train down!

We made it to Foci on Wednesday night but only to pick up our work from the previous week. The studio has been very busy lately and slot times can be hard to find if you don't plan well enough ahead of time. This coming week isn't looking so good either.

I was pleased with the one and only piece of mine that made it into the annealer last week—another candle votive. I keep thinking that it's time I moved on to another form but I really enjoy making these. I'm sure I'll tire of them eventually but I'm content to keep playing around with them for now. Here's another view.

I've had a monkey on my back in the way of a driveway that desperately needed seal-coating. I put aside all other plans on Thursday morning and got busy. I was told to seal it every two years but that seems to be at least six months too long to wait. I was able to fit the rental pressure washer for preparing the driveway into the back of my Forester but only after disassembling the handle apparatus. I'm still missing my truck.

Before and after.

Rachel came into town on Friday around noon to spend the day and evening with us. She texted me, asking if I could pick her up at the Apple Valley transit station. Fortunately for both of us, I'd gotten out earlier than usual on my bike and was just getting back from a 63-mile ride. I quickly showered and we met at Which Wich for a sandwich and conversation. She's always (and I love this) bubbling over with things to talk about. There's so much going on in her life and we don't get a chance to connect like this often enough. My brain wasn't fully recovered from my ride as I felt like I was lagging behind a little but I did my best to keep up.

I was out working in the yard Thursday afternoon when a man and a woman in a car pulled up and began asking me questions about the altercation between the tree trimmers the previous week. I assumed they were a news team from one of the local stations and I was right. I told them briefly what I observed and mentioned that I took some video on my cellphone. They couldn't get out of their car fast enough to talk with me some more when I told them that.

Within just a couple of minutes of talking, they were fitting me with a mic and Joe was training his camera on me while Kate instructed me to look at her and not the camera. It all happened so quickly. Rachel noticed what was happening and positioned herself to take a photo of us knowing I'd, of course, want to post it here. Nice thinking, Stepdaughter! They posed a few questions out in the yard and then we moved over by the garage where they had me speak some more with the hope that I'd eventually utter a couple of intelligent enough comments that they could stitch together for their news segment.

They were kind enough to pose for a photo before we said our goodbyes. They told me to look for the story on their 10:00 newscast that night. I had no idea it would be the lead story! Haha! It surely must've been a slow news day in the metro area.

So now when I'm introducing myself I can do as Troy McClure of the Simpsons does and reference all of my TV appearances. Hi, I'm Kevin Gilmore and you may remember me from such shows as Judge Judy's Dog Causes Cyclist to Crash or WCCO's Tree Trimmer Allegedly Threatens Man With Chainsaw. I kinda like that! Here's the video.

I was commenting to Tammy after they left that I could totally see myself being a photojournalist. I know it'll never happen but still, I imagine what it would be like. This isn't a new want for me. There's something about capturing video and splicing it together to tell a story that is very intriguing to me. I went back to my yard work and started daydreaming about looking into what schooling would be necessary to make that dream a reality and how fun it would be to have a job that you were excited about because it fed a deeper desire.

For now, I'll have to feed my photojournalist desire with more stories from the road. I like this most recent one and some of the scenes toward the end. Stay with it and see...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

This Isn't Mayberry Anymore

We had a little action earlier in the week in our quiet little corner of Lakeville. Some workers from a tree trimming service got a little heated with each other on the job and nearly got into a brawl out on the street in front of a bunch of neighborhood kids. I heard the commotion from inside my garage and stepped out to have a look. Mark and Becky were slowly walking in the direction of the altercation while phoning 911. Evidently, somebody had already placed a call to the police. By the time I whipped out my cellphone to catch a little of the action (for my blog, of course) it was winding down. One guy had had a running chainsaw that he was waving at the other guy who was brandishing a shovel. A somewhat cooler head prevailed and the chainsaw was traded out for a tree limb and before long even that was set aside. The police arrived within minutes. All the while this was going on there was one other worker up in a tree behind the houses with a chainsaw apparently oblivious to the commotion out front.

We all stood around watching from our comfortably safe distance while Tammy and Becky sang the theme song to Cops. "Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you, bad boys bad boys?!"

I had never been to the Edina Art Fair until Friday. I was impressed! It will definitely be on our list of must-do summer activities from now on. Not quite as large as the Uptown Art Fair but still lots to look at. We had a few friends from Foci who were participating in the show that we made a point of seeking out and saying hello to. We came away with a new birdhouse to replace the one that had weathered beyond repair a couple years ago. Wrens would occupy it every year as I'm sure they will this one.

Tammy is up north in Babbitt to visit her mom and sister for the weekend. She brought along her aunt Joyce too. She's so good that way, always thinking of others. We had a laugh on the phone last night when she mentioned how she was taking them to church and then to the casino at Fortune Bay for a few hours of playing the slot machines.

I had a couple of tough rides this past week. Monday's ride was brutal with winds gusting to around 35 mph! It took a lot out of me and left me feeling demoralized and wondering if I'd ever find my speed again. Thursday's ride wasn't any better with not as strong of winds but still quite blustery. I could tell after the first 10 miles that I still hadn't fully recovered from Monday's beating. Still, I looked at it as a good workout. I did my best to race home ahead of a line of storms that was approaching the metro area.

Watch the video of my ride and see how the sky changes from a beautiful blue to a threatening gray.

This morning's ride was much better! It was such a gorgeous morning with light winds and a right knee that wasn't hurting at all. I loved it! These are the kind of conditions I dream about. I did a loop into St Paul and was out there before the traffic picked up with my "workout 1" mix on my Nano to keep me motivated; not that I needed any motivation.

I raced home and quickly made a lunch and tended to the pups before leaving for work all the while imagining what it will be like when I'm no longer in a hurry because of work.

It's this sort of ride that leaves me so pumped and ready to go again. I never want to lose this desire!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Can You Run Him Back a 7UP And Put it on My Tab?"

The plan was to get up early this morning and go for a ride before work but it's been raining since sometime last night and looks to want to persist. That's okay. I've had a pretty good week of workouts so a day off is probably a good thing.

My right knee is feeling better this week than it has in months and I'm so thankful for that. No doubt the Synvisc injection is helping but one thing I've known for a while is that total rest for my knee doesn't necessarily equate to it feeling better sooner. I need to work it, especially on the bike. It's healthiest when I'm out there several times each week putting in a good effort. I keep recalling the words my orthopedic doctor told me, that cycling is the best thing I can do for my knee's health. No more personal record attempts on our elliptical though!

I'm enjoying my time spent on my walks as much as ever. Typically, I'll walk while listening to music but lately I've been out there with just my own thoughts. Some people thrive on the company of friends while others seek solitude. I'm much more a loner; it's nothing new, it's just the way I've always been.

Have I mentioned that we need a vacation? It's been 5 years since we've been on one and we're definitely overdue! We have plans in the works for a drive out to western South Dakota this summer. I know it's not an "oh wow!" destination for most people but it works for us. If we didn't retire in Lakeville, I would seriously consider looking at Rapid City, SD as a place to plant some new roots.

My sister sent me an email this week with an article about how we learn our most difficult and important life lessons from our darker periods, much more so than any lessons we may learn from a life that is absent of challenges. I agree. It was just a couple days after sending me that email that she broke her ankle in 9 places requiring surgery and 7 screws to piece it back together. I think this would qualify as a darker period in her life but knowing Jackie, I know she'll come out of it a stronger person than she was before it happened.

Rachel began her job as a medical scribe a couple weeks ago and has progressed to working without a trainer shadowing her. She loves it. We were talking on the phone two nights ago and she was saying how she gets excited thinking about going into work. Wouldn't we all love to be able to say that? We're happy for her and think this is such a good opportunity for her.

My brother left a message on my phone yesterday of an audio recording I'd made for him back in 1993. The message was cutting out a little as cell-phones in this day and age will sometimes do but I recognized my voice. The recording was of a conversation I'd had over the radio frequency at work with the pilot of United Airlines flight 555 all those years ago.

I knew that Bryan was on the flight as he made his way across the country from Chicago to Boise but I didn't know if he'd be listening to the pilot-controller conversation which is sometimes available through the on-board entertainment channels. I would find out later that he was. Keep in mind as you listen to the conversation (audio file below) that when he first heard my voice, he nudged the stranger sitting next to him and said something along the lines of "you can hear my brother on the frequency controlling the airspace we're flying in." I believe the guy may have given him a sideways glance out of the corner of his eye seeming somewhat skeptical but Bryan would prove to be no crackpot shortly after my conversation with the pilot ended.

Have a listen to find out why. (If you'd rather not listen to ATC talk, skip to 3:00 into the recording)