Sunday, July 27, 2014

Living Dangerously and Videos for Reminiscing

I had this past week off from work and that's always a dangerous thing at this point in my career. Our ever-changing plans are for me to work another 9 to 18 months but throughout the week I routinely found myself imagining what it would be like to not have to go back. I daydreamed of texting Tracee and asking her to please prepare my paperwork to process me out. More than once I made a list in my head of both pros and cons for retiring now but the results were always the same. I'm determined to stay put and keep feathering our nest. We're not quite there yet but we're close.

I would love to see Tammy be able to call it quits before I do. She's never been more frustrated with her job and I really don't like to see her stressed the way she's been.

Toby had a rough start to the week. He was hesitating coming down the stairs in the morning as if in pain. He'd haltingly take one step at a time rather than the usual blur his little legs make when he's hurrying to get to his food bowl. Typically, it's a race between Toby and Charlie to see who can get to the bottom of the stairs first. Toby will often nudge Charlie to the outside and force him up against the wall to slow him down while he goes for the win; it's sort of like a body-check in hockey. There's been none of that lately.

I called the vet and brought him in to be seen. She methodically checked out all of his joints before stating that she thinks he may have injured his right shoulder. She said it's possible that something may have fallen on him or that he may have taken a tumble down the stairs. We know that both Toby and Allie's eyesight isn't what it used to be so we're careful to turn the lights on for them when they're on the stairs. The vet gave me some pain meds for him and he's doing much better. I had them out for a walk this morning and he seemed to be back to his old self.

I got in a bunch of miles both walking and riding during my break. It was nice. I did one of my longer walks last Sunday of 15 miles. I've been doing lots of 8 to 12-mile walks but nothing quite that long. I was ready to get off my feet by the time I got home.

I used to ride in the evening oftentimes but somewhere in the last few years, I've gotten away from that, preferring to get my riding done earlier in the day. I made an exception last Wednesday night and took to the roads on the heels of rush hour traffic. I thoroughly enjoyed myself out there! I may need to make room for more of these evening rides to close out the day.

The 3rd week in July is typically the peak for our gardens and this year is no exception. I took a walk around our yard with both my Panasonic Lumix camera and my Sony Handycam to capture some images and video for the archives to look back on years from now. Maybe I'm a little odd but I've always been one who enjoys reminiscing. The ability to capture moments has never been easier and I'm certain that I'd be upset with myself later in life if I didn't take the time to record scenes from our lives now.

And so I do...

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Suggestion or Two and Somebody's Got Mail!

I was clicking through channels one day last week when I landed on my all-time favorite movie: Breaking Away. It didn't matter that I have it on DVD, I couldn't pull myself away from it. I remember watching it in a theater by myself in San Diego when it came out in 1979. I loved it and the connection I felt with the lead character, Dave Stoller. I brought along a couple friends from my ship the next night to see it again.

It's a coming of age movie about 4 friends from Bloomington, Indiana and a growing competition (born out of their own insecurities) between them and some of the college kids in town. I guarantee you that you won't be disappointed if you take the time to watch it.

As of a couple weeks ago, Rachel has a set of wheels to get around on. Her dad gave her his 2001 Toyota Camry with about 110,000 miles on it. This should be all she needs to get her through the next few years until she's more able to afford something newer. She's done well the last few years using her bike to get herself most places, even in the winter. She plans to continue using public transportation between Rochester and Minneapolis for her job as a medical scribe though because it's considerably cheaper than driving her car and paying for parking. I'm glad to see that she's got even more independence now.

She drove up on Friday and stayed with us through Sunday. Her visit was timely because her diploma came in Saturday's mail. We didn't get to spend very much time together because she was getting together with friends who were also in town. Still, it was nice to see her.

We were in the studio last Wednesday for a few hours. Steve and Craig were putting on an impressive display of glassblowing skills on the far bench. We always learn when we watch them.

Of my 3 turns at the bench, I had two successes. I'm doing an occasional vase, bowl or tumbler but mostly I'm still really enjoying making the candle votives I've been playing around with for the past several months. I tried something different and embedded a layer of frit between the 2nd and 3rd gather on the piece to the right. It gives a nice shimmering effect to the candlelight.

I do need to step it up a little though and move on to other forms.

It's been a dream of mine for pretty much all of my adult life to bicycle across the country. The dream hasn't totally died but I put its chances of ever happening at no more than 15%. Keith told me about the daughter of a friend of his who is cycling from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania to Seattle, Washington. Megan doesn't appear to be a hardcore cyclist although she did her share of riding in preparation for the trip. Wait a second—isn't someone who bicycles across the country a hardcore cyclist? Yeah, I stand corrected. You can follow along on Facebook at Moon Cycle. She's a recent college graduate and began the cross-country trip with a friend but they decided to part ways somewhere just west of Chicago. She writes very well and has some interesting stories to share.

Speaking of riding—I'm finally getting out much more regularly than I'd been. It feels good and so does my troublesome right knee. I was riding Saturday morning and reconsidering my plans to 'go long' and opt for turning toward home instead. I had pulled over on the side of the highway to shoot off a quick email to a friend when Paul (from work) and his wife Tracy passed me by. Paul had quickly paused to see if I needed help before recognizing me through my helmet and shades. I thanked him and assured him I was fine before finishing my email and putting the chase on them, finally catching up with them a few miles up the road. We spent the next two hours riding together and turned what for all of us had been somewhat mediocre rides into something a lot more enjoyable.

I'm typically a solo cyclist but a departure from the norm was welcome.

Thanks to my friend Eugene Benjamin for the backing music in the video below.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Freezers on the Fritz and a Summer Celebration

Tammy noticed our freezer in the basement had stopped working and most of its contents had melted and spilled out onto the floor. At about the same time she was telling me of the mess she'd just finished cleaning, I was reaching for a frozen pizza from the upstairs freezer and noticed that it too was struggling to keep the food frozen. Both units had power to them but something was seriously wrong. I had a tech out from Tony's Appliance in Burnsville the next day and he diagnosed the problem as a failed compressor in both the downstairs freezer and our upstairs refrigerator/freezer. I kind of figured as much. Neither one would be worth fixing. We'd had a strong storm come through two days earlier and the tech said it's quite likely that the storm could've caused a power surge that took out both units. We're just thankful it didn't happen while we were away on vacation.

We'll have some new appliances delivered this week and while we wait, we're thankful for the mini-fridge in our downstairs kitchenette.

Our next-door neighbors, Karen and Bob, hosted our annual summer get-together Friday night. It's always a fun time when they host a party. Always! We've got a really nice group of neighbors who usually show up. There was a time a dozen years ago when the neighborhood was definitely on the cliquey side and we never felt comfortable with that crowd. Karen and Bob go out of their way to be very inclusive but even so, there are many who take a pass and I get that. We can be more than a little loud once the party gets rolling.

Thursday's south loop.

I got out this morning for my Jordan loop. It's 43 miles and something I can easily knock out before my late morning shift at the salt mine. Light winds, low humidity and comfortable temps made for ideal riding conditions. I'd take a year of days just like today if I could.

I brought it home in a 19.1 mph (30.7 km) average speed which for where my training is at this year is something I'm happy with.

It's been about 9 weeks since I had my Synvisc injection in my right knee to help alleviate the pain of osteoarthritis. The PA who administered the shot told me to allow 3 to 6 weeks for it to get up to speed and begin helping. He was right. It was about two weeks ago when I noticed that I'm riding virtually pain-free. How amazing is that? It feels like I've dialed the clock back 30 years on my knee. It's that good! I have to be careful not to overdo it which is asking a lot some days. Only time will tell how many months of relief the injection brings me. So far so good.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

New Wallpaper and New Tenants

There's an interesting read in Kathryn's Report about Mike Blume's crash a few weeks ago. I'll let my ATC friends make of it what you will.

A photographer for the Chaska Herald sent me a photo he took of me recently while I was on a ride, stymied by the flooded Minnesota River in Jordan. I offered to pay him for it but he was kind enough to simply send me the file for my personal use. It's now serving as wallpaper on my 4-year-old Macbook Pro (photo to the left).

Allie has become more skittish than ever about the sound of fireworks; so much so that it's very difficult to get her to go outside at all once late afternoon to evening rolls around. I have to tell her in my most excited voice that we're going out to see the rabbits and squirrels or she won't follow my lead. Evening walks with her are out of the question for now. Toby and Charlie don't seem to mind the noise.

I hate to see our little guys getting older. Toby has recently become hesitant to try and attempt to jump up on the couch to enjoy his usual spot. I'll often lift him up there knowing it's where he likes to observe his world. The wood floors make it difficult for him to get good footing to make the jump. They've always been a bit of a problem for him but especially now.

Charlie is as playful as ever. I was sitting eating a bowl of cereal this morning when I felt him pawing at my foot. I looked down to see him backing away with one of his stuffed animals in his mouth, wagging his head from side to side taunting me to try and get it from him. He loves to be chased and to chase after whatever I'll throw for him. I sometimes wonder how he'll manage when Toby and Allie are gone. It's a thought I don't like to dwell on.

My riding has not been what it normally is for me this year. Typically, I'll be out there 4 to 6 days a week but this year I'm content with half that amount. My walking gets in the way a little for sure because I don't ride on days when I'm out walking but there's something else that's to blame. That 'something else' is an obvious understanding that the roads aren't nearly as safe as they were just a few years ago. I drove alongside a woman in another car on the way home from work last Tuesday and I watched for the 5 miles I was sharing the road with her how she never once put her phone down. She was continually texting someone. I would lag behind and see how she couldn't drive a straight line, drifting around in her lane. It's disturbing to know that she's not the exception. It's so commonplace now and I'm feeling more vulnerable than ever when I'm riding. I don't intend to stop riding but knowing that texting and distracted drivers are making up a good percentage of those behind the wheel dampens my excitement for this thing I love to do. I'm thankful for my Dinotte light knowing it definitely helps make me more visible but it's not enough.

In spite of my concerns about safety on the roads, I had a nice 4th of July ride doing a loop I hadn't done in years out to Waterville via Faribault. I had one mechanical issue 35 miles into my ride when I broke my front derailleur cable. I could manage without it but it left me stuck in the small chainring in front and I was hoping to take advantage of a tailwind on the way home. I would need my large chainring for that. As I exited the bike path in Waterville that I'd taken from Faribault, I was surprised to see a bike shop sitting pretty as could be less than a few hundred feet off the path. A very nice couple own it and operate it with the help of their grandson, Brady. Brady showed up a few minutes after I walked through the door and had me back on the road in no time. How fortunate was that? A shout-out to BW's Bikes!

Link to my ride on Strava.

Tammy and I walked to see the fireworks at Lakeville High School Friday night. Traffic can be so congested in and out of the area around that section of Lakeville before and after the show that we thought it would be nice to walk it instead. We were right. I think this may be our new routine.

The wren house I put up in our front garden has some new tenants. Tammy noticed a wren sitting on top of the house the other day singing loudly. I set up my video camera the next morning and let it record them for an hour as the female busily worked building their nest while the male mostly sang to impress his lady and let others know that this was their territory. It was interesting to watch. I'm sorry but the video no longer exists.