Sunday, August 31, 2014

Huron to Rapid City Via the Badlands

I didn't plan on this being more than 1 or 2 posts about our trip but I can't seem to condense it down to that. Work with me and I'll keep it interesting. I promise! Part one can be found here.

With Huron in our rear-view mirror, we headed west on Highway 14 toward Pierre, the capital of South Dakota and a city I'd never been to. Tammy was in control of the music this entire vacation and I was happy to let her surprise me with her selections. Never once did she disappoint. I could tell that she was cheating a little in my favor, not that there's much of a difference in our likes.

We'd both been dreaming of our time away for a while and the chance to just point our car in the direction of the open road while watching the world pass by and not thinking (especially Tammy) about work.

In another life, I could've maybe been a long-haul trucker, but maybe not. There's something very seductive about seeing the world this way but I don't suppose my blood clotting condition (Factor V Leiden) would be a good match for sitting in a truck's cab for extended periods. 

We weren't in any hurry to get to where we were going so when an interesting scene unfolded in front of us we'd pull over to experience it in real-time and not at 70+ mph. Such was the case with the fields of sunflowers that surrounded us somewhere between Huron and Pierre. I'd never seen so many! We enjoyed getting out and photographing them and having a closer look. I remember driving off and thinking how much fun that was and what we'd have missed out on had we just sped past them instead.

The Badlands was our main stop along the way in our travels for Friday. Whenever someone tells me they'll be traveling through western South Dakota I always encourage them to make the Badlands a part of their plans if they aren't already. To miss out on them is a big mistake. Despite the advertising signs for Wall Drug beginning hundreds of miles away, take a pass on it if you're looking to save time.

We stopped a couple times during our drive through this otherworldly place to hike and take photos. One thing you notice is that the dirt/soil/clay that makes up the Badlands seems to be very crumbly. Tammy was wondering how it is that it hasn't eroded or washed away yet. I found this quote online from the National Parks Service: "The Badlands erode at the rapid rate of about one inch per year. Evidence suggests that they will erode completely away in another 500,000 years, giving them a lifespan of just one million years. Not a long period of time from a geologic perspective."

So many times on this trip I found myself dreaming of being on my bike and how cool it would be to someday ride these roads we were taking. Someday.

We eventually made it to our room at the Holiday Inn in Rapid City, a place we'd liked very much when we stayed there some 13 years ago or more. It's a smoke-free hotel but it didn't appear that our room was living up to that. More on that later.

We did a pretty good job of saving our appetites for the Firehouse Brewing Co in the city. It's not that the food is great because it's really not but we enjoyed ourselves so much the last time we were there with Rachel 10 years ago and we sort of wanted to maybe recapture some of that. I think we did.

We kicked around the city after dinner, going in and out of the many shops and bars in downtown Rapid City. I commented to Tammy that if we didn't retire in Lakeville I'd like to give serious consideration to settling down in the Rapid City area. I don't see it as being a choice we'll ever actually make; more of a dream than anything else.

But I've always been a dreamer.

(Part 3 can be found here)

Friday, August 29, 2014

And I Said Goodbye to Huron, Again

Tammy and I took advantage of a break in our schedules to get away for a 5-day vacation to our neighboring state of South Dakota this past week. It had been 10 years since we were last there but that trip hadn't included a stop in Huron where I used to live in the early to mid-'80s when I worked at the Flight Service station there. I made a point of spending one night in the city this time. I needed to see the town again and to reminisce a little along the way.

We took highway 14 which was the route I used to take when I first moved out there. Passing through small towns I hadn't seen in nearly 30 years would at times evoke some memories that hadn't risen to the surface in so long. Sometimes it was a bend in the road that would jog my memory, a section of highway long ago forgotten about but seeing it again would recall a memory so vividly. Other times it was the topography, coming up over a rise and seeing a city or a building off in the distance just the way I remembered it. I'd get excited and recall for Tammy some of those long-ago forgotten memories that for whatever reason still matter to me.

There were a few thoughts along the way of my family-life back then, of Noy and her sons whom I've lost all contact with, but for the most part it was just me reminiscing about my life that was and realizing how fast 30 years has gotten away from me and feeling a sense of sadness about that.

We made arrangements to stay at the Crossroads Hotel and Event Center which was just being built when I moved back to the Minneapolis area in August of 1985. Our smoke-free room was comfortable and quite a fair deal at less than $90.

Tammy was happy to accompany me on a trip down memory lane when we arrived in Huron with only a few hours of daylight remaining. I stopped to photograph the "World's Largest Pheasant" that greets you as you come into town from the east. We then drove down by the pool that used to be so alive with kids but was now abandoned having been made obsolete by a new waterpark across town.

We drove to our hotel to check-in and after that, I took a short stroll around town to take some photos and compare my memories of the city with what it's become. I stood out by Dakota Ave, the main street in town, hoping that maybe a former co-worker would recognize me but no such luck. None of my friends that I'm still in contact with (thanks to Facebook) still live in the city. I didn't spend as long walking the city streets as I'd have liked because there were still a few spots I wanted to see in daylight: where I used to live; where I used to work, and the Huron mall.

We stopped by my old address at 2121 Ohio Ave SW, Apt 7 and I got out to walk around while Tammy waited in the car. It looks much the same but everything around it has changed considerably. The vacant lots on either side are no more; they've been built up. I wondered what became of the retired couple, Dale and Ione Kimzey, who lived above us? They would be in their 90s if they're still alive today.

Just down the street is the mall that for the most part has been abandoned. J.C. Penney left years ago leaving Kmart as the only other anchor and the only other store still in business. The main door to the mall was locked but a woman at Kmart told me to try again in the morning and that I should be able to get in and have a look around.

We drove to the north end of the city and to the airport to find that the building I once worked in had been torn down. I tried to imagine where it had been but without access to our old parking lot, it was a little difficult to picture where it was that I'd spent all those hours briefing pilots over the phone about the weather and providing airport advisories to traffic in the pattern. Some guy approached me and asked if I needed help. I explained that I used to work at the Flight Service station and was having a look around and did he know if Dan Parrish was still flying in the area? He said that the last he'd heard, Dan was flying an MU2 out of Omaha, Nebraska. I'll have to listen for his voice over the frequency when I'm back at work.

We left the airport and I eventually found my way to the golf course after making a wrong turn, not aware that the entrance to the course and even the parking lot had been moved. I spoke with the guy behind the clubhouse counter and asked him how long ago they reconfigured the first tee, the clubhouse and parking lot. He said it's always been this way. He looked to be in his early 20s.

Huron is where in 1984 I became a runner. There was a gravel road out west of our apartment where I'd run to that was part of a 5-mile loop I'd often do. I had no idea then how important running would one day become to me. What I wouldn't give to be able to engage in that activity again.

We had dinner at the Prime Time Tavern on the south end of town just a couple blocks from where my apartment was. It's just the way I remember it with a streamlined menu and very reasonable prices. I was very glad to see it had survived the 3 decades I'd been away.

We left the restaurant and I drove up Ohio Ave which was the north/south avenue just outside our apartment. There used to be a simple blue rambler several blocks up with a large tree in the front yard that I wanted to show Tammy. It was my dream-home back then. If only I could own something like that I thought, I'd be content. (Huron was a tough market to be a seller in the mid-'80s, I would guess it still is, and I knew my time there wouldn't be long so we rented.)

I was thinking that maybe I was mistaken because we weren't seeing it and I was running out of streets but then toward the end of the avenue I found it, just the way I remembered it except that it's a lighter blue color now. I got out to have a closer look and to try and imagine myself all those years ago, walking down that same sidewalk and eyeing the simple blue home. And now it's for sale for $84,800. I'll have to take a pass.

We finished out the night by stopping in at a few local bars where I dropped Willy's name to the guy behind the counter to see if anyone could tell me how he's doing. Willy was a co-worker whose wife would sometimes have to come and get him out of the bar to return home. He either gave up the booze or has moved on as nobody I spoke with was familiar with his name.

We got up the next morning and had coffee and a pastry at Don't Spill the Beans. We drove back to the mall on our way out of town to see if it was open so I could go inside. It was. And that's where it hit me. I came to the end of the hall and stood in front of what used to be the pet shop, the place where I'd bought Coocoo when I first arrived in town. I was a little overcome with emotion. The store was empty as they all were but in my mind, I was flashing back and seeing the store's owner behind the counter and hearing the calls from dozens of animals waiting to be taken to new homes. I was seeing it all in my head but then I'd refocus on what was and it was just so, so sad. It was all gone. All of it. Everybody and everything had moved on from this place. It seemed a microcosm of what Huron, the Huron I knew, had become in some ways. My eyes welled up with tears and I turned around to walk back to the car and to Tammy.

And I said goodbye to Huron, again.

(Part 2 can be found here)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Dream to Ponder and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I had a dream about my Dad yesterday afternoon while I was catching a couple of hours of sleep before my all-night shift. It was a lengthy dream, or so it seemed, where one thing leads to another and another.

In my dream, I was on my bike coming back home from Rosemount. I noticed that my wheels weren't turning over very easily and I thought that maybe it was because of the coarseness of the sidewalk I was on. I got off to look at my wheels and found myself standing in the driveway of some home where a bunch of people had gathered outside. We were all waiting for the owner to return because the only way to continue on our way was through their garage. I know, it makes no sense. While I was standing there, a guy approached me and said he noticed my name on my jersey and wondered if my father's name was Peter. I told him it was and that he'd been dead for many years. He said he used to work for him at Control Data and that he remembers him as a really nice man. He opened up his tablet and quickly navigated to a photo he had of my father. We continued walking down the sidewalk together and I was beginning to feel very emotional about what he was saying. I was fighting back tears. Tammy was now there and a squirrel crawled in between the spokes of my front wheel. She reached in to take him out but he ran away. I asked my dad's friend if he could tell me some stories about my dad and he said he'd be happy to. We took a seat on some grass beside the sidewalk and as he talked I began to cry. I tried to hold it back but couldn't. I felt embarrassed.

I woke up shortly after and felt sad at what I'd just experienced because it seemed so real. I don't typically remember my dreams in such detail but oftentimes when I do, I can associate them with something in my life. I have no clue where there might be a connection between my life and this dream but I'll ponder it over the next few days.

We brought the pups up to Jackie and Jerry's tonight where they'll be for the next several days while we head out west. It's been a while since they were there but I think they'll make the adjustment just fine. We're so grateful for them opening up their home to our little guys. They'll have plenty of company, love, and a fenced-in backyard to keep them busy while we're away. Haha—they probably won't want to leave!

We won't be able to make it to the studio to blow glass for at least a couple weeks. Such is summer. I drove up to Foci yesterday to pick up our work from last week and came away with two pieces I was pleased with. One other piece missed the mark because of the copper ruby color I used. It's too dense and muddy to allow any light through. I was disappointed because the piece's shape and size were just right. Anyway, here's a photo of the other two pieces to the right.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is sweeping the net and social media sites. I was hoping the whole thing would die down before I received a challenge but no such luck. Thanks, Pat! Actually, it's for a good cause and I'll be making a donation in addition to having done the challenge.

I do think this would've been much more interesting and challenging had we all been doing this 6 months ago when it was well below zero here!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting Outside My Bubble

I live in a bubble. I've got my comfortable life with all of the conveniences and distractions I could ever want. I was complaining to Tammy yesterday morning that all of the mini marshmallows were stuck together in the bag and because of that, I didn't want to hassle with them for my coffee. I know—pathetic for more than one reason. It's enough to cause me to feel a sense of guilt at times knowing that there are countless others for whom there are few if any guilty pleasures in their lives and still others for whom there is little hope for a better future from their world of abject poverty or upheaval caused by war. My Facebook feed lately is all too often riddled with postings from friends about fighting in the Middle East or rioting in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri as I/we/they paint with a broad brush, defining one large group of people by the actions of a few.

We've all developed our prejudices along the way and there's no lack of groups or places to go online to support whatever it is we want to believe about others no matter how off the mark our beliefs may be. To get out of my bubble, I turn to Humans of New York. The site is a pictorial blog started in 2010 by a guy named Brandon. Watch the video below for an understanding of what he's up to.

He's been doing some awesome work lately, taking his camera out of NYC and on a world tour, currently focused on the Middle East. Click on the photos and read the short stories that accompany each.

Hopefully, his work will do for you what it does for me by showing you a more human side to others that is all too easily overshadowed by news accounts and opinions that can often work to give us a warped sense of other people and their cultures.

For living in the suburbs as we do, we don't seem to lack very much for wildlife. I caught this video of a doe and her fawn running through our backyard last week. Then, the next morning I noticed a rabbit feeding on some grass in the front lawn as I took the pups out for a walk. That cute scene was obliterated an hour later when I heard its cries after a hawk had descended on it. Poor little guy.

Alex from across the street was telling me that he watched a coyote walk up the street in front of our homes recently. He had to do a double-take to be sure of what he was seeing. The winter before last we had an eagle that we'd often see perched in the tree outside of Tammy's office window. While these animals are interesting to see, they also worry us because of our pups. I really don't feel comfortable leaving them unattended outside with predators like that around.

I was on my bike earlier than usual last Friday, intent on doing somewhere between 70 and 150 miles depending on how I felt once I got out there. We've had some excellent cycling weather the past several weeks with very little precip or strong winds to contend with and I've been enjoying it.

I let my Garmin guide me along some roads I'd never ridden before as I made my way out of Medford and in the direction of Kenyon, not really sure how much I wanted to chew off but finding myself feeling more and more comfortable on the bike as the ride progressed.

A map of my route.

I made it back home with enough time and energy to check out the new outlet mall in Eagan with Tammy. I'm not much for outlet malls but it was something new to see. It looks impressive from the outside but there wasn't much going on inside that would cause me to think I'll be a regular there.

Toby and Allie turned 11 years old yesterday! We don't actually celebrate their birthdays but I do like to give them an extra hug or three and refer to them as the birthday girl and birthday boy throughout the day. They seem to like it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

How Adventurous Do You Want To Get On Your Birthday?

Tammy recently asked me, "How adventurous do you want to get on your birthday?" I knew exactly what she was hinting at. "Are you thinking of skydiving?" I asked. She smiled. I knew it! This is something we've been kicking around for the longest time but never seriously enough to plan it out. My one concern I told her was my right knee and my reluctance to do anything that might injure it. I've seen the soft landings made in most jumps but for every several of those successes, there's always the one that doesn't end so smoothly.

I dunno...this is something I could very easily be talked into. It's also something I could come to regret ever doing for a very long time. What to do what to do what to do???

I went in for my annual FAA physical Monday afternoon and failed it. Not to be alarmed though because I failed it for reasons that are actually good. The EKG part has tripped me up before because of my heart's bradycardia condition. I recall having a nurse early on in my career joke with me that I was somehow slowing my heart-rate down on purpose. I told the tech administering the EKG that he'd likely be hooking me up again real soon.

Sure enough, the doctor entered the room I'd been waiting in and took a quick look at my EKG results: "Holy Shit!" he said then laughed and told me my resting heart-rate of 38 beats per minute wasn't going to cut it. I'd need to do the test again but this time I'd have to do some exercises to get my heart-rate up above 51 bpm. I knew the drill.

My heart's slow heart-rate speaks to its strong condition and comes courtesy of all those miles spent in the saddle on my bike.

We went with Karen and Bob to see the Minnesota Lynx play the Chicago Sky at Target Center last Thursday night. I can't remember the last time I was at a professional sporting event; it's been at least a dozen years. I'm not much for basketball but I still managed to have a nice time. We were able to get some seats down near the court within spitball distance of Jesse Ventura. No other celebs were noted. It's a very family-friendly atmosphere. As you can see from the photo to the right, Prowl (Lnkx mascot) and I took a liking to each other.

Here's some video from the night.

Did I mention that I went for a nice ride a couple days ago?

Well, I did...

(with a special guest appearance by Tracee!)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

I'm Ready for Another 15 Years!

What a full weekend it's been!

I surprised Tammy with tickets to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on Wednesday night at Vetter Stone Amphitheater in Mankato. We'd seen him back in February but the show left us wanting more because it was less of a concert and more of a podcast production.

We sat through the first two acts while doing our best to make the most of our obstructed view. Just prior to capturing this video, we were seated right behind this guy getting his groove on. Someone got up to move so we scooted over. He kept us entertained. We made our way toward the front of the stage before Jason and his band came out. Tammy was fortunate enough to score a spot on the rail just to the left of center-stage. I was really happy for her.

The weather was perfect and so was the night. What a great way for us to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary!

Speaking of our wedding...

Without question, Tammy and Rachel coming into my life have been the best thing that's ever happened to me and I literally thank God every day for bringing us together.

I'm ready for another 15 years!

I got up Thursday and knocked out my Jordan Loop before heading down to Rochester with Tammy to spend the afternoon with Rachel. She invited us down to check out the sights of Thursdays on First and Third. It's a weekly thing in downtown Rochester where vendors sell artwork and other handmade crafts along the sidewalks. Oh, and lots of food, too! It's always a nice time in addition to being one of the highlights of my summer. With Rachel's busy schedule, it's not always a given that we can make it happen.

It never fails that as we say our goodbyes and drive away, we talk about Rachel and how we think the world of her. I'll typically mention how fun it would be to be able to go back in time and relive some of those moments from years earlier. We miss all of that but there's also something to be said for watching her embrace life and step out into the world.

When Tammy was in her 20s, she lived with her friend Sue in a house in Minneapolis and together they fostered four siblings (2 boys and 2 girls) for several years. It's been over 20 years since she's seen any of them. She got a call from Sue a few days ago to let her know that John would be in town and she was wondering if Tammy would want to come up to Alexandria and see him. Whatever other plans we had could wait.

She got up there early Friday morning and they all spent the day together talking about the past and their lives today. Tammy was impressed by John and what he's done with his life. She said it was a really nice time. I'm hoping to meet him one day as well.

While Tammy was in Alexandria, I was doing my loop to St Bonifacius and hurrying back so we could make it for the last couple hours of the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis, which we did. We kind of had to hurry our way through the fair but we still had a chance to chat with some glass artists that we'd never met before as well as some friends who were participating in the fair. Another milestone of summer has come and gone.

Like I said, what a full weekend it's been!