Monday, January 25, 2016

Shredded Memories, Down Time and Mandolin Orange

One year ago to the hour as I write this I was being ambulanced to Fairview Southdale with a good amount of uncertainty in my future. There would be other challenges to unfold in the months ahead but this was a big one that could've meant a profound change in my ability to do those activities I enjoy most: riding and walking. I try to not let too much time go by before offering a prayer of thanks to God for all of the healing that's happened in my life over the past year. Oftentimes those prayers are said from the saddle of my bike in the solitude of the trail where maybe there's an eagle or two gliding over the river just beside me with a freezing wind in my face that causes my nose to run even more. It's a time when more than ever I'm feeling alive and healthy and grateful for that.

I got a text from Reid last week. He was shredding some documents he no longer needed and among his discards were some reports I'd written about training sessions we'd had together when he was my trainee 8 years ago. He sent me photos of some of the reports, sure that I'd be amused by them. He was right. There was some fun stuff in there that I'd forgotten about. It reminded me of how I used to enjoy being a trainer before an incident in the sector while conducting training permanently soured me on it. (See what you started, Reid!?)

Okay, back to a more happy place...

Le Tour de France trivia training report

A '70s duo trivia training report

A Big Brother trivia training report

A servicing our customers training report (This was an embarrassingly painful time to be a controller.)

I'm taking a rest day from working out. I don't really want to but my quads have been hinting (for a few days now) that it would be a good idea. I've been out on my fat-bike nearly every day this month and enjoying it as much as ever. I've never had a January like this one but then I've never been retired in January before, either.

Temps above freezing will be here toward the end of the week and the trails will be off-limits so as to minimize damage to them. My CompuTrainer will be a good substitute but I'll miss the outdoor aspect that trail riding provides.

Here's some video from Sunday morning's ride on the trails at Elm Creek. What an awesome place! Tyler and I were having some fun riding (or in my case, trying to ride) the narrow sections of logs or planks known in mountain bike vernacular as "skinnies".

Tammy is on her way up north to Fargo with her mother to attend a Celebration of Life service for her aunt Minnie who passed away a few days ago at the age of 96. The pups and I are staying behind to keep the home fires burning.

I've been listening to a lot of Mandolin Orange for the past month or two. I can't seem to get enough of their soothing sound. I first became aware of them in June 2013 when we were visiting Rachel in Rochester and were taking in the sights of the city's Thursdays on First & 3rd event. I only wish I knew then how much I'd fall in love with their music.

I'm not typically a bluegrass listener but see what you think...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Retirements And A Remedy

Barry Vig had his retirement party yesterday afternoon at Celts Pub in Farmington. It was a nice turnout of both people from the workplace and his friends outside of work. I arrived just as Keith and Tracee were getting there. I apologize for the fuzzy photo. I was using the panoramic feature on my phone in marginal light conditions. You can maybe make out Barry toward the back right of the photo wearing a gray sweater and sipping a drink. I totally forgot about getting a photo with him.

It was interesting talking with some friends I used to work with and to hear how they're managing with the continued exodus of controllers opting to retire. Staffing levels are down considerably from a few years ago and at levels not seen since the days of recovering from the PATCO strike of August 1981. They expect staffing levels to bottom-out sometime in the next 18 months. There's a ton of training to do and Minneapolis Center currently has the highest washout rate of any similar facility in the country. That hurts.

Several other controllers also retired this past month: Jon Otto, Todd Amerman, Kim Bowe, and Danny Reinders. Come on in...the water's fine! (Ha! I'm just barely wet myself but I believe I'm qualified to say that.)

I think I may have solved my dilemma of frozen toes that result from riding for 90 minutes in sub-zero temperatures and no, it doesn't involve staying inside. (I can read your minds!)

I went out to Gander Mountain to pick up some toe warmers to go with my Vasque boots. The salesman who was pointing me in the direction of the warmers suggested I consider some heated insoles. Say what? Gander Mountain sells them? I had heard about something similar several years ago for cycling but at around $600 I figured the pain to my wallet would be significantly worse than the pain of frozen toes. He showed me a display of ThermaCELL Heated Insoles that go for around $180 and added that he sells hundreds of them. I took his word for it, found my size and made my way to the checkout.

When I got home I went online to Amazon to see if they had any reviews on what I'd just purchased. They did and unfortunately, they weren't all that good plus the price through Amazon was considerably cheaper. I opted to return them before using them, possibly making a return more difficult. I instead bought the insoles through Amazon where I think I'd stand a better chance of getting a refund after using them should they not live up to the hype. Did I mention they were considerably cheaper through Amazon? (Yes, I'm somewhat conflicted about deciding to use Amazon and stiff a local store but $45 is $45 to this newly minted pensioner.)

Anyway, I was able to try them over the last few days and while they aren't the game-changer I was hoping they'd be, their benefit is noticeable. I was out this morning in temps ranging from -10ºf to -3ºf (-23ºc to -20ºc for my metric friends) for not quite two hours. Between my heated insoles and disposable toe warmers, I had no problems whatsoever with frozen toes. In those temps I'm usually more than ready to pack it in after 90 minutes. I don't think that either the heated insoles or the toe warmers by themselves would've been enough.

Surprisingly, I didn't have the trails to myself this morning. There was one other fat-biker and his dog as well as two runners taking advantage of a beautiful winter day.

I've been riding a lot lately; 15 of the last 17 days. I remember how before I retired I'd often dream of being able to wake up and get out on my bike in the morning with no reason (such as work) to have to hurry home for—to be able to take the day as it unfolds and shape it the way I want to. This is nice.

Where will tomorrow take me?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Moving On (Finally) And The Log Bridge Of Certain Death

It's been at least 2 weeks since I've dreamt about my former work in the trenches as an air traffic controller. Dreams about working traffic or making the rounds to say goodbye to people on my last day were common themes. I've also noticed that since the new year began, I've let go of any thoughts about missing my old life and the ridiculous schedule I used to keep. I would say that my mourning period is over and I'm free to mentally move on. Perhaps it was getting beyond my planned retirement date of January 2nd, 2016 that I had been working toward when I had to abruptly retire which has allowed me this new peace of mind. Whatever. It's nice.

Pro tip: don't ever question scripture when conversing with a fundamentalist Christian. Never. Biblical inerrancy is the belief that everything in the bible, all scripture, is as it should be. If you do happen to color outside the lines be prepared to be told that "you have hardened your heart against the Lord so bad that there may be no turning back" and that "I'm afraid the only God you serve is the one you created in your mind". Obviously, there's a little more to this but suffice to say that I'm a compassionate New Testament Christian going up against a hardline Old Testament Christian.

Is it too much to think that because throughout history man has corrupted everything he's ever been involved with, including the church at the highest levels, that the bible may in some ways reflect man's intentions rather than God's? I think it's foolish and naive to think otherwise. I'll take my chances with God and rely on Jesus to defend me for being human should I be proven to be wrong.

My GoPro Hero 2 is 4 years old and it's served me well but I've been kicking around the idea of replacing it with something better. What's recently captured my interest is the new generation of 360º video cameras making their way onto the scene. Click on the video and if your browser supports it you can drag and change the direction of the view you're seeing. If you're reading this on your phone, bring up the video and move your phone around in any direction to change your view.

How cool is that!?

Here's another one.

Sports models with single or multiple lenses for the average consumer like me won't be too far behind. There's already a few out there but their resolution is lacking as is the amount of video they can store. Until then I'll have to be content to use my trusty GoPro to create memories to look back on years from now.

Winter finally arrived sometime last week in the way of some very cold air and I couldn't be happier about it. For the first time this winter, Nine Mile Creek (about two miles west of the Lyndale trailhead) is frozen over and it's safe for us to ride across it rather than walk the log-bridge-of-certain-death to get across. I wondered if it was just me who didn't care much for the tree crossing or if it was generally considered sketchy by others, too. I've talked to two guys who feel safer riding the tree across rather than walking it. That says something. I had been avoiding the trail west of Lyndale all winter but now I'm enjoying complete access to the river trails and loving it!

Wanna see what you're missing?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Silver Linings

2015 was a year full of ups and downs for us. Mostly downs it seems but maybe not. Still, I'm glad to see it gone. It began for me with the worst cluster headache phase I'd ever been through. A phase that had begun the previous September and would stay with me for 5 months. I had never experienced anything like that in the 40 years I've been routinely visited by these beasts. I didn't mention what I was going through here although I did blog extensively about what was happening. I may publish my writings someday but I can't say for sure. They're much more personal than I usually get.

My clotting issues began very soon into the new year and I had no idea what I was in for. I had the wind taken out of my sails for a time but I was continually looking for a silver lining; for something I could take from the experience that would serve to make me stronger. If you were to ask me while I was going through all of that, I'd have been hard-pressed to point to a silver lining but looking back I can clearly see how God had me in his care as the doctors were able to save my leg when there was a good chance they weren't going to be successful. That's silver lining enough for me.

My mother's health began its decline in May and would eventually end with her passing in September. It was a difficult several months for us as a family with some unnecessary inner turmoil that resulted in bitter words being exchanged between siblings as we tried to do what was best for Mom.

Amidst all of this, we were dealing with the change in our lives brought about when Tammy's mother Elaine came to live with us in late May. That sort of change in a family's dynamic can't be fully appreciated or anticipated until it happens. We're blessed to have been in a position to take her in but we do miss being able to be more spontaneous in our daily lives. We used to do so much together and that seldom happens anymore. Still, we'd do it all over again if presented with the same circumstances.

August brought about so much change for us when I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. It was change that would cause me to ultimately turn in my headset and call it a career. It wasn't at all the way I wanted to go out but I kept reminding myself that getting my hearing back was all that mattered. Plus, I was able to be there for Tammy when she needed me more than ever. There were many more silver linings in that experience than not and I'm grateful for them all.

I have no idea what to expect in 2016 but I'm excited to move forward. We'll roll with whatever the year presents to us. Life is good.

I had to run to Keith's shop this morning. On the drive there with Toby and Allie in my lap, I was in awe of a beautiful hoar frost that had blanketed us overnight. I hadn't planned to ride my bike today having ridden the previous 3 days but seeing this beauty all around me, I decided I had to be out there taking it in from my bike.

A few photos from my ride.

See you in the new year!