Saturday, November 26, 2016

What Ifs

I was recently contemplating the twists and turns of my life and the what if questions that accompany those sorts of thoughts. Of all of the 'what ifs' I contemplated, probably none seemed more inconsequential to me as the time when my dad turned down my request for a 10-speed bike.

But in reality, it was likely anything but inconsequential.

I was 14 and still a couple years away from getting my driver's license. A few years earlier my dad had found an abandoned gold-colored Schwinn 10-speed bike in the field of what is now Hubert Olson Jr High. He brought it home and spent an entire Saturday fixing it up and making it ridable -- I was maybe 10 or 11. I remember being out in the garage watching him work on it, figuring it was for him to ride.

When he completed the job he called me out into the garage to have a look. Before I could comment he turned to me and said: "it's yours."

I didn't know what to say.

Sure, he'd given it new life, the best he could, but it was still somebody's throw away and I thought it was ugly. I didn't like it and there was no hiding that from my dad. He sensed my ungratefulness and slammed his socket wrench hard to the concrete floor then proceeded to berate me. I felt terrible. I'd heard the stories about how he'd grown up with so little, and here I was turning my nose up at something he'd love to have had when he was my age. But surely he must have known that what I really wanted was an Orange Krate similar to what Miles Harvey had?

The unwanted bike remained in the garage until it was given to one of my siblings' friends. I don't believe I ever rode it. My dad would sometime later bring home a couple of new, purple stingray style bikes he'd picked up at Sears or some such place and give one each to Keith and me. It was no Orange Krate but it was new and shiny with a banana seat and dual brakes on the rear wheel. I never quite understood the brake arrangement. It mostly served me well.

At 14 when I'd outgrown my purple stingray and began desiring something that would take me further, I reluctantly approached my dad (sitting with my mom at the picnic table in our backyard) about getting a 10-speed bike similar to the one he'd fixed up for me. He turned me down without hesitation or an explanation. I wasn't surprised. There was apparently no forgiveness for my actions of a few years earlier so I offered no rebuttal.

Then how is it that I see his denying me a new bike a 'what if' moment in my life?

Because what if I had been given the bike I desired and then discovered at the age of 14 the benefits of being in shape and taking care of my body? I'm quite certain I never would've started smoking just a year later. What if I had embraced a much healthier lifestyle than the one I fell into—and the drugs? What if I actually did something with my time to instill a sense of confidence in me rather than stumbling through the next four years, eventually flunking out of life and ending up in the Navy? Where would my life have taken me had I not opted to enlist?

I ponder all of this because of the significant role my bikes have played in my life going back more than 40 years. They're nearly always present. They're a friend, waiting for me to take them out and talk about whatever's on my mind or just spending time together. They keep me accountable for not allowing myself to fall back to a lazy alternative to my life. I can't put it any simpler than that.

I have no idea what would've become of me had I gotten the bike of my dreams at 14. It seems a small and inconsequential consideration but it's not. I can only surmise and rest in the belief that I was meant to follow the path I've taken with its many hills, valleys, twists and turns that have led me to where I'm at today. I have some lingering second-guesses in my life but no regrets.

It would take several more years but I'd eventually get the bike of my dreams, and so much more. It was very much worth the wait.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Follow-up, a Small Goal Achieved and Counting Steps

I received a response a few days ago from the police officer who did the follow-up on the close call I had with an aggressive driver two weeks ago. He wrote:

"We do take reports like yours seriously. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a little while for a follow up. I was able to contact the driver tonight and had a lengthy conversation with the person. Hopefully that was the last time that driver has done it. Seemed to be understanding. And I stressed the fact that while I cannot give a citation for this incident, it has been documented and will be on the driver’s record.

Please let us know if anything else happens on the road.

Thank you,

Vadim Romanets"

That's really all I was hoping for—that he'd have a talk with the driver and put a note in his file so if something like this happens again it may result in more serious consequences.

I got some pretty cool fat-bike decals in the mail for the back of my car. You should get some too. Here's a link to 719 Designs where you can order them.

I don't have a lot of goals these days but I do make up a few as I go. One of my goals (going back months) was to be the last guy to walk off the course at Crystal Lake Golf Course this year on the last day of play. And I was. I had sorta given up on that goal last week when my road bike became my focus. I thought I was done golfing for the year and had even put my clubs away but as our warm weather persisted and the last day of play arrived, I cut my ride short, tossed my golf gear in the car and off I went.

I caught up with Mark and Andrew (I'd met them earlier in the season on the course) on the 6th tee and we finished out the front 9 together. They left for home and I pressed on in the dimming afternoon light, certain there was no way I was going to finish the full 18 holes but I was fine with that.

It had only been a week since I'd played but already there were noticeable changes on the course. Several trees which guard the approach to the 13th green had been taken out and I was disappointed to see that. They gave the hole character and often came into play. The 13th hole used to be the 2nd most difficult hole on the course but not anymore.

By the time I got to the 16th tee the sun was down and the overcast sky rendered any lingering light useless. I was able to see my ball leave the clubhead but that was all. I never found it. I made my way to my car and as I walked off the course I looked back to take this photo, and yes, I was the last one out there. Goal accomplished.

I won't have a membership to only Crystal Lake next year. Instead, I'll have a membership with Public Country Club which will give me unlimited play at more than 16 different courses with Crystal Lake and Southern Hills being part of the plan. More courses will be added for 2017. I'm going to enjoy having a little more variety, plus, it's cheaper than a membership exclusive to Crystal Lake. I've already signed up. I was told they limit memberships and I didn't want to be left out. The only restriction to play with PCC is between the hours of 7 and 11 on Saturday and Sunday mornings—that's not a problem for me.

Since purchasing my Garmin Forerunner 235 last spring, I've been enjoying the weekly step challenges they offer online with other Garmin users. They place me in a group with 9 others who walk or run a similar amount of steps as I walk each week and we compete against each other to see who steps the most. I went from worst to first this past week. I finished strong with 33,000 steps on Saturday and a record (for me) 40,487 steps on Sunday. All of my step data is tracked and I'm notified of milestones along the way. I'm closing in on 2.5 million steps since I've been tracking my progress.

We'll be going to Trinity Care Center in Farmington to have Thanksgiving dinner with Tammy's mother on Thursday and then we'll have our own Thanksgiving dinner at our home on Friday. Claudia and Dublin will be here as will Tammy's sister, Cindy and possibly one other person we've invited.

Wishes for a happy and safe Thanksgiving to you all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Silver Lining Where I Least Expected It

I've wrapped all of my yardwork for the year and I have my mowers washed and put away. I even took some time to sharpen their blades so I'm good to go in the spring. It's nice to have it all done.

Normally about this time each year, I'd spend nearly an entire day stringing Christmas lights, but not anymore. I started the tradition 17 years ago in my first Christmas together with Tammy and Rachel. I got a lot of enjoyment from it but Tammy has the final say and she would prefer I no longer put myself at risk up on a ladder for such a frivolous thing. It's been a good run but she's right. I suppose I could string some lights where using a ladder isn't necessary but I'm an all or nothing sort of guy when it comes to this.

We're still enjoying some beautifully mild weather and I'm making the most of it—so much so that I haven't bothered to schedule any time for us to blow glass at Foci. It's just too nice out. The days are getting so short and I'm torn about what activities to do each day to make the most out of every hour of daylight. Yesterday had me walking a little more than 13 miles on one of my favorite routes around Orchard Lake.

Tammy drove into St Paul Tuesday morning to join a thousand other protesters protesting the Dakota Access pipeline that is putting the main water source of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in jeopardy as the company building the pipeline plans to run it under the Oahe Reservoir. Ever since I've known Tammy she's had a curiosity and a place in her heart for the plight of Native Americans so this struggle of theirs gives her a chance to stand with them.

It was encouraging to hear that President-elect Trump is reconsidering his countless promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act but I take nothing of what he says seriously—instead, I look at his actions and so far, he appears bent on surrounding himself with extremists to fill key roles in his administration. I had hoped that he was actually a pragmatist disguised as a republican but I should probably stop dreaming.

With all of the levers of power at his disposal and little that Democrats can do to stop him, it will be tempting for Trump to abuse the trust that's been placed in him as he's encouraged by extreme voices—voices advocating for a Muslim registration or voices insistent on making this a Christian nation or voices ignorant to the obvious signs of climate change or voices advocating for military solutions where none exist or voices insisting on tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of social programs for the less fortunate or voices intent on rolling back the progress made toward same-sex couples or voices giddy at the thought of eliminating regulation designed to prevent another economic collapse or environmental disasters, or his own self-serving voice. There's lots to be concerned about.

Ten years ago I found myself in a situation where the checks and balances between labor and management within my workplace, the FAA, were removed by a republican administration intent on breaking our union. It was a divisive time where management could tee off on unsuspecting workers with little regard to consequences. And they did. They acted with impunity. Those were the most difficult days of my more than 33 year career and it was all so unnecessary. People that I'd trusted, when given unbridled power morphed into people I no longer recognized.

It was that experience that ultimately forced me to reconsider these people, this party (I was a devout republican then) I'd been supporting along with the voices on the right I'd blindly placed my trust in. Out of that low period for me emerged an unexpected silver lining that would slap me across the face and force me to be ignorant no more. It was a turning point in my life.

Perhaps there will also be a similar silver lining for many on the right in support of Trump who are blindly following along. For the moment. I see little else to be hopeful about at this point with respect to the election of Trump.

But enough of all of that. I've got some pups and a bike that are all beckoning me and so I must go.

Video from last Saturday's ride with 43 other fat-bikers along the river bottoms. Enjoy. I did!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Guy Can Dream

My little-blog-that-could turned 13 last month and this entry marks my 800th post. I'm not sure what I envisioned when I embarked on this all those many years ago but it's been an enjoyable investment of time and I hope to keep tapping out entries for many years to come.

I'll be honest—Tammy and I were saddened, ashamed, shocked and embarrassed by Trump's election to lead our country. Even when I was an ardent conservative a little more than 10 years ago I can't imagine I would've supported someone of his temperament and repugnant behavior and his total lack of preparedness for the job.

I'm actually not surprised by the election results when you consider the amount of over-the-top hatred directed at Hillary Clinton by a republican smear machine that had been relentlessly pursuing her for decades. The party of God sure knows how to hate. That's one of the takeaways for me from all of this. They had abundant forgiveness for Trump and his endless list of faults but not an ounce of that same forgiveness for Clinton. As an aside: in the wake of this election, evangelicals have forever relinquished their moral high-ground to ever again preach to the rest of us about anyone's moral character. Forever.

Congressional investigations of Clinton and the FBI inserting itself into the election with days remaining in the campaign all worked to help defeat her. And of course, there were the WikiLeaks releases along with Russia's hacking of emails of people from Clinton's inner circle that helped to tarnish her image. Republicans and the press, rather than dismissing the ill-gotten gains, made them all frontpage news instead. Sure, there was Trump's "pussy" tape but hey, we men talk like that and grab women by their pussies all the time so what's the big deal?

And the Affordable Care Act was a huge drag on Clinton's candidacy. With Republicans in congress not allowing any fixes to be made to it since it was signed into law, it was only a matter of time before it would begin to unnecessarily and negatively impact people economically. It was all by Republican design and it worked. People suffered but their guy was elected and that's all that mattered to God's Own Party.

It should concern us all that Russia may well have flipped this election in favor of Trump by their hacking efforts to bring Clinton down. And why? It's beyond my ability to make an educated guess but I can't help but suspect that Trump may have amassed some debt from Russia and perhaps Putin thinks he can trade leniency from a Trump administration (we have sanctions on Russia for their act of aggression toward Crimea) for some loan forgiveness for Trump. No, I don't think it's far-fetched to allow my mind to go there, and no, we'll never, ever see his tax statements he promised us. There has to be a reason for Russia's meddling in our election and their apparent preference for Trump that should be of concern to us all.

Our country remains hopelessly and sharply divided along party lines and it's an especially difficult time to be a Democrat with Republicans having won big on election day. Republicans are talking in terms of having a mandate despite Trump receiving fewer overall votes than Clinton. I'm not sure how that equates to a mandate but with control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency, it's going to be difficult for Democrats to stop them.

In another era, we never would've seen a political party holding hostage a U.S Supreme Court vacancy but that's where we're at today. And yet, in the shadow of that, I'm seeing lots of posts on Facebook about the need for unity. Yeah, that would be nice but I have to ask—where was this talk of unity the past 8 years toward Obama by Republicans?

I have an image of Lucy with a football and Linus—fooled again.

No, I don't suspect I'll be traveling down Unity Road anytime soon. I and tens of millions of others will work our way through the 5 stages of grief over this election and be smarter and stronger for it in our resolve to right the wrongs as best we can once a Trump presidency has taken its toll. Our politics is always in a state of flux but this new administration and tea-party Republicans are bent on taking us back 50 years and beyond (socially) and seem to be set to cowboy-up and go kick some Middle Eastern ass as soon as they've got their power fully in place. I'm concerned.

I do have a fix for this divide we're experiencing but it's pie in the sky thinking that came to me on the golf course this afternoon. My wish: Trump goes against those in his party (he really owes them nothing) and gives a nod to Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee for the U. S. Supreme Court who has been languishing in never-never land since March. Yeah, I know it will never happen but just imagine if it did that and what if the Senate actually approved him? People like me would suddenly be more than a little willing to consider a search for common ground because right now there's none and that's no way to run a country.

The Cubs win the World Series. Trump wins the presidency. Anything is possible!

A guy can dream.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Final Goodbye and an Aggressive Driver Encounter

How about those Cubs!? I'm not a baseball fan but I did manage to catch some of the play in the World Series. As my friend, Steve says: "you get to watch the best of the best". I can't imagine more excitement in a baseball game than what game 7 offered. Fun stuff!

We're sitting on the edge of our seats here in the US (and likely some other places as well) as we anxiously await tomorrow's voting results between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in addition to many other races. There's lots at stake for everyone and we've pretty much all settled into our camps to ride it out.

The hatred being directed toward Hillary Clinton is unlike anything I've ever witnessed and it's concerning to watch. A relentless and all-out orchestrated effort by republicans to destroy Clinton along with the most unpresidential and divisive candidate in Donald Trump is, in my opinion, to blame for the great divide we're experiencing where family members won't speak to one another and friends have put aside friendships in the wake of it all. Conservative media isn't helping. It's pitiful. We have to find a way to come together once this is over but I'm afraid it's going to take awhile.

We're hosting a small election night gathering at our home for Paula Overby who is running for the Congressional seat being vacated by John Kline who is retiring. She's up against some much better-funded opponents in Jason Lewis and Angie Craig but I believe her main goal was simply to add another voice to the process and I respect her for that, but I don't support her.

We've had the best autumn weather I can recall in years and I've been taking full advantage of it with lots of riding, golfing, and walking. Short pants and short-sleeved shirts are still the uniform of the day here in the Twin Cities, at least for me. 

I was on a walk around Orchard Lake yesterday morning when I got a text from Keith telling me he was on his way back from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He made a trip up there the previous day to bury Mom and Tim's ashes in a plot next to our father. I received his text just as I was coming up on Claudia and Ron's former home on the lake. I paused to look at the retaining wall Tim had built for them years ago. It's one of the few tangible memories of Tim that remains for me. It was a sobering moment as I felt the pains of losing him all over again. I never imagined 6 short months ago that he would be gone from our lives now. Tim and I weren't close but I always held out hope that someday we would be.

Keith made some wooden boxes to hold their ashes and dug a few feet into the sandy soil to bury them.

I had an aggressive driver try and brush me back on Eagle Creek Ave just west of Texas Ave between Prior Lake and Lakeville this afternoon. It's a 4 lane stretch of road that has no shoulder for about a mile but I've never had an issue with anyone being unwilling to share the road there until today. I don't mind drivers getting a little close to me but this driver was nothing short of reckless. Fortunately, I noticed him coming up behind me in a small mirror I have on the inside of my glasses and I rode the white line as he got up alongside me and honked his horn. Had I not done that, there's a good chance his mirror would've hit me. I put a video together and contacted the Scott County Sheriff's office and gave them the link. We've exchanged a few emails and they'll be pursuing the matter. I'm not sure there's much they can do but I'll leave that up to them.

An aggressive driver encounter like that is actually very rare for me. Of the hundreds of thousands of motorists who pass me each year while I'm riding, it only ever comes down to just a few at the end of the year who got stupid and put my life in jeopardy to make their point. Also, I ride with a very bright LED tail light that can be seen from 3 miles away.

Here's some video from last Thursday morning's ride.