Friday, October 18, 2019

Chilling, Protesting, and Riding

I had my day fully planned. I was going to process some video from last night's ride then head off to the links by mid-morning. Charlie would get his walk in the afternoon before Tammy and I left on a dinner date with friends. The golf part of my day has been canceled and I'm sitting here chilling on the couch with Charlie and Dublin—my sister Claudia's cute little Yorkie with a cockeyed ear.

I got the video processed but that's it. I'm content to watch the world pass me by today. I need to allow for more of this in my life. I golfed yesterday so that itch has been scratched.

I was thinking recently how when I was working, I was always checking to see what time it was as I attempted to stay on task to get done whatever needed getting done before I had to leave for work. It's nice not to have that urgency about my days anymore but honestly, a little bit of urgency to jump-start the day can be a good thing.

We made arrangements to meet some friends and take the light rail into Minneapolis to protest Trump's* rally at Target Center a little more than a week ago. Fortunately, the rain held off but we were prepared and determined to make a showing regardless of whether the rain did or not.

As we were boarding the light rail I was tapped on the shoulder from behind. A friend from work, Chet, was traveling into the city for Trump's* visit as well. He would be observing it from inside Target Center. It had been 4 years since I'd last seen Chet. We'd both stopped following one another on Facebook a while back. We spent part of the ride catching up on each other's lives. It was nice to see him again. We got off the light rail and resumed our separate paths. It's a microcosm of what's become of our country.

Tammy wasn't one to stay put once we got to the protest gathering outside of Target Center. She was off and running with her cellphone in hand taking photos. I put together a collection of both hers and mine for the video embedded below.

I'm in full fall cleanup mode now but you'd never know it by looking at our yard. I vacuumed up all of the leaves a few days ago but they're back again, taunting me to rid our yard of them once more but I'm not taking the bait. I've got a blog entry to write. While blowing out our underground irrigation system I noticed that zone 5 had a major leak somewhere but I couldn't locate it without charging the system with water again. I found a guy blowing out lines nearby with an air compressor hooked to his truck. For a quick $20 he was happy to hook his commercial-grade air compressor to my line and easily locate the source of my leak. I fixed it the next day.

I've been doing less riding the past month and it shows. I can feel my form slipping away. I've been missing from the gravel scene in Northfield for the past few weeks but I was able to make it last night, lousy form and all. It was a good workout. We're finishing our rides well after sunset as you'll see in the video below. Always a fun time.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Compromised, Little Gems, and it's Definitely Fall

I was riding my indoor trainer last week when I received a text message from our credit union inquiring about a charge on my card. I quickly replied to the text then halted my workout to have a closer look at our account and to speak with a representative from our credit union. Whoever had my card information had also made a purchase at GameStop for something in excess of $300. My card was immediately deactivated and rendered useless. I drove to the credit union and was able to obtain a replacement card with no hassle within an hour of first learning of my card being compromised.

At the suggestion from the rep at the credit union, I've also installed an app on my phone called SecurLOCK Equip which allows me more control over my credit card. I can deactivate my card when I'm not using it or set spending limits in addition to some other options. Plus, the app immediately notifies me whenever there's a transaction on my card. I like the extra layer of protection. I'm curious, tho, how my card data fell into the wrong hands.

Our hummingbirds have flown south for the winter but I still have our feeders up for any stragglers passing through who find themselves in need of a fix. We had one become trapped in our garage the week before last. I was eventually able to coax it out by lowering its feeder closer to the main door opening.

I continue to methodically go through each previous entry in my blog to ensure that any photo links pointing to my website are redirected to the same photo on Google Photos (I'll be letting our website expire at the end of our current contract). It's a lot of work and I don't expect to be done for weeks if not months. I'm also taking time to suss out dead links directed at pages that no longer exist. I'm enjoying reading through my posts from years ago and rediscovering the little gems (for me, anyway) within it.

My early biking videos are cringe-worthy. Here's one of the first videos I recorded while riding (wait for it). I like to think I've stepped up my game in that area.

Early videos of our pups are also fun to look back on.

Lakeville has an intimate concert venue at what used to be All Saints Church in downtown Lakeville. The church was sold in 2001 to the city and has been transformed into the Lakeville Area Arts Center. We've attended several events and concerts there over the years, most recently last Saturday night when we saw Jonny James and the Hall of Fames playing their Led Zeppelin tribute show. We saw them play this same show at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre a couple of years ago. They're good!

I spent all day yesterday doing yardwork—mostly tending to our 6 rock islands and cutting back the hostas and other plants on them. Before and after. It's nice to have it done. Now, it's simply a matter of keeping up with the falling leaves; a job made much easier by vacuuming them up every two days with my John Deer.

I'm looking forward to getting back down in my glass shop and indulging the creative side of me. I've got a project designed and ready to go so I can hit the ground running once the time is right. Tammy suggested that I come up with some less expensive/complicated designs for my Etsy site to appeal to a broader spectrum of people. I've toyed around with this idea before but I've yet to do it. It's worth considering.

That's all I've got.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Alexander Butterfield, SMS Hack and Charlie Turns Eleven!

Nancy Pelosi made her move last week to begin a formal impeachment inquiry into the admitted criminal actions of Donald Trump*. I don't see that she had any choice, not if our Constitution (specifically, Article II, section 4) is still a thing to be upheld and revered.

There was very little public support for Nixon's impeachment when news of Watergate began to appear in the press in the fall of 1972. It wasn't until the Senate Watergate hearings in the summer of '73 that public sentiment toward Nixon began to erode. He may well have finished out his term had it not been for the reluctant testimony of Alexander Butterfield, a Deputy Assistant to Nixon.

It was Butterfield who oversaw the installation of a secret voice-activated tape recording system with its many hidden microphones in Nixon's Oval Office and elsewhere that Nixon used to surreptitiously record his conversations with others. Without the tapes, the case against Nixon may have evaporated, leaving his supporters to assure us that he was an honorable man, in the same way that Trump* still enjoys solid support from his base after effectively obstructing the Special Counsel's investigation of him.

It's no surprise to any of us who are looking at the current administration objectively that Trump* effectively worked with the Russian government to help scuttle Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign just as he again (admittedly) was trying to work with another government, this time the President of Ukraine, to try and foil Joe Biden's presidential campaign. And for this, he will be impeached in the House of Representatives. I don't have any delusions that the Republican-led Senate will muster the 2/3 majority needed to convict him—that's very unlikely unless an Alexander Butterfield type witness takes the stand and provides damning testimony that can't be ignored.

Or unless a whistleblower decides they've seen enough.

And that appears to be what has happened. I hope and I pray that this is the beginning of the end for this most corrupt occupant of the White House, and his enablers—specifically, U.S. Attorney General William Barr. And when this chapter in our country's history is over, it's also my hope that his enablers in conservative media will finally be seen as the propagandists they are.

And it should be noted: this is so much worse than anything Nixon did.

This isn't sour grapes for having watched my candidate lose the 2016 election. It's about ensuring that our candidates, no matter the party they represent, aren't reaching out for help to those who would most like to see us fail as a nation. And it's about not holding fledgling democracies hostage by withholding aid in exchange for dirt on your political opponent. We have to be better than that, and this.

Switching gears.

I received a group text SMS message from a friend last week saying:

Friend 1: Hey, guys you thnk I can Borrow 2k

Friend 2: Need some new wheels...?

Me: Ha! That's a good guess!

Friend 3: Stock? Gambling debt owed to the mob?

Me: Bail?

Friend 1: Bail

Friend 1: I'll explain later

Friend 1: Can somebody zelle it to me? Rbcu is acting weird

Me: I'm worried that Friend 1's phone has fallen into the wrong hands.

Friend 3: His phone is at his house (inserts map image showing the phone's location).

Me: Roger that.

My friend's phone was in his possession but someone else had somehow hacked it and was sending out texts trying to scam others into sending money to an online account. A fraud report has been filed with the Burnsville police. Be careful out there!

And this sweet boy turns 11 today! In the months since losing Toby, Charlie has become my little shadow, not letting me out of his sight for long when I'm around. Tammy would take him to the dog park at Cleary Lake in the weeks after Toby's passing but without Toby along, Charlie would only sit and howl and didn't want to walk the park's trails. That's not like him. Instead, we now take him to the dog park at Alimagnet Park where there's a section for smaller dogs. He loves going there and sniffing the other pups.

The Chimney Rock loop was what was served up last Saturday morning. A fun route indeed! C'mon along...

* Denotes an illegitimate president.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

16 Years, and Mark Prairie Has Left the Building

Next month will mark 16 years that I've been journaling in my blog. I suppose that's quite a while. I kept a journal for the last three years of my four-year enlistment in the Navy so when I learned about blogs, it seemed like a natural fit for me. I dove right in.

One of the main reasons I maintain my blog is to someday be able to look back on my life that was and recall more vividly memories that would otherwise likely be forgotten over the years. Something I wasn't expecting when I first began making entries here was the way in which my blog would become a place where I could sort through my thoughts—a form of therapy, actually. I've benefited from writing in it.

I've spent several hours this past week going through my blog and updating links that point to our website where I've uploaded hundreds (maybe thousands) of miscellaneous photos over the years. I'm going to allow our site to go dark when it expires next year so I need to redirect links from my blog to a new host for my photos: Google Photos—it's something I should've done years ago.

Tammy has been busy working on craft projects for the mentally challenged people she works with through her cousin's organization. Her latest project is a gnome head. She prepares the pieces for each gnome and includes a set of instructions so they can be assembled with the help of an aid. This most recent project is so cool. I think it's one of her finest.

Mark Prairie held his retirement party last Wednesday at Celts in Farmington. It's been too many months since I've made a Wednesday afternoon appearance for a beer with the guys, so I couldn't miss this one. It was a very nice time chatting with people and seeing many faces I hadn't seen in a while. Mark turned 56 recently and that's the end of the line for controllers. We're forced into early retirement at that age. He was happy to be done. I look forward to seeing him on the links yet this year. Wishes for much happiness in this next chapter of your life, my friend.

I was intending to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall weather we're experiencing with some gravel riding this weekend but a couple of monkeys on my back got the better of me. I did yard work all day yesterday and followed that up today with 5 hours of power washing our driveway and deck. And I got a coat of sealer on our driveway. I'm glad to have those jobs done and the monkeys off my back.

YouTube is making it easier to safely upload videos with copyrighted background music such as the cycling videos I like to create. Go to this link and type in the name of the artist or song you're considering using. It will tell you what if any restrictions are associated with a particular song. I've had a limited number of artists I could safely use that I've relied on but now I can greatly expand what's available to me.

I'd taken down (from YouTube) some Super 8mm family videos I'd edited years ago for fear they would count as a strike against my account due to their background music. I've uploaded them again now that they've been given the all-clear. One of my favorites is embedded below. It begins with footage of my grandmother dancing in a white sweater and red shoes. At the 1:05 mark of the video my late Aunt Jean appears as the lyrics, "some may come and some may go" are sung. I edited this to make it appear that she's waving goodbye. She left us much too soon from a heart attack in her early 50s. I can be seen with my younger brothers playing in the snow toward the end of the video. This would've been around 1968.

And here are two ride videos since the last time I was here.

That's all I've got

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

4 Years, Mission Accomplished and D2D 2019

Today is the 4th anniversary of my mother's passing and the 4th anniversary of my retirement from the FAA. It's also the 4th anniversary of a hearing exam that showed I'd regained hearing in my left ear; hearing that I'd completely lost for more than a week and was told by one doctor that I'd never recover. It was the single most emotional day I've ever lived, the way those three significant events intersected at once.

It's been 8 months since Tammy's hip replacement surgery. One of her recovery goals was for us to be able to go to the State Fair and for her to be able to walk pain-free. Mission accomplished! We got to the fair earlier than ever, at 7:00am and didn't leave until Herman's Hermits had finished their show at the Leinie Lodge Bandshell 15 hours later. We had such a nice time.

Here's a link to some Instagram photos and videos from our day.

The Red Eye Memorial is no more. The golf tournament for retired air traffic controllers is more than two decades old but interest has waned in the past few years and Ken has decided to shut it down. 24 of us met last Tuesday for the last time at Fountain Valley Golf Course. Storms chased us off the course for 20 minutes but otherwise, it was a great day to be on the links. Our other tournament, The Sick Leave Open, is still going strong.

The annual Dawn to Dusk ride (in its 23rd year) is in the books and we couldn't have penciled in a better day (weather-wise) for it. The temp and humidity were very comfortable with a mostly cloudy sky and a light tailwind to help us home. Perfect! This was my 2nd year riding this event with the guys from Silver Cycling.

Here's a link to our ride on Strava.

I had some hesitation going into the ride, fearing I didn't have enough long rides to my credit the past few months to carry me through the later miles of Saturday's ride. I did so many more long-distance efforts in preparation for last year's D2D and felt I needed a similar training regimen this year. I was wrong. My longest training ride was 146 miles (235 km) and that was plenty. I'll remember that for next year should I decide to toe the line once again. Plus, I think my Tuesday night gravel rides enhanced my training a lot. I push myself for those 2+ hours more than any other time of the week on my bike.

To be honest, tho, preparation for D2D was a bit of a monkey on my back, never feeling like I'd totally committed to the training and having some quiet doubts about being fit enough for it. And what about the weather on the day of the ride? Will we be fighting a strong headwind on the way home, and will it be stormy? Will I be able to get at least a few hours of sleep the night before the ride? A 4:00 in the morning wakeup isn't what I'm used to anymore. But in the end, it all came together nicely. I rode strong and I learned that I can get by on a lot fewer training miles than I thought. That's good to know when I toy with the idea once again of whether or not to add my name to next year's list of riders.

That's all I've got.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Kayaking, Ren Fest, and D to D Talk

I can't recall a more active time for me in the 4 years since my retirement; and where did those 4 years go? It's in my DNA to always be moving or actively doing something even if I'm sitting still. Sometimes I'll pause to consider taking a day off and watching the world go by from our deck or with a book but then my mind begins thinking of a myriad of activities I could be doing instead. I'll occasionally meditate in the morning as a way to slow my mind and give it a timeout. I know that part of what's driving my need to stay active is the realization that my life is racing by so quickly and as much as I can, I want to make the most of it. Golfing, walking, and biking are my main go-to activities.

Thanks to Tammy, I'll be adding kayaking to the list next spring.

We've kayaked together twice and found it to be so much fun. We rented a tandem kayak at Lake Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun) last Wednesday and paddled for 7 miles. It was nice to try a tandem but we soon realized that we both prefer individual kayaks—preferably ones that fit us better than the rental. We've been researching kayaks and have a good idea of what we're looking for but we've decided to wait until next spring to buy them. I purchased a roof rack for my Forrester last week and installed it just in case we happen upon a deal we'd rather not pass up. (I still need the J-bars that clamp around the kayak.)

We've got another set of triplet deer in our neighborhood, just as we did last year. They're so cute to watch. I took that video as I was walking out to get the paper a few Sunday mornings ago. They don't seem to frighten easily. It's common to see them venturing out in the early evening well before sunset.  They mostly bed down in our neighbor's yard across the street. This is a video from a few days ago taken through our front window.

We met Rachel, Drew, and Drew's mother, Jennie, at the Renaissance Festival last Saturday. They all dressed the part but we failed to follow through on promises from last year to do likewise. That didn't prevent us from making the same promise for next year. Stay tuned! Tammy was taking notes as we walked along, looking for ideas for us. She's thinking I would look good in a blue and green kilt. I'll be happy to wear whatever she comes up with for me. She's good at that sort of thing.

Drew surprised Tammy and me with his juggling skills. Impressive! As you can see in the video, he was quickly sent to the head of the class for an advanced lesson of juggling with plastic bowling pins.

We met them all later in St. Paul Park for the Heritage Days Festival where Drew's brother, Colton, was playing with his band, Hawk 45. It was all so much fun. Tammy and I have danced more in the past few weeks than we have in our entire 20 years together. And she made up a new dance! Just wave your hands in the air like one of those inflatable air dancers and keep your feet anchored. It's really simple and fun for everyone. Try it!

I've been training for our upcoming Dawn to Dusk ride at the end of the month but I'm worried because I've not trained as hard as I did last year. My two longest rides are 146 miles (235 km) and a ride of 126 miles 9203 km) two days ago. That mileage is considerably less than the long rides I did in preparation for last year's ride. I'm kind of in the window now, though, where I should refrain from any long-distance rides in order to allow my body to recover for the big day. I was going to try and sneak in one last long ride tomorrow but I think I'll take a pass and plan something shorter but with more intensity.

The videos below are from our TNG ride a week ago and from my ride with Steve and Rob, aka Silver and Legs, two days ago.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Celebrating Our 20th Anniversary, Duluth Style!

We spent the better part of this week vacationing 3 hours to the north in Duluth and along the North Shore as we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We had such a nice time. I've been to Duluth a number of times but I never explored the city the way we just did. It was one of those getaways where I wish we could do it all over again.

We spent our first night in Tammy's hometown of Babbitt where we had dinner with her sister Cindy. We shared some nice conversartion before venturing off to check out one of two local bars where we crashed the class of '89's high school reunion. I dare say we were having as much fun as anyone there dancing like it was nobody's business. We had a blast!

Neither of us had ever kayaked so Tammy arranged for us to take a guided kayaking tour on our first full day in Duluth, figuring it would be something fun to try. She was so right! I think I'm hooked. I've already begun searching Craig's List for used kayaks. I can imagine myself getting up early to do a few laps around one of the nearby lakes to start my day. No, I don't think I'll be mounting my GoPro on the front of my kayak but then again...hmmm.

We also took a lampworking class at Lake Superior Art Glass where we made the stem to a wine glass. It's more challenging than it would appear but I thought Tammy was a natural at it. There's a shop in Northeast Minneapolis where we can continue to explore the art medium in more depth. We'd both like to.

I fell in love with the city of Duluth and commented to Tammy more than once that I could easily make it my home. She enjoyed the city as well but not enough to want to uproot our lives and move there—and what about the winters? I get that. It's close enough that I'm certain we'll be back again sooner rather than later.

Here's a link to an album of photos from our getaway.

I love more than anything taking our little road trips, away from the myriad distractions that make up my life. Not that I don't enjoy them all but nothing compares to my time with Tammy when it's just the two of us sharing an experience together.

I can't help but wonder how 20 years got away from us so quickly. It seems not long ago at all that Tammy and I first met and wasted little time making plans for our lives together with Rachel. I wrote this 4-part blog series a while back about how we met and fell in love.

What I wouldn't give to relive these past 20 years all over again! I could live in those days forever.

That's all I've got.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

50 Years Ago Tonight and I'm In!

On this night 50 years ago I was 5 weeks shy of my 12th birthday and about to enter 7th grade. Our family was vacationing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where we spent at least two weeks each summer. My parents had recently purchased the farmhouse my mother grew up in and its 200 acres of land—a mix of prairie grass and forest with a small stream and a strawberry field. Our nights were usually spent in the company of aunts, uncles, and cousins at either our farmhouse or Eva and Elvin's home in Winona, about 35 minutes away.

I made a lot of memories during our summers in the U.P. but none more lasting than the night we'd gathered at Eva and Elvin's home (50 years ago tonight) to watch TV coverage of Apollo 11 and man's first step onto the surface of the moon. The actual event of Neil Armstrong stepping off the ladder of the landing module that brought them to the surface isn't what stays with me all these years later, though. Rather, it's the memory I have of stepping outside (after Neil uttered the first words spoken on the lunar surface) and looking up at the moon, trying to comprehend the achievement that had just taken place, knowing there were people up there. It was truly awe-inspiring.

Our quest to put a man on the moon had been something I'd grown up with (President Kennedy proposed the ambitious endeavor eight years earlier). In junior high school, whenever there was a manned rocket launch or re-entry, we'd gather in our school's auditorium to squint at the relatively small TV monitors placed in front of the stage and watch the events unfold. It was exciting to witness and it captured my imagination. The launch of the first Space Shuttle in the early '80s evoked in me those same feelings of awe once again. I'll leave it to others to decide if the cost was worth the risk and the loss of life along the way. I personally feel it was a great achievement and one that helped unify us as a nation, if only briefly.

We have much more pressing needs and likely less discretionary tax dollars today to once again reach for the stars but what an elixir it could be for a divided nation such as ours; or even a way for countries to share the cost and work together for an even more ambitious goal. But that's just me dreaming. It's not lost on me that there's a lot of hurting people on this blue suspended ball we share and that their needs should matter most. Can we do both?

And where did those last 50 years go?

Edit: A friend gave me a link tonight where you can listen to the Apollo astronauts converse with Mission Control throughout their entire flight with the associated video of the events. It's an amazing website with more detailed information than you can imagine all compiled in one place. Check it out.

I golfed Valleywood Golf Course a few days ago with Lyle and Chuck. It's been at least 25 years since I last played there but memories of some of the holes were still stored in my internal hard drive. As I got to my car after the round and looked at my phone for messages, I noticed a data usage notification. The 18Birdies app I use for tracking my score and other details of my round had used a whopping 45.5 GB of data the previous 4 hours and my phone's battery was nearly depleted. Our service provider, Google Project Fi, has a limit of 10 GB of data that we can be charged for, otherwise, at $10 per GB of data, that was going to be one expensive round of golf.

I contacted 18Birdies to tell them what happened and they told me there's an update to the program to prevent it from happening again. Apparently, there are videos in the app's background that were set to play automatically and that's what was using up the data. A recent update has fixed the problem. I responded that this does little to fix my current overage dilemma and they told me to let them know what the additional cost is and that they will cover it. That's more than I expected. I'm pleased.

I've decided to take part again in the annual Dawn to Dusk ride on August 31st with the guys from the Silver Cycling club out of Lakeville. It's actually a bit more than a dawn to dusk effort. Last year I left home on my bike 70 minutes before sunrise and returned in complete darkness 216 miles (348 km) later. I hope the training doesn't take me away from the links all that much but I'll need to seriously increase my weekly mileage in preparation for the ride as I have little time to spare.

Video from last year's Dawn to Dusk ride.

My Tuesday Night Gravel rides will still be a part of my training plan.

Video from last Tuesday night below.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

An Icon's Days Are Few, The 3M PGA Tour Event and Riding Talk

I can handle the heat; it's the humidity I can do without! I wanted to powerwash our concrete driveway today in preparation for sealing it but it's too uncomfortable outside. So here I am, catching up on my blog with plans to go for a walk once the sun inches closer to the horizon.

Workers at the Black Dog power plant along the Minnesota River in Burnsville are in the process of dismanteling their tallest smokestack. I'm sad to see it go. It's been a looming presence over hundreds (maybe more than 1000) of my workouts over the years, both cycling and running. I can't explain what it is about it that resonates with me—just that it's been there since I can recall. There were times I would pass by and nonverbally say a few words to it—a greeting of sorts until the next time. The running/bike trails have been flooded over since spring with not much relief in sight, leaving torn up and displaced slabs of asphalt strewn about. There's no telling when the area will be open to the public again. I'm hoping to get down there one last time before the towering stack is gone so I can say a proper goodbye.

With our steadily warming climate and increase in severe weather, I'm worried that interest will be lost in trying to maintain the area. That will be a sad loss to many of us who frequent it.

I attended my first PGA Tour event last weekend—the 3M Open in Blaine, MN. A friend gave me a ticket for the final round. Kenny was working the "shot link" on the 12th hole, helping to track the players' shots. I got there early before the crowds and the heat and wandered the course, in awe of the lush grounds and seeing players I've only seen on TV walking alongside me. It was almost surreal at times. I followed the pairing of Jason Day and Kyle Jones for a few holes. The galleries were still sparse enough that a spectator could get as close to the players as the ropes would allow. In addition to Kenny, I spoke with several other volunteers working the tournament—they all enjoyed being a part of it. I'd like to sign up next year to offer my time and if possible, I'd love to be the person with the sign walking along with each group displaying the players' names and scores. How fun it would be to walk along with a group for the entire 18 holes, inside the ropes.

Here's a collection of photos I put together from the day.

I got out early yesterday morning for a longish ride (104 miles/167 km) on my road bike. I've spent so little time on it this year but if I'm going to ride in this year's Dawn to Dusk ride on August 31st, I'll need to rachet up my time riding pavement. I'm somewhat lacking the motivation to do the necessary training which will involve several 150-200 mile (240-320 km) rides to condition my legs. So far this year I've been content to push myself on my gravel bike where the scenery is much more serene and appealing. More time training means less time for other interests. I could probably get by with less mileage but I like to come prepared for these events. I don't want to be the guy who's struggling with 4-5 hours still to ride. What to do?

Here's a few ride videos I've put together since the last time I wrote here beginning with yesterday's ride.

It's time for that walk I spoke of.

That's all I've got.

Monday, June 24, 2019

A Close Call and DocStock 2019

After more than 15 years, I'm going to let my domains and expire. I haven't done anything with either site in years and I can't justify the cost to keep them. Plus, I built the sites with Microsoft's Frontpage program which my GoDaddy host no longer supports—meaning, I can no longer use the program to update the sites if I wanted to. The one problem for me, though, is that I've got so many links from my blog directed at my site where I've archived photos. I'm in the process of archiving those photos on my Google Photos site and I'll link to them there. It's going to be dozens of hours of work.

I had a close call on my road bike a little more than a week ago on only my 2nd road ride of the year. It was Saturday mid-morning and I was coming out of St. Paul on a 4-lane divided highway when a driver proceeded through an intersection and appeared to not see me until the last second. I was certain they weren't going to stop in time but they did. (Here's video from the close call) I'm quite sure it was the blinking bright white strobe on the front of my bike that caught their attention and saved me.

I used to say that at the end of the year, it was only ever a handful of drivers out of the hundreds of thousands that passed me that ever posed a problem. I don't say that anymore. It's never been riskier to be a road cyclist than it is now with so many distracted drivers more focused on their phones than their driving. I still love to ride pavement and I'll no doubt do my share of miles on it this year but for the most part, I've transitioned to riding gravel and I'm loving it, especially my Tuesday night gravel rides with the guys out of Northfield. I'm never more alive than when I'm riding with these guys! (See video embedded below for last week's ride). I can ride gravel roads for mile after mile without seeing another vehicle. The occasional loose dog is about my only concern. Another bonus to riding gravel are the many additional options I have of roads to ride—gravel roads I couldn't easily ride on with my road bikes because of their skinny tires now beckon me. I sometimes feel like a kid again when I'm on my gravel bike exploring new places.

We attended DocStock 2019 on Saturday at Drew's parent's home south of Rochester. What a fun time that was! DocStock is a play on the Woodstock name. "Doc" is Drew's father's nickname. Drew's band, Francis Jennings and the Seisable Johnsons led off the show followed by his brother Colton's band, Hawk45. Both bands did a great job of entertaining us. Tammy bought some cowbells just for Hawk45's cover of Mississippi Queen. They were a hit! were the inflatable guitars we brought along for people to take their air-guitar skills to the next level. We're already looking forward to next year's show.

That's all I've got.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

I Like Turtles

I was walking Charlie the other day when we came across a memorial to a recently departed pup along our route. I never knew his name until seeing his memorial but he was Toby's favorite of any of the pups we'd routinely encounter. Toby would get up next to the fence and survey the yard for Snoop, and if he was out, Snoop would come by and mark a few spots along the fence while our pups would respond in kind. It was sad to learn that Snoop had died.

We've been trying to get to the dog park nightly with Charlie. He enjoys his time there as do we. It's great socializing for all involved—pups and their owners. This little guy had us all laughing! He would take his tennis ball and bring it over to various people for them to throw it for him. If they didn't notice him at their feet or if they weren't fast enough, he'd bark to hurry them along. He was so funny to watch.

I went out for a longish walk on Father's Day on a route I hadn't taken in maybe two years. I noticed a snapping turtle laying eggs next to the bike/walking path of a busy highway. I quickly took a photo, trying not to disturb her then continued on my walk while saying a small prayer for her and her offspring. It's what I do. There's more to the story.

I walked by Mom and Tim's old townhome and noticed it was for sale. I stopped and chatted with some neighbors who were sitting at a picnic table in their garage kitty-corner to my mom's old home—neighbors I'd known through Tim. They said the home sold in only three days. We talked a little about Tim and my mom. Berta commented that Tim was the nicest guy. Duane mentioned my brother Keith and how they used to shoot pool together for years on Wednesday nights but that was many years ago. Berta then commented that she was diagnosed with melanoma cancer two and a half years ago and that they've stopped treatment. It's hard to know what to say to someone when they tell you that, other than, "I'm so sorry".

It was three years ago yesterday that we learned Tim had died from colon cancer. It was such a sad, unreal scene. I have to admit; the thought crosses my mind rather regularly about if and when it will be my turn to face this most difficult news.

My trusty GoPro Hero 4 became not so trustworthy. It was shutting down for no apparent reason and I could no longer depend on it to capture ride video. I've had my eye on a GoPro Hero 7 Black for a while with its built-in stabilization feature, so with a few hours of research (to make sure this was the camera for me), I purchased one. I tried it for the first time on last Tuesday's TNG ride with the guys out of Northfield. I couldn't have been more impressed with it. (See video embedded below.)

The battery life is only a little more than half of my previous GoPro and I'm quite sure that's due to the amount of processing that's happening within the camera while it records. I get around an hour and fifteen minutes of recording time with it vs. a little less than two hours with my previous model. I don't mind. With my Hero 4, I would always have to smooth the video with my iMovie editor to try and eliminate whatever shakiness I could but with my Hero 7, I don't have to touch it. It renders itself smoother than anything iMovie could do for my old camera. It's very impressive! I don't know how well it will work on the singletrack trails at Murphy but I hope to give it a try later this week and find out.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Hail Damage? Charlie Isn't Himself, and Digging Deep

A construction company rep came by our home recently when I was out working in our yard and asked if it would be okay if he went up on our roof to look for hail damage from a storm one year ago. I told him I was fairly certain he wouldn't find anything because none of our flower gardens were damaged in the storm. He still wanted to have a look and I told him that would be fine. He found me a half hour later and showed me some photos he took of what he said was hail damage but what looked to me like 21-year-old shingles. He wanted to file a claim on our behalf. I gave him our insurance company info and within 5 minutes the ball was rolling on a claim for a new roof. I phoned our insurance agent a few days later and told him that a new roof would be nice but the claim I filed wasn't my idea and that if their inspection showed no hail damage, I was fine with that. My insurance company sent a claim adjuster out to have a look and they actually agreed that our roof had suffered damage. They were willing to replace it for the cost of our deductible. I didn't see that coming.

A team of 7 guys came out last week and worked 12 hours straight (with the exception of about a 20-minute lunch break) to finish the job in one day and ahead of a soaking rain the next day. We're pleased with how it looks. Our new roof even came with a rainbow!

Charlie hasn't been himself since Toby's passing. Tammy figured his seeming sadness was most likely him picking up on our sadness of losing both her mother and Toby but it still continues more than 4 weeks later. He used to love going for walks but not so much now. Often times he's ready to turn for home after just a few blocks. He's never done that before. I'm hoping it's something that will pass. We've been taking him to Alimagnet dog park in Burnsville and hanging out with him in the small-dogs section that's fenced off from the main park. We'll sometimes take him for a walk outside the fenced area. He's fine as long as I'm with him but if he's only with Tammy, she said he will sit and howl, not at all interested in walking. He never acted this way when Toby was with him.

I've only had my road bike out once this year, having fallen in love with gravel riding. Tammy has commented to me more than once that she's glad I'm riding gravel and not mixing it up with distracted drivers on the road. I anticipate that I'll still manage my share of paved highways miles this year but the lure of them isn't what it once was for me.

I've been riding with the Cannon Valley Velo Club on Tuesday nights in Northfield on their TNG (Tuesday Night Gravel) rides. I had no idea when I accepted my friend Dave's invitation to join them what I was getting myself into, and I mean that in a good way. These guys push the pace and cause me to dig deep at times to stay in the pack. Last Tuesday night was off-the-charts fun! The ride was advertised as "about 16 mph (26 kph) ride average"—a reasonable pace for a good workout. Ha! It was a hammer-fest out there and we finished our ride having averaged 19.5 mph (31.4 kph). That's flying for gravel. There were several times when I was on the rivet but managed to hang on (thanks for the pull, Lee) and remain with the pack. I like that when I toe-the-line with these guys at the start of a ride, I'm a little anxious about my ability to hang, to keep up. I'm getting stronger, tho, and I'm determined to continue to do so. This is truly more fun than a guy my age is supposed to be having.

The video below is from yesterday's ride where I struggled to stay connected on the hills with legs that weren't answering the call for more power. Bruce, Tim, and Todd were kind enough to soft-pedal for me so I could catch on again and again. I was thoroughly whipped after 5 hours and 77 miles (124 km) of riding. I kept reminding myself of the saying, something about that which doesn't kill me...

That's all I've got.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Which Would You Choose?

I was just two weeks shy of my 17th birthday when Richard Nixon resigned the office of the Presidency in August 1974. I can still see images in my head of the Senate hearings that led to his downfall playing out on our TV but honestly, I didn't follow it all that closely. I was too busy learning how to shotgun beers and trying not to sabotage my life beyond repair than I was concerned about current events. I would develop an interest years/decades later. There's an excellent podcast called Slow Burn by Leon Neyfakh that details much of what led up to Nixon's demise and the shifting support for him along the way. It's fascinating listening.

Had Alexander Butterfield (during the Senate Watergate hearings) never mentioned the tape recording system that Nixon had installed in the Oval Office, it's likely Nixon never would've had to resign in disgrace. And had there been a Fox News with the likes of Fox and Friends or Sean Hannity to bolster support for Nixon, it's also very possible he would've finished his term. That we have a large percentage of our population tuning into propagandists such as Hannity or Limbaugh or other conservative media voices for direction is disheartening. I actually know people who believe in Hannity's "deep state" nonsense. The investigation into Trump* was entirely Republican-led and is now entirely being buried by Republicans. I fully support efforts by Democrats in the House of Representatives leading an investigation of their own into what is likely the most corrupt administration in our country's history. You don't get to obstruct an investigation into wrongdoing and then claim exoneration because your obstruction was successful.

We need to hear from Don McGahan because McGahn is to Trump* what Nixon's Oval Office tapes were to him. They both hold incriminating secrets. And just as Nixon tried to suppress his tapes from scrutiny, Trump is attempting to suppress McGahn's testimony. History has a funny way of repeating itself.

We're about to have a national conversation about abortion now that Republican-led states are feeling emboldened by a more conservative SCOTUS and are making challenges to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. What they may want to keep in mind is that Roe v. Wade was decided in a 7-2 decision with 5 of the 7 Justices having been appointed by Republican Presidents. While conservatives love to blame Democrats for legalized abortion in the U.S., they seem unaware that they have their elected leaders to blame (or thank) for it.

There was a time not all that many years ago when you could find me marching with pro-life supporters at the Capitol in St Paul on a cold Monday in January. That seems a lifetime ago to me now. My world is no longer so black and white. In those days, I never once stopped to consider the woman who found herself pregnant with no support, say nothing of a decent paying job with benefits to see her through her pregnancy and for months afterward. And what about the cost of childcare in the years to come? We don't live in an Ozzie and Harriet world, and unplanned/unwanted pregnancies happen. I now get that. But most of all, I get that it's not my place to decide what a woman should or shouldn't do in whatever circumstance she finds herself.

For those trying to use scripture to support their pro-life values—think again. Yes, I've read all of the scripture purporting to show that God is a pro-life God, that he knew you in your mother's womb and such, but does this sound pro-life? There are many other biblical examples.

I truly am hoping for an honest discussion about abortion so that the lies being told by Trump* can be corrected. Doctors aren't taking newborn babies, wrapping them warmly in blankets and then conferring with the baby's mother as to whether or not they're going to kill it. That's just such a ridiculous thing for anyone to say.

A couple of years ago, author Patrick S. Tomlinson penned the following scenario as a way of making a point for those who say that life begins at conception. He details a scenario whereby you are in a fertility clinic when the fire alarm goes off. Before you escape you have the option to save either a 5-year-old child who is pleading for help or a container of 1000 viable human embryos.

Do you A) save the child, or B) save the 1000 embryos? he asks.

There is no "C". "C" means you all die.

Which would you choose?

That's all I've got

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Goodbye My Little Buddy

This is a blog post I've not looked forward to writing. Toby is gone, and with him, a huge piece of my heart is gone as well. The feeling of emptiness that follows a loss like this is profound for me. The color drains from my world and a mild depression takes hold. There's nowhere I can go in our home without some small reminder that he's no longer with us and with each small reminder I feel my heart sink a little more. I was out on a walk with Charlie the day after Toby's passing and imagining that he was with us and recalling all of his special places he liked to pause and sniff. I talked to him as though he could hear me and I told him how much I loved and missed him. My sunglasses hid my tears from passers-by. I wish we'd had one more walk together where I let him sniff as long as he wanted and where I didn't try and hurry him along in the slightest.

In the end, I didn't want to let him go, thinking that we could keep him comfortable and that the increased pain he was moaning so loudly about the previous night was just temporary. He seemed so normal when we arrived home from Babbitt on Tuesday afternoon. We had already scheduled an appointment with our vet for 3:30—in less than two hours. Reluctantly, we stuck with the plan and made the quiet drive into Farmington with Toby in Tammy's arms. And at precisely 3:30, with a small whimper, he was gone. I'd never broken down in front of the vet before in an end of life situation, always able to keep my composure until reaching the relative privacy of my car but not this time. There was no holding these tears back for either of us. I closed his eyes and kissed him one last time before turning toward the door with an emptiness in my heart that I don't think I've ever felt before. We held each other in the car and cried for our loss. It's been especially difficult for Tammy because she's still deeply grieving the loss of her mother just eight days earlier.

We received a card in the mail yesterday from our veterinarian. I opened it to find a sympathy card and inside it, 4 cards with Toby's pawprints. I burst into tears at the sight of it. I know this emptiness will lift in time but for now, I'm okay with feeling the pain of losing him. He was such a big part of my life. To allow him to pass with little more than a ripple before resuming my life wouldn't be right. I'll stay in this pain for a while and reminisce about what a special being he was and how he brought so much joy to my world and how I'm missing him dearly.

Some thoughts about Toby in the following paragraphs.

Toby was such a mellow and sweet boy, seldom ever raising his voice toward another dog and never toward a person. Here's a rare video of him barking in his younger days. And he had the sweetest kisses. Up until a few years ago when it became somewhat difficult for him, he used to pause at least once on every walk, look back at me and jump up to give me a kiss as I bent down toward him. He would then hurry along to resume his walk. It was one of the small things I'd live for. We literally walked thousands of miles together. He loved his walks as much as he loved his treats. He was a master at leading us over to the kitchen drawer that contained our pups treats. It was impossible for me to deny him in those moments where he was communicating his wants so clearly—prancing his way over to their special drawer.

I recall the time Tammy had all three pups at the dog park near Cleary Lake. I was riding my bike past the park when I saw them. I pulled over and we chatted. After a few minutes, I pedaled away and noticed that Toby was running so hard along the fenceline to try and keep up with me. He strained a muscle in his effort and had a limp for a few days afterward. He just wanted to be with me. It's a memory that will remain with me forever.

I always let him choose the direction our walks would take us. He wasn't at all an alpha male but he liked to be in the lead on our walks. Seldom would he ever choose the same direction two days in a row, always preferring to change it up. His favorite walk was the Fleet Farm loop because it was typically the longest route we'd routinely take at 2.4 miles (3.8 km). I didn't always have time for that length of walk (especially when I was still working) so Toby would try and get me to follow him across Jonquil Ave, knowing that if he got me to cross the street, we were in for the full Fleet Farm loop. I can still see him crossing Jonquil and looking back to see if I was following. How could I say no? It's been more than a year since he's led me on that route, knowing his limitations. I did the Fleet Farm loop with Charlie on Thursday morning in memory of Toby. It was sad to not have him with us.

Up until 2-3 years ago, it was common to come into the laundry room from the garage and see a shoe out of place on the rug. It meant that Toby had been there, quietly chewing on its laces. He wasn't destructive—just gnawing on them and making them wet. I would smile whenever I'd see that telltale sign of what he'd been up to.

In the last couple of years, he'd lost much of his vision and most of his hearing but that didn't stop him from wanting to go for his walks. And up until just a couple of weeks ago, he would still like to turn on the speed at least once each walk and have Charlie and me running to keep up with him.

I was watching some videos of our pups a few nights ago when they were just a year old. There's one video where Rachel was practicing playing her violin and it was (I think) hurting Allie's ears. She would cry out in protest at Rachel's feet. Charlie heard the video and had to chime in. It's cute.

I was in contact with a friend recently who works a lot with dogs. I was telling him of Toby's failing health and seeking advice on when it's time to say goodbye. He told me that there's a window of time where it's the right time: too soon and you live with the regret that you could've had more time together, and conversely, too late and your pet suffers needlessly. Toby was definitely within the window of time Jim was speaking of.

I was able to spend more than four hours in the car with Toby as we drove back from Babbitt on Tuesday morning after attending Tammy's mother's funeral. He seemed so content, at times sitting up in his seat and looking around. We stopped at the Warming House Coffee Shop in Cloquet where I bought a decaf coffee and a ham sandwich. Toby used to love to drink the dregs of my coffee but not on this day. He did, though, happily take all of the ham from my sandwich. It would be his last meal.

I have to keep reminding myself that we gave him a very good life, as if that will help alleviate the sadness I'm feeling. What I wouldn't give to go back in time and relive the last ten years again. We all had so much fun together. If nothing else, Toby's passing has reaffirmed in me how precious life is and how every day matters with the ones you love. Make the most of your time with them.

You will always have a huge piece of my heart, little buddy. I will always love you. Until we meet again.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Saying Goodbye to Tammy's Mom

I was on a walk (yesterday) Easter morning when Tammy called me. She had just arrived at Trinity Care in Farmington where her mother is a resident. She was calling to tell me that she'd missed a call from the staff there and that her mother's condition had deteriorated considerably overnight. I hurried home then drove to be with her.

Alzheimer's it's said is "the long goodbye", and it is. It's been several months since Elaine has shown any recognition of me. Tammy has spent so much time with her that I think there was always an understanding between them that there was a connection. When I arrived at her bedside, it was clear that she was close to the end. Her respiration was near 40 breaths per minute, twice what is normal, and there was noticeable congestion in her lungs. She never opened her eyes while I was there. We prayed she wouldn't linger in this condition for long.

Tammy spent the night with her, reluctant to leave her side. The staff wheeled in a bed for her to sleep alongside her mother, holding her hand throughout the night—a restless night. She came home this morning to shower and change clothes before hurrying to her mother's side again but she was too late. Five minutes out from the nursing home she had an overwhelming feeling of sadness and she began to sob. Just before she arrived at Trinity Care she received a phone call to tell her that her mother had passed just minutes earlier. Her mother left this world at 9:05.

I felt so bad for her because I knew how much she wanted to be by her mother's side at that moment. I arrived 30 minutes later and gave her the biggest hug I'd ever given anyone. As much as she thought she was prepared for her mother's passing, she wasn't. Her mom had been such an integral part of her life for the past 4 years since she left Babbitt to come and live with us for one year. Tammy found so much purpose and love in being with her and tending to her needs. And now she's gone. We should all be so blessed to have someone like Tammy advocating for us and being by our side in our final years and days. I'm so proud of her.

Tammy had gotten to know most of the staff at Trinity Care since her mother arrived not quite three years ago. Having been an Alzheimer's nurse herself for years, she was comfortable tending to many of her mother's needs while spending time with her, and I'm certain the staff was always relieved to see her because of the help she would offer. Not only did they like Tammy, but they also loved her mother. So many of the staff would tell us that Elaine was their favorite and we'd always think how kind that was of them to say but surely they must tell others that as well. And maybe they did but from everything we could tell, they truly meant it. One of the kitchen staff was sitting with her when she died.

Elaine had been on hospice care for the past few weeks and a part of that care consists of routine visits by a chaplain and a hospice nurse. I met the chaplain and one of her nurses today. They are both such beautiful, kind people. The chaplain had some comforting words for Tammy as did Sarah, the hospice nurse. Tammy was allowed some time to spend with her mother before the undertaker arrived to remove her mother's body. She followed him out of the room and was greeted by a hallway full of teary-eyed staff waiting to pay their respects. It was very touching. One of the hallways is adorned with a mural of flowers, and nearly every time Elaine was wheeled past it she would comment on the beautiful flowers. Today, as they were taking her mother past it one last time with staff following behind, Tammy commented, "Look at the beautiful flowers". Everyone understood and many began to cry—Stacy commented, "Oh, Tammy". It was beautifully sad.

Elaine was born on December 5th, 1925. She was 93 years old and just six weeks younger than my father. She was a homemaker for most of her life but there was a time when she worked for the local newspaper, using her artistic talents to help with the layout of pages and ads in the newspaper. She was also very active in her church, creating many banners for use throughout the various seasons of the church year.

Tammy used to love to treat both her mother and her aunt Joyce to a trip to the casino when her mother would come to visit. They both loved to play the slot machines. She and Joyce always had so much fun together. Joyce passed away last December, leaving Elaine the last surviving family member of her era.

I will always remember her beautiful smile and the twinkle in her eyes, and her love of butterflies. Years ago when we made the stained glass windows for her church in Babbitt, one of the windows we made was of a butterfly to signify rebirth. We placed that window alongside the pew she always sat in.

Elaine/Mom/Grandma/Great Grandma was such a giving, caring person who was truly loved by everyone.  We should all be so lucky to leave this earth having that said about us.

Goodbye, Mom—until we meet again.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Kindness and the Truth Will Out

I've been watching a Netflix series called The Kindness Diaries. It's a documentary about Leon, a middle-aged man who did well as a broker before turning his back on his life of luxury to travel the world while depending on the kindness of strangers for food, fuel, and a place to stay at night. He has a crew of 3 who follow along (mostly out of sight) to record his encounters along the way. But Leon isn't only taking from others; he's also giving back in some large ways. I've been on the verge of tears several times while watching it. It's excellent!

We had a taste of some awesome spring weather earlier in the week. I was able to get out in the yard on Tuesday and take care of 4 hours of yard work, mostly bagging up piles of leaves that are always late to fall from our oak trees. But the mild weather was just a tease. Wednesday arrived and with it, a major storm that dumped about 8" (20 cm) of brown tinged heavy snow on what had previously been our snowless ground. The brown tinge was caused by dust from west Texas carried along by the upper winds. The airport in St. Paul recorded a wind gust of 66 mph (100+ kph) during the storm. Our backyard is littered with debris from our river birch trees. Note to self: no more river birch trees.

I finished a stained glass sun-catcher project a few days ago but I'm waiting until tomorrow for the sun to make an appearance before I can properly photograph it for my Instagram and Etsy sites. It's a new design. I enjoy challenging myself to come up with fresh ideas.

Disclaimer: Politics ahead. I write this blog for myself, to be able to look back on my thoughts and our world that was at some point years from now. I do it for me. You're welcome to follow along if you'd like.

This was a particularly concerning week in the world of politics as we watched Trump's* Attorney General William Barr opine during Congressional hearings that he felt the Trump* campaign had been spied on by some deep-state entity and that there may need to be an investigation, all the while admitting that he had no basis whatsoever for spewing such nonsense. But it was red meat for conservative media and their followers and that was his only intent. It's all just so head-shaking and disturbing. And this is the guy we're supposed to trust is going to be an impartial arbiter as to what should be made available from Mueller's report to Congress and the public.

I'm curious to see what's in Mueller's report. I think it's quite likely that there's plenty of evidence of Trump's* campaign conspiring with Russian operatives to attack the Clinton campaign but lacking the ability to subpoena those contacts, there's little to no chance a conviction could be achieved in court. An ethical prosecutor is forbidden from seeking an indictment unless they believe they can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Does it mean that Trump* and his campaign did nothing wrong? No, not at all. But will we ever be allowed to see the evidence and decide for ourselves? It's doubtful.

I worry that when we look back on this time in our history years from now, we won't have reached the proper judgments we should have because of a complicit Republican party that shows no interest in the truth. I see a president who is so thoroughly corrupt and is flouting both our norms and our laws to advance his warped agenda. It's beyond disturbing. I came across this tweet tonight that puts into words so much of what concerns me and should concern us all.

But life goes on and I have to trust that the truth will out.

From Tuesday nights ride with a fun group out of Northfield that I hope to ride more with this year.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Lure of Warmer Weather, and Mueller's Report

I've been distracted with some outdoor stuff lately so my stained glass hobby has climbed into the backseat—for how long I don't know. I was hoping to craft at least a few more sun-catchers before I close up shop until next winter but the lure of being outdoors is quite strong now.

Yes, I've been getting out for some rides and some walks. It's been nice to feel the sun on my face again. I had my first ride on my gravel bike on Saturday. I did a 54 mile (87 km) loop out beyond Jordan. The ride was mostly just to get a feel for my bike and to dial in my position on it. I was able to find some gravel along the way so that was a bonus. It's a fun bike and will easily rival my fat-bike in that department.

Why a gravel bike? Well, it opens up more choices for riding. It's difficult to ride my road bike on gravel so now I can venture down roads I might otherwise avoid for fear of the pavement turning to gravel. I could use my fat-bike for gravel but it's not going to be as fast because the tires are much wider and the bike is considerably heavier than my gravel bike—33 lbs vs. 20 lbs (15 kg vs. 9 kg). But more important than anything—there's also a lot less traffic on dirt roads and less traffic means fewer distracted drivers. I've embedded a video of my ride at the end of this post.

Tammy got a call yesterday from the nursing home where her mother is a resident. They wanted to know if she would like to have her placed in hospice care. Tammy recently commented to me that her mother is slipping away more noticeably than before. Hospice care wasn't something we asked for; they offered it. It will allow her to have more personalized attention in the way of people coming in and spending time with her. Sometimes it means someone sitting by her and playing guitar while softly singing or maybe a hand massage or head massage. Tammy was grateful for the offer. She spends quite a lot of time there each week but it's never enough for her. We can't say enough good things about Trinity Care in Farmington where she resides. They're all and more than we could have ever hoped for her mother.

Robert Mueller submitted his long-awaited report about his investigation into Trump's* possible collusion/conspiracy with Russian operatives to affect the 2016 election and the investigation into his possible obstruction of justice. He submitted the report to Trump's* Attorney General William Barr on Friday. On Sunday Barr released a very abbreviated synopsis of Mueller's findings. Trump* claimed total exoneration while the report said nothing of the sort. No surprise there. The report found that there wasn't enough evidence to prove a case of collusion/conspiracy but with respect to obstruction of justice, Mueller didn't come to a conclusion. Barr is on record as saying it's impossible for a president to obstruct justice so he's giving Trump* a pass. In a situation such as that, the only logical next step would be to send the report to Congress for them to consider. That didn't happen and it won't. Barr was handpicked just for this very reason.

Conservative media was giddy with proclamations that Trump* was right, that this was all a witch hunt, that there was no evidence or proof that he colluded or conspired, all without having read the report. I saw a tweet tonight where someone was wondering about Kenneth Starr's report on the Clintons and Whitewater—what if Starr had submitted his report to Janet Reno (Clinton's AG) and she, in turn, gave only a very brief synopsis of Starr's findings? How would Republicans have responded? I'm certain they'd have been outraged, and rightly so.

I came across a most interesting thread on Twitter tonight. It details what it takes to both reach a level of proof for an indictment and what is needed to find a person guilty. I found it fascinating reading. It's 50 tweets in total so be sure to expand the link to show all 50. The tweets are numbered 1-50. To avoid becoming distracted, ignore any not by Seth Abramson and just read through his. Here's the link.

That's all I've got.