November 12, 2023

Walking the line

Just like all the days before:

  • Mornings are the worst.
  • First steps are always the hardest.

My recovery from surgery began at my friend's/neighbor's house. I had dropped off my clothing, some food, and recovery tools the day before, and post-surgery I was set up in a bedroom in their basement. They were very kind to take me in, and to take care of me. I wasn't sure what recovery would look like, but I knew I was in good hands. 

After getting settled in, it was on to doing my homework. Every hour I was to be up walking with my walker. I was given PT exercises to complete every two hours, followed by icing and elevation of my leg. There were also varying schedules of pills to be taken, so though I had little to do, it felt like my schedule was full. 

One of the things I was worried about during recovery was sleeping on my back. I don't sleep all that well on the best of days, and whenever I end up sleeping on my back, it makes my back ache. My back was already a bit of a mess prior to surgery, so that added to the nervousness. With a 4:15am wake up the morning of surgery, I was plenty tired and fell asleep relatively quickly.

Unfortunately, I woke up about four hours later and couldn't find any real sleep the rest of the night. I had the same recurring anxiety dream that would have had me tossing and turning, but I felt like I couldn't move without messing with my leg. The next three nights were similar, and it would take that long for me to figure out that it was the Oxycodone that was making my mind spiral. 

That first morning when it was finally a reasonable hour to get up, it took a good ten minutes to get out of bed. Any minor movement of my leg felt like I was tearing it apart. As miraculous as the day before seemed, moving around under my own power, it felt like I was going to need to be airlifted out of bed the following morning. 

Once up, things started to loosen up a bit, and I could shuffle my way around. A physical therapist came by that first afternoon to check on how I was doing the exercises, and how I was doing overall. She instructed me to walk more smoothly and naturally. She also had me go up and down a flight of stairs. Be careful, but press on.

The first six days were filed with PT home work, walking laps of the basement, and lots of reading in bed. The last three days I made it upstairs to have dinner with my generous hosts. There was still plenty of pain, but each day it felt like I was making progress. 

I went home on day seven and have been home for a little more than a week now, and it feels like progress has slowed a bit. I am still doing my PT homework, and walking regularly, but for the first few days I think I was sitting in a chair too much when I should have been lying down on the couch or bed. At my two week follow up appointment with a surgical assistant she took off the bandage and let me know that I was at a good place for recovery. But then she said she wanted me to be a "couch potato" for another four weeks. 

The concern is that with this type of hip replacement you can feel a little too good when the joint is not yet stable, and you can really mess things up. My friends had told me a story of another friend of theirs who did just that, had to get a second surgery, and is still not fully recovered. I keep this in the back of my mind as a reminder.

After running nineteen marathons and tackling other difficult physical challenges, I have learned to push through pain to get to the finish line, to go to a certain place in my mind to press on when my body is begging me not to. When you walk that line just right, it can take you to amazing places, but I have crossed it a couple of times. At one end of my much smaller walking loop at my house, there is another reminder. 

This is a picture of me on a backpacking trip with friends about ten years ago. We were on our way back to the car after a great few days in the woods. This spot is next to a massive tree, and almost exactly a mile from the finish. I was beyond struggling and already suffering. Along with the usual gear, I am carrying an inflatable raft belonging to one of our crew so we could fish at the lake where we camped. The pack was borrowed, and as you can see the weight is not properly distributed. My back was already screaming. 

I just wanted to get through it, to make the pain stop. I went to that place in my mind that I had visited before. I got quiet, not really replying to my friends' conversations. When we reached the trailhead, my friends stopped for a group picture, but I kept walking. They called after me, but I couldn't stop, going straight to the car. Once I got the pack off my back, I broke down, wept and hyperventilated. They had no idea how much pain I was in (because of course I hadn't said anything), and I properly freaked them out, thinking I was having an attack of some sort. I thought I knew what I was doing, what my limits were, and I was wrong. 

I have pushed up against my limits since then, but I like to think I have learned my lesson about taking it too far. Hopefully there will be other finish lines in my future, but this is the most important one right now. Right now, slow and steady wins the race. It is a marathon, and not a sprint. Part of physical therapy is to push through some discomfort, but you have to walk the line more carefully while your body recovers. Keep moving forward, but don't do anything stupid. 

Don't be that guy in the picture. 

November 8, 2023

Not all original parts

As I wrote about in this post and elsewhere, I found out I had arthritis in my right hip at the beginning of 2021. The pain and impact on my life increased over the next couple of years, and surgery was a matter of when, not if. I met with a surgeon in April of this year. His schedule was pretty well filled, but that wasn't a huge issue as I knew I wanted to schedule it around the beginning of November, the only time that it is reasonably quiet at work. The date of surgery was Friday October 27th, just under two weeks ago. 

I was a bit nervous about the surgery. There are of course various ways in which the surgery might not be completely successful, but honestly I was more worried about the extremely small chance of something going completely wrong and never waking up again. As I have mentioned briefly elsewhere, anxiety has become a part of my life in the past year, and as much as I "knew" I was going to be alright, I couldn't entirely quiet that inner voice. 

I arrived at the hospital at 5:45am. The next hour and a half was prep work, and meeting all the people who would be participating in the surgery. Along with all the other questions, everyone confirmed my name, date of birth, and which hip I was replacing. When my surgeon came by, just to make triply sure that there was no last minute error, he initialed my right hip. Everyone was kind, considerate and professional. I particularly remember being put at ease by Tim the anesthesiologist assistant, but everyone did their part in providing a calming presence. 

I was wheeled into surgery at 7:30, and I thought, "the sun isn't even up yet, and it is already showtime." Once in the surgical suite, they had me sit up on the edge of the gurney. I was already on an IV of some sort, but the next step was an epidural. Tim had me bend forward to spread out my spine a bit and give him access for the shot. A nurse was there in front of me to catch me if for some reason I pitched forward.  I know we chatted and joked with each other. The jokes are lost to the ether, but I remember feeling good about the team around me. I was surrounded by caring and helping hands.

Then they transferred me to the operating table. The table had these separate sections for the legs so they could be moved independently. After I was settled, someone pounded a couple of pegs into the table, a little too close to the crotch for comfort. "Be careful with that hammer, please!" Less than thirty seconds after that, I was out like a light. No need to count back from 100. They had warned me it was possible that I might come around a bit, or hear some loud noises during the surgery, but thankfully my sleep was deep. 

I woke up in a hallway with another nurse at my side to take care of me as I came around. Memory is a little fuzzy at this point, but I may have had something to drink, and maybe there was Jello? I do remember her asking me about my pain levels, me saying I was doing OK, but her reading the winces in my face and giving me something more for my pain. I am sure this helped with the pain, but it definitely made me nauseated. 

After maybe an hour or so, I was taken to Physical Therapy. There they took me through the exercises I would be doing for the next six weeks. Then it was (already?) time to stand up. They had me use my walker to shuffle around the room and the hallway. Then they had me go up and down two steps. Pretty incredible that they have you up so quickly after surgery. Still hard to wrap my brain around it. 

Martha, my friend and neighbor met me at the PT stage. She was there to listen in, being my designated "coach" for the first week of recovery. She is a retired nurse, so along with being a clearer set of ears for all the instructions, she was another professional along the way looking out for me. After taking my wheelchair ride to my car, she drove me to her and her sister's house where I would spend the first week or so of my recovery.

I remember from the days when I was looking for my first car, a Ford Mustang, and then later when I was buying a Harley, that many of the ads noted, "All the numbers match!" The vehicles were worth more money if they had all original parts, and all the serial numbers matched. I didn't much care about that back then, since I was buying the vehicle(s) to actually use, not as an investment. Now my body has some after-market parts, and I suppose I don't much care that it is no longer a stock version either. Just hoping the improvements will keep me on the road a little longer. 

September 16, 2023

A less crooked smile

"You don't strike me as someone who is overly concerned about how his teeth look."

This was what someone at my dentist's office said earlier this year. I have told this story to a few people, and everyone has been a bit offended for me. But it was a true statement, and I took it as such. They knew their audience I suppose. 

My teeth have always been a bit janky, with two teeth half hiding behind my two front teeth, but it has never been anything that I cared much about. When I was a kid, braces were suggested, but it wasn't for anything functional, strictly cosmetic. I of course never fully understood what the money situation was growing up, but I felt like there wasn't money to spend on something that wasn't strictly necessary. 

And of course who wants braces as a kid. 

At the dentist earlier this year, they told me that my bite was putting too much pressure on a single tooth, and it was destined to crack. The two options were a crown, which would be a band-aid, or get braces to fix the underlying problem. Since this seems to be the year to fix what is broken, and kicking the can down the road to "future me" to deal with doesn't seem to ever work out, braces was the decision. 

Of course things have changed dramatically since I was a kid. No longer would there be a mouth full of metal, but rather plastic trays that snap into place. You have likely heard of Invisalign, which is a brand name for this sort of system, and I have something similar made by SureSmile. 

My treatment would be a series of 30 trays, each worn for two weeks, with each successive set moving my teeth a bit farther from their original state, each successive set moving my teeth a bit closer to the final alignment. You are supposed to wear the trays for 20 - 22 hours a day, only taking them out to eat. 

30 trays times 2 weeks equals almost fifteen months of dental fun. I just put in tray 16 this week, so I am halfway there. 

I can't wait for it to be over. 

Not because I am excited to see my new smile (see above about not caring what my teeth look like). Not because my mouth looks funny with the braces in, or that my speech is particularly effected (this tech is pretty great in both respects). No, I just find it an annoyance every single day. Not a huge deal each day, it is just always there, being annoying. 

For the first few days of every two week cycle, the trays are very difficult to snap in or remove. At my first appointment when the dentist/professional was trying to get those first trays in, it was a major ordeal, and I just imagined fifteen months of this pain-in-the-assery of me trying to do it my amateur self, and I did not take it well. And of course your teeth hurt as they are being pressured to move where they don't want to.

And honestly I just want to be able to sip my cup of coffee leisurely at my desk without being on a timer to floss, brush, snap my trays back in.

Again, small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, and tiny in the medical complaints department, but to spend $5,600 (adult dental insurance is near worthless) to do something that is annoying, where you don't feel like your life will be any better for it, while people who care about teeth are so excited for you...ugh.

Am I vaguely curious what my teeth will look like in the end - sure. Am I excited about wearing braces at night forever, because apparently your teeth still want to go back to square one - no. Was it the right decision - yes. I trust and like my dentist, and slapping band-aids on problems is not a long-term solution.

Will I continue to be annoyed, and miss those slowly sipped cups of coffee for the next seven months - yes, yes I will.

September 10, 2023

A flesh wound

 2023 has been the year of the medical professional. Thankfully nothing life threatening, but there have been more appointments and procedures than in any other time of my life. And more bills. 

  • One thing has me feeling like an old man.
  • One thing has be feeling like a late-blooming teenager.
  • Others, I am guessing, are more of an average experience these days. 

We'll start in the middle. One of the average ones. What is going on right now. 

I have had a growth on my neck for the last few years. At an appointment after it showed up, it was agreed that we would keep an eye on it. This year, it seemed like it was getting bigger, and was feeling itchy. The lump was sliced off, sent to a lab, and was determined to be a basal cell carcinoma. 

From my limited understanding and Googling, basal cell carcinoma is a cancer, the most common skin cancer, and the most common type of cancer overall. However, it is not one that spreads quickly, and is not generally a concern as long as it doesn't go ignored for a very long time. But it does need to be taken care of. The lump that was taken off showed cancer cells all the way to the edges, so there was more left on my neck to be addressed. Another appointment was made for this past Tuesday. 

More brief Googling. 

I had guessed that I was going to have what is called a Mohs procedure. In this procedure, skin is removed a layer at at a time, each one being analyzed for cancer cells. If that layer has some, you keep going until you get to one that doesn't. Instead, my version was having one removal procedure, large enough to feel that it was safe I suppose. This is likely much more efficient, time and cost effective, etc., but it was still a bit of a surprise. 

The procedure itself was fine, though the torque of the stitches as they closed things up seemed like a lot. They put the chunk of flesh in a jar for testing, and let me take a peek at it. The size of it was even more of a surprise. For a lump that was smaller than the nail on my pinky finger, the amount they took looked a couple of inches long, and about 3/4 of an inch deep. They said the scar may line up with a ridge in my neck, which was a great relief for my future modeling career. 

The test came back on Friday that showed that they got it all. Recovery has been a little painful, but most mostly just annoying. I couldn't turn my head for a number of days, so had to turn my whole body like a robot. It is also difficult to change out the dressing on a part of your body you can't see. I have become very good at using mirrors to cut my own hair, but somehow I could not get the bandages flipped around the right way looking side-eyed in a mirror. 

Pictures of the before, during and after (but not of the sample they took) are below. I don't think anything is too graphic, but the stitched incision is a little gross, so if this not your thing, you can click the back button now. 













After the lump was removed

First round mostly healed, on to the next

A day after removal

Five days after

Get those bumps checked out.

November 25, 2022

Shared moment

At the coffee shop.

Journey playing over the speakers.

The woman taking my order trying to resist singing along. 

The barista, not resisting, leaning in, singing, swaying. 

The woman at the register and I look at each other, smile, then sing behind our masks.


not so secretly,

joining in. 

August 7, 2022

Honoring Mom once more

 After a year delay from Covid, we were finally able to gather in a larger group last weekend to celebrate Mom's life, and all that she meant to us. It was at once a difficult day, but also a day filled with the warmth of love and friendship. The day seemed to fly by as we hugged and shared stories, saw friends old and new, and feel joy in the midst of grief. The day was a blessing, much like she was. 

Some words I shared at the memorial.

Grief and loss are never easy burdens to bear. It is at once so universal, yet so specific a feeling it can be isolating. We gather today to share both our feelings of loss, and also to celebrate the joy we all have had in knowing Beverly, Bev, Aunt Bev, and Mom in our lives. I thank you all for being here today. It means so much to us, and Mom was blessed by your love and friendship.

I want to thank Nick once again for putting together the lovely slideshow. It is such a great way to see the various parts of her life, and we will have it running in the background later in case you want to catch parts of it again. 

I also want to thank all of the family members who sent us pictures for the slideshow, and for us to have for our own memories. Some of the photos I had never seen, and some were wonderful reminders. It was great to be able to walk through various points of mom's life. What a gift.

Mom herself was a diligent photographer and scrapbooker. She had bookshelves filed with albums with careful notes of dates and places. As she was often the one behind the camera, there were more pictures of her family than of herself. Of course most of her time taking pictures pre-dates the selfie, and even if it had been around, I don't know how often she would have pointed the lens at herself to capture a moment. Thankfully she was not camera shy though, and she joined me in the recent tradition of selfies at Crescent Bar. I wish that the selfie tradition had been a thing much earlier, so that I could look back on those forty years of Sun Lakes and then Crescent Bar, a year at time.

One of the great things about these photos is to remind us of moments and the stories behind them. We of course have shared many stories with each other over the past year. Some are big moments like the road trip to the Rose Bowl, or the sketchy flight into the Grand Canyon, but most of them are smaller moments. There is a great story behind the picture of Mom jumping off the boat at Sun Lakes that is in the slideshow and on the photo board. The moment was etched in Corey's mind since he snapped the picture when he was just seven years old, but it was just a random moment for Mom until she got to hear the story many years later. 

Another moment I vividly remember Mom wasn't physically there, but boy was she present. I was up camping outside of Salmon La Sac some thirty years ago. I was crossing a river alone, and got swept away. I was flying down the river trying to swim or find my feet, and the only thing in my head besides panic was, "Mom is going to be so pissed if I die." She must have read something about the snowpack, melting run off, or some other person getting swept away in another river, but she had warned me to be careful before I left for the trip. I had not been careful. 

It took what felt like an eternity to make my way across the river, but I was still moving fast downstream. When I got close to the opposite shore, I saw a branch extended out over the river like something in a movie and lunged for it. The force of the river twisted me around and dislocated a finger, but I was safe. I walked a mile down river to a bridge and then back upstream to camp, soaking wet and ready to start listening to good advice again. When I told Mom the story later, she was of course more thankful that I was OK than mad that I had done something stupid, but she may have given me a good Nanny-like shake of the finger. 

My last story takes us back to Sun Lakes again, and it lives in my memory even though this time it was me who wasn't really there. One morning Mom hiked up the cliff with Dan and a few others. I was invited along, but I couldn't be bothered to get out of bed any earlier than absolutely necessary because I was a teenager. This "old" lady and Dan came back with animated stories of their adventures and all the fun they had. You could see the light in Mom's eyes as she relived the tough but rewarding climb. There was no way my extra hour of sleep had been worth missing out. I have taken that to heart, and have been much more likely to say "count me in!" instead of talking myself out of things. To spend time with people I care for, and to create a new memory.

Our lives end up being these stories. Our lives are about who we create these stories with, and who we get to tell them too. Our lives are even the stories we don't know we are a part of. These seemingly throw away moments that impacted others, and left them better for it. 

At the graveside service I mentioned Mom' s habit of collecting rocks when she hiked. Each one held a memory. When I recently went looking for the rocks, I found that the old Lucerne ice cream bucket she piled them into did not make it through their last move. Dad also mentioned that Mom had used some of the rocks to line the garden at their previous home, which seemed a lovely way to share those memories instead of tucking them away. Even so, she had collected so many rocks that there are still ones left over. We encourage you to take one of her memory rocks home with you if you like, to remember her, and to remind ourselves that memories can be sometimes be found in the strangest places.  

Mom left this world a better place through her love, her actions and her words. She will live on in our memories, in the recipe cards she passed along, in the cross-stitch keepsakes she created, in the kindness we show each other, and in our stories.

May the stories we tell and retell keep her alive in our hearts. May those little reminders and stories bring us joy, even when we still miss her so. 

I love you Mom, and I miss you so. You will always be with me.

Click to enlarge

May 29, 2022

Something'll happen

 Back when I was building decks, we would often come across issues where we had to figure out how to make something work. Though the general construction was basically the same, every design was a little different, and every house presented different challenges. When the solution wasn't immediately obvious, we would let the problem sit in the back of our minds. Sometimes your brain keeps that problem running in the background and a solution will pop up while you are working on something else. Other times you just need to step away to come back with a fresh set of eyes. 

Occasionally a customer would see the problem themselves and would ask us how we were going to solve it. If we didn't yet have the answer, we would say, "Something'll happen". It was shorthand for "We haven't figured it out yet, but are confident that we will. Just give it/us some time."

"Something'll happen" has been the theme of the last few days. 

When I landed in Paris, my bike did not. The cardboard box that held my panniers and other bags showed up, but the bike box was nowhere to be found. I talked to the people in baggage claim and called Iceland Air, but their answer was basically, "Don't call us, we'll call you". Unfortunately, they mistyped my email address, got my home address wrong, and even put down my last name as "Dan" rather than "Day". It took an additional twenty minute call to get that fixed. It didn't inspire confidence. 

Since I had planned to ride my bike everywhere, I had to take an Uber while Rick and Liz rode to hotel from the airport, then another Uber on to the hotel in Paris the following day. Every next move and plan was prefaced by, "Well, if you get your bike..." There was one plan with, and one plan without a bike. We tried to stay positive, stay in the moment, and continued to work the plan as variables kept changing. Something'll happen.

We had planned for one full down day in Paris to let me recover some sleep, finish getting set up, and race by a few touristy spots. When we hadn't heard from the airline at the end of that second day, we spent an additional day looking around to see if I could rent a bike for two weeks. We struck out in Paris. Not only was it a long holiday weekend, but there was also a championship soccer/football final that weekend. The city was more overrun than normal, and everything was more expensive. Our already expensive hotel was due to double in price the second day, but Liz was able to sweet talk them into letting us stay on another day at the original price. 

We looked at taking a train to a smaller town on the route to see if we could pick up a bike there, but still no luck. As each hour and day ticked by, I became less and less confident my bike would ever show up, much less late, or that we would be able to figure out a work around. 

Before arriving, I had worried about throwing a wrench in their trip if my hip made it too difficult to keep up. The last thing I wanted to do was show up and screw up this epic trip they were on. Now I didn't even have a bike to fail on. I told Rick and Liz that I was planning to go home early, to let them continue the trip and ride without me. It broke my heart. They understood how I felt, but we set aside any final decisions until the next day. We went out and had a wonderful dinner, then slept on it. 

I could have shifted gears and made a new vacation plan for myself. After all, I was in Europe for the first time in thirty years. Why not spend some time, see the sights. But that wasn't what this trip was going to be about. It was about riding along rivers and through countrysides. It was about spending time with family I love, and finding small places and moments together that would be missed on a normal journey. I travel by myself all the time, but again this wasn't what this trip was about. I was pretty crushed, but still ready to make the difficult call to go home. 

I woke up at 3:30 and couldn't fall back asleep. I looked at changing my flight ($540 charge), for hotels anywhere between Paris and the airport (nothing under $200), our previously planned route and other things while fighting insomnia. I was finally able to sleep for an hour and then met Rick and Liz for breakfast. My new suggested plan was to take a train to Rouen (which was on our planned route), to spend another day with them before finding my way home. Paris had been a mess, and I just wanted to see a smaller town, and have a day where we didn't have to come up with any contingency plans. We found  an apartment in Rouen where we could stay for two nights. 

I had not heard a peep from the airport or the airline in all this time, even though I had corrected all the information they took down (except my last name was still Dan since that was somehow unchangeable). There was however a website where I could log in to see if they had found my bag. I had checked it every couple of hours over the three days, and checked it again in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep. Still no sign of my bag.

I checked the website one more time after breakfast. The bike was now at the airport. 

Liz had finalized the reservation in Rouen just minutes before, so the train was still the plan. Scrambling ensued. Rick and I took an Uber to the airport, grabbed the bike, and took a taxi back, taking about three hours in the process. We assembled the bike in the street, loaded up our gear and rode to the train station. Another three hours later, we were in Rouen. The trip was back on. 

I am thankful that Rick and Liz are so flexible in the way they travel, always ready to figure out the next solution to the next problem. Even after I had given up hope, they were ready to roll with what came next. 

 Something'll happen.

Oh how I have missed this stupid box

Ready to ride

But first, a train. 

May 18, 2022

Getting my gear in gear

 The previous times I've done multi-day bike trips were a two week ride from Seattle to San Francisco in 2006, and one a week ride loop from Whitefish Montana to Canada and back to the US through Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Park in 2007. Both were amazing experiences I will never forget. 

Both were also charity rides for the American Lung Association. The first ride in 2006, I didn't know a soul on the trip when I started, but within a few days it felt like the other riders were already friends. Many of those riders signed up for the Glacier ride the next year, and it was a wonderful reunion ride through a spectacular part of the country.

On both of those trips, we were camping. Each night you set up the tent, rolled out your sleeping bag, and in the morning you did everything in reverse to break camp. But, there was a support truck that followed along, so we didn't have to carry anything beyond what we needed for each day's ride. We would throw our duffel bag in the U-Haul in the morning, and grab the duffel bag out of the pile when we rode into camp each night. Rinse and repeat.

This trip in France we aren't camping, instead staying in hostels or cheap hotels, but there will be no SAG wagon following behind us carrying our stuff like a mechanical Sherpa. Everything from start to finish needs to fit on the bike. 

I originally planned on using the same road bike that I used for the charity rides, just needing to figure out how to retro-fit racks to carry things. However, I found out there were going to be a number of sections where we were riding on dirt and gravel, and my skinny tire road bike wasn't going to work very well. 

A buddy loaned me his mountain/hybrid bike that had wide tires and a rack, but it was too big. I looked for used bikes in every shop and also online, but couldn't find anything that seemed to be a good fit. The more I looked, the more I didn't want to get something that would only sorta work. I didn't want to fly all the way there, for basically a once in a lifetime kind of trip, and be miserable on an ill-fitting bike. 

So I bought another bike. 

The bike is specifically designed for touring. Lots of places to bolt on racks and fenders, wide tires to tackle any terrain, and a steel frame that will probably outlive me. Ever since those charity rides fifteen years ago, I have wanted to do another long distance ride. Take off for a week, camp out and unplug. See the contours of the land at a much slower pace. This trip finally gave me the push to get set up to do just that, so now no excuses.

The bike is basically set up now. I took a few things off my road bike, and bought what I couldn't scrounge. Rick and Liz had some extra panniers (saddle bags) they loaned me, so I that was a big help. 

It seems there are a hundred tiny things I still need to do and get to be ready, but the big pieces are in place.

One of the remaining hurdles is fitting it all in. I chronically overpack, and this is not a trip where that is going to work out. Room is limited, and anything I carry, I have to carry over each hill I ride. I'd like to think I have learned my lesson to pack light, and only the essentials from previous backpacking trips, but I can be a slow learner sometimes. 

May 16, 2022

Two wheeled adventure

I have this weird thing with vacations, and maybe anticipation in general. 

For vacations, it isn't real until I check in at the airport, or drive away with a loaded up car. Something can always go wrong I suppose, so don't spend the energy on anticipation. But once vacation brain is turned on, I am all in. A switch is thrown and living in the moment is where I want to be. 

This trip is a little different, while being more of the same for my pre-vacation brain. 

There is much more planning involved this time around, though to be fair a lot of it is being done by the people I am joining. This time I can't wait until the last minute to run to the store, pack my bag, procrastinate as is my habit. There are just too many boxes to be checked, and small boxes to squeeze into. 

I am going on a two week bicycle trip through France. I leave in about a week. 

My cousins have been planning this trip for quite some time. I can't remember when they first told me about it, but in the first sentence or two they said, "You should join us!"

Yes, yes I should. 

There have been other opportunities to join friends on some cool trips before. I went on a number of them, but I have passed on couple I definitely regret, like the trips to Hawaii and Ireland. There were valid or semi-valid reasons to not go at the time, but I didn't want to let this one slip by and live to regret it. This trip is one I know I will love, but probably wouldn't have planned on my own, and I am so excited to travel with Rick and Liz. 

Their ride started in Portugal and they have been biking for almost a month now. They are currently in France, biking from Bordeaux to Paris, which is where I will join them. After a day in the city, we will ride west to the Normandy area on the coast. We will then head north along the coastline toward Dunkirk. There are general plans, but no set schedule of how far we will ride each day, or where we will stop each night. My sense is that they have been planning a few days out, but remaining flexible to hiccups and joys that make them pause or change their plans. I am not sure of how far I will get in the two weeks I will be with them, but at some point I will have to peel off and hop a train back to Paris to fly home. They will continue on to eventually finish in Amsterdam. 

Even though there has been planning in the background, I didn't tell a lot of people about the trip. Beyond the usual things that can throw a wrench in your plans, Covid has kept its two-plus year hold on things. Add to that my arthritic hip, and I wasn't sure how getting on the bike would feel. The answer is not great so far, but that is a story for another post. 

The hurdles can still trip me up, but the excitement is building. I have been fortunate to travel to some cool places in my life, and have even taken week-long and two-week-long bike trips in the past. However, it has been fifteen years since the last long bike ride, and it will be almost exactly 30 years since I was last in Europe. It feels crazy when I say things like "it has been 30 years since I...", but getting older doesn't mean getting old (just yet). Right? 

For at least a couple of weeks, the Views From Two Wheels blog will be a bit more literal. 

February 19, 2022

Habit check in

Had another Dry January this year. 

Last year a group of us participated in Dry January together. The motivation was to (in a small way) support our friend who was pregnant and giving drinking up for a much longer period. This time around there was less of a concrete reason, but the same group was in just the same. 

It was another easy go of it. Last year I had a brain fart and drank while out with my brothers, but this time around there were no slip ups. No drinking without thinking this year. 

One activity I have enjoyed through the two years of pandemic is getting out for a round of golf with friends, picking up the sport again after all our bike events were cancelled. Since we are out of doors the entire time, the risks are much lower. It has been a bit of a savior of sanity. About the only real thing I missed related to this Dry January was the post round beer and debrief. 

One big difference this time around is the ever increasing non-alcoholic (NA) choices. Cutting back on alcohol is having a bit of a moment. A few years ago your choice was basically O'Douls, which is a non-alcoholic version of a style of beer I don't care for in its "real" version. Now much like how the explosion of microbreweries brought increased variety and quality to regular beer, more and more companies have sprung up to produce interesting non-alcoholic beer. 

Non-alcoholic wine has been around for quite some time, but from what I had heard, it has been pretty terrible in the past. Now there are more choices for wine substitutes as well, but I didn't try any this year so I can't vouch for their improvement.

However, one of the options I enjoyed the most was the Hoppy Refresher from Lagunitas. It is basically a hop flavored seltzer and was actually created for the Lagunitas employees. One of the perks of working for a brewery is free beer, but that doesn't work out so well when you are on the clock. The company created this to hand out instead, and it was such a hit they started selling it to the public.

The hop seltzer is its own thing, not trying to pretend to be beer. Often a substitute that isn't trying too hard at replication is actually more interesting. For example, I would much rather have a Garden Burger than an Impossible Burger. The Hoppy Refresher even has this great, non-Surgeon General warning. 

click to embiggen

One new addition to the lineup this year was gin substitutes. I do love me a gin and tonic, and I have found a couple of NA substitutes that are quite enjoyable in a mocktail. One odd thing is that the non-alcoholic versions are more expensive than the real thing, sometimes almost double the price. Clean(ish) living isn't cheap. 

Were there any lessons or morals to the story in not drinking for a month? Not really. No epiphanies were had, I didn't lose a bunch of weight, and I didn't feel more rested in the mornings. As with previous Dry Januarys I have participated in, it was mostly concrete goal to start the year, and a check against habits running in the background. You can't change habits you don't pay attention to, and over all it is just good to pay attention.

There was one clear benefit this year. When I was mostly separated from friends in January, it was nice sharing this common goal with the group. We'd check in through text or through video on Marco Polo, swap stories and drink suggestions. It was good excuse to reach out. I kept us connected in a different way during a month that is statistically the most depressing.  

Will I do it again? Probably. But there are plans this weekend to see friends and enjoy an adult beverage together. In person. 

February 7, 2022

Flashing back to small posts about random things

I have started reading old posts here. I have actually started from the first one and I am working my way forward, post by post. I think I started the "project" hoping to find some good stuff that I had forgotten about, and reminisce a bit about almost 15 years of writing in some form. 

I have made my way through 2007 and am currently in the spring of 2008. Things will go sideways by the end of that year, and the 2009 posts will have some subtext clear only to me, but we're not there yet. 

In the heady days of 2007, I was excited about this new outlet and was posting nearly every day. A lot of the posts were small updates, random thoughts, articles that had caught my eye, and responding to and promoting my friend's posts who were also beginning bloggers. Not much of those first six months were worth re-reading, and a lot of the moments were mundane, but discovery can come in small moments. But again, I wasn't really there yet. 

Back then I also wrote a lot about environmental concerns. I was pretty passionate about it, wanted to talk about it, share whatever tips I might have, etc. A decade and a half later, I still think we are treating the planet too much like a rental car we don't give a shit about, but I am more discouraged than passionate. The companies that produce so much of the waste in this world have done a great job of pushing the onus on the consumer to consider our own carbon footprint, while not much considering theirs. At their scale, they can make a tiny change that has massive impact, while if I make a massive change the impact is small. 

But I still try to do my best, if only to better live with my decisions. 

Anyway, to harken back to those 2007 days of talking about small random things...why is it so hard to find powder laundry detergent these days? 

I have long used powder over liquid detergent to save on the unnecessary shipping of water, and to reduce plastic bottles going into the waste/recycling stream. However, for some reason it is much harder to find these days. My local grocery has shelves and shelves of liquid/plastic detergent, but not a single cardboard box of powdered detergent. On the way back from the library on Sunday I stopped by a different grocery store. Again, so many choices of liquid detergent. It took me three scans of the aisle and nearly giving up before finally finding the one box/powder choice on the bottom shelf. Small victory. 

I get home and notice a small sticker on the box. 

You can click to enlarge the picture, but it reads, "Thank you for buying @ QFC. If found for resale elsewhere call 888-892-6460." 

So now I wonder if there is a black market for powdered laundry detergent. Maybe I am looking in the wrong aisle, and it is actually locked up behind protective glass somewhere with the Benadryl. 

January 30, 2022

When I radiate more heat than light

 I am so f*cking angry right now.

I don't exactly know why.

My fuse is exceptionally short these days. My dog pisses me off, mostly for just being a dog. Everything seems to break when I touch it. Everything seems to hurt. When things go wrong, I launch into a swearing tirade, whether I am in public or not. I can't calm myself down. It all feels so out of control right now. 

It isn't one thing. Maybe part pandemic and all that keeps meaning. Part dread, a tax season that was previously looming and is now here. Part missing my Mom. Part worry for Dad. Part general loneliness. Part my arthritic hip, pain and weakness. Part feeling like a failure. Parts I haven't been able to figure out. None of it seems to add up to the manifesting anger.

I feel worn thin.

Fractured and brittle.


Lashing out.

Fighting against phantoms. 

Punching at shadows. 



Pulling back on the yoke to try and pull out of the tailspin.

Lights are flashing, alarms going off. 

Maybe there is a clear field nearby where I can safely land and touch down for a while.

Walk it off. 

Gain perspective.

Find the horizon.

Douse the fuse.

Stop shouting at clouds.

Going to need some time.

Please be patient. 

Not ready to talk.

I don't know what I would say.

It is not you, it is me.

Sorry I yelled.

January 18, 2022

Silly challenges and a resolution

 Sometimes you just have to trick yourself into things.

When I was stuck at home during hibernation week, I went for a lot of walks. Of course it was great to get out of the house, and the pup really loved the snow, but I wouldn't have walked quite so much if I hadn't signed up for a silly challenge on Strava. The challenge was to walk 50k for the month. I had largely forgotten about the challenge/goal until I was bored at home. I certainly would have gone on several walks anyway, but wouldn't have been motivated to go as often or as far. I ended up walking about 34 miles in December, more than half of it in the snow between Christmas and New Year's Eve with traction devices on my hiking boots.

Another challenge I engage in is to try and read a certain number of books each year. I have been using the Goodreads website to track my reading since 2008. I started using it mostly to keep track of books I had read. More than once I would return to a book series that I had stepped away from, picking up where I thought I had left off, only realizing three chapters in that I had already read this book. Now an even greater value of the website is adding to the "To be Read" list whenever I hear about an interesting read.

However the To be Read pile is growing faster than the Read list. I already have piles of physical books stacked around the house, and a massive virtual pile online, but there are so many books that catch my eye I can't resist adding another to the list. When I am looking for my next read, and none of the books in the house are hitting the spot, I pull up the online list. However, many of the books have been on there so long I have no idea where I heard about them, or what grabbed my attention in the first place. I end up reading synopsis after synopsis to jog my memory.

The last few years I have tried to read 30 books a year. I came close in 2018, but haven't ever been quite able to reach the magic (arbitrary) number. 

(Click to embiggen)

In 2021 I read 21 books. Nice numeric repetition there, but in a year when I had so much time on my hands, and so much desire to get out of my own head, I wish I had read more. 

So much of it is habit. I won't deny it is harder to read these days. I am, like so many others, easily distracted by my phone, the TV, and other shiny things to scroll through. I used to be able to fall into a book so much more easily. Didn't matter if I was in a crowded coffee shop filed with people and chatter - I could shut it all out. Not so much these days. There is this constant background hum tapping on my attention's shoulder. 

Along with the urge to get the miles in during the last week of December, I was also trying to read a bunch. I wanted to try and re-forge the habit before work would once again get crazy in January, and hibernation week did make it a bit easier. I have been reading books on my Kindle lately and I saw this thing pop up on my phone.

Without intending to, I had a month-long streak of reading every day. May as well keep the streak going. I am going to try and read every day in 2022. It may not be many pages on some days (hello tax season) but I want to commit to reading this year. I know it will be good for me, moments of quiet in a noisy world. 

I have some other pseudo resolutions in mind for the year, one of which is to keep writing here and hopefully elsewhere, but we'll start with reading. If you have any recommendations for books that you loved, let me know and I will add them to the digital pile. I will try and get a few off the To be Read list to make room. 

January 8, 2022

Moments of light in a rather dark, two-year-long year

 2021 felt like a terrible sequel to an already bad movie. 

Inspired by a post a friend put up at the end of 2020, I tried to come up with a list of good things that happened during the year. It was a nice exercise to find the good in a year when everything was turned upside down for everyone, the whole world really. While I didn't expect that things would be back to "normal" in 2021, I guess I figured it would at least be a little better. 

Yeah, no. Every dumpster fire can burn a little brighter.

I do my best to focus on the positive, but man it is tough sometimes, in some years. Beyond the *gestures broadly* of all we have been going through the past two years, there were more personal struggles and losses this year. Life will never be the same in a lot of ways.

Pain should not be compared, but my year was a blip compared to others. I worry about a friend struggling through long-Covid, while so, many, people bitch about the smallest inconvenience. Essential workers, once praised, are now just stretched thin, mostly forgotten. Homes lost to fires and floods amplified by climate change. Science and reality denied. Democracy seems more fragile than ever before. The ability to find common ground and any light at the end of the tunnel seems so far off. I don't want to bright-side any of it.

But I also don't want to focus on the darkness. None of the things below are about finding silver linings in adapting to the new normal. Just small moments that I would like to remember. 

In February I tuned in to "watch" the rover land on Mars. I was certainly interested in it, but didn't feel all that invested. However, when it touched down safely, I wept at my desk. February was really hard watching Mom go downhill so fast, and somehow all the things going just right, millions of miles away, to make the Perseverance land safely, broke me in the best way.

There were a couple of times that music grabbed my heart when I wasn't expecting it. I was watching a virtual concert put on by Brandi Carlile and the twins. It was a casual thing, the three of them set up in her house. She played through the album "The Story" and the last/hidden track (remember hidden tracks?) is "Hiding My Heart". I had listened to the album and song many times, but listening to it 'live' made me hear it for the first time. It cracked me open for some reason that night.

The other time was with the song "Ablaze" by Alanis Morrisette. It is a song about a mother and her kids, and I had always listened to it as an imagined parent. I mentioned to it my friend when she was pregnant and hoped it resonated with her. Then it happened to come on the day before Mom's memorial while I was walking Izzy on a work break. It was the first time I listened to the song as a child rather than as an imagined parent. A song I already loved hit me in a new way. I was weeping again, needing to take Izzy on a longer walk than planned. 

To my boy, my precious, gentle warrior
To your sweetness and your strength in exploring
May this bond stay with you through all your days
My mission is to keep the light in your eyes ablaze

And of course, a big bright spot of the year was seeing those great friends have their first baby. We shared in their excitement as the day approached, and it has been wonderful to see their new family form and grow. Love and hope. And the cutest kid by the way. 

There were other good moments like my trip to San Diego. Seeing friends after years apart. So much to catch up on, but picking up like no time had passed. The walks by myself in the sunshine and remembered beauty. Seeing different people finding the same favorite spot on consecutive days to let the waves wash them clean.

 Vaccines, boosters, the North Bend Beer Runners, family at Crescent Bar, golf with friends, music on Twitch, walking in the snow, and a friend's engagement on New Year's Eve. So many good things. Lights holding back the darkness.

May there be moments large and small that make 2022 a little bit brighter for all of us.

January 2, 2022

Hibernation week

The week between Christmas and New Year's Eve always feels like some sort of limbo. School is out, many people take the week off of work, and there is sort of a emotional hangover from Christmas, that often leads into the more typical hangover of the New Year. This year was no different, while being quite different. 

Unlike 2020, there were some cautious gatherings in 2021. At the annual Keg Christmas party, I wore a mask the whole evening. At the Christmas Eve gathering with friends, everyone had to show a negative Covid test to get in the door, particularly since there would be young children there unable to get a vaccine shot. At the family Christmas gathering, all were vaccinated and many took Covid tests prior to arriving. 

Covid still found a way. A family member started feeling poorly and tested positive Monday morning (Christmas was on Saturday). He was vaccinated and boosted, and fortunately it appears to be a mild case for him. 

The Seattle area received a bunch of snow on the day after Christmas. This is not all that unusual, but what was unusual was how cold it was going to be all week. The snow would be sticking around for a while, and the roads were very icy. I was already debating going into the office on Monday because of the roads, but the possible Covid exposure sealed the deal. Staying home.

I isolated for the week. I had used the last of my home Covid test kits on Christmas, and the stores were sold out of them. All the local test sites were overrun by people in my situation, and the snow made things worse since several of the sites could not open. I was able to get an appointment on Thursday thanks to a friend constantly refreshing a website and snagging someone else's cancelled appointment for me. I fortunately tested negative. 

I had planned a week off for vacation earlier in the month, but a workmate had emergency surgery so I stayed in town to help out at the office. With the snow/Covid situation keeping me at home, I had a bit of a staycation instead. 

I walked around the neighborhood a bunch. Though Izzy acts like she will melt if rain touches her, she absolutely loves the snow. Though we had walked them a hundred times before, each street looked a little different in the snow. Kids, and kids at heart, took over the streets and parks to sled, and there seemed to be a little surprise around every corner. 

I shut off my alarm clock for a week. I read, finishing one book I liked and another that was just OK. I did a bit of writing, played a video game I hadn't played in a decade, and ate way too much brie and other appetizers left over from Christmas. Probably no coincidence that I gained five pounds in December. New Year's Eve was spent alone at home with wine and pizza, but with friends sending videos back and forth throughout the evening. 

It wasn't the vacation I had planned, but being forced to slow down for a week at home had its bright spots.