Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Wiggle Girl

Sassy (she's on the far right with her brother Todd on the left and sister Sophie in the middle) came into our life about five years ago shortly after our little boy Sherman passed away. She was a nine year old lost little girl in need of a new home, and here was Mackie and I with some love to share. She was shy and timid at first, but she started coming into her own after about a year here.

Mackie was reading ads in Craigslist when she ran across a listing a family added about this nine year old Miniature Schnauzer they were looking to re-home. Mackie showed me the add, and I can still see the profile picture of Sassy sitting all alone in what looked like a huge field. She was tied to a clothesline and looked lost. It broke my heart.

We talked about her and Mackie called the people. A short time later, a lady, her daughter, and Sassy showed up. The lady told us that her husband had taken a job in Everett, and they decided to rent a place that didn't accept pets. They put Sassy in the ad to see if they could re-home here. If they could not find a home for her, they were going to put her to sleep. I was stunned. I knew then and there that she would not be leaving here.She had a crate and a toy to go with her. We kept the toy and sent the crate with the lady and her daughter.

Sassy slept in a hallway closet that first night; our guess was it was similar to the crate she grew up in. This continued for the next few months and finally she started coming in the bedroom and sleeping on a bed Mackie had made up for her. It really took her another year to really grow into our family.

She was always so excited to see me when I got home from the office. She'd be wagging her butt, her tail was literally cut flat against her backside, and she'd greet me with this "rer rer" sound. She loved a treat and a walk and not necessarily in that order. Gradually, the three worked their way into their own family roles. Todd is the lover, Sophie is the brat, and Sassy was the family protector. Our neighbors attempted more times than I can count to try and get their dogs introduced to Sassy, but she would not have none of that. Any dog in the yard other than Todd and Sophie, and she was ready to fight. It was everything I could do to hang on to her. There was never a successful time where she would be calm around another dog other than her brother and sister.

Sassy ended up with three beds around the house; the bedroom had a cusiony dog-sized mattress with blanket, a double dog-sized mattress near the fireplace (her favorite), and the original hallway closet bed that she hadn't been in for quite some time.

She loved being outside in any kind of weather. She'd find a spot no matter how muddy. Plop her body down. And, then she'd rub her belly on the ground like crazy. She'd lay outside for hours. One of her favorite spots was outside the family room door where Mackie works on her pottery. Sassy could see Mackie and had full view of our yard to protect us from those pesky squirrels running along the fence tops. She'd give them a good run for their money.

I called her my little bumpy girl because of the numerous fatty tumors that she had. She had a cyst on her face when we took her in, and our vet removed it from her. Fortunately, that one never returned. We had her checked a number of times, but three weeks ago she started losing weight pretty rapidly. This time she had a two tumors growing in her stomach. Our vet said that she didn't appear to be in any pain and we brought her home.

I came home this afternoon and she gave me her little wiggle as much as she could and then she was ready to rest. She's chasing rabbits with our little Sherman tonight. We miss her terribly, but we know she's in a much better place tonight.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Time Goes By So Fast - Day 2

Mackie and I woke up and headed over to the cafeteria for breakfast. The volunteers put on a huge spread of pancakes, sausages, eggs, a variety of juices, and coffee. The sky was slightly overcast but it was warm. Hopefully, it stays fairly cool today. I'm sore and I'm confident that I'll make it, but I'm ready to get going.

We spent some time with a gentleman who was riding STP for his first time too. I can't recall everything we discussed, but one thing stuck with me that he said about young people (I seem to recall that he was in his mid-60's. "Old age and cunning will get them everytime". We said our goodbyes, I put on my bike shoes (Mackie brought them from home yesterday), and I heading down the road.

I was with a fairly large group about 7:30ish in the morning and headed out of Centrailia. About 4-5 miles down the road was Chehalis, and then we rode across the freeway and headed for the rollers in the country. Rollers are very small hills where I figured out that if I peddled down the hill really fast that I could pretty much coast up the hill. It was about three hours when I rolled into Winlock.

There was a crowd at least 50 deep for the blue room (porta potty) so I was stuck in line with the rest of them. It went quick and I got on the bike and headed towards Vader. There's a general store that's the next stop in Vader. Of course when we left, there was a hill to climb. It seems like every stop has a hill after it. Interesting at this stop was a girl on roller blades. I've seen her at a number of stops over the past few days. What an incredible feat for someone to go 204 miles on roller blades!

It's easy to get caught up in the peddling and not see the big picture. I'm riding with 10,000 people over two days riding 204 miles. And, most of them are making it. About 2,500 of them ride it in one day; I'll be happy to make it in the two days. It takes a bunch of dedicated volunteers, countless sandwiches, fruit, energy bars and drink, and transportation of luggage that they transport. 

Castle Rock was the next stop and it seemed to come up really quick. There was a fund raiser going on at the high school where our stop was. There was about 30 people there, and I was starting to feel pretty sore. But, nothing was going to stop me from finishing now. I'm back on the bike heading for Longview.

We stop at the base of the Longview bridge and marshal into lines to get ready to cross the bridge into Oregon. It was a slow ride over the bridge and I was slow and consistent. I flew over the hill and headed south on highway 30 towards Scappose, Oregon.

Highway 30 is a 55 mile per hour rode, and a lot of drivers didn't appear overly enthused to see us. There was a lot of crap on the road sides, and I got a flat just outside of Scappose. The temperature had really started to rise and there wasn't any shade to cool off. I had a heck of a time getting off wheel off and the tire changes. Remember, it had been quite some time since I'd rode a bike. And, I'm not sure that I ever changed a bike tube before! Finally, I got it on after about forever and headed to Scappose.

I topped off the tube, had a little bite, and headed toward Portland. About 30 miles to go!

Seeing the St. John's bridge brightened my up my day, and I seemed to get a lighter step in my peddling. Everyone around me is tired but happy at the same time. There was people through the route ringing cowbells and cheering us on. In less than an hour it will be over. I'm peddling at an easy place and start up the final stretch towards Holladay Park across the street from Lloyd Center mall.

The path into the park was lined with hundreds of cheering people. Someone past me a finisher's patch medal on the way in. And, there was the lovely Mackie waiting for me at the end. I'm not sure what was better - finishing the ride or seeing Mackie's smiling face. Mackie was so excited that she bought herself a bike outfit and wants to start riding. Who would have known that we'd start this great adventure from this one bike ride. This fall, Mackie and I are riding in the Cycle Oregon week. It's about a 450 mile ride over the seven days!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

TIme Goes By So Fast - Day One

I started peddling from the parking lot towards Renton, Washington, and about 15 miles into riding I realized that I didn't fill my water bottle. I'm thirsty and I'm starting to get tired. My mind started playing all sorts of tricks. I started talking to myself about quitting, and I could feel my energy slipping away. Out of nowhere a person weighing about 300 pounds passed me with pink tooling flying in the breeze. It turned out to be the first inspirational moment I needed to keep going.

REI at Kent, Washington

I finally pull into the REI parking lot in Kent, Washington. ACDC's Thunderstruck greets me and the other riders as we pull in. There's people everywhere and two lines of "blue rooms" waiting us. There's PB&J bagels, bananas and all sorts of energy bars to ease the hnger.

I grab some snacks and drop them in my bike jersey pocket and fill up my water bottle. I jump on my bike and start heading towards Puyallup.We ride along the highway in Kent towards Auburn and Sumner on the way to our next stop before the big climb after the Puyallup stop.

The next stop is nothing like our last one at REI. It's basically a few tents and a water stop. I'm only here for a few minutes and I head back out.

The Big Hill
I'm peddling and shifting like a madman going up the hill. Now, you have to remember that I didn't have hardly any riding experience at this point. It's a few years later that I understand the concept of choosing a gear and then riding it up the hill. Nevertheless, I make it up the hill! I recall that there's a gas station mini-mart at the top where a lot of people where resting. I joined them. A few minutes later, I started down the back roads toward Spanaway and lunch.

We stop at Spanaway High School for lunch. I'm starving and I chow down. I'm probobly there fore about 15 minutes and feel the need for some more chamois butter. I join 30-40 people at the first aid tent, squirt the chamois butter in my hand, and rub it down under. This experience reminds me of skiing in the 70's when I was in the parking lot full of people who didn't know each other stripping and changing from street clothes to ski clothes or vice versa. No one cares.

The Road to Centralia
It's an easy peddle from Spanaway to Centralia. The Road has very little vehicle traffic and everyone is in great spirits. It was about 70 degrees outside with slightly overcast skies. Over the next few hours it's an incredible experience, and I'm starting to enjoy the ride.

I see some flashing lights ahead and slowly pedal up to them. It was a weird accident where one of the bike riders rear ended a slow moving car and injured themselves. Unfortunately, the person had to be taken to the hospital. It brought reality into the challenges and dangers of bike riding.

Into Centralia

Another hour or so I pull into Centralia where my beautiful wife Mackie is waiting for me! Along with a sea of tents. I've never seen so many tents in one place. There's almost no room to hardly walk between them. It was an incredible sight.

We head over to our truck where we're camping out tonight at the college, and I get some clean clothes and flip flops and head to the gym showers. I'm not sure a shower ever felt so good. Next stop is some all-you-can eat spaghetti - it filled the void. We walked around and talked for awhile, and I decided that I was still hungry. We headed for second dinner at the local A&W restaurant. And, now it's time for bed. Tomorrow, it's on the road to Portland.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Time Goes By So Fast

My Father used to say to me, "time goes by so fast". He said, "you don't realize that now, but you will someday". And for years, he was right. Three years back when Dad's words started rolling around in my mind, I started an unlikely passion - bicycle riding. I mean really bicycle riding. Not up and down the street like I did as a kid, but getting on a bike and riding a few hundred miles at a time.

This came about due to a friend, Eric Vaughn, giving me a ticket to ride in the Seattle-to-Portland annual bike ride. I agreed to do it. Now, the funny thing was that I didn't even own a bike at the time. Heck, I hadn't even been on a bike for 10 miles in probably 40-45 years at that time.

Joe's Bike Check List
  • Buy a bike (My brother told me that the bikes at Walmart came with pedals - bike riders will get this)
  • Get some bike clothes (I didn't have any spandex)
  • Ride my new bike
I started reading about bikes on the Internet. It's pretty overwhelming if one has the same amount of experience that I had. The prices run anywhere from a hundred dollars to the amount of a Honda Civic. Somewhere in my research I came up with $300 as being a good price (it turns out that $300 really is at the bottom of the pile, but I still love my first bike that's in the photo with me).

I searched Google and the best bikes under 300 bucks and settled on the Giordano Libero 1.6. Two days later it showed up on my doorstep courtesy of Amazon Prime. She's red, white with green accents. Drop handlebars with white tape and a matching seat. It has a great aluminum frame resting on a pair of 700 c tires, spun by sixteen speeds of Shimano gearing. Now that the bike is here....then what. Mackie picked me up some bike clothes, and soon for the moment of truth.

Eric and I got together a few times and we rode anywhere between about 6-12 miles. I think one time we may have made it to 18 miles.

The Day of Reckoning

Mackie and I drove to Seattle the day before the ride and spent the night in a hotel. The next morning I was nervous as I had ever been, my gut was wrenching. I was getting dressed the next morning and realized that I had forgotten my bike shoes. Mackie said she'd drive home and meet me in Centrailia later that day. Fortunately, I had my tennis shoes so on they went.

I started riding down the hill to the University of Washington. Every few minutes another person would join me riding towards the UofW parking lot where the ride was to start. We crossed over the hill, and I could see the endless sea of bicycles across the lot. Down the hill we went and started into the lot. As soon as I was getting ready to get off my bike, the voice over the megaphone said "GO". I started peddling, and now the real journey begins.