She’s Gone

She’s Gone

We had a friend whose favorite saying was: “That’s an event to mark time by.” She recited that line every time something important happened. Weddings. Graduations. A new house. Retirement. My preferred metaphor for those events is comparing to a book. “We’ve turned a page.” Or “That’s a new chapter in our lives.”

Judy and I had another event to mark time by, perhaps a new section in the book, or maybe the next volume in a series. Our Blue Lady just rolled out the driveway, never to return.

If you’ve read this blog long, you maybe remember Jim talking about his hitchhiking experience in the early fifties. Someone in a 1953 Cadillac sedan picked him up in the middle of the night on a deserted road in the mountains of Virginia. He loved Cadillacs after that.

I inherited that love, partly because he taught me how to drive in a 1952 Cadillac coupé. I bought that car from him to take to college and into our first year of marriage. I learned a lot in college, and not just electrical engineering. My friend Brad showed me how to rebuild a carburetor on the ’52. Another friend helped me install new brake shoes on our ’65 Mustang. We did it in the parking lot of the engineering campus. The chairman of the electrical engineering department, “Father Ed,” let me use his garage and tools to rebuild the heads on that same Mustang. Those experiences hooked me on getting my hands dirty working on cars.

Cars in that era required a lot of maintenance, and we had little money, so I ended up doing a lot of the work myself. Tune-ups, oil changes, wheel bearing packing, and much more. We loved our ’52 Cadillac and drove it thousands of miles, including trips to visit my family in Denver. It started giving us trouble when a back wheel fell off. Then the driveshaft went out of balance. Then the transmission rear seal started leaking. We decided to move on, and sold the ’52 Cadillac for a ’65 Mustang.

Jim was disappointed. We were disappointed. Our family no longer had a Cadillac. Jim immediately bought another, a 1953 Sedan that he nicknamed “The Blue Lady.” Years later we bought the car from him. Maybe you read that story, too? Continue reading

Tri-County Tailwind Tour – 1987

Tri-County Tailwind Tour – 1987

On a sunny spring day in 1987 eleven young men met at Rochester’s Silver Lake Fire station to ride with the wind for the eighth Occasional Tri-county Tailwind Tour (TTT). You can read much more about the first tour in my 2015 post, Tri-county Tailwind Tour.

After each ride, I tried to capture the moment by writing about the day. The summary for this ride is longer than most, and it captures much of the excitement and pure joy of enjoying a spring day, with no goals beyond having fun and looking forward to beer and pizza after a successful ride.

One thing made my memories of the day special. A T-shirt. Several years after the ride, Judy and I happened through Urne and stopped to revive some memories at the bar where we ended the ride. We bought a left-over souvenir from their school reunion. I wore the shirt proudly. It is no longer part of my primary wardrobe, but gets used for yard work.

Eighth Occasional Tri-County Tailwind Tour May 9, 1987

Destination: Urne, Wisconsin
Counties: Olmsted, Wabasha, Buffalo (Wisconsin)
Bikers: Don Fearn, Dan Johnson, Guy Havelick, Brian Good, Mike Dvorsky, Bill Fiandt, Lyle Grosbach, Jerry Berding, Tom Walker, Lonnie Olson-Williams, Jeff ?

The weather had not cooperated with the TTT for a couple of years. We remembered the spring ride of 1987, not for rain, but for sunny and warm weather … and this time it felt almost too good. Clear and 65 degree weather greeted us at the fire station at seven AM. Everybody showed up in plenty of time, even the two new guys. They were real biker types, complete with equipment. Jeff had panniers, Lonnie with helmet, high-class biking shorts and all. But they enjoyed riding with all of us pikers. No problem.

The wind had blown all night, so we were ready for a brisk breeze. It let up a little right at seven, but was obviously from the southwest. The veterans were afraid of going to Red Wing again. At least it would be better than Owatonna, a destination the year before; in the rain, in the cold, and the shortest ride ever, not even attaining the required three counties. The westerly component of the wind was stronger this time so we chose to head out Viola road (County 2). It was a big hill to start the day. The weather and wind were perfect, but there was a hint of rain visible in the distance. Continue reading

It’s All Relative

I like clocks. Those of you who know me well know that I do not like being late. I stay on time by watching the clock … in a good way. As a child I liked clocks, too. I liked to take them apart.

Sadly, I wasn’t very good at putting them back together. I took apart both electric clocks and the wind up variety alarm clock. What did my mother think? Were they old clocks that didn’t work anymore? You and I both know that workaday clocks generally don’t just wear out. Maybe she gave them to me to play with? Or maybe I just took them to the basement without asking.

Asking permission wasn’t my strong point, but it certainly helped me learn. One day I was in the basement at the house on fourth avenue, perhaps twelve years old. I had read about electromagnets. The book described them as a length of wire wrapped around an iron rod. The basement had both. Well, maybe not an iron rod, but there was a nail. And, OK, we had a length of wire, only maybe a foot long at most. I wrapped the wire tightly around the nail. The book talked about running electricity through the wire to energize the iron to make a magnet. I didn’t have a battery, but there was a 110 volt outlet right there on the work bench. One end of the foot long wire would fit into one hole of the outlet, another end into the other. What could go wrong? I plugged the wires in. Continue reading

Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land

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Stranger in a Strange Land

As a boy, I spent untold hours at the library looking for books. My mother let me go to the library alone as early as age ten. Within a couple of years I’d bring home three or four books at a time, read them in the evening, and head back the next day to get a couple more. Over a summer I could read stacks of them. In between books, I’d have a dozen or so magazines at home to read, too. The magazines included everything from MAD to Science News, a weekly digest of the latest in science. I started reading that one in Junior High. The reading habit I picked up as a child has served me well ever since.

Through high school, I read mostly science fiction. Early on, the Danny Dunn series was my favorite, but there were several others. The books kept me busy for months, but there was a minor problem with the limited scope of my interests and the brisk pace of my reading. I ran out of books to read! I’d finished all the Danny Dunn and science fiction books in the children’s section. There were no other books for me to read. I had no idea what to do. Finally, I recognized that I had a problem and should go talk to the librarian. She probably knew me quite well because I was there almost every day and the room wasn’t that big. The librarian had a wonderful, simple suggestion for me, one that changed my life. Continue reading

How did this happen?

We see them everywhere downtown. This is Rochester, home of the world-famous Mayo Clinic. It’s common for us to see a person in a wheel chair, often sporting a tied scarf to keep a head warm. The hair was probably lost due to a difficult treatment for some medical condition. I always feel bad when I see a wheel chair pushed by a parent. The parent of a child. A young child, often not even double-digit years old. A child facing life and death. Far too soon. That kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen, but in Rochester it’s not that uncommon.

It never occurred to me that another situation would hit me even harder than a sick child in a wheel chair.

It wasn’t that many years ago that we buried my Dad and Judy’s mother. They were old. Eighties. Life had been good to them, but it was over. We hated to see them go, but that’s the way of life.

I didn’t see the next one coming.

Those of you who know me know that I spend an inordinate amount of my life wandering the halls at the Mayo Clinic, too. I’ve been lucky that my challenges responded to proper treatment. My life is good. I do what I want, when I want, and the bumps from minor medical mishaps enhance, not detract from, my life.

Until that day I was in for a routine blood test. Continue reading

That sounds like fun

That sounds like fun. Let’s do it!

A couple of years ago a friend of ours found herself in a tough place. As she tried to put her life back together we talked about what she was doing to ease the transition. People tried to get her involved in activities, partly to get her mind off the difficulties, and partly because she was fun to be around. In a change from the past, she now responded “That sounds like fun! Yes, let’s do it.”

We loved her new way of doing things, partly because it meant we got to do more fun things with our friend. I’ve since realized that the change she made taught me an important life lesson. Unconsciously I’ve been following a similar strategy for years. Recently saying “Yes!” to new opportunities has become more intentional and frequent.

Three episodes come to the front of the line as I think about saying “Yes!” In college, one of my buddies in the next room in Sevrinson Hall asked me if I’d like to take his cousin to the prom, because she needed a date. It would have been easy to say no. What kind of loser decides she needs a date to prom, a week before the big event? There were plenty of parties with my other college buddies that could fill up the weekend. I should have studied for finals. But what the hell? I took the bait, and ended up marrying Judy the next year.

Fifteen years later my friend Jim called and offered to sell his 1953 Cadillac to us. The car was 35 years old, almost as old as us. We didn’t think we needed yet another hobby, as we were fully involved in projects, working, two young kids, and an old house to keep up. We sat on the porch swing and talked about what to do. The whole conversation was something like this: Continue reading

1984

1984

I love to read, and usually dislike reading a book again. For me, even favorite books lose their excitement the second time around. That made studying a little difficult in college. My vision of studying included going over the same material again. This boy wouldn’t do that, much to the chagrin of my study partners.

1984-b-and-nDuring my junior year of college we had a particularly difficult test coming up, and my buddy Dean felt that he needed some help. I knew that my recollection of the material was not good enough, too. We decided to spend the evening studying. I couldn’t do it. Going over the material again was too boring. We had lots of other things to talk about, so we did. Dean didn’t do well on that test.

Back to the books. I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve reread. There are only a couple that I’ve been through more than twice. As I think about that short list of books, I’m drawn to reading some them again. Other favorite books (Phi, for example) changed how I view the world, but I don’t need to go back.

Allow me to take another diversion here. I love reading, but I don’t like to reread a book. Movies usually bore me. We go to a movie every couple of years. Not interested. The interesting part? I can watch my favorite movies or television shows a dozen times. I can bring up scenes and dialogue from Casablanca in an instant. My biggest television addiction (addiction being something I must do that has no direct benefit) is M*A*S*H. I’ve seen every episode a half-dozen times over the last forty years. Judy leaves the room when I’m watching M*A*S*H, because I can speak most of the lines with the cast.

How do I reconcile the difference between books and television? Hold that thought while I return to a book I just reread, again. Continue reading