Saturday, October 4, 2008

Meanwhile, in My Other Blog

So this is my road-trip blog.

I also have a contest blog. For when I decide to compete in something.

I think if I decide to talk about other aspects of my life, I'll just try to fit it into one of my two blogs. I'm not really sure why I even have two blogs.

But right now, all the action is in my other blog (on account of I'm not on a road trip). So, for all you Glenn Wichman fans out there jonesin' for just a little more news on what's going on in my life, it is currently to be found at

Saturday, August 9, 2008

White Water (part II)

Okay, athletes, you know that guy who shows up for a sport with all the coolest, latest equipment, but really has no idea what he's doing and is just a big turd out there?

Don't you hate that guy?

I hate to admit it, but in this case, I was that guy. And Ron had every reason to just treat me with disdain. Instead, he was encouraging, helpful and friendly every step of the way. We met up with two other kayakers and practiced surfing in the third pool. I just watched at first to remind myself how it is done. Ron showed me a dozen things that I was doing wrong, from how I was sitting in the kayak to how I was holding my paddle to how I was doing my eddy turns.

When we shot the rapid into pool 4 he led the way to show me the easiest line, and I did just fine. Successfully shooting a rapid is just one of the funnest things there is to do in life, and it's the reason I like whitewater, so it was great to be doing it again.

A couple pools down we ran into a dad with two kids, practicing some advanced shredding moves like these. I didn't catch this guy's name either, so let's also call him Ron. The second Ron had a Jackson Kayak like mine, and he could tell from the way my kayak was sitting in the water that I had my seat adjusted wrong, so he showed me how to move it forward. It was a tighter fit, but it gave me a lot more control and stability.

We shot several rapids successfully, some of them more than once, and I was starting to feel more confident. At some point we took a break and Ron and Ron got into a conversation about all the places they kayaked and how they compared. I had very little to add to this conversation ("I took a class once six years ago. There were rapids"), and I felt it was time for me to be heading on, since I still had a lot of driving to do.

There were two rapids between me and the end of the course. One I had shot previously and felt pretty good about, but the very last one looked pretty scary. Ron (the first Ron) encouraged me to go for it, and explained the best way to take it. He said he'd keep an eye on me. So I said my goodbyes to the Rons and shot down the next rapid just fine.

In the final pool, I edged close to the final rapid and just looked at it. I decided to skip it and just get out there. Then I changed my mind, a couple of times. It occurred to me that even though Ron was keeping an eye on me, he would be two pools away if anything went wrong.

The thought "but this is what I came here for" was the clincher, and I went for the final rapid. I was upside down under water before I had any idea what hit me. I tried and of course failed to roll back up, so I pulled the spray skirt and tried to extricate myself from the kayak. But with the new seat position, I was in much tighter and I worried for a moment that I might have trouble getting out.

I managed to free myself while still hanging on to my paddle, but the kayak got away from me in the swift current. I swam as hard as I could across the current (still clutching my paddle) to try to grab the kayak, as we passed the sign on the bank warning me to get out before the dam up ahead. The water got suddenly shallow and I banged my shins into some rocks, but I managed to grab my kayak and get to shore.

It took me a while to catch my breath, then I gathered my equipment, waved with my paddle at Ron and Ron, and trudged back up the stairs to my car.

Lessons learned? Plenty, but I'll save those for another time.

Friday, August 8, 2008

White Water

Six summers ago, Caleb and I took a whitewater kayaking course in Silverthorne, Colorado. I decided this was something I wanted to do on a regular basis, though I was concerned that, at 41, I was a bit old to be starting on such an active sport.

Three years after that I finally got around to buying a whitewater kayak.

Three years after that (i.e. now), I finally got around to taking that kayak out on the white water.

I met the guy at Edge Kayak Shop a little after 10, rented a life vest (forgot to bring mine), and got some advice on what to do at the whitewater course. By 10:30 I was carrying my kayak down the long set of steps, and then up the path to the top of the course. It's a long walk when carrying a kayak. One should, of course, never kayak alone, and I had no intention of doing so. There was one other person out on the course, a boogie-boarder in the 4th pool (there are 8 pools divided by rapids).

I got myself all set up, put in at the second pool (the rapid from pool 1 looked to gnarly), got used to kayaking in a current again, took the rapid into pool 3, and immediately capsized.

I am not too good at the Eskimo Roll, which is the correct way to right a capsized kayak, but I am pretty expert at the wet exit, which is where you lean forward, release the spray skirt, remove your kayak like a pair of pants (all upside-down under water, mind you), and then swim for shore trying to hang on to both your kayak and paddle before the current takes you to the next rapid.

As I panted on the shore, a memorial cross set up nearby reminded me that people do get themselves killed by doing this wrong. And the one other guy on the course had left some time while I was under water.

So I got the water out of my kayak, and sealed myself back in, but kept myself to just the second pool (the pool is called Marley), just practicing my eddy turns, for another half hour or so, waiting to see if any other kayakers showed up. I finally gave up, and, not wanting to risk any of the other rapids, dragged my kayak out, and carried it all the way down the path and up the stairs.

I got to the top of the stairs around noon, which is apparently the time when kayakers show up at the course. A few arrived as I was getting set to leave. One of them (I never caught his name, but let's call him "Ron") asked me if I was planning to go down to the course. I told him everything I just told you.

"Oh, you should come on the course," Ron said. "I'll help you out".

The prospect of carrying the stupid kayak all the way back to the pools again was not really appealing. On the other hand, isn't that what I came here for?

Stay Tuned...

The Too Long Drive

I left Bay Lake about three in the afternoon, and stopped in Minneapolis for a friend's birthday dinner, so I only made it as far as Clear Lake, Iowa on Tuesday.
On Wednesday I decided to try to get as far as I could. I drove 850 miles to Colorado Springs, much of the drive through pouring rain. My back was feeling it the next morning!

But the long drive set me up with some extra time to do one more thing I'd been hoping to do on this vacation: take my kayak out on the Pueblo, Colorado Whitewater Course.

Bay Lake

After church on Sunday, Billy and I kayaked around Church Island. Billy brought two nice kayaks with him. His kayaks are lake kayaks, which mine is not, so it would have made sense for us to just use his kayaks, but I had dragged mine 1600 miles just to use it. My planned kayak trip in Minneapolis had fallen through, so gosh darn it I was going to paddle my own kayak.

It's really hard to keep up with a (keeled) lake kayak while maneuvering a (keelless) whitewater kayak. Billy got tired of waiting for me about 3/4 of the way around the island. At that point I stopped trying so hard to keep up and started enjoying the scenery. A bald eagle circled just overhead. It was the closest I've ever been to one.

My relatives own two different cabins on the lake, and I have a lot of relatives. So there always seems to be a good group of people at the lake to hang out with. Most of them like jet-skiing, tubing, water-skiing and fishing, which I like, too. But it was great to finally have someone else to kayak with. I'm going to have to plan my future lake trips to be there when Billy is there. And I'm going to have to get a lake kayak.

Each morning we kayaked from the cabin to Ruttger's (a resort across the lake), got pie and coffee there and kayaked back in time for lunch. Great fun and great exercise, and a good long time to talk and get to know each other.

My invitation to stay with Dean and Mary was extended to the whole week, as her other guests cancelled. Unfortunately, I could not spare the extra time. So I left on Tuesday afternoon. I'll post pictures later.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

God Decides to Baptise us All

This morning I went to the church service on Church Island. There were about 250 in attendance, including 8 from the Peterson clan.

The service happens in a small amphitheater overlooking the lake. A baby was baptized this morning, and at the very moment that the water was being sprinkled on the baby's head, a sudden downpour occurred, soaking the whole crowd.

Liking Oneself

When we were done in Iowa, we dispersed in every direction. Jake went south. Ariel went east. Nate and Mallo went west. Jerry? Well, who knows. And Rob and I went north.

We got to drive together from Cedar Falls to Saint Paul, a great drive for a long talk. We spoke of many things, but one was the subject of liking oneself.

Do you like yourself?

It's a given that it is good to like yourself, and it is bad to not like yourself. And I've thought about this a bit. What do we mean when we ask the question?

We could mean: Do you admire the person that you are?

We could mean: Do you enjoy the experience of being you?

That second meaning has rarely been a problem for me. Most mornings I wake up delighted with the prospect of getting to be me for another day. The first meaning has been more problematical, and has generally been in tension with the first.

The more I am enjoying being me, the less I admire the person I am, and vice-versa. I (try to) do thing that I know are good, but I don't enjoy it, or I do things that I enjoy, but they aren't doing anybody besides me any good. The trick is to try to get these things to converge instead of conflict.

For me, the work in Iowa (and earlier in New Orleans) is where enjoying myself and admiring myself come together. There's a general consensus all the way around that what we did in Iowa was a Good Thing. It was also very fulfilling. Working together with people I enjoy, ripping walls out of houses, seeing the pile of rubble grow as we make progress, it's just a blast.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Iowa Pix

The pictures are on-line.

I am on my way north to the Lake. More dispatches to come from there!

Air Conditioned -- Kitchenettes

On Friday we began a project that will keep teams busy for quite some time. Our destination was the Shady Rest MOTEL (Air Conditioned! Kitchenettes! No Vacancy). Once upon a time this was a riverside resort motel. It had long since been used as a "residential hotel" -- single rooms with a kitchenette for folks who can't afford anything fancier. There are fifteen units, so fifteen different families were rendered homeless at once.

The shady rest is on the (undesirable) north bank of the river. The south bank of the river is where the business district is. The south bank got sandbags to protect it from the flood. The north bank did not. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about that. It's reasonable to say that there is a certain amount of bitterness on the part of the residents of the north bank.

We got to make the human connection this time. Phyllis owns the Shady Rest and it is her livelihood. She needs to try to get back in business as soon as possible, but the task before her is both daunting and expensive. We got to have a good talk with Phyllis and to pray with her. Then we got to work. Much of the drywall had already been removed, but there is drywall behind the cabinets, sinks stoves, etc. that is not so easy to get to, especially for someone working on their own. So we set about removing the stoves, sinks, and counters, and then chipping through the drywall behind it.

We started by spreading out and working on a number of different rooms at once, but when Steve arrived he had us shift to a different strategy. As soon as one room is finished,Phyllis will be able to start renting that room out and generating some income. So we switched to focusing all our efforts on room 1 (well, room 1 and room 3, it would be way to crowded if we were all in one room. Maybe I'll tell you later why we couldn't work on room 2).

Honestly, we were all pretty exhausted by Friday, and the work was so daunting. We tried to get a lot done, but our energy had pretty well ebbed. When we were all spent, we headed off to Cold Stone Creamery for our well-deserved reward.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Quick Update: Relief work finished

I expect to have more to say about things, especially our final day working at the Shady Rest resort motel, in the near future. Meantime, I will just say that the week is now ended. Jake is now in Cedar Rapids with our friends the Wilsons, he will be headed to Chicago with them tomorrow. The rest of us spend one more night here in Cedar Falls, then we disperse to the winds. Rob and I will be together as far as Saint Paul.

Thanks Nicole for reading and commenting!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Maybe Sometimes the Thing is Just the Thing and Other Musings

I still haven't figured out when is the right time to update the blog. If I write about things immediately after they happen, then I end up just disseminating dry facts -- I need some time to ruminate about events before I can communicate them with any real meaning and insight. On the other hand, if I wait too long before writing, I tend to forget important details.

Which I suppose only matters if someone is reading this.

Anyway, it is the end of day 3 (of 5) doing disaster relief in Iowa. I'm very glad I'm here and we are having a good time. The team is getting along well and we are accomplishing our tasks adequately. We are doing the same kinds of things that we did in New Orleans two years ago.

But the shear intensity of the environment that existed in New Orleans -- even a year after Katrina -- is not an issue here. At least here in Cedar Falls, for the most part the community as a whole is intact. A lot of houses were flooded, but there was warning that the river was rising. In New Orleans, at each house we worked on, we worked side-by-side with the owners, and we heard their stories, and we prayed with them. That hasn't happened here.

God had hard lessons to teach me about myself from New Orleans. I'm not sure what He has for me on this trip. The Mercy Response motto is "The Thing is not the Thing". We are there to repair houses, but that's just the surface. What goes on in the spirit is what the Thing really is. I think you have to go there to really understand.

So far on this trip, it feels like the Thing really is just the Thing. And maybe that is okay, too. Or maybe I'm just missing it this time because I'm so dense. Maybe it takes something on the level of Katrina to break through to my soul, and normal-size disasters just don't do it. It really doesn't matter, though. To the owners of those homes, it's a step on the way to recovery, whether I get anything out of it or not.

Again, maybe I'm just blogging too soon. Maybe I can't make out the big picture when I am still this close to it.

Boy, there has been a "maybe" in just about every sentence hasn't there? Anyway, as I said, I am glad I'm here and my days are happy.

Well, there you go. Add a comment or send me an email if you read this. I miss my friends back in Tucson. I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Choosing Between Food and Big Daddy Weave

Drove through a good old midwestern thunderstorm today. Also had a ButterBurger and a frozen custard for lunch. It is okay to be jealous.

Five of us are now here in Cedar Falls. Two more Tucsonans are still to arrive, and two Michiganders will round out the team. We met our fearless leader, Steve. And we met the senior pastor of the church here.

Turns out we arrived here at the church just in time for a Big Daddy Weave concert! The pastor invited us to see the concert for free, which was awfully nice of him. Unfortunately, we were all pretty hungry at this point, so we decided to go have dinner instead. We just got back from dinner and the concert is still going on. The camp for the relief team workers (i.e. us) is set up in the maintenance area of the church, just behind the stage. So I am listening to Big Daddy Weave as I write this. Pretty nice perk! They are singing "Beautiful One" right now.

Ah, the Michiganders have arrived.

Stay tuned, more to come!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Quick Update: Grand Island

Not much new to tell you since all we did today was drive drive drive. We wanted to make sure tomorrow could be a relatively easy day. So, today we drove all the way from Santa Fe, NM to Grand Island, NE -- approximately 800 miles. We left around 8:15 a.m. MDT, and arrived at 12:30 a.m. CDT. We still have about 400 miles to go.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Things that Start to Matter

Greetings from Santa Fe, New Mexico!

We survived day one of the road trip.

This is the first road trip I've taken where I have paid attention to the price of gas. My usual behavior has just been to drive as fast as is practical, and stop at the nearest station when I ran low on gas. I never even looked at the prices.

Now I find myself trying to stay around 70mph even in a 75 zone to conserve fuel. Heading up steep hills, I used to gun it, let the car downshift and let the tach go up to 5K. Now I'm letting the car slow down on hills. And I'm keeping my eyes open for cheap gas. I should have been doing this all along of course, but the prices have finally hit my pain point.

So, my makeshift roof rack was, I think, implemented well, but... Well, about 5 miles south of Albuquerque on Interstate 25, there was a freak gust of wind. It practically pushed the whole car of the road, and the kayak went flying off the roof! It was attached solidly -- 6 different connection points would have to fail for the kayak to fly away, but that's just what happened. This could have been an enormous disaster, but thank the Lord things turned out okay.

Jake quickly pulled over to the shoulder. The kayak had landed safely in the grassy median. I waited for a break in the traffic and ran across the interstate (first time I've ever done that!), and started to walk back towards the kayak. A guy in a pickup truck pulled into the median next to my kayak and loaded it into his truck. At first I was afraid he was going to abscond with it, but he waved at me and drove up to where I was. I showed him where Jake was pulled over, and he crossed the interstate and parked behind Jake.

We decided not to try to get the kayak reattached to the roof rack on the side of the freeway. Instead, we rearranged the luggage to stuff the kayak inside the Cruiser (yes, it can be done). I sat in back and Jake drove us the rest of the way to Santa Fe.

Here, I found a different way to attach it. I took off the makeshift roof rack altogether, and used the cargo straps to strap the kayak directly to the roof. I think this will be much more stable for the rest of the trip.

So how's my back? I feel surprisingly good, even after the concert last night and the hauling luggage and kayaks around the freeway this afternoon. Let's see how things feel in the morning!

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

America's Band

My work is done, the Cruiser is packed, and we leave tomorrow on the morning tide. Somehow in between finishing work and leaving for Iowa we have managed to squeeze in a Beach Boys concert.

I went with a 21 year-old, a 20-year old and a 17 year-old. None of them had been born when I attended my last Beach Boys concert. But they all knew almost all the words to almost all the songs.

On stage, there was Mike and Bruce and about seven guys that I don't know who they were. Last time I saw them, Dennis was gone, but Brian, Carl, and Al were still there. But the new guys are all really good. Especially their new bass player. He has a really sweet falsetto. He sang "Don't Worry Baby" as good as it's ever been sung.

Mike is 63 now. His voice is still pretty good, but he wisely shares the lead singing pretty broadly. Every member of the band sang lead on at least two songs. I won't try to list all the songs they played. They didn't play my favorite (Heroes and Villains), which did not surprise me. They did surprise me by playing "Oh Darling," another fave but a song that was hardly a hit.

The audience was mostly pretty old -- in their 60s -- but maybe that's because the venue is a casino in Tucson. There were some young folks in the crowd, and they all knew the songs. And there were some young people in the band. In my imagination, the Beach Boys just go on forever, rolling in new young members as the old ones roll out, and keep on performing their timeless harmonies. I'll call it the Endless Summer Theory.

So, all God's blessing on the Band That Won't Go Away. And now it's time to pack up the laptop and catch some Zzzs. My next dispatch will be from the road.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Flat on My Back

After the triathlon, I kinda stopped exercising. It was intriguing watching my muscles quickly atrophy. So, a couple weeks ago I figured I'd better get back in shape, so I'd be up for the physical challenge of Iowa. And, since I haven't been kayaking in a while either, I was practicing my rolls (at which I'm lousy) in the pool.

So I pushed too hard too fast. So I threw out my back seven days ago. I seem to do this to myself every couple of years. The first day or two I'm in all kinds of pain and I can't stand up straight, and then I slowly improve. I am fortunate to have a job that I can do just as well lying in bed as sitting at a desk, so at least I didn't miss any work. Today is my first day back sitting in a chair. I should be good to go by Friday.

Plan A was to get to Iowa in two 12 day drives. Given the back problems, though, probably not a great idea. So, switch to plan B. We'll leave a day earlier and do the trip in 3 8 hour drives. I decided not to commit to particular stopping places; I'm kinda thinking Santa Fe on Friday night and Somewhere-in-Western-Nebraska on Saturday, but I'm going to be flexible, go farther if we're feeling good and stop sooner if we're not.

We is me and Jake. Good to have my usual traveling partner again! But I'm going to need to do 3 long road trips with Caleb at some point to keep the dadness in balance. Meantime, I'm working like a madman right up through Thursday night, getting code written and getting everything together for the trip. Thursday night we throw in a Beach Boys concert because, hey, why not.

Seven of us Tucsonans will be in Iowa, joined by three old friends from California as well. Six of us have done this before in New Orleans. I'm feeling pretty jazzed about the whole thing.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Music of Iowa

When we went to New Orleans, we spent quite a bit of time in the SUV going from our camp to the various houses we were working on. Joan is going to kill me because I ended that sentence with a preposition. Anyway. It was a Chevy Tahoe, a big fat SUV and I don't like big fat SUVs because they are bad for the environment. But boy, it was fun to drive. But now I'm off on a tangent.

The point was, we brought music with us. Several of us burned CDs to listen to during the long periods stuck in the kind of traffic that can only be caused by 50,000 people commuting every day from Baton Rouge.

Of course one of my CDs was songs of New Orleans. It's easy to put together a collection of New Orleans songs. There is magic in the place. The city just cries out for songs to be written for it, and many musicians and poets have responded.

This time our destination is Iowa. I didn't own any Iowa music. I didn't know of any Iowa music. I wasn't really figuring on finding much, but I decided to take a look on iTunes.

There are a lot of songs about Iowa.

I sampled a bunch, and downloaded enough to fill a CD. As a matter of fact, I was able to restrict myself only to songs called Iowa. They are all big, wide, lonely beautiful, haunting songs. One is even a particularly poignant song about the Iowa river flooding.

I don't know much about Iowa, really... Stopped there a couple of times on my way someplace else... The last place Buddy Holly played before he left this earth... The place where truly deserving baseball players end up after they die...

There are folks out there with a sense of wonder about the place. I'll be there in two weeks. I'm hoping to catch it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

One Year On

It's been just about a year since I left on the road trip that was the genesis of this blog.

Let's catch up on a few things.I finally put Boomer Bear in a new geocache. I got pix of him at Stanford Stadium, The Rose Bowl, and Arizona Stadium over the course of the last year. Caleb and Jake were both with me when we dropped him off. It was hard to let him go, but who knows, we may grab him again at some point.

I didn't figure I'd be taking a road trip (or traveling at all) this summer. I was experiencing an excruciating Minnesota jones. But, you never know what life will throw your way.In September of '06, Jake and I went to New Orleans to do Katrina relief work with a ministry called Mercy Response. (You don't know about this because I hadn't yet started blogging. I should tell you all about it sometime.

Sadly, a new disaster relief opportunity has surfaced in Iowa. 5,000 homes flooded in Cedar Rapids alone. So I find myself getting ready to jump back in to a week of disaster relief, during the week of July 28th. Hopefully, Jake will be able to join me again. Of course, I can't get that close to Minnesota without stopping in for a visit.

So my plan is to strap my kayak to the roof of my PT Cruiser, blasting out to Iowa in two days (12 hours Tucson to Colorado Spring, 12 hours Colorado Springs to Cedar Rapids...) a week of disaster relief then up to Minnesota for a couple days of kayaking and seeing old friends (more on that as it comes into focus). Then blast back to Tucson just as quick.

It's a little bit crazy but it just might work.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is it just me?

Are we all just basket cases
Skilled at putting on brave faces

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Tempest in Lost

Okay, last July I pointed out the striking parallels between Lost and The Tempest. Now we find out that the island's power station is called The Tempest!!! Coincidence? I think not!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

The List

My friend and co-blogger, goes by the moniker troll, recently blogged about his List. I like the term Bucket List, even though apparently the movie wasn't that great.

Quite a while ago, I created my own list of things I wanted to accomplish before I die; I still have the list, on 2 8.5x11 sheets of lined paper, 52 items. I wasn't clever enough to put a date on the list, but I'm pretty sure it was made after I was married (at least after I was engaged), and before the birth of my first son (who is now 20, so that gives you an idea).

Of course our lists are going to evolve over the years. There's a lot on that old list that I no longer have any desire to do. There are about 10 things on it that I've done so far -- I'm clearly not pacing myself well to finish before I turn 100. I say "about" 10 because some of my entries are pretty vague -- "meet someone famous", "learn to play guitar" -- whether I've done those depends on what the meaning of is is.

I'd create a different list if starting today.

For two items on the list, it's too late. Here are those items, with comments:
#11. Visit the Soviet Union (not sure why I put this on the list in the first place)
#23. Have three children (we stopped at two, so I get partial credit, right?)

Next post, I'll talk about the things on the list that I have already done, the things yet to do, and the things I don't want to do any more.