Bike Wreck – The Demon Revisited

About six months after my bike wreck I wrote a piece simply called bike wreck. I alluded to “The Demon” who knocked me off my bike. A couple of things that happened in the last couple of months have brought some of those emotions back, and now it’s time to finish the story.

In that post, I wrote about some of the everyday things that were difficult to do, or the need to find a different way of doing them. The original bike wreck story was written about six months after the race. I thought at the time I was back to normal, but it took almost a year and a half before my recovery brought me to my new normal whatever that is. You would have to know me well to understand some of these musings. I am quiet and laid back, but inside my mind is always churning with things that I hear, and the thoughts often morph into “where the heck did that come from” reactions from things I say.

Throughout my recovery, I noticed that my left side wasn’t as strong as it had been and seemed less coordinated than it should be. My swim times in races increased to the point where I was nearly last coming out of the water. People would cheer me on like I was leading the race, but inside I knew I was very slow and I was terribly embarrased. I didn’t let on, and I would joke about it, but inside I was angry at myself, and depressed that I knew I wouldn’t get much better. I would swim in pools and would get dizzy turning my head back and forth to breath. My otherwise straight swim line turned into a zig zag set of lines that added time and distance to my “manatee like” swims. Again, I was very frustrated but didn’t let on to anyone.

Then came the bike. I started training for the following year’s Ironman Wisconsin race to face down the demon that lived under the overpass on McCoy Road. Every time I got down in my aero bars I would spend 10 seconds of sheer terror, and would get back up on the handlebars where I could reach the brakes in time to miss the raccoon, or squirrel, or you name the animal that might run out in front of me and make me lose control of the bike. I rode a lot with the Trilander group but would hang back just in case someone slowed down to keep from running into the back of them. Again, I would come in last and would joke about being so slow, but I was angry that I couldn’t ride any faster and, like the swim, probably wouldn’t get any better.

The run was the least of my issues. I never was very fast, and being the last one to finish the run wasn’t unexpected. So it never really bothered me very much. Maybe I should have cared more and it would have made me work harder to run faster, but after a slow swim and slow bike, a faster run (still slow by race standards) wasn’t going to win the race for me.

Outside of racing and training, the changes still affected me. During my recovery, every once in a while, when I couldn’t remember someone’s name, someone would jokingly say something like “That’s not a surprise. You can hardly remember your own”. Most of the time I could laugh it off, because I knew they were just joking, but every once in a while I would get so angry so quickly that I would get up and leave so I didn’t say something to that person that I would regret later. My friends would ask Jean “What’s wrong with him”. She would shrug her shoulders and say “I don’t know”, but she knew. Wives always know. I’m sure if they had known that, inside, I was so angry because what they said was true, they probably wouldn’t have said it. Sometimes I would have to think hard to remember my last name when I signed a check. I don’t think I ever told that to anyone.

When I went to Mary Free Bed for post trauma evaluation, and I do remember doing some of the tests, they told me (and Jean in case I couldn’t remember) that most of what I had known in the past was in there, but my brain had to find new pathways past the damaged areas to draw it out. I’ve never said I was extra smart but I’m not a dummy either (no comments please). I had always prided myself in knowing over half of the answers on Jeopardy, and often getting the answer right on Final Jeopardy when none of the contestants did. But what I did notice, especially when I was watching with someone else who knew a lot of the answers and would blurt them out, it took me longer to get the word to come out. I wouldn’t have made a good on stage contestant because I would be last to press my button. It was frustrating and I would feel inferior when the only answers I got first were the answers that no one else knew. I never let on that this was a problem, but it deflated my already bruised ego.

I mentioned earlier that I needed to face down that demon in the next Ironman Wisconsin, so I signed up with Roch Frey and Paul Huddle’s on-line training program. I followed it faithfully during the spring/summer of 2004, and did what I could to be ready for the race. Since I wasn’t able to ride for five months after the wreck, I had no base to start the rigorous training schedule. Maybe it wasn’ the best idea to do the race, but inside I felt I needed to show that I could do it. As a part of that program, they held an optional training weekend in Madison. It was a little pricy (no, a lot pricy), but I knew I had to do the race course on the bike or I would never be able to do it race day.

I signed up for the slowest training group, knowing that I would be slow, and it allowed me to hang back and do things at my own pace without being dropped but the faster bikers. That morning I was petrified. For those of you who know Bill Bradley on race day, I was in peak Bill Bradley form. I was trying to think of every reason on earth why I shouldn’t ride that day, to the point of wondering how I could sabotage my bike beyond repair and not have anyone know who did it. I was so nervous I forgot my bike sunglasses and was wearing my wire rimmed bifocals. They were terrible for trying to look ahead to see where you’re going and also seeing right in front of you to not run over “the junk” on the roads.

The training ride consisted of riding 16 miles out to Verona, riding one 40 mile loop, and riding 16 miles back to Madison. We passed the 7-11 store, the last place I remember before my bike wreck. I was nervous, but didn’t show much emotion. When we got to McCoy road, Paul Huddle, leader of our bike group, drifted back and asked if I was OK. I said yes, why? He said this was where I had the bike wreck, at least two miles past my last memory. Outwardly I was “macho calm”, but inside a year’s worth of fears, frustrations, anger, and self deprication was raging. To be kind to myself, I was “kind of slow” finishing the ride, By that time, I had even been dropped by the slow ride group, and was alone when I passed under the bridge on McCoy Road where the demon lived. As I said in the original bike wreck post, I knew that the demon was me, but that didn’t stop me from waving that “one fingered salute” and I may have said out loud “Yeah, I kicked your butt”.

At the end of the training weekend, at the last luncheon, Roch and Paul asked me if I would mind telling the other participants what had happened to me at the last race. I did, in abbreviated form, and many of them came up and talked with me about my courage to come back and try it again.

Without going through a step by step (literally) recap of the race, I was slow on the swim, slow on the bike, and pretty much walked the run. But in the last loop of the run, people from the training weekend would come up and give me hugs and say “You can do it. Keep it up”. Strangers that they were walking with, after hearing my story, gave me hugs as well. Most of you who know me, know that I rarely show any emotion, but the emotion is always inside anyway, and I was moved to tears many, many times. I hid them very well (I thought) because real men don’t cry…or do they?

As I finished that last 1/4 mile I was sprinting to the finish line (it probably was a really slow jog, but it seemed like a sprint to me) emotions overtook me, and I don’t remember whether I hid the tears or not, but they were there. After the post race hugs, after the congratulations, and the after race meal of scraps of cold pizza left by the 2,000 people that finished the race ahead of me, three things became really clear in my mind.

Not just race day, but in all the trials and tribulations of training, your real friends and family are there for you. When you are your lowest point, they will be there to lift you up, so rely on them. Asking for help takes strength, it doesn’t show weakness.

With all of those negative thoughts inside, recognizing that you are “the real demon” isn’t enough. It’s taking that knowledge and knowing that with God’s help, you can make that demon go away. Once you know that, it’s easy.

Lastly, I beat my self up often for knowing that God was there to help me in my darkest hours, and I never asked HIM for the strength to get through it. But God knew that with my brain injury, I didn’t know enough to ask, and he was there anyway. Thanks be to God.

Written for Sara and Cody

I’m An Idiot

I purchased a villa in a Florida golf community this past September. The villa is on the ninth fairway of the South Golf Course, and is close to the center of many of the community activities. We have been spending time, and lots of money, getting the place just the way we want it. Being a retired CPA, I guess you’re never quite able to shake that need to document everything down to the penny. Our property taxes and insurance are paid from an escrow account, and I keep watch to see that the taxes are paid when they should be, and the balance in the escrow account looks reasonable. It also has to agree with the figures I keep on Quicken.

In November, as expected, a disbursement was made for property taxes, reducing the amount in the escrow account. At the end of each month I check to be sure the balance is increasing. When I checked at the end of February, the balance had jumped up by well over $2,000. I looked into the detail, and the property taxes that were paid in November were refunded. All of a sudden I had this sinking feeling that my property taxes were not paid, that the escrow company had sent the money to the wrong bank, and they were just now getting it back. I went to the Highlands County Tax Collector website, looked up the property, and it said the taxes were paid. I drilled down farther and was able to see the receipt. It showed a payment on November 20, 2012. That was a day before the escrow company had sent my payment.

Then it dawned on me. The villa we bought was one that the company that owns all the amenities at Highlands Ridge built as a model. We had looked at it two years ago in the “Parade of Homes”, and again a year ago when the price was reduced, but still not low enough. The owner of the holding company is extremely wealthy, and owns the amenities in many communities around the country. My guess is that the county had changed the payer for the villa, and that bill went to the escrow company, which they paid. The county didn’t change the information copy they send to the owner so the owner can include the property tax deduction on their income taxes. The company got the bill along with a stack of other bills from other properties they still own, and paid them all.

I knew what I had to do. I wrote a letter to the on-site property manager, explaining the situation, and telling her I would bring down a check when she found out, for certain, that the holding company had paid the bill by mistake. This is where the “I’m an idiot” comes in. It’s a little surprising how many ways you can think of that make you feel foolish for volunteering to reimburse them. Thoughts like, “Let them find it, it’s their mistake”, or “Mrs. XXX (not her real name) has more money than she can ever spend. You need it more than she does”. Even the ones that try to rationalize why you shouldn’t tell them like, “They probably like you so much for buying the place that they paid the taxes for you as a gift. Don’t embarrass them by returning it”, or “You’re probably going to get somebody fired for a screw-up like that. Saving their job is important in this economy”.

It’s the classic “devil on you shoulder” routine. I guess the angel on the other shoulder won out. As I tell people that thank me when I’m doing volunteer work, I’ve racked up a few minuses on my scorecard throughout my life, and I’m trying to get in a few pluses to offset them. You never know when you’ll be called to “settle up”.

Just (I’m An Idiot That Can Look At Myself In The Mirror) Jack

Miscellany

I haven’t written anything in a while, and I don’t plan to “catch up” with everything that’s been going on, but I feel the need to vent every once in a while, and this is a great way for me to do it.

We bought a place in Florida this past September, and we’ve been busy getting things the way we want them. We’re not there yet, but well on our way. We’re settling into Florida life quite well, but every once in a while, I repeat, I feel the need to vent. The other day I was shopping…don’t panic, I was actually buying. Women shop. They go into a store, and their speed goes from “I can hardly keep up with you”, to “Walk any slower and you’d be going backwards”. Men go into a store, walk right to what they want, buy it, and leave as fast as they came in.

But, I digress. After leaving the mall, I stopped at a produce stand in the mall parking lot. There was a woman standing at the check out area, buying a few things, and another woman picking some things out and piling them on the counter. I wandered around looking at the produce while the clerk finished up with the woman checking out. The entire time the clerk was ranting on about same sex marriage (against, not for). She never stopped long enough to take a breath, and continued as I walked up to the counter. I grabbed a tomato and placed it on the counter. Still talking, she picked up the tomato, rang it up, and started ringing up things in the other womans pile (she wasn’t at the counter yet). I said, “Wait, we’re not together”. She paused her rant long enough to say, sorry. I handed her a dollar bill which she placed under the other woman’s banana, then put the tomato in a plastic bag.

She continued talking, and started ringing up the other woman’s things, again. I stood there listening for a while, then calmly said, “So, do you think I could get my tomato and change so I can leave?”. She stopped talking just long enough to laugh at herself, handed me my change and, as she started her monologue again, away I went. The old Jack would have vented right then and there, but I’m sure whatever I said would have been lost in her soapbox speech.

Today, I knew I needed to go for a walk. It was nice out (70 and mostly sunny, unlike the rest of the country), and I had walked about four of the four and a third miles on my route. I was walking in the street at the end on the ninth hole of the South Course (there are no sidewalks), when two couples finished playing golf. One of the couples headed for the clubhouse, and the other couple said they were going home for a minute, but would be right back. They pulled out in front of me and passed by quite close. The other couple said something, so they turned around in the middle of the street with their golf cart. Their “circle” came very close to me, close enough that I had to step into the grass on the side of the road to keep from getting hit. The woman said “Hello”, and I said nothing. The guy then said, quite loudly,”We said hello.” Again I said nothing.

The old Jack would have said something like, “You saw me walking down the street, and you pull out in front of me anyway. Then you do a circle in the middle of the road, forcing me to step into the grass so I won’t get hit, and you have the balls to try and make me feel guilty for not saying hello? You’re not only an idiot, but a self-centered, arrogant idiot as well.” I’m proud of myself for not saying it, but I’m not completely cured until I don’t think it either.

Just (Serenity Now..Serenity Now…Serenity Now) Jack

Unforced Errors

I played pickleball yesterday morning for the first time in the new year. I’m starting to get the hang of the game, and understand what I should be doing to be a better player. I know what I want to do, but just can’t execute the moves all the time. Practice, practice, practice! We keep score each game, but once a game is over, I don’t think about the score anymore. I couldn’t tell you whether I won more games than I lost, or even how many games I played. But even in the games I won (actually, our team won), I wasted several points by making unforced errors. Hopefully I’ll make fewer of them as time goes on. If not, it will be one more athletic endeavor that I’m just mediocre at. The story of my life!!

Two months of our five month stint at Highlands Ridge is over. December was the coldest one on record in Avon Park. For years I’ve been known as the weather pox for our triathlons. It seemed like every time I did a major race, it would rain, be remarkably hot, or be remarkably cold. Now, it seems, it has spilled over to our time at Highlands Ridge. If the people down here find out about my weather pox history, we may be the first couple that was ever denied a return visit to Highlands Ridge. So, Kevin, Stacy and Bob, how about if we spend next year in Phoenix?

Of course, I ate way too much over the holidays, and I’m back to counting calories. Among other things, Mom made fudge, including wintergreen fudge, one of my favorites. At Christmas, she said she left the chocolate covered peanut clusters in Hudson, and would bring them the following week. She said Brother Bob, aka Bobbie Butane, wanted to be sure I got my share. She figured he was just being a thoughtful brother, but I know the real reason. Bob said he’d quit smoking if I got down to 175 pounds. We made that agreement about four years ago and I haven’t even come close, YET! I think, when Mom wasn’t looking, Bob snuck some of his candies into my bag. What are brothers for?

We all know that you can’t just watch the calories…you need to combine that with exercise. I’d like to say that I’ve made a New Years resolution to lift weights three times a week, but it’s just not my thing. Jean loves it. I will force myself to go down there, but I’d rather be playing pickleball, riding bike, swimming (although the pool has been open on a spotty basis…only when the air temp is 70 degrees or more), and walking around Highlands Ridge. The weather isn’t perfect, but it’s warmer than it is in Michigan, and you can get out and get the exercise you need.

I don’t know if I have written about “The Highlands Ridge Ten”, but if I have, I’ll repeat myself. Karen, one of our friends from Hastings who lives down here, says that, when you move into Highlands Ridge, you automatically put on ten pounds. It’s not the water…it’s the partying! There are a lot of people around our age here and, it appears, they’ll party at the drop of a hat. It’s just like the “freshman ten” when kids go off to college. The restrictions are off, and it’s Barney bar the door!

Most Wednesdays we go down to the South Course Clubhouse (the are two golf courses here) for dinner with friends. It starts off with cocktails, and everyone gets “two for one”. If you order a glass of wine, you get two. If you order a pitcher of beer, you get two. They have a somewhat limited menu, but they do have a baked/broiled fish that most of the women get, and so will I from now on. We always seem to be the last group to leave and, more times than not, the gathering adjourns to someone’s house, where the drinks are free. We’ve begged off the “afterparties” most of the time. Apparently we haven’t mastered the art of “overdoing” yet.

Two weeks ago today, the first day of winter, a couple from England and our friends from Hastings asked us if we wanted to meet at the North Course clubhouse for a drink at five. We said OK, and got there on time. Neither of the other couples got there until about 5:15. In that 15 minutes, we saw several couples coming in with trays of cheese and summer sausage, bowls of chocolate chip cookies, and bowls of chips and dips. We wondered what was going on, so we asked. They were having a party “because the full moon was coming up”. It was chilly, but many of them sat outside for quite a while so they could smoke. Everyone came in when it started to get dark and cool off some more. They had several drinks, and pizzas were delivered from town. After a while, the moon started rising. Someone yelled out, “It’s coming up over Judy’s house”. Everyone cheered and ran outside (actually shuffled….it is a retirement community). They clapped, spent about 10 minutes watching the moon, then came back in and partied some more. Luckily Jean and I had a pork loin in the oven, so we left while everyone continued to party.

I may have mentioned that we’re on the 17th tee of the North Course. I enjoy watching the groups come through, and Jean and I often sit on the lanai and watch them together. It’s not an “exclusive” course, but proper attire is required, and the greens fees are high enough ($75 for a couple with a cart) to keep out the riff-raff (me). I’m somewhat surprised that many of the men feel the need to relieve themselves when they get to the tee. Many have started for the bushes, looked back to see me watching, and turned around to go back to the cart. Most see me watching, and continue anyway.The white tees, which most of the men use, are around 75 yards away, so it’s not like you can see anything…it’s just the idea. Besides, most of the gentlemen are sixty or older and there’s not much to see.

Just (Figuring Out What To Do Today Here In Paradise) Jack

On The Injured Reserve – Again!

No, this time it’s not me. It’s Jean on the injured reserve list, again, with the same leg injury. We thought we were being careful, and we don’t chase after balls we can’t get to on the pickleball courts, but yesterday was an exception. It’s been chilly down here lately. OK, OK, I know it’s a whole lot warmer than Michigan, but it’s chilly when you don’t have the clothes for it. We haven’t been playing much pickleball, but we’ve been hitting balls back and forth, without chasing hard to get shots.

We went down yesterday morning and no one was there at 9, when we usually start. It was chilly, so everyone was waiting until 10 I guess. We hit some shots back and forth until one of the players came. We still hit a few back and forth warming up, and then played a 2 on 1 game (pickleball…get your minds out of the gutter) until a fourth showed up. So we had warmed up by riding down there (no…I couldn’t keep up with Jean…she was riding faster to get there sooner), had warmed up between the two of us, had played a laid back 2 on 1 game, and then started playing for real. So it’s not like we weren’t stretched out.

Jean and I played together and Donna and Doug were our opponents. We were outmatched, but were holding our own. Jean went for a shot that she missed (not a real stretch so it seemed innocent enough), and I backed her up and hit the shot back to Doug. He returned the volley and Jean didn’t even try for it. I was thinking, “What are you doing?”, but didn’t say it. It was then I realized that she had torn the muscle she had pulled a couple of weeks ago. The one a couple of weeks ago was a sore, knotted muscle. This one was a bad enough tear that she couldn’t ride her bike back home. So now she’s gimping around the house and laying by the pool. Maybe she should learn to crochet and I should take up on-line poker.

I went into town this morning to pick up some cereal for me, and some much needed popcorn for Jean. By the way…the microwave here has a turntable that doesn’t turn. So when Jean makes popcorn, only about half of it pops. I’m guessing old Orville Redenbacher is laughing in his grave. It’s one way to double sales. But I’ve digressed. What I was really trying to say, I drove back through the development from the South end to see what homes are for sale. As I came back to the North Course, I saw two North American River Otters playing around and chasing fish in one of the ponds on the golf course. Later, riding my bike in and out of every street in the development, I saw an Armadillo. I’m sure everyone else gets used to seeing them, but I’m still intrigued by animals, and especially fascinated by ones we don’t see much in Michigan.

I’m off my diet until after the first of the year. It’s obvious to me that I need to get back to counting calories. I’m not eating like it was my last meal on earth, but if I keep it up, maybe it will be. Aunt Sharon sent back some cookies with Jean and I this past Sunday. We needed some for when the kids come later this week, so we got two plates. I said that was enough, but we were going to a pickleball group open house on Sunday afternoon, so we got another plate. When we got home, we found out that we were to bring nothing, so we didn’t take them. As it turned out, they had hors d’oeuvres, but nothing sweet, so we should have taken the cookies. Long story short…I’ve been getting into the extra plate of cookies, using the logic that we had them for the open house and, since we didn’t take them, three plates would be too many for Rocky, Nina, Robert and Danielle. So it’s Jack to the rescue. Why don’t I just have them implanted on my waistline and save the trouble of chewing and digestion?

Just (Not A Very Good Nursemaid For Jean But She Doesn’t Expect Me To Be) Jack

I Did It

Well, I did it! No, not that! Get your minds out of the gutter. Jean is up North, but even if she was here it wouldn’t make a difference. No, I mean….

It’s time for me to fly back up North for Thanksgiving. I had thought about asking Bobby Butane to give me a ride to the Orlando airport, so I didn’t have to pay to park the car. You know me…not cheap, but thrifty. Anyway, when I checked, it was 2 hours and 5 minutes there, and the same back. Brother Bob hasn’t been perfect in his life, but he hasn’t been that bad, so I couldn’t ask him to do that. Besides, the cost of gas would have been more than the parking fee.

So I got on the internet and made reservations to park in one of the “off site” parking lots in Orlando. In order to take advantage of the internet offer, I had to print a copy of the reservation confirmation, so they can scan it when we leave the lot on Monday. The place we rented in Highlands Ridge has a computer and printer, but I have my laptop ‘cuz it has all my files and, most importantly, Quicken, so I know where the checkbook is at all times. The printer is a Lexmark Z43 and it has a parallel cable that hooks it up to the computer. My computer doesn’t have a parallel port, so I couldn’t use it.

This morning I went to Wal-Mart (you can get everything at Wal-Mart) to get a “parallel to USB cable converter”. Now I’m no computer geek, but I’m not a computer special needs case either. I had looked on the internet and they are available. They didn’t have any, and didn’t know where to tell me to find one. I went back to the house, called a neighbor, and asked if I could send the parking confirmation e-mail to her, and would she print it off for me? She said yes, I did, and she did. Problem solved. But wait…when I got back to our place, the e-mail from Delta came that said “Time To Check In and Print Your Boarding Passes”. Well, I couldn’t ask Karen to print something else for me, and she had told me about an OfficeMax next to the Winn Dixie grocery store and a Radio Shack at the mall.

I went to the Office Max, and they said they didn’t have a converter cable, but did have something that might work. I looked at it, and it was just what I was looking for. It was expensive, but cheaper than a printer, so I bought it. The package had been opened and brought back by someone who had bought the wrong thing, but that didn’t make any difference to me. I brought it home and hooked it up to my computer. Usually the computer loads an install program, but not much happened. I went through the process of adding the printer to my computer, but when it came to the drivers, the computer said, “…it didn’t have any…check with the manufacturer”. So I did. Apparently Lexmark doesn’t service the Lexmark Z43 on Windows 7. I had told the guy at OfficeMax that the cable was exactly what I needed and chuckled at the guy who brought it back, unable to use it.

My dilemma was to take it back and look like an idiot, or keep it and lose the money. You guessed it. I took it back. I just happened to be looking at printers while I was waiting for the return, and they had a cheap printer on sale for only $10 more than the cable I was bringing back. So, I bought one. We’ll be coming back down here each year and can leave it at Mom’s over the summer (Mothers don’t mind doing things like that for their kids, unlike Fathers who would say, “Why can’t you haul that thing back and forth with you. We don’t have the room and I don’t want to be stumbling over that crap all summer”). The guy asked if I had everything I needed and I said yes. So I brought it back to Highlands Ridge. I followed the instructions and, when it got to the part that said, “…attach the printer cable to the printer and your computer…”, I realized that the printer cable didn’t come in the box with the printer.

So, it was back to the store for a printer cable. Those little buggers aren’t cheap. Luckily, I had a different salesman each time so I didn’t have to “eat crow”, at least out loud. I had driven into town so many times, I had to stop for gas so I could make it to the airport tomorrow. The gas at the station next to Publix and Winn Dixie was $2.89 and I know it was $2.79 at a Race Track up in Avon Park, so I came back the long way and filled up. I came back to the rental, hooked up the printer with my brand new printer cable, and printed off two boarding passes (just in case I lose one).

So back to the title of the e-mail. A couple of days ago I was whining about being bored. Well, I took a job that should have taken one trip to the store and 20 minutes to hook it up, and made it last all day. Luckily I’m retired.

Just (Tired So I Think I’ll Take A Nap) Jack

Crippled

Most of you already know I’ve been nursing a sore knee for a year or so, and have been recovering from having it scoped in April. I’ve taken what the doctors and rehab people have told me seriously, and have eased myself back into exercise. I still haven’t run ‘cuz my weight isn’t down where it should be yet. I’m still down 13 pounds from my “high”, but with the holidays coming, I just hope to stay at that level, and start losing again in 2011. I’ve been walking, riding the bike, swimming, and playing pickleball.

I’ve listened to everyone at the pickleball courts when they say not to go after the balls you can’t get. So, a week ago Jean and I rode up to the pickleball courts together. As I dismounted my bike, I bent over to loosen the clip on my bike shoes, and felt a “twinge” in my back. I didn’t think much of it, and went into the courts. There were five of us, so I agreed to sit out and let the others play. The game was lengthy. Four other guys came and played a game on the other court. When they finished, they asked me if I wanted to play and I said yes. I didn’t think much about the fact that my back was not perfect, and I had cooled down from sitting after the ride to the courts (2.65 miles).

On the third point, I served, and the opposing player returned it deep to my side of the court. I returned it to their mid-court, and the guy “tunked it” just over the net. I was out of position, but thought I could get to the ball. It’s not my fault…it’s testosterone…I couldn’t help it. I pushed off my left foot and felt my calf muscle tear. I’m not sure whether it was the gastrocnemius or the soleus (felt like the soleus but what do I know?), but it wasn’t pretty. I thought I could walk it off, but after two steps, I called for a sub. The more I sat, the tighter it got, so I walked back and forth on the sidelines for quite a while. I was able to ride my bike back to the house we are renting, but spent the rest of the day icing, compressing, and elevating my leg, while lying flat on my back on the couch.

Now, a week later, my back is still very sore (it has been all week), and my calf is still very tender. A couple of days ago I noticed my leg, from the injury down, turning a yellowish brown color. i expected the bruising, so that wasn’t a shock. I’ve babied the leg, but that will take a while to repair itself. As to the back, I’ve ridden my bike nearly every day (until yesterday) and, a couple of times, rode every street in the development (15.67 miles). I drove Jean to the airport on Thursday, and then drove to my mother’s (about 200 miles total). Then the next day I drove over 100 miles back to Sebring. Apparently riding in the car, stuck in one position for several hours isn’t on the list of rehab therapies for the back. So now I’m staying off the bike, not playing pickleball, not walking (I do walk around in the house), but did swim a half mile today. We’ll see how it goes.

Without Jean here, and unable to do anything athletic, I’m a little bored. I’ve watched about all the movies I can take on Turner Classic Movies. I just turned off a college football game replay when the score got to be Alabama 49, Georgia State 7. I’m already sick of CNN’s coverage of the Royal Wedding, and if I have to watch the TSA feeling up passengers any more, I’ll scream. I can’t hope for a hurricane or another natural disaster. Having others in misery just ‘cuz I’m bored isn’t right. I spent the morning driving around to Home Depot, Lowe’s and Ace Hardware before I found a door bracket for the screen door closer on the lanai (we broke the other one). It only took 1 minute and 45 seconds to replace it. I should have stretched that into an hour or so.

Nothing else is happening here, so there isn’t anything else to tell you. I did find a six pack of Cigar City “Maduro” Brown Ale, so I may have to go out on the upper lanai (we have two levels), and watch the sun go down.

Just (It’s Five O’clock Somewhere) Jack

Critters

I just finished setting up a payment for my credit card later this month. I always pay the entire amount so I don’t have to pay any interest. This one contained the expenses from the New Orleans trip, the trip down here to Florida and the trip home for Thanksgiving. With over $700 in motels/hotels, over $700 in meals, and over $500 in airline tickets, it’s a “doozie”. Since both Jean and I don’t have jobs, we’ll have to start thinking about not spending so much money, so our savings will last until our demise. We did go out to eat twice this last weekend, but Jean paid for one of the meals. I’m still in shock. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

We’re getting used to the critters here in Florida. They are different than Michigan, but follow the same patterns. The day before yesterday, the bug guys were here spraying around the outside of the house. Maybe that’s why there were some dead bugs with their feet in the air when we looked at the place to rent. Anyway, the guy told us that an armadillo had tunneled into the ground near the air conditioner. I walked around the place yesterday and found the hole. I kicked some sand in it to see if the hole was active or not. We told the office about it, who will pass it on to the landlord. It’s not our problem, so we’ll see what happens. They can be nearly as destructive as woodchucks in Michigan.

The first day or so that we were here, the Geico gecko tried to waltz through the living room. Jean tapped him on the shoulder (with her shoe in her hand) and told him he wasn’t welcome. Funny thing. That guy isn’t as tough as he appears on television. When she helped him out of the room, she opened the paper towel to show me, and his guts were splattered everywhere. Luckily we don’t have that company for our insurance, so we aren’t likely to be canceled.

Our mail has finally started to arrive (forwarded from Michigan), and I’m paying a couple of the bills I pay by check. I went to the mailbox the other day to put a letter in, and there was a frog hopping around in there. I don’t think he was trying to steal our mail, so I left him alone. After killer Jean left her mark, I didn’t want the critters to start an all out war. On the plus side, we saw a bald eagle while we were riding back from pickle ball last Saturday. I’ve seen plenty of them in my lifetime, and there are many down here for the winter. But I’m always in awe when I see them floating in the sky. They certainly are majestic. We also saw a large owl on our way home from the Wednesday night dinner at the South golf course clubhouse. It was large, flew down from a tree, and landed on the curb. It was either a Screech Owl or a Barred Owl. I’m not really up on my Florida birds yet, so I’m not really sure. We also saw raccoons, but they’re the same everywhere, and I don’t want to get involved with them again after the cottage fiasco.

Happy Veterans Day to all who have served our country. I was in the Air Force for four years. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything, but I wouldn’t want to do it again. I protected our country from Orlando, Florida and San Bernardino, California. Both of those cities were safe in the late sixties, thanks to our squadron.

Just (Proud To Be An American, Especially On Veterans Day) Jack

Someone Help Me

Most of you know that Jean and I are spending the winter in Florida. We came the long way, by way of Baton Rouge, after stopping in Nashville to see Jean’s brother and sister-in-law. We got here last Monday, about mid-day, and spent the rest of the day unpacking and buying a few groceries ($124.88 and we didn’t have much). Up North, many of you keep Jean’s time occupied with women on weights, pickle ball, and her favorite exercise, holding the phone next to her ear for hours at a time.

Down here, she’s put me on a training schedule that I’m not sure I can sustain. Tuesday it was a 5.3 mile walk. Wednesday it was a bike ride in and out of every street in Highlands Ridge (15.67 miles). Thursday she let me get away with a 4 mile walk. Friday, another 15.67 mile bike ride, followed by pickle ball practice for half an hour. On Saturday she forced me to play pickle ball for two hours. Yesterday she made me walk 4 miles in 45 degree, windy weather before church. Robert came over last night (his birthday was Saturday), so she has him down at the pickle ball courts and I get a day’s relief, so I’m doing laundry.

I need someone to come down and keep her occupied or I’m going to, under some protest, be back in shape. I’ve kind of enjoyed this year of laziness, blaming everything on my knee. After all that walking, all that biking, and a couple of bouts of pickle ball, my knee feels fine. No more excuses. On the plus side, we’ve met lots of people, and partied a little more than we’re used to, so the weight isn’t melting off, and I won’t be able to run for a while yet.

I’ve been trying to eat well and, for the most part, have succeeded. On the way down, when we stopped for breakfast or lunch, I tried to eat healthy choices. It isn’t always easy. We stopped somewhere in Southern Mississippi for lunch and gas (gasoline), and went into the smallest McDonalds I’ve ever seen. It had two cash registers, but the whole counter couldn’t have been more than 5 feet long. A young girl came up and asked for our orders. Jean got a broiled chicken sandwich and a fruit smoothie. I wanted a salad. They had a southwest salad with fried or broiled chicken, a spicy ranch salad, also with fried or broiled chicken, and Caesar salad with fried or broiled chicken.

I said, “I’ll have the Southwest Salad with broiled chicken”. She asked, “So you want chicken with that?” to which I responded, “Yes, broiled.” So then she asked, “What kind of dressing would you like?” Of course I said, “What kind of dressing do you have?” She said, “Well, we have Caesar, spicy ranch, and southwest”. I said, “I guess I’ll have the southwest”. She responded, “O.K. Your wife wants the broiled chicken sandwich and a fruit smoothie, and you would like a southwest chicken salad with broiled chicken and southwest dressing?” I said yes, turned around, and rolled my eyes to Jean.

Jean went over and got napkins, straws, and picked out a table. I watched the girl making Jean’s fruit smoothie. It’s made in a machine, and she seemed to have an awful time getting the plastic container under the mechanism and settled into it’s spot. The machine started to drop the smoothie into the container and, before it was done, she picked it up and shook it around. Apparently there’s a weight sensor where the container sits so that when nothing is there, it won’t drop the smoothie onto the base and make a mess. That stopped the machine with only a half a smoothie made. The supervisor looked at her, shook her head, and said “Now you’re going to have to start all over again”, walking away in disgust. So kids, PLEASE STAY IN SCHOOL!!!

So now Jean has volunteered us to play golf in a couples golf outing this Friday. She keeps saying, “Jack’s a good golfer”. I think she’s setting me up for failure. I’m not a good golfer, I’ve never been better than a 15 handicap in my best days, and I haven’t played golf for a year and a half. Then, I played 54 holes, and that was after not playing for a year before that. I’m guessing the people will catch on after a hole or two, and won’t ask us again, which is fine with me.

I’m discovering what I forgot to bring down here. We had been invited to a dinner at the south golf course clubhouse last Wednesday, and I was getting ready. After my shower, I went into the walk-in closet and realized I hadn’t brought any golf shirts. I had one button down dress shirt, and the rest were triathlon race t-shirts. I did have one New Orleans Margaritaville t-shirt, so I wore that. Thursday I went to Belks and bought three new golf shirts. This forgetfulness is getting expensive.

Just (Please Help Me, Come Down, And Share This Burden) Jack

Follow Up

Some of you already know this, but many of you don’t, so I’ll tell you what happened to the little black and white kitty that got caught in my chipmunk trap (see last part of last e-mail).

After I wrote the last e-mail, I fretted and stewed so much about what to do with the “kitty” that I gave myself a stress headache. I didn’t want to get sprayed by an angry animal that just happened to wander into the wrong place, but most of you know that I’m tender hearted, and couldn’t stand the thought of leaving him/her there to die. At around 7 PM I told Jean I had figured out what I wanted to do, explained it to her, and asked her if she wanted to come out with me to help. Without saying exactly what she said, I’ll paraphrase it to “Heck no!”

I went back out to the cottage alone and stripped down to nothing but a smile. My apologies if that leaves a picture in your head that haunts you for days. Anyway, I put on an old pair of jeans, an old flannel shirt, old socks and old grass stained running shoes. I put on an old hat and got some old gloves from the garage. I have a couple of old undershirts I use as brewing rags, so I tied one around my face, covering my nose, mouth and chin. I didn’t want my glasses to get sprayed, so I went to the basement and got some goggles I use for carving ducks. I wanted to protect the jeans and flannel shirt as much as I could, so I put on a rain poncho that had a rip in it.

Wearing all this garb, I went out on the front porch holding an old towel between me and the beast. I put the towel over the trap, covering it completely, and the skunk didn’t spray, although the odor was definitely prominent. I covered the towel with a black plastic bag so, if he/she did spray, it wouldn’t get through the towel. I lifted the cage, placed it on piece of cardboard (Jean’s job was supposed to be to slide the cardboard under the trap when I lifted it…wasn’t this one of those “worse” times in the “for better or worse vows”?), and carried the whole mess out to the street. My neighbor came out of his garage where he had been working, laughing his xxx off. He said “Skunk?” I said yes, and he replied, “You’re certainly dressed for it.”

I pulled the towel back to expose the door to the cage. I pressed in on the catch, lifted the door, and expected the skunk to scurry out. My plan was to run toward the lake as the skunk ran toward the brush. He didn’t move. So I tunked the end of the trap. Still no movement. I tipped the cage so he/she would know which way to go and shook the cage a little. Still nothing. I tipped up the cage, and he/she rolled out, DEAD! He/she couldn’t have been in the cage for more than 15 hours or so, and was still alive three hours before when I left the lake. I know it wasn’t sunny or overly warm so he/she couldn’t have dehydrated, and he/she had eaten the peanut butter I put in the trap as bait, so couldn’t have starved. I felt awful, but it was too late. I’d like to be able to tell you that I dug him/her a nice grave, and placed a makeshift headstone with Pepe Le Pew carved on it. Not so! Let’s just say, I took him/her to a tree in the tall grass, rolled him/her out of the bag, and gave him/her a chance to wake up, just in case he/she had fallen into hibernation sleep.

I have since washed all the clothes, aired out the cage, and still have the poncho and shoes out in the garage at the lake. The residual odor has settled down, the Jehovah Witness ladies did not come to leave pamphlets, and all is well. I haven’t checked under the tree, but I’m going to assume the critter woke up, bounded away, and will never do that again.

Just (Another Minus To Offset What Few Plusses I have) Jack