Monthly Archives: March 2004

New Experiences

 From the last note you may recall that I appear to have a little problem with remembering to pay attention to detail. Since the bike wreck was over 6 months ago and the doctors said I would be back to normal in 3 to 6 months, these difficulties must be the signs of old age.

I rode my bike to Middleville for the last time today before I start my training program for IM Moo on Monday the 29th. The wind was blowing about 8 mph directly into my face on the way back. I was only going around 15 mph but the wind would feel like 23 mph if I were just standing there. That’s my take on the story problem in Physics 101. The true rocket scientist would factor in the rotation of the earth and the movement of the earth in relation to the sun and come up with some other number; close but not exactly 23 mph.

I know that women don’t spit at any time (except at the dentist’s office) or let loose of “snot rockets” when their noses run but men know what I’m talking about. I should have remembered Jim Croce’s advice “…don’t spit into the wind…” but I thought of it too late. Since I am out of shape my mouth was open sucking air and an early Spring insect flew in. Without thinking I turned my head slightly and spit as all good bikers would. A second later I looked and I had spit and a wet bug running down the sleeve of my coat (coat is nice and yellow so the person that hit me couldn’t say “I never saw him coming”). A tad bit on the disgusting side but another lesson learned. When spitting into the wind, turn your head as far as it will go and spit with as much force as possible (if riding in a group, swallow the bug).

I should mention that the condo in Florida may be sold. I have accepted an offer (didn’t have any since the listing, then two for the same amount on the same day) but, as we all know, the sale isn’t a sale until the money is in hand. Those who thought about visiting me but put it off ’til next year can do that but it probably won’t be on the beach in Venice. Maybe Jean and I will sell this house, get a fifth wheel, and go to a trailer park instead. We’ll use the bed but guests will have the treat of curling up around the fold-out kitchen table/ironing board/card table/diaper changing station.

Tough luck!

Just (learning how to live all over again) Jack

P.S. – A friend, Stephanie Fekkes, was appointed Probate Judge by Governor Granholm to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of another friend, Dick Shaw. I was invited to a robing ceremony/investiture yesterday afternoon at 4 in the circuit courtroom. I thought it was a disrobing ceremony and, although I was happy for Stephanie, I was also a bit disappointed.

Beginning Training

 Jean and I are back from our trip to San Francisco to see Anna, Matt and Tonya. We checked on them and they seem to be behaving as young adults should so all seems well. I got some groceries today and my grocery bag stuck to the kitchen counter. There’s a 99.9% chance it’s food that didn’t get wiped off but Rocky was here alone while we were gone and we all know what can and often does happen spontaneously in the kitchen so we’re having it professionally cleaned.

Over the holidays, while I was recuperating, I started fessing up to Mom about my mis-spent youth. I told her about when Jimmy Wohler’s  parents went on vacation, left him home alone and I told Mom and Dad I would be spending the night at some other kids house but actually went to Jimmy’s. The police only showed up once all weekend and I didn’t admit to any of the details of our activities (Mom’s family has a history of heart problems and I didn’t want to be the cause of a meltdown after IM Wisconsin 2003) so I thought this conversation would start to pay for all my sins. Not so! Paybacks are hell (Mom, paybacks are heck).

When we got our tickets they were replacement tickets for last September’s canceled trip so Northwest Airlines picked the seats. First of all they were in the last two or three rows on every flight and secondly they were always directly in front of children who traveled badly. On the flight out the girl was kicking my seat and, at the top of her lungs, was bawling and wailing that her seat belt was too tight while mother and grandmother told her the plane wouldn’t take off unless she stayed in her seat.

On the way back a guy about 35 was supposed to be behind me. He notice a family was split apart by the aisle and asked if they wanted to switch seats. Of course they said yes. This time I had a happy girl who was swinging her legs while she colored, kicking my seat the entire 3 1/2 hour flight. She sang the alphabet song at least five times in a row and did the “John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt” song at least fifteen times (isn’t there more than one verse?). She was by the window as we crossed the Rocky Mountains and must have asked her parents a dozen times if we were going over the North Pole. On the last flight a couple two rows in front of us had what appeared to be twins about 4 months old who screamed almost the entire trip. Needless to say napping was out on all flights. As they say, what goes around comes around.

Without dwelling on “bike-dive” recovery issues it appears I have developed some bathroom problems. Before you think you will be grossed out, read on. I noticed there wasn’t a towel on the shower door where I always keep it so I got a nice one out of the drawer. After my shower, as I was drying off, I noticed my feet were getting wetter and wetter (no, it wasn’t an old man leak problem). Apparently I had let the towel drop a little low and I was standing too close to the toilet and you know the rest. Luckily the toilet had been flushed. Lesson one-don’t stand so close to the toilet with a towel in your hand.

While we were in San Francisco we stayed at a great bed and breakfast called “Inn 1890” ( see ). We were in the lowest level with a walkout to the small back yard. Being at that level, the toilet and shower were in two small separate areas on a raised platform. In the shower area, the shower stall was raised even further. The shower area was so small that you had to hang your towel just outside the door. As I retrieved it I thought I was stepping down one step when I was actually going two. Without getting into the physics of the whole thing Jean saw a naked old man quick-stepping across the room and almost take a header into the wall about 10 feet away. Lesson two-pay attention to where you step.

The first night we were there we went out to eat with Matt, Anna and Anna’s roommate, Maread (Tonya had to work late so we punished her by making her cook the following night-Salmon, Asparagus, Baby Carrots and Garlic Potatoes preceded by a couple of bottles of excellent wine-great meal!!). After we got back to our room Jean and I went to bed. It was 9 their time but 12 our time which is past the old folks bedtime. As many do I felt the call to nature in the middle of the night. There was a small amount of light coming through the windows but not enough to see where the light switch was so I was feeling around the walls. As I went past the sink my wrist bumped the 20 oz. container of hand soap and it went to the floor.

The good news was that it was plastic so it didn’t shatter. The bad news is that the top popped off and 19 of the 20 ounces spilled on the floor right in front of the toilet. After a couple of choice words (Mom, it was Oh Crap!!) I got one of the hand towels and started to mop it up. Again, without going into the physics of the whole thing, soap doesn’t soak into a towel very well so I rinsed it out in the sink. First of all there were so many suds I thought they would be coming up out of the street drains the next day. Second of all is Lesson three-If you really have to go (number one, not number two) don’t run your hands under warm water.

At that point I couldn’t wait so I took two washcloths and put them on the floor where my feet would be so I wouldn’t slip in the soap. I misjudged the placement of the washcloths and I wasn’t quite as close as I should have been. I had to lean forward with my hand on the wall behind the toilet for proper trajectory. By then Jean had been awakened by my turning on the light outside the toilet room to see what I was doing and the sound of constant swearing (Mom, I didn’t swear-Jean just thought I did but was obviously mistaken). Needless to say she wasn’t very happy and disgusted to see her naked husband standing in the bathroom on two washcloths taking a pee. She thought I had a relapse and she didn’t want to go through that whole recovery process again. Lesson four-don’t make your wife mad in bed-the thought lingers and it plays havoc with other activities.

Lucky for me Jean is in the first few weeks of her training for Lake Placid and I start my training for Wisconsin on Monday so we won’t see each other much for six months. The week after Wisconsin I’ll swim the Tiburon Mile with Matt and Anna (?) out in San Francisco Bay so maybe the irritation will wear off by then. I’ve tentatively penciled her in for the Friday of the fourth week in September. 

Better go. It’s run day and times a-wastin’.

Just Jack

Bike Wreck

I woke up sometime the day after the “big race”. I was doing Ironman Wisconsin which consisted of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. I remembered the swim and the start of the bike but couldn’t remember any of the rest. I thought our triathlon group had celebrated when everyone had finished and I thought I drank too much because I felt like I had a terrible hangover. Those thoughts sound like it was a while before I understood I had been in a bike accident but what seemed like a long time was about three seconds. I don’t remember who was there but it didn’t take me long to realize that I had been hurt and was in a hospital.

The first people I remember were my wife, Jean, and Roch Frey, the Ironman bike race director. I don’t remember what we said to each other but I’m told we discussed the benefits of morphine. Jean had been pulled out of the race, a race she would have won in her age group to qualify for the world championships in Hawaii, by Roch when she was half-way through the bike portion because I was in the hospital and “wasn’t good”. He had brought her to the hospital and had gone back to our hotel room to pick up a change of clothes since she was wearing her bike riding outfit.

At first I didn’t know how severe the injuries were. Jean, the doctors and the nurses told me things but I would forget quickly and it was much later before the words stuck with me. I had suffered a fractured skull, fractured scapula (we didn’t find that out until much later in Grand Rapids), left eye contusions with the eye swollen shut, road rash on both elbows, both knees and my right ankle, and three brain hematomas-one epidural and two subdural (my right ankle took five weeks to heal which was the least of my worries). When I was taking my first shower I noticed a huge bruise that went from my butt cheek to the joint on the back of my leg. I was extremely dizzy and lost most of the hearing in my right ear. That was because I had bled both inside and outside the ear and the dried blood had caked on the eardrum. My hearing came back eventually.

Bleeding inside and outside my eardrum frightened me. I knew that when people bled like that there was likely to be brain injuries and I didn’t know where that would lead me. I knew who I was and who everyone else was too so I knew I wouldn’t be a vegetable but would I ever be normal? And what would normal be anyway? Would I ever be able to ride a bike again? How about run or even walk?

I only remember small pieces of my stay in the hospital at Madison but it seems like I had tests all the time. Jean told me that I wanted to leave the hospital and was happy when I was discharged. She was not. She had been in telephone contact with our family doctor and he said it sounded like I shouldn’t be discharged but the doctors in Madison did it anyway. He told Jean to keep an eye on me and, if anything serious happened, pull into the first hospital she could find. Jean flew Sara, my daughter, over to Madison to help her get me home since she couldn’t drive and watch over me at the same time.

I don’t remember the night I was discharged from Meriter Hospital in Madison. Jean said we went to a Perkins restaurant to eat dinner and all she could get me to eat was a chocolate milk shake. I vaguely remember getting in the car the next morning and, when we pulled out of the parking lot, telling Jean we were going the wrong way. I don’t know how I knew that since I had never been to that motel and had no idea what part of town it was in. I would guess that somewhere in my memory I had seen signs from the day before when we came from the hospital.

I remember very little of the trip home and I’m told I slept sitting up off and on most of the way. I remember we stopped at a McDonalds for lunch in Michigan City, Indiana and, when I got out of the car, I felt terrible. I remember walking around in circles in the parking lot. When Jean got the food I’m told I went inside and ate some of it. I don’t remember much of the rest of the trip home and little about going into the house. I vaguely remember Pat Loftus, a good friend of mine, being in my bedroom telling me I had to go to the emergency room at the hospital so I did.

When we got to the hospital I remember they got me a wheelchair and it seems like I went into an examining room right away. The rest of the examination was a blur and I only remember Doug Smendik, a doctor but not an ER doctor nor my regular doctor, telling me I was sick and had to go to Grand Rapids to another hospital. I remember they put me in an ambulance, strapped me to a narrow gurney, and away we went. I don’t remember much of the trip and don’t remember arriving at Spectrum Hospital (I still call it Butterworth).

I remembered more of the stay at Spectrum than in Madison but I still would forget many things. I’m told I would receive telephone calls, talk at some length, and then forget the call soon after I hung up. I’m told I was flirtatious with the nurses which is not at all like me. I do remember trying to give one of the nurses a $10 tip because she was doing such a good job and telling Jean she was really nice but quite homely after she left the room. I’m told I had one day that I swore constantly. I don’t remember much of that although I do remember swearing some when I got in the shower for the first time. It seemed like every spot on my body hurt and, when the water hit me, hurt even worse. At the same time I was hooked up to an IV and a bunch of wires and was a little irritated that I couldn’t unhook them all and shower like I used to. Jean tells me I was a little snippy with her when she tried to help me into the bathroom.

I’m told that there were times when I would quit breathing and my heart rate would go down to around 20. The nurses didn’t know what to do so they would send me down to intensive care where I would get straightened out and get sent back to the floor. Jean says eventually they told her to rub my feet when I wouldn’t breathe and that would stimulate me to start again. I do remember some of the tests and the nurses or aides getting me up to walk around the hallways.

One of the procedures I remember was when they sent me to be tested for seizures. It seemed to me I was in the basement in a small room. I remember the start of the test but don’t remember anything they did. I may have fallen asleep or they may have “put me out” but I do know that when I awoke I felt my face and it seemed like it was covered with spider webs. I felt like I was in the basement of a haunted castle in some mid-fifties horror movie.

At another time they sent me down to have a “Cat Scan”. Again I felt like I was in a basement but the room seemed brighter and I was in a conversation with the tech administering the test. She told me that the results would be read by a radiologist named Scott Lancaster, a doctor who had practiced at Pennock Hospital where I was a member of the board of trustees. I don’t know whether I told her or someone later but I remember saying “Oh yeah. He’s the radiologist that’s suing us”.  Again that’s not like me because I spent thirty years in Public Accounting where confidentiality was a way of life.

I went home after the fifth day and thought I felt fine. When I got home there were a couple of friends from our triathlon group and we visited about things I don’t remember. My mother and my two other children had flown in from Florida and California and I remember them being there the next day. I know they were concerned and I told them I felt fine but they knew differently. I couldn’t sleep in a bed because it hurt to lay my head down on a pillow so I slept in a Laz-e-Boy chair for six weeks.

I was unable to drive a car and was allowed to walk by myself for a half hour at a time. I would walk to the bank, walk to the post office and would walk through the downtown area. I saw many people I knew and would talk about my recovery from the accident. As time went on I walked farther each day but still was not allowed to exercise much. Jean tells me I was an SOB for the first couple of days and she “couldn’t do anything right”. I don’t remember any of that and, apparently, it didn’t last long.

About six weeks after the accident my mother and Jean drove me down to Florida where I would spend time recuperating. The nice weather made it easier to walk outdoors and I was able to walk farther and at a faster pace than my walks in Michigan. I began driving at around eight weeks and started lifting weights and swimming around that same period of time. I noticed improvements each week up to around three months. I felt entirely recovered but that wasn’t really the case. After that the changes came about more slowly and still continue today, but I consider myself cured.

All through the recovery period I would have memory difficulties and would be unable to think of certain words. I would often have trouble coming up with someone’s name. It was often a friend or someone I had known for several years. I would remember where they lived, where they worked, their wife’s name, but theirs wouldn’t come. I would usually remember it later. Sometimes it took two minutes, sometimes two hours and sometimes two days but I always would get it eventually.

Sometimes the words I couldn’t get are everyday words I have known all my life. I remember telling my son a story about my first visit to New York City. I was staying at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and I described the train ride into the city in vivid detail. It was a long story and ended with the sentence “Then the other drunks helped him to his feet and took him back to sit on the …….”. I couldn’t get that last word but I knew what it was. I described it to him as a thing that comes up out of the ground that flattens out with two “ears” and has water in it. He asked “Do you mean fire hydrant?” and I said “Yes”. I went home and told my wife the strangest thing had just happened and described the story to her in a short version. I said “When I got to the end I couldn’t remember the words ……”. They wouldn’t come again.

Those episodes continue today nearly six months from the accident except that when I finally get the word I usually don’t forget it. The words have been common like resume and shoulder and convoy among many others. Most of my friends and family know that missing words may happen and they are very understanding. Jean and I have an agreement that she won’t help me with missed words or forgotten names. We both feel that forcing me to work on remembering may help in the recovery process. If not at least it’s a fun little game. Often minutes and sometimes hours later I’ll walk by her and say nothing but the missed word. Sometimes it takes her a minute to figure out what I’m talking about but she always remembers the situation and says “Yes, that’s it”.

There are many stories about what I did during the hospital stays. Some I remember and some I have learned second hand. During recovery I would e-mail my friends and family with my recovery progress. Looking back at those e-mails I can see many changes. The early ones were brief and told limited information about my progress. As time went on they became lengthier. Sometimes they were serious and talked about the accident and other times they contained stories in my strange sense of humor. Whether for the humor or the information on the healing process many friends and family told me how much they enjoyed the e-mails and I should “keep them coming”.

I have been very open with my progress and have noticed some changes in my personality. Before the accident I was quiet and soft spoken. Since the accident I notice I talk much more than I did before and usually say exactly what I think. I don’t think I say things that are offensive to people and I don’t walk up to women on the street and say “My, what a nice set of jugs you have”. I find myself at meetings talking more than I should and have attempted to tone it down a little. I still say things I think need to be heard but I try not to go overboard to the point of boring everyone.

Without going into detail about the countless adventures during my recovery this would be the end. But there are many parts that only I know about. I have told a couple of people a couple of the stories but not in much detail. Borrowing from radio personality Paul Harvey, “Here’s the rest of the story”.

In one of the e-mails I sent to friends and family keeping them informed of my progress, or at least my take on my progress, I mentioned that when I first awoke I felt like I was coming from a spot that was pitch black, quiet and I was alone. I’m sure that many felt I was thinking I was in that spot between living and dying and was having one of those “near death experiences”. That isn’t what I felt at all. My accounting geek thought process had to put everything into its proper niche. I thought the appropriate niche was the reaction of the brain when severe trauma occurs. I have no medical background but felt that when the brain is injured it shuts down all non-essential processes (dreaming; unrelated thoughts, etc.) and devotes its entire existence into healing and recovery.

That doesn’t mean I never worried that I was close to death. I’m not afraid of dying. It will happen to all of us sooner or later, but I wanted it to be later. I have some things left undone and probably always will. Maybe I see the need now to tie up all the loose ends because life can change in one split second. I joke about wanting to spend the money I worked hard for all my working life rather than let Jean spend it on Guido, the cabana boy but that really is a joke unless anyone has seen Jean and Guido while I was in Florida. My worry was that what I set up in my trust in 1991 when all the kids were home it is different than what I would set up now that they are all grown up (no jabs intended-they are all grown up much as Mothers think they aren’t). So it’s time to get the trust fixed along with Jean’s will which leaves everything to me that I don’t need and her boys do.

I’m sure that many also felt that the part that talks about feeling all alone was a scary part to me and it wasn’t. I felt all alone because I was. I know there were doctors, nurses, family members and friends around but they were only around part of the time. I had lots of trouble sleeping at night, probably due to the pain, and I was alone most of that time. Family and friends were home sleeping in their beds and the nurses were trying not to bother patients so they could sleep so there was no one there.

It sounds like a complaint but it’s not at all. It’s great to have friends that come by and show that they care; doctors come by and tell you that you are improving; nurses that come by and take care of your basic needs (I hope I was never catheterized or had to crap in a bedpan); family that would come by and show you their love and concern; but you are still alone with your thoughts-sometimes for long periods of time. I also don’t think I had life changing revelations. I thought about the thoughts and beliefs I have had all my life even though they often oppose the accounting geek side of me.

In that same e-mail I say I fear that …”an arm could reach out and pull me back to the black hole”. I’m sure that many readers felt again that I was worried about dying or becoming a vegetable and that wasn’t it at all. During that long time alone I had lots of time to think about my life and life in general. I worried about family and friends and their uncertainties but in the long run my biggest worry was that I would be the kind of person I read about in the papers or hear about on the news programs that spend all their time trying to blame someone else for their misfortune. My heart breaks when I think about the victims of the 9/11 tragedy but it wretches when I hear newscasters push and prod people to put a price tag on “compensation” for their loss. The same goes for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and the other disasters in life; some man-made and some natural disasters.

It’s not that I disagree that individuals that directly cause tragedies should not be accountable, but the blame finger points in too many directions and tries to include too many of the indirect sources. The argument can go on and on and many people feel strongly that the blame should go as far as it can. But how many people agree with the jury award of millions of dollars for the woman that sued McDonalds because she spilled hot coffee in her lap? A friend of mine is the treasurer for a boat manufacturer that was sued by the family of a man who drank liquor all day long, was extremely drunk, pulled the pontoon boat into two feet of water, climbed onto the roof of the pontoon and dove into the water breaking his back because there wasn’t a sign that said “DO NOT DIVE OFF THE ROOF OF THE PONTOON-IT MAY CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH”. The family won the case.

My worry was, is and will always be that I try to blame someone or something for the bike wreck or other things that changed my life. I think it’s healthy to try and find out how it happened so I can do what I can to prevent it from happening again. But first of all my accounting logical brain tells me that there’s a huge possibility that the wreck was my own fault. I don’t care if a six foot trench caused the accident. Probably 1,200 plus riders went by that same spot before I did and didn’t fall so I shouldn’t have either. I have second guessed all kinds of possibilities and the Ironman organization has been no help at all. From the front tire catching in an expansion joint or road crack to too much weight forward causing a loss of control and everything in between, blame doesn’t matter. I was telling one of the guys at the YMCA about the accident and he asked me if I was wearing a helmet. I said yes but it broke into three pieces (that’s second-hand information-someone threw my helmet away for me so I’ve not seen it). He said “You ought to sue them”. I said “If I didn’t have the helmet on I would probably be dead by now”.

I’ve made arrangements to enter the Ironman Wisconsin again in 2004 against the advice of some of my friends but mostly with support and understanding. I’ve used the macho explanation that I have to “beat the race that beat me” but that’s not really how I feel. I feel that I have to face down the “demon” and the demon is me. I’m sure I will make a pilgrimage to the spot where the wreck happened and spend a few minutes alone to look or pray or swear and that may be a necessary part of the race but I need to do the race without trying to pawn the blame on to myself or anyone else. What happened has happened and nothing in this world will change it. If I use the tragedy as an excuse I’ll be losing control of my choices and that’s not the way I want things to be.

For some people maybe pointing the blame finger works so they feel better. I could blame someone else or myself and use that crutch to excuse myself for drinking too much or living in anger or carousing in bars or becoming depressed. Maybe some people feel that I do any or all of those things although half my time in bars is spent drinking caffeine free diet coke but that’s not the point. We all live all our lives the best way we know how but do things that are “life’s choices”. We are on this earth to live and we make our own life’s choices every day. Some of those choices are good and some (mine included) are, in hindsight, not so good. But that’s the human condition. And when our final number comes up we add the pluses and minuses and see if we are where we wanted to be. For those who have a base in religion as I do, we feel we are ultimately judged by God. For those who aren’t religious and those who are, we know we are judged by everyone who has ever known us.

But before those other judgments happen we spend our whole lives living and judging ourselves on an ongoing basis and I want to think I have a rolling “A”. As Anna recently put in an e-mail about her history test, maybe only a 90 but still an “A”.

Home Safe And Sound

 Well, I made it back to Michigan none the worse for wear. I’M COLD!!!!! It was an interesting trip (to me anyway) so here are the highlights or lowlights depending on your perspective.

No one had looked at the Condo for four or five days but, for some reason, they all wanted to look Tuesday. It was my packing day so the place was a mess. People stopped in to look at it five times. Two were announced by phone call. Three were drop ins. I was trying to pack and clean my way out of there and was also interrupted by a 2:30 massage. I planned to leave by 4:30 to go up to Hudson, have grouper fingers with brother Bob and leave from there. At 5:30 I was pulling out of the driveway and the place hadn’t been cleaned (sorry Mom – I expect a bill from Lorna’s cleaning service). I’M COLD!!!!!

I was able to leave Hudson by 5:30 the following morning. As I went down highway 50 (Clermont is on 50 for you Great Floridians) the road takes a detour around Brooksville and hooks back up to 50. I don’t know where my mind was but when we were coming back to meet 50 I noticed all the cars and trucks getting the right turn lane. I stayed straight and realized at the last minute where I was and I wanted to turn too. I pulled Florida move number one and stopped in the middle of the road (there were no cars behind me) and sat there until traffic cleared and then turned right. I’M COLD!!!!!!

I made it to I-75 and was on my way. I pulled the same trick again when I came up to a construction zone. Traffic was merged to one lane and, again, my mind was somewhere else and it was my lane that disappeared. I pulled Florida move number two and merged in when there was a car length plus a foot opening. All was fine and I didn’t get any “You’re number one” waves. I’M COLD!!!!

I drove to Murfreesboro Tennessee to stay the night. I had reserved a room (many motels had no vacancies) as I thought there would be a lot of spring breakers and snow birds (that’s me) on the road. Not so. Bad timing. It was the Tennessee State girl’s basketball playoffs and the motels were filling up with high school kids. Some were girls but a lot were boys there to watch their girlfriends play and have a night or two away from their parents so things were a tad noisy all night. I’M COLD!!!!

After I checked in I went to fill the car with gas so I could leave early the next morning and noticed my credit card was missing. The only place I had been was the motel so I was convinced they still had it. Luckily I have a couple of other cards and was able to fill the car. As I left the gas station I could see there was no way to turn left across a busy street so I went down the attached street to go around the block to the next light. The street ended up in some guy’s driveway so I had to back all the way to the gas station to turn around. As I was backing up I was able to read the DEAD END sign clearly. I’M COLD!!!!

I went back to the motel and waited while four boys checked in, paid cash, and wanted their bill divided by four so each could pay their share separately. Finally the clerk was free and I asked her if she had my card. She said no and said she had given it back to me with my driver’s license. I looked and it was in my wallet where my license is kept. I asked her why she didn’t tell me to put it back into the credit card slot where it belongs. I’M COLD!!!!!

I fell asleep by 7 central time so I woke up at 3 central and decided I would check out and leave. The traffic was not bad and I called Jean to let her know I would be home early (gave her a chance to get Guido the cabana boy’s clothes packed and out of the house). I also told her to be on the lookout for something I had ordered. An e-mail told me it had been sent and I couldn’t remember what it was I had ordered. I must love surprises. I’M COLD!!!!

The only negative event was the last gas station I pulled into in Indiana. I like the pay at the pump places because you don’t have to stand in line to pay while everyone in front of you is trying to decide which lottery tickets to buy. I’M COLD!!!!

After the pump cleared the credit card I started to fill the tank and couldn’t get the nozzle into the filler hole. It only took me about five minutes to realize I had pulled into the only pump that had a diesel hose. Luckily they don’t fit or I would still be there having the gas tank pumped. I put that one back in and pulled out the regular gas hose and filled the tank. Luckily I decided to go in and buy a bottle of grapefruit juice because the pump cleared the first sale out at zero and the second was not on the card. I would have lost my license for driving away from a pump without paying. I’M COLD!!!!

Don’t tell Jean any of this because she won’t ever let me go anywhere alone again.

I’m happy to be back with family and friends but I do miss the warm weather. Every evening, since I had no social life at all, I would step out on the lanai and watch the sunset. No, Barbara, I didn’t see the “green flash” but I’m still trying. I would look down and see couples carry lawn chairs out, sit and hold hands, watch the sunset and then fold up their chairs and leave. Some couples were in their teens and some couples were in their 80s and everywhere in between but all appeared romantic. Some would use the sunset to throw another log on the fire. Some of the older couples had no logs left but threw a handful of wood chips on to keep the spark smoldering.

So I wondered why in the world would I be selling the place!!!

Just (I’M COLD!!!! but call me lucky) Jack

I’m Packing

 This will be the final e-mail from Florida – at least for this trip. I plan to leave tomorrow (Tuesday) after my delayed massage and go to Hudson to spend the night. I will probably have dinner with brother Bob and will leave early Wednesday morning for Michigan. I don’t have time to go into “why Wednesday?” but you know that I worry about spring breakers and weather systems.

I went to Hudson Saturday late to take a load of things from the condo here to the condo there for temporary storage.  I remembered most everything so, considering the recent fiascos, it went well. It was quite foggy Sunday morning when I ran. I had forgotten my contacts so I ran in my glasses. They fogged up immediately so I spent lots of time cleaning the fog off with my fingers. They were smeared but I could see well enough to not fall. I ran 86 minutes and 58 seconds (but who’s counting?) and felt great.

My heart rate monitor keeps acting up. I’ll be running along and it will show HR in the low 130s, then jump to 187 and start beeping at me. I’ll move the chest strap slightly upwards (less than and inch) and it will go back to the low 130s. I thought maybe I could tie strings to the strap and attach them to nipple clips to keep the strap in place. Could I borrow a pair from any one of you who use nipple clips (I know who you are)?

I planned to ride my Trek for the first time today (Monday) but decided to ride yesterday due to the weather change (today is cooler and very windy-sound familiar?). I felt great!!! I told Jean on the phone I would ride slow and not get in the aero bars but I lied. I didn’t ride very fast and kept it in the big ring in the front and 17 on the back the entire ride but got into the aero position after 2 miles. I went 20 miles (technically 20.98 but, again, who’s counting). There was a slight wind around 10 or 12 (into my face from the Southwest on the way down and into my face from the Northwest on the way back) so I kept the speed at 17 or 18 with a decent consistent cadence (cadence was my lost word from last Thursday).

It didn’t dawn on me until after the ride that it was the 7th of March, exactly 6 months since the dive to the asphalt. I’m happy because the doctors said that full recovery would take from 3 to 6 months so now I know I won’t forget names, miss words, or start telling a story, get lost, and forget what I was talking about. Hallelujah!!!

On the way back to Venice this morning I noticed a car ahead of me had something dangling from a spot where a trailer hitch would be. As I got closer I noticed it was two side-by-side silver balls with a flat tapered piece of metal holding them together as they swayed back and forth. It dawned on me that they probably represented testicles (no offense to anyone intended). As you know from my other e-mails my mind races when I see something like that but I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t figure out whether it meant it was a man’s car, a REAL man’s car, a woman who longed to be a man’s car or a married woman who found her husband cheating on her and had “fired a warning shot over the bow”.

When you see me you will notice I look a little scruffy. I was toying with the idea of letting my hair grow to Willy Nelson length but I finally realized that just isn’t me (sorry Larry). I went to a barber shop (Jean says I go to a hair stylist for a hair appointment but that, too, is just not me) and a girl cut my hair. I told her how I wanted it but she, apparently, cut it like she wanted it. The sideburns and back are a little long (no, Rocky and Robert, not a mullet) and she didn’t trim my eyebrows. I look a little like Andy Rooney so can’t wait to get to Hastings and have the style repaired and the bushy eyebrows weed-whacked.

I plan to go the YMCA soon and lift weights for the last time before I leave. I lifted on Saturday and noticed a curious thing. For those of you who don’t work out in a gym you won’t understand what I’m talking about but there was a guy at a seated calf-raise station. You pile the weights on, release the peg that holds the weights up, and do calf raises. Pretty simple.

Everyone has different ideas about how to lift weights. I’m in this slow phase with as much or more time on the negative portion of the lift as the positive. The guy sitting there was into speed and his reps were fast and rhythmic. The station had a squeak and all I could think of was someone giving the bedsprings a good workout. So I guess I’m ready to get home for my once every six months roll in the hay. Suit up, Jean; you’re going into the game!

Signing off for now,

Just Jack

P.S. They wanted to show the condo between 1:45 and 2:45 so I walked downtown and had a decaf coffee at a coffee and wine shop. The pollen counts are extremely high here and have been for about 5 weeks. My eyes itch like crazy and I sneeze a lot. I can’t wait to get back to Michigan so I can get the full experience of spring allergies there. I don’t want to miss out on anything in life.

Migration Countdown

 The faux pas (sp) go on.

Yesterday I went down to Boca Grande to see some longtime friends. We talked some (I should say I talked a lot and they tried to get words in occasionally) before George and I went out and took the fishing rods for a ride. It was a beautiful day and we talked about everything including the taboo subjects of politics and religion (I did catch George inserting ear plugs once).

Two problems. One is that I had explained to them about some lingering problems from the bike dive (judged scored a 7.5 out of 10 due to the poor landing) including problems with multi-tasking. The area we were trolling had clumps of sea grass or weeds or whatever it’s called and George spent quite a bit of time cleaning off the baits. While he was doing that I got to steer the boat (happy as a little kid driving the car at age 14).

We trolled on the edge of a sand bar back and forth. You fishermen know that is the place where predator fish often hang out. I think it’s either because the bait fish are in the shallow water and the predators rush in for a quick meal and retreat to the safety of deep water or they lurk there for the bait fish that have bumped their heads against a dock and wander to the danger zone. Anyway, I couldn’t stop talking but, since I can’t do two things at once, realized after a while that we had wandered onto the sand bar and were trolling in five feet of sandy clear water. I wonder why we were skunked.

Problem number two. I’ve fished all of my life and learned at a very young age (fishing off the pier at St. Joe for perch) that sun block is necessary on every trip. I didn’t think about it until after we got back in and my neck felt a little hot. After I got in bed it seemed to get hotter by the minute and this morning isn’t very comfortable. As a side note I wore a long sleeved shirt (even on hot days it can be very cool on the water – wind blowing over cold water but no science lesson -takes too long) and had pushed the sleeves up. The lower third of my arms are red and the rest has a two week old light tan. Not quite as embarrassing as falling asleep on the beach in St. Joe with my hand on my stomach but let’s not go there.

Barb and Ernie Strong have offered to keep an eye on me today so I’m on my way to Sun City Center.

Just Jack

P.S. – Barbara and George helped me pack up my handful of clothes when I left to come back to Venice. We finally found my cell phone in the bathroom (no, I didn’t talk to anyone while I sat on the can – I’m not sure why it was there).

Final Cry For Help

 I haven’t had any takers for the babysitting position offered last week and things have not improved much. As you will remember, a couple of weeks ago I went up to Mom’s condo and forgot to take a change of clothes including no clean underwear. I also forgot the bike pump and a spare tube so that killed the first on-the-road bike ride since “the dive”. The realtor selling our condo wanted to have an open house Sunday so I cleared out and went up to Hudson again this past Saturday. I was careful to take plenty of clothes to change into but at mile 65 I realized I had forgotten the key to Mom’s condo. I panicked and called brother Bob on the cell. Luckily he and Debra were at the flea market and said they would love to cut their free time alone to let me in with Bob’s key. There are a couple of spare keys there so it worked out well.

I had ridden the bike on the trainer Saturday before I left so Sunday was run day. I got up to run and realized I hadn’t taken any running clothes. Luckily I had taken my running shoes so I ran in a cotton t-shirt and my workout shorts. You runners know that flabby legs rubbing together cause chafing and, to avoid the famed chafing incident of 2002, I searched all over and found Mom’s Vaseline. Without getting too crude you runners also know that a cotton shirt on a man’s cold erect nipples (temp was in the 40’s) causes painful chafing too. I wish I had remembered to put Vaseline there.

Mom had made some chocolate covered peanuts (one of my favorites) in Grand Rapids at Bill’s place and asked if I would take some down to Bob. I said no because I knew they would never make it and I’m trying to lose a few pounds. Good move except Mom left home-made turtles in her fridge in Hudson. Sorry Mom but 5 more seem to have vanished.

I rode the mountain bike on the bike trail for the first time today. I only went 15 miles. It felt great and I didn’t feel apprehensive. However the bike would skip a couple of teeth every 2  1/2 turns of the crank so I was a little nervous that the chain would break when I was down at the turn-around (10 miles from the car) and I cut it a little short. With a mile to go the skipping stopped. With all these fiascos I’m headed home. I plan to leave here on the 13th and arrive on the 14th. I’ll adjust the days based on the weather going through the driving route. Turn the lights on so I’ll know when I’m in Hastings.

Ta Ta

Just Jack