Monthly Archives: April 2006


 If you read last week’s e-mail instead of using it in the bottom of the bird cage, you may remember me talking about the raccoons at the cottage. The story gets worse. I had reset the raccoon trap in the garage with peanuts (unsalted of course) and marshmallows. On Monday I got a call that the house would be shown the next day at around noon, so I started cleaning up a little.

I was in the kitchen when I heard two raccoons in the attic space above me getting into a fight. They were screeching at each other and I heard one hit the deck hard. It startled me just a little and I couldn’t help thinking that a) One of the raccoons could kill the other raccoon leaving him to die in the attic crawl space and really stink up the place, or b) I could catch a lactating female in the trap only to leave her kits to die of starvation in the same crawl space, also stinking up the place.

I did a Google search for “raccoons in attic” and found a company in Kalamazoo named Wildlife Wranglers, LLC. I met with the owner of the company on Tuesday (after the cottage had been shown) and he did a thorough inspection. To make a long story somewhat shorter, he found three access holes to the attic space and found that the raccoons had trampled down the insulation from 14 inches to about two inches and used several areas as their bathroom.

Those cute little animals carry many diseases, and the solution to the problem is to trap them all out, remove all the insulation, disinfect the entire area against fleas and disease, and replace all the insulation. This after closing up all the current access points and preventing them from finding new ones. We’re in that process now and caught one of the raccoons the first day. None have been trapped since and I haven’t heard any noises, so they are either gone or there is one left in there bloating up. Not a fun experience.

On a lighter note, today was the annual run from Hastings to the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival for pancakes. The run is around 15.5 miles and the route is hilly. I hadn’t run more than 12 miles at a time in the last year and a half, so I suffered the last two miles. I walked up the last two hills going into town, so my GPS said 15.3 miles. I ran with Bill and Martin for most of the way. At around 10 miles I dropped back about a hundred yards, and at 12 miles I completely lost touch with them. Since I was running longer than my body was conditioned to run, I kept slowing up. Bill and Martin had the choice of slowing up with me or running a few yards behind two pretty young women. Who do you think they chose?

A little while before they went out of sight we ran by a dead Fox Squirrel lying in the road. Bill made the comment (we use this old joke on each other all the time) that I should wake him up ‘cuz he could get hit sleeping in the traffic lane. I couldn’t help but notice, and passed the information on to the guys, that the squirrel didn’t have a mark on him and his (sorry for the crude part) “little soldier was standing at attention”. They claimed not to have noticed and chastised me for being so disgusting. We did make a comment or two about how the squirrel must have died with a smile on his face or maybe he was really sleeping and had an erotic dream erection. It’s a guy thing! 

A few hundred yards down the road we came across another dead squirrel. This one had been run over so many times you could hardly tell what it was. Either Bill or Martin said that one was a female. They didn’t notice the squirrel with his “flag at full mast” but could tell the flattened mass of hair and skin was a female?

I have a couple of injuries from the run to report. It was windy and that made it feel chilly, so (again, sorry for the crude comments) my nipples were erect and got really sore rubbing against my shirt. I usually rub Vaseline on them when I’m going to sweat a lot to keep them from getting sore, but didn’t think to do that today. Big mistake!! I grossed out everyone at my table when one of the little guys was peeking out from a hole in my shirt. Sorry!

The second one I didn’t notice until I took a shower. The hills are harder for me to go down than to run up. The force on the knees is bad, but my left knee and left hip, both of which have been giving me problems, were fine. The big toe on my right food is bruised from bumping into the toe box of my shoes on the downhills and will soon turn black. A few e-mails back I said that my toenail from last year’s running mishap finally grew out, wasn’t black any more, and I felt like I didn’t belong to the “serious runner’s club”. I really didn’t want to rejoin this way.

OK! OK! I’ll quit my whining and suck it up.

Just (Tired But Full Of Pancakes) Jack


 I’ve seen many of you so you already know, and for those of you that don’t, I’m Baaaaack!!! I left Florida this past Thursday and won’t return until November. So much for the warm days.

My plan was to leave Hudson at around 6 AM on Thursday and stop somewhere between Nashville, TN and Louisville, KY. I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep, so at 4:08 AM I was driving out of Club Wildwood. Unlike the trips when Jean is along, I stop fewer times and for shorter duration.

The first leg was to Lake City, about 3 hours into the trip, and I stopped at a Waffle House. Jean doesn’t like to stop at them because she says they’re too smoky. Since you can’t smoke in restaurants in Florida, and she still doesn’t like to stop at them, I think that she’s just being snooty. She doesn’t like a bunch of rednecks in a greasy spoon restaurant. This one was exactly that way.

The waitresses look like they had hair styles from the late fifties-early sixties and could have worked at Mel’s Diner (you young people don’t remember that sitcom but one of the waitresses in that show coined the phrase “Kiss my grits!!”) Anyway, since I was alone, I sat at the counter on a stool. While my waitress finished waiting on a table full of rednecks just getting off third shift, I looked around to see what was going on and was trying to take in “Americana”.

In a Waffle House, they cook the food right in front of you, so I watched that scene. The cook looked like he could have been just released from prison. I couldn’t tell for sure, but I was afraid to look to see if he was wearing the Martha Stewart Model 851 ankle tether, in case he caught me staring. He was about 6′ 3″, went around 250 pounds of solid muscle, had his hair covered in a black bandana (a “doo rag”), and sported a bad attitude. His shift was just getting over and his replacement was running a little late. He caught a glimpse of the day cook in the back room and I heard him say “Tell that little weasel to get his a@# out here”. The day cook stood about 5′ 8″ and couldn’t weigh over 135 pounds. Why he would cross the night cook, especially that guy, is beyond me.

In the middle of all this I had ordered a pecan waffle (the only reason I like to eat there…I love pecan waffles) and two eggs over easy with coffee and a glass of ice water. The “escapee from Folsom” started the waffle along with two others, and then the day cook took over. He cooked the eggs and set them on a plate ready to be served. My waitress took the three waffles out, gave me one and served the other two to a couple in a booth at the end of the restaurant. When she came back, she served the eggs and I had to ask her for syrup. I also told her my waffle was plain and wasn’t the pecan waffle I ordered and would she please take the extra 15 cents off my bill. I never did get my ice water. She was probably miffed that I didn’t leave a better tip.

About 150 miles up the road I stopped for gas and went in to get something to drink. There were two women at the counter when I got there. I spent a couple of minutes finding what I wanted, and when I got to the counter, the two women were still there. The first one finally left after two minutes searching for, and finding a nickel so she wouldn’t have to break a $1 bill.

The second one asked for a pack of Newport 100s. The clerk asked whether she wanted a soft pack or box. You would have thought she had asked a question like “What is the meaning of life”? The girl froze and couldn’t respond so, after a couple of minutes, the clerk said “You don’t know what you want so you’re getting a box”. The girl said fine, started to walk away, then came back and wanted an instant lottery ticket. There were about 10 different kinds and she took a couple of minutes trying to decide which one she wanted. I pay at the pump for the gas so I don’t have to waste a lot of time waiting to pay inside so my patience had worn a little thin.

That evening I stopped at a motel just South of Indianapolis and got a room, a single, non-smoking. I was at the end of the hall and went in. The room was nice and clean. When I looked in the bathroom, it was as big as our living room in the mobe and I realized I was in a handicapped room. The toilet was high enough that my feet didn’t touch the floor and when I took a shower in the walk-in handicapped shower, there was water all over the bathroom floor since there wasn’t a lip to step over. I slipped and slid all the way to the door holding onto the wall. I didn’t want to fall and have the motel maid walk in the next day to find a 59 year old naked man on the floor bleeding from another bump on a battered head.

I called Jean, went to dinner and figured I would go to bed early. I ate at a Bob Evans restaurant. I hate eating alone since you don’t have anyone to talk to and you stare at the table in front of you, but I didn’t want a McDonalds Happy Meal, so I was forced to eat out in the open. You can’t help but overhear the people at the table next to you and I heard the woman say “Have you ever tried” I could tell they were on a set-up match date and I didn’t want to intrude, but I couldn’t block the sound out, so I heard all about how he and his ex-wife had split up after 18 years (he was at least my age if not older) and all the sordid details about how she “did him wrong” and I heard her talk about how her ex shafted her during the divorce and what each of her 4 children thought about the whole mess (she looked to be 10 years older than me, but maybe was just showing the ravages of a nasty breakup).

I ate as quickly as I could and got out of there, filled the car with gas, and went to the motel to go to bed. I zonked out at about 9:30, woke up at 4:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I left there at 5 AM, was eating breakfast at a Bob Evens in Coldwater at 8, and was at the cottage at 9:30. I opened the garage door and, to my surprise, there was a dead raccoon in the trap I had set for red squirrels. My friend, Ron is a real estate agent, has the place listed for sale and said he caught one a week before that, also in the garage. The only way in, since the house is closed up, is through the attic. So what I thought was a couple of red squirrels is a family of raccoons.

One the plus side, raccoons are dumb and should be easy to catch. On the minus side, they make a mess and I’ll have to open the access to the attic to clean up. I spent at least an hour and a half trying to get my Dish Network back on line with three different technical support guys to find out that the receivers work fine, but there may be a break in the line from the dish to the receivers. So my first thought is that the raccoons may have chewed through the cable ‘cuz it was in their way. Tomorrow I’ll have to get in there and see if that’s what happened. I have fears of crawling in there, having a raccoon jump on my back and start biting me, me thrashing around and falling through the ceiling into the living room. Anyone want to buy a cottage?

Ta Ta,

Just (It Really Is Good To Be Home) Jack

Breaking The Wind

 No, No, No! It’s not an e-mail about breaking wind, fluffing, tooting, ripping one off, slipping one out, passing gas, or any of the other descriptions of the sometimes embarrassing bodily function. I mean riding a bike and cutting through the wind. Ever since last Saturday (4/8), the wind has been blowing from 10 to 20 mph. On this Saturday (4/15) it dropped to 5 to 10 mph and made the long bike a whole lot easier.

There were times it was at least 10 mph and I was headed directly into it, but it’s a lot better than 15 or 20. Yes, I whine about it but I have tried to use it as a challenge to become a better biker in windy conditions. I’m not sure if I’ve gotten any better, but I’m not as intimidated, so I’ll call that a victory.

As far as Saturday’s ride goes, what a difference a week makes. Those of you who didn’t just delete last weeks ramblings may remember that I had a little trouble going from the bike to the run. This week it was almost the opposite. I was supposed to ride 2 to 3 hours at heart rate 1, but I learned to ride from “Jean the Biking Machine”, so I actually rode 3:28:18 (Jean says “If 3 hours is good, then 3:28:18 must be better”). I did keep it at HR 1, didn’t push it into the wind, and didn’t chase after the two guys in 57.89 miles that passed me.

When I got done, the training schedule called for a 15 to 20 minute transition run at heart rate 1 or 2. It was 79 degrees, so I knew to take it easy. I was off on the run in less than 4 minutes and my Garmin kept beeping at me to slow down. I did slow down, and it beeped at me again to slow down. Every time I heard it beep I’d slow a little more and it kept it up the entire 20 minutes.

I know to most of you runners I run at a snail’s pace but for me it seems like it’s faster than I should be going this soon in the training schedule just coming off the bike. It must have something to do with translating from a fast leg turnover on the bike, to a slower controlled leg turnover on the run. Oh great!! Another thing to work on before September 10th. I think I’m over thinking everything.

We went to the dinner theater Friday evening to see Brigadoon. My older brother, Bill, and I were in St. Joe High School operettas and we did Brigadoon in my Junior year (his Senior year). I didn’t remember what part I played until Bill reminded me. When the show started it all came back to me and I remembered all of the songs and most of my lines. OK. I’ve always had a little weight problem, I wear glasses, I’m not very good at sports, I made a career as an accountant, I sang in the choir, I’m a preacher’s kid…I go to weekly meetings, get up and say “My name is Jack and I’M A GEEK”.

We had a great time. Bill was with his wife Lois, brother Bob was with his friend Patti (or Patty, or Pattee, or however she spells it), and Mom was my date. The photographer came around and took pictures of each couple ($20.00 for an 8×10, a refrigerator magnet, and two key chains) but Mom and I didn’t buy ours. Mom’s eyes were closed and she swears it wasn’t because she got “tanked” during the cocktail hour and, since she’s my Mom, I believe her. She believed a lot of the stories we told her when we were growing up so we owe it to her.

I’m headed back to Michigan this coming Thursday and should be there by Friday afternoon. I’ll pack my long johns in my overnight bag so I can jump into them if need be. I’ll miss being close to family, the great weather and excellent bike trails, but I’ll be glad to get back to Michigan with Jean and friends. It may take a little while for me to shed my jacket while everyone else is in shorts and a t-shirt, but bear with me.


Just (Warm For A Little While Longer) Jack


 I went to a Club Wildwood Civic Association meeting the other night and remembered why I hadn’t attended any in a long time. Nothing much was on the agenda, and the bulk of the meeting was one of the members getting up and taking 15 minutes to explain (what should have taken 2 minutes) that the water pressure in the park had dropped because the government had required the park to install an anti-siphon valve on our side of the line coming in.

Apparently it didn’t sink in to everyone that there wasn’t anything we could do about it because one of the guys motored his wheelchair up to the microphone and complained that you had to flush the toilet twice (I’m trying to get the visuals of that out of my head), there wasn’t enough pressure to run his shower massage and this was resulting in using more water which would eventually raise our lot rents.

That prompted the first guy to get back up and in 10 minutes explain that we were using less water than the same time last year and go into extreme detail as to how to adjust your lawn sprinkler valves so they would spray farther with less pressure.

A rumor was going around about an orgy in the swimming pool. That conjured up some real images that kept me awake for two nights until I found out it was three drakes and one hen Mallard (ducks).

One of the guys spent some time before the meeting adjusting the microphones around the room so people could get up and speak their mind. There is always a parade of committee chair-people giving an update on what their committee did that past month. Of course, the first woman got up and fiddled with the microphone, turned one of the two switches off, and then took a couple more minutes to get both switches on at the same time. The highlight of the evening was the “Foxy Ladies” (one of them is from Hastings) dressing up in clown costumes and doing about a 10 minute skit after the meeting was over.

The guy that went up in the wheelchair and complained about the water pressure was “Skip” Skippon (I wonder how he got that nickname). It reminded me that, as a kid, I always wanted a nickname. One of the first guys I met in St. Joe when we moved there was Daryl O’Daye and, since he was a good left-handed baseball player, was nicknamed Lefty. My best friend growing up in St. Joe was Don Dettman. His father was also Don Dettman so instead of calling him Junior, he was nicknamed Skip (but his mother called him Bish…where that came from I don’t know).

In Hastings Paul Peterson is known as Trum (but his brothers call him Charlie), Mike Corrigan is known as Crash, Stub, or Wrong Way, one of the other Peterson boys (John, I think) is nicknamed Weezer, Tom Havens is known as Abner, Rod Miller is known as Pub, Dick Brower is Mooch, Melvin LaJoye Jr. is known as Bud, Melvin LaJoye Sr. is known as Bunny (he fathered several children) and the list goes on and on.

I guess Jack is a nickname for John, my real name, but that’s not what I had in mind. A real nickname should refer to one of your strong points, although Dick Brower got his nickname, Mooch, for a reason and it wasn’t one of his strong points. I never could think of one I wanted and soon realized that you don’t choose your own nickname. It gets chosen for you and either sticks or it doesn’t. At one time, a couple of St. Joe kids called me Rev, since my father was a minister. Although I was and always will be proud of Dad’s accomplishments, Rev was maybe the last nickname I wanted (other than Stinky, Tubby or Pee-wee…don’t ask) and, thankfully, it didn’t stick.

Friday was an optional training day off, but if we decide to do something, the schedule calls for a 3,000 meter swim, a 30 – 50 minute run or a 60 minute ride, but not all three. Of course, if it says not all three, I interpret that to mean doing two is OK, so I swam at 6 AM and went to Starkey Park for an easy ride around 11. The wind was 5 to 10 mph from the South and I rode from Starkey to SR-54. The last couple of miles is open country into the wind and I had some trouble keeping my heart rate down and going any faster than 15.5 mph.

When I got to SR-54 I did a loop around the parking lot and headed back. As I went through, a guy came from SR-54 and rode onto the trail just ahead of me. He looked to be a “biker” ‘cuz he reached into his back pocket, picked something out, and rode no handed for a while trying to open whatever he had in his hand. I rode behind him, caught up quickly, and was on his wheel after a mile. I must have caught a “bit-o’-Jean”-itis over the winter because I kicked it up a little and passed him. I said “It’s a perfect day to ride” as I went by and kicked it some more to separate a little.

I didn’t look back, but with the wind following, I rode in what turned out to be a perfect gear. I didn’t get out of heart rate one, but looked down and I was doing 22.5 mph most of the time. I looked back and he was sucking my wheel (a bike term meaning he was drafting me…get your head out of the gutter) so I kicked it a little more. We rode that way for three and a half miles until we got to the Starkey turn-off and he never passed. At times I was going 24.5 without any effort. I slid my bike into the left lane, gave him a left turn signal and a respective nod. I’M A BIKER. Not good! Not Fast! But I’ve overcome the post-crash fear and I feel like I belong.

Just as I thought all was well in the biking world, along came Saturday. The schedule called for a 150 to 210 minute heart rate 2-3 ride. I decided to go to Anderson Snow Park, ride the North trail to the end (somewhat hilly), turn around and ride the 28 miles back to SR-52, then turn back North and ride 10 miles back to Anderson Snow. It was a good plan had it not been for the weather. The ride up to Crystal River was with virtually no wind. The weatherman had predicted winds from the South at 15 to 25 and gusty and that started just as I turned around at the North end. I rode 28 miles into a brisk wind with the temp at around 81 and the humidity in the 90% range.

The water stop at SR-50 was cordoned off with police tape (no, it wasn’t a crime scene…they were doing some remodeling) so I couldn’t stop there for water. Why I didn’t stop at Anderson Snow when I went past is beyond me, but I was dehydrated by the time I got to the water stop at SR-52. The last 10 miles I couldn’t go any faster than 12.5 mph and had to work hard to keep that up. I filled my water bottle and took a big long drink. The water tasted like it was pumped from the stagnant pond just behind us but at that point I would have drank anything. I drank half my bottle, filled it again and started on the 10 miles back to the car.

I finished the water before I got there and took out a bottle of Gatorade I had in the cooler and started out on a 30 to 40 minute transition run off the bike. I got to a mile and a half, was overheated and could tell my heart rate was higher than it should be so the “Jack” in me said stop and I did. I walked back to the car and, by then, my heart rate had come back down and I was somewhat cooler. I drank my recovery drink and was nauseated but recovered in a couple of hours. Shades of my last Ironman Wisconsin!!

So I have all summer to figure out if I need to pump more fluids sooner, or if my body just doesn’t absorb them very well and I’ll have to take my stomach “to the woodshed” a couple of times to teach it proper hydration. I’m retired so I have all kinds of time to figure it out. We’ll see how well I’ve learned come September 10.

Just (Not Coping Well With Heat And Humidity) Jack

New Career

 Most of you know I made a quick trip to Michigan to attend the March hospital board meeting and take one load of stuff back, mainly the beer brewing equipment. Jean decided to stay up there but I’m back down in Florida for three more weeks.

The drive up was bad enough but the ride back down was a struggle. I hate driving on the interstates but they’re the best way back and forth. Since I drove back alone, I had to keep myself occupied so I listened to oldies radio stations. Each station would last about 20 minutes and then would be out of range. The morning radio was blanketed by radio talk people and I think I’ve found a new profession. I’ve been retired for four years now and have been getting a little bored, so I’ve been thinking about something to do with my free time. I also need money to help pay for the $1,375 in bills to clean out, dig up and replace a plugged and broken sewer line in Hastings. Jean was tired of cleaning up s*#$ off the basement floor so WE decided to spend the money.

I don’t want to do anything remotely associated with accounting, so I’ve decided I’m best suited to be a “laffer”. The first time I ever remember a professional “laffer” was Ed McMahon on the Tonight Show. No matter how stupid Johnny Carson’s jokes were, he would break out laughing.

On the radio shows there is usually a host accompanied by two “laffers”. The host tells a dumb joke or makes a supposedly funny comment and the “laffers” start laughing. A follow-up comment comes and the laughs get louder. Every once in a while they kick in with a cliché like “I hate it when that happens” or “Been there…Done that”. I’ve always been a quiet laugher, but to be a “laffer” on a radio show, you have to be loud. And, I’ll have to learn to suppress comments like “That wasn’t funny at all” or “Boy, was that stupid”. I’ll practice all summer and try out after IM Wisconsin.

Speaking of IM Wisconsin, our 24 weeks of training started this past Monday. After a swim in the indoor pool at Pennock, I broke out everywhere (believe me…you don’t want to see the pictures). I had the normal itch spots here and there but had welts the size of silver dollars in two or three unmentionable places, and it drove me nuts. The outdoor pools don’t seem to bother me so I’ll be OK at least until I get back to Michigan. Maybe I’ll start lake swimming early. There are lots of groups that swim in San Francisco Bay all the time, so swimming in Michigan at the beginning of May can’t be much colder.

Saturday was the first long ride, but it wasn’t any longer than the rides we’ve been doing at San Antonio. Our friend Larry, the 73 year old biker from Buffalo, asked if I wanted to ride in a bike tour from Starkey Park to raise some money for Alzheimer’s research. They had several events but the bike tours were 25K, 50K and 100K (100K is 62 miles for you non-metric people). The 100K fit my training schedule so, for $20 and another t-shirt I’ll probably never wear, I did a catered ride. Only 25 or 30 did the 100K and most of them rode as groups.

Larry has been riding slow due to a nagging injury and didn’t want to do 62 miles so I rode alone until about the 8th mile when a guy and two girls went by me. They weren’t going much faster than me and the girls were drafting behind the guy. At Highway 52 (12+ miles) the guy took off and the girls rode side by side. The scenery was great so I hooked in about 8 bike lengths back and stayed with them all the way to the 31 mile turn-around. They were going around 21 most of the time and I didn’t push out of heart rate 2 to stay with them. We chit-chatted at the cross streets but didn’t say much else.

At about the 25 mile mark the slender one shrieked, swerved and slowed way down. There was a snake crossing the trail and she is deathly afraid of snakes. She apologized and I told her I was used to it. I said that Jean, my wife, was afraid of snakes and she almost ran me off the Withlacoochie Trail when a fierce one reared up 5 feet tall and snarled at her. They got a laugh and the girl seemed to calm down. At the 100K turn around they went on and I turned around like the rules said to do. After running the red light a few weeks ago my life of crime is over.

I stopped on the way back at Highway 50 for a peanut butter and grape jelly “Uncrustable” and they came along a few minutes later. I asked them why they didn’t turn around at the sign and they said they weren’t doing the tour, had started at Highway 54 and wanted to hit their 30 mile mark before they turned around. They are triathletes and will be doing the Fort Desoto Triathlon in the next couple of weeks. I left and within a mile they were passing me again. I stayed with them until Highway 52 and they stopped, so that was the end of the good scenery. OK. I’m happily married, I’m old, but I’m not dead! It was a fun ride and was for a good cause so I enjoyed it.

The long run for today (Sunday) was the same as I’ve been running the last few weeks (80 to 100 minutes…8 to 10 miles at 10 minute mile pace) so it wasn’t much of a change except I had to run alone. Bummer!! I enjoyed last week’s run. Larry Etter said he wanted to run with me because he needed to run really slow. Thanks for the self-image booster, Larry. Actually, I know what he meant. I kept him from running too fast and he kept me on my planned 10 minute mile pace.

Better go. Just did a 22 mile recovery bike and need to go to the YMCA to lift. Isn’t Sunday a day of rest?

Just (Back In The Training Groove And Lovin’ It) Jack