Monthly Archives: December 2006

Happy New Year

The Crack 

 Jean at Chassahowitzka

I had forgotten how beautiful some of the Florida back-country can be. We went on a canoe trip with Bruce and Ruth Gee and Bruce’s father. The place is Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge which is about 20 miles North of here.

We rented a canoe from a canoe livery at the boat ramp and went exploring. We first went upstream in the Chassahowitzka River to some springs, then went downstream and into another little backwater where there were more springs. We went farther downstream and stopped at an opening where Baird Creek dumps into the main river and had lunch.

We then went up Baird Creek about 25 minutes to where the stream started. Springs flow out of a big crack in the limestone into a pool about 50 feet in diameter. On the left side of one of the pictures you can see the crack. No, not the one of Jean. Get your minds out of the gutter.

When they asked us to go on a canoe ride, Jean was more than a little apprehensive. She swam 2.4 miles in the Pacific Ocean, which is full of sharks; swam 2.4 miles in the Gulf of Mexico, which is also full of sharks and stinging jellyfish; rode 26 miles through the backwoods of Northern Michigan in November, twice. And yet she didn’t know if she wanted to take a canoe ride in a River that wasn’t any more than 4 feet deep. I don’t pretend to understand.

Jean thought the highlight of the whole trip was watching three guys in a boat fishing for Mullet with a bow and arrow. They didn’t get one while we watched them, but we could hear them giving their tribal yell after we had gone about 200 yards downstream. If you’ve ever eaten Mullet you would know that the “yell” was a primitive man thing ‘cuz they aren’t that good to eat.

Our last ride of the year this morning was out at San Antonio, not far from where the Christmas Day tornado struck. You wouldn’t know it from where we rode because it didn’t look damaged at all. The parking lot where the Sunday rides start out had about fifty cars when we got there and all but a tandem had left already. We only rode 30 miles but it had enough hills to make it a good workout. I had forgotten how peaceful the countryside is around there.

Jean held back and stayed with Larry and me for almost the whole ride. Yes. I don’t need to tell you that the only reason she did was because she couldn’t remember where the turns were. Once we got to a spot where she knew how to get to the car she was off like a shot.

She got that from Jon Anderson I think. Jon would ride with the group on the Saturday rides until we turned and started back to town. He would make some lame excuse about having to get back and feed the dog (they don’t have a dog) and away he would go. The fast riders would go with him and the slow riders (ME) would trudge along and make sure no one had any bike trouble. If I had bike trouble, TOO BAD!

I hope you all have a Happy New Year. Try not to drink too much tonight and don’t drive if you do. Jean and I usually stay up and watch the new year come in, but we’re usually in bed by 12:05 and asleep by 12:06.

Just (Happy To Have Survived One More Year) Jack

Christmas Eve

 When I ran this morning it was 62 degrees and humid. It’s no wonder that my body tells me it doesn’t feel like Christmas Eve. I’m really glad that I didn’t have to run in snow or ice, not that Michigan has any of that either…YET!

Since I finished Ironman Wisconsin, I have scaled back my swimming (non-existent), biking (20 miles three times a week) and running (three or four times a week for a total of about 14 miles) and my weight shows it. Now that Christmas is almost here I feel like I’m in my 9th month of pregnancy and I appear to be eating for two.

Anyway, I’m not going to worry about it until after New Years Eve and then I’ll get back into a training mode. That includes eating the way I’m supposed to and stepping up the training. Oh, I don’t mean that I’ll automatically switch into running five miles on short days and ten or more miles on Sunday or biking thirty miles hard on short days and sixty or more miles on Saturday. I plan to gradually increase the mileage and wait for a while to increase the intensity. I’ll have to wait until the dome is taken off the pool at the YMCA before I can even think about swimming.

I’ve finally finished my Christmas shopping and I’m glad I don’t have to go out today and fight the long lines and desperate people at the mall. It’s easy to second guess your choices on presents or to think you didn’t get someone enough and one more present would be just right. I’ll fight those thoughts and stick with the plan.

Jean and I decided that, with closing on the condo in January which will give us four homes and all the attendant expenses, we wouldn’t get each other anything. I translate that into not getting each other very much, so that’s what I did.

I got her a couple of things over the internet that I probably would have paid for anyway later on. Along with that order I got myself a Triathlon calendar. A day later I got an e-mail that said the order would be held up for a while because the calendar was on back order. I sent an e-mail back saying that I didn’t need the calendar in March so cancel that part of the order and send the rest.

I didn’t hear anything for a few days and then I got an e-mail saying that the back order had been filled and the entire order was sent out. I checked the tracking number through UPS and it is scheduled for an on-time delivery December 26th. On the bright side, at least I won’t be wasting a bunch of wrapping paper. Also on the bright side, I think I’m way out of the running for “Husband of the Year 2006” anyway, and this won’t count against me in the competition for 2007.

Merry Christmas to All—

Just (Looking Forward To Fresh Shrimp Tonight) Jack


 Wickipedia defines arachnophobia as an “abnormal fear of spiders”. I’m not even mildly afraid of spiders but that doesn’t mean that I want them crawling all over me, nor do I feel obligated to share my house with them.

The problem isn’t the mobe at all. I haven’t seen any insects or spiders in here since I’ve been here. But the spiders seem to have taken over my car. I noticed them on the trip down to Florida a couple of weeks ago and lately I’ve seen quite a few spider webs from the dash to the passenger seat and from the steering wheel to the driver’s door.

The other day, as I was leaving the YMCA after a workout, I noticed a small black spider above my head near the sun visor. I waited for a traffic light and smooshed him in one of the McDonalds napkins that were in the glove compartment. No, I didn’t steal the napkins. When I stopped for lunch on the way down to Florida, I had taken more than I needed. If I had left them on the table they would just be thrown away, so into the car they went.

The next day, as I was driving down US-19 at 55 m.p.h., I felt something on my leg, looked down, and a spider was crawling through the hair on the inside of my knee. No, I don’t shave my legs! I guess I’m not a real biker or triathlete until I do, but I just can’t bring myself to try and explain it to the people here at Club Wildwood. They are, for the most part, a generation back, and wouldn’t understand. OK! Maybe it’s a “man thing” and I haven’t bridged that gap myself.

Anyway, I smacked the spider and he fell to the floor. I don’t know if he was alive or not, but I didn’t want to look and cause an accident. I can see it now. The Channel 8 news story would go, “An elderly man, 60 years old, was driving down US-19 the other day, and caused a 15 car accident. When he was interviewed at the scene, he stated that he lost control of his car when he saw a spider crawling on his leg.” I would be drummed out of the “real man club” and, with the shame, would be forced to move and not face my neighbors.

As I think back, I’m sure I know why the infestation occurred. The past fall I raked and carried 32 bags of leaves in four trips from the lake to the leaf drop off behind the City Garage in Hastings. I carried another few bags in two trips that Jean had raked up down there too. I’m guessing there were hundreds of spiders in the leaves. When I put the leaves in the bags, I’m sure they didn’t like that and crawled out before I dumped the leaves.

They probably have been living in the nooks and crannies of the Jeep ever since. I can’t imagine what they have been living off from in there, but Jean did ride with me down to Florida. Between carrying half a sandwich from Quiznos for an afternoon snack, and munching on pretzels, I’m sure she left them with plenty of food. Maybe the crumbs aren’t the insects they’re used to, but, as they say, any port in the storm.

I’m working out three times a week at the Y, riding three or four days a week, but only 20 miles each ride, and running three times a week, again at low mileage. My only chance at swimming is at the Y in the outdoor pool. The allergy doesn’t affect me as much in outdoor pools, but they put the cold weather tent over the pool last week, so that ends that until late February.

Just (Nursing Minor Aches And Pains) Jack

P.S. My thoughts and prayers are with the Dickinson family and Laura’s friends after her passing.

Highway War

 I left Michigan on Tuesday morning at 5 AM to return to Florida and the drive turned out to be a struggle. The first hour and a half was through blowing snow with temps in the mid teens. The passing lane was slick so I drove behind whoever was going the slowest in the right lane.

The only complaint I have about my Jeep is that the windshield wipers don’t do a very good job when it’s cold. So as I followed that slow vehicle (a semi), a ton of dirty, salty, oil slicked water was sprayed on the windshield. I turned the wipers on and they touched the window at the very top and the very bottom but didn’t do anything in my field of vision.

I couldn’t see anything through the encrusted film so I hit the washer. The fluid came out and didn’t help at all on my side but the passenger, if there had been one, could see very well. I must have looked like an idiot driving down the highway leaning as far to the right as I could so I could see the road. I stopped for breakfast just North of Indianapolis and, by then, the wipers had warmed up enough to clean the whole window. Of course, by that time, it was sunny and I didn’t need them. I’m sure they’ll continue to work perfectly until I really need them again.

I had been hearing about a three truck accident that had I-69 closed down at the second Pendleton exit. I didn’t know where that was so I asked the crew at the Waffle House and told them about the wreck. The wreck was two exits farther South and one of the patrons said they were exiting traffic at the next exit. My waitress went ballistic ‘cuz her boyfriend was a trucker, but when I told her what time the accident had happened she knew it wasn’t him because he hadn’t left by then. She was so rattled that when I got my bill, I noticed that $6.80 plus $.40 tax equals $6.20 and, yes, I told them about the mistake.

The accident had happened at 7 AM and it was around nine, so I figured they were close to being cleaned up. I looked at the expressway before I got on and traffic was running smoothly, so I figured there weren’t any problems. WRONG!! I just got on and went 1/4 mile when the traffic slowed to a crawl. It took me an hour and a half to go 4 miles and I exited with a zillion trucks and a handful of cars.

Once off I figured I could take the detour, get back on quickly, and away I would go. WRONG!! The exit was at State Highway 67 and there was a traffic light at the crossroad. Only four trucks could make it through on each cycle, so we crawled for another 15 minutes before I made the turn onto 67. I got through that light and figured traffic would clear out quickly. WRONG!! There was a town right there and, that time, six trucks could get through each cycle at each of the three lights.

I turned South off the detour and took Highway 9 from Pendleton all the way past Indianapolis and halfway to Louisville. I made good time and saw parts of “Americana” I’ll probably never see again. I had lost about an hour and a half, but the traffic was light so I was moving right along.

I got to Nashville and decided to take Briley Parkway along the Northeast side of town and bypass the mass of Interstates that all come together. There was some construction but traffic wasn’t held up much since it was 2:30 PM their time. I got on I-24 headed for Chattanooga and figured I’d make up for some of the time I lost. WRONG!! Two miles down the road the traffic was stopped. Again it was a zillion trucks, a half zillion pickup trucks with gun racks in the back window, and a handful of cars.

There was construction and four lanes went down to two in a quarter mile. I was in the “patsy lane” where all the people in the lanes that are ending go flying by, then squeeze in ahead of us. It took a half hour to go that quarter mile and I figured traffic would speed right up. WRONG!! On the other side of the expressway there were two tanker trucks in an accident and the people on our side were going slow and gawking. I didn’t drop into a fit of road rage since the semis are way bigger than the Jeep and the guns in those gun racks in the pickups were probably loaded.

The rest of the trip went smoothly without incident. I stopped for the night in Dalton, Georgia and the temperature was predicted to drop into the high twenties. I had six cases of home-brew in the car and two of the cases had just been bottled. After bottling, the ale I had brewed needed warm temperatures for the yeast to carbonate the beer. I was afraid the cold would kill the yeast and it never would carbonate and I didn’t want the other beer to freeze either, so I carried all six cases of beer into the room and turned up the heat to 70 degrees. I’m sure the neighbors figured I was going to have one heck of a party that night and eagerly awaited their invitation. I must have looked really dumb carrying out those six cases at 3:30 AM when I awoke and left.

I stopped at another Waffle House for breakfast and sat at the counter. I was only there about twenty minutes, but during that time, with no one to talk to, I quietly observed what was going on. The cook was missing all of his upper front teeth and appeared to be a “little slow”. It only took me five minutes to see that the cook and my waitress, a woman around 35 that looked like she had just stepped out of the 1950s with “big hair”, had something going together. They were married, but based on the conversations, it was not to each other. And they both didn’t have any use for the “floater”, a youngish woman who worked the cash register, made coffee, cleaned tables, but didn’t waitress or cook so, to them, didn’t work.

Just (I’m Beginning To Hate That Drive) Jack

The Morning After


Jack and kids 

Surprisingly I felt good this morning after my 60th birthday party. For those of you who didn’t know about it (out of towners) and those of you who couldn’t make it, it was a blast. For those of you who weren’t there, it started at around 7PM and the “show” began at 9.

First, Miss Kandy Kane came out and danced around me, in the guest of honor torture chair, to the song “Hey Big Spender”. I knew right away who it was and I promised not to tell, but her initials are Jan Cohoon They assured me that they weren’t saying I was a big spender but I think they were insinuating I was exactly the opposite. Hey…I’m not cheap, I’m thrifty. Anyway if you ever get to see the home movie, you’ll understand why I say “I may never wash my right arm again”. People wonder what she was whispering in my ear and so do I. Hey, I’m 60…you have to shout.

After that, Jon Anderson explained about the picture of me in the corner of the invitation. It was a picture of me in my underpants at the “underpants run” at Ironman Hawaii. With that, several of my friends in the triathlon group came running out in their underpants with HAPPY B-DAY JUST JACK 60TH written across their rear ends. Several people commented about the two guys who had the Ys…the bottom of the Y fit perfectly in their butt crack.

I was completely surprised and haven’t laughed that hard in a long, long time. The other guests wondered how that many well respected people (until last night) would run around like that in front of perfect (some not so perfect) strangers. Anna said afterward that “When Larry ran by…how do I put this?…his equipment looked like it was trying to escape”.

After that part of the show quite a few people left. Some were going home to take some extra medication and others were trying to figure out how they could go to sleep without having nightmares. It was a fun night and thanks to all who put it together. Remember Jean, you will also turn 60 in a short while and “paybacks are heck (OK Mom?)”.

They tell me the food was great but I didn’t get much of a chance to eat. Jean and I got home at around 12:30 so we sat down and had a piece of cake. I woke up around 8:15 so I slept through the Sunday morning run. I was a good boy so I felt good but a little tired. The kids came in at 5 AM so I’m guessing they were out long enough to catch the early church service

I plan to leave for Florida on Tuesday morning and get down there on Wednesday. I’ve enjoyed being home but I’ve missed the warm weather and there’s lots of snow and ice around here making it difficult to bike or run outside. The lakes are a tad bit cold for swimming so all I’ve been able to do is work out. I know I’ll be back in January for some meetings and again in February for a couple more. Being a “jet setter” isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Just (I Still Feel Forty Five) Jack