Monthly Archives: August 2007

Age Is A State Of Mind

I’m not sure whether I believe it or not when people say age is a state of mind. When I look at how hard it is to roll out of bed in the morning with nothing hurting, I know I’m getting old. When I look at how much slower I am at almost everything than I was just a few years ago, I know I’m getting old. When I look at how long it takes to recover from a five mile run, or a forty mile bike, or a two mile swim, I know I’m getting old. Don’t get me wrong! I know there are a whole lot of people younger than me that can’t do a five minute run, or a forty minute bike, or a two-laps-in-the-pool swim, so at least I’m ahead of all of them.

I wrote last week about driving “the girls” down to Three Rivers and looking up places where I used to live and go to school and how it made me take a trip down memory lane. So Monday I drove up to “the cottage” at Bass Lake near Traverse City to see my mother and my Aunt Juanita (we called her Aunt Neat). My grandfather built it in 1950 when I was three so it’s been in the family all my life and we spent every summer vacation there as I was growing up. I helped do a couple of things that were too heavy or too awkward for Mom and Aunt Neat to do and then I took another journey into the past. I remembered all the good times we had there and every story I told was a story of not just me, but family activities. I didn’t feel like I was six years old again, but I did feel a lot younger than sixty and that must be what people mean when they say age is a state of mind.

I know I’m not supposed to reveal other peoples’ ages, but if you know I’m sixty, you know my mother must be older than that, so I’ll tell you that Mom is 82 and Aunt Neat is 78 (sorry Mom…don’t tell Neat I gave away the secret). Both are in excellent health but certainly not spring chickens. I listened to them both tell stories about when they were growing up in Owosso. They talked like it was yesterday and they were still teenagers. They talked about their sisters and their friends and what they did after school. If I had closed my eyes I would have thought they were both still sixteen and their sisters and parents were still here with them. So then I believed, even if only for a day or two, that you’re only as old as you think you are.

Many of you know by now that Thursday was quite exciting around here. We were watching the evening news when they said that Hastings was going to have a severe thunderstorm around six-thirty. The wind was very strong and was swirling here at the condo so Jean made a bee-line for downstairs. I was looking out the window when I saw what I thought was a large limb falling. I realized that a whole tree was going down and, luckily, it fell toward the golf course.

It was a huge oak tree and the very large one next to it has quite a crack at the base and will probably have to be cut soon. There are several “widow-makers” (broken branches hanging from the tree that’s left) that need to be taken care of before it will be safe to walk around out there. At the end of the cul-de-sac in front of the condo another two trees bit the dust, missing the cart shed at the Country Club by inches. With all the bad luck we’ve had in selling the Green Street house and the cottage, we were lucky that the trees fell the other way and not on the three seasons room. The cottage and the house on Green Street had no damage at all. The power was out at the cottage for four days and all I lost was three small bags of frozen vegetables, a half a jar of mayo, and eight eggs. Small price to pay compared to the people who were in the path of the tornado over by Potterville.

Glad for Nancy and Bill that all went well and the recovery train is on the tracks.

Just (Happy To Have Dodged Another Bullet) Jack

Driving Miss Daisy and Mrs Daisy

It speaks to the fact that I have no life when I volunteer to drive Jean and Becky to a Triathlon in Three Rivers on a Saturday morning at 5 AM when I could be doing so many other things. Kim and Diane rode with Judy and a few more “ladies” from Hastings were there. I know I got estrogenated (that’s an often-used word in the “Real Man’s Survival Handbook”), but when you look at the ages of the group, I’m sure it’s a mild case and I should recover fully with no lasting effects.

Actually, I had a good time and it may have stimulated my desire to get back into training and racing. My training is still on hold due to equipment failures, but the parts have been refurbished and should be as good as new in a month or so. I still say that standing around watching a race is almost as tiring as doing one. OK, OK! I exaggerate, but it is a bit grueling. It’s also hard to watch everyone else eat after the race and not steal some of the food. I’ve done too many races where I didn’t have a good day, finished late, and, by the time I got to the chow line all the food was gone. Since I didn’t pay for the race yesterday, I don’t think it’s fair for me to take the food. I know they throw a lot away, but I don’t want to eat the last of something that was in the mind of the last racer to finish and that’s what kept them going.

I lived from the time I was 5 until I was 11 at Center Park (a wide spot in the road with a church and nothing else), about 10 miles from the race site at Corey Lake. We met at a restaurant in Schoolcraft for an after-race-meal, but not before I drove past where I used to live and took a short trip down memory lane. The house burned down and another one is in its place, but I recognized the place immediately. The one-room school is gone from the corner about two city blocks away. It was bordered on two sides by Osage Orange trees, but now it’s a corn field. As I look back at the times we played eenie-eye-over, red light-green light, softball, football and tag in that schoolyard I’m reminded of a quieter, more serene lifestyle. Going to town was a really big deal and we didn’t eat in restaurants very often. When we did, I heard my first music from a juke-box (Blueberry Hill). My only exposure to drugs was taking the polio vaccine in a lump of sugar. When I hear today about young children growing up in homes with “meth labs”, I thank God I had the parents I did.

I showed the cottage Wednesday, a guy stopped by Friday asking about it while I was in the middle of brewing Fat Tire Amber Ale, and it will probably be shown to someone else tomorrow at around 10 AM. I don’t know why the mild flurry of activity but I’m not getting worked up about it. I still plan to pull it off the market and rent it out for a year or two if nothing happens by September 1st.

Just (Thinking About Nancy and Bill On Wednesday) Jack


This past Monday I had to drop something off at Pennock Hospital (no, not my dignity…that happens September 13th at 11:30 AM) and I found a parking place near the Health and Wellness Center across the parking lot from where I was going. The car next to me was an older Jeep Cherokee with the hood up. From the driver’s side of that car came a large woman carrying a baseball bat. I wondered what she had in mind. She stopped next to my car, turned to her Jeep and started whacking the exterior fender. That area was full of dents so it wasn’t the first time it had happened. She walked back around the car, hopped in (more like slid in),  turned the key and the car started. I looked under the hood as I got out and walked by and saw a couple of things cobbled together with duct tape (aka Georgia Chrome) and they were fastened to the inside of the fender that had just taken the beating. I used to know a lot about cars when I was young, but nowadays there is so much crap under the hood I don’t know what is what. So now I’m curious if you need a wooden bat like I saw the girl use or if an aluminum bat would be even better. The next time I take my car in for a tune up, I’ll ask.

On the way back to Hastings from the cottage the other day, I was behind a woman in a car with a handicapped license plate. She was driving slowly down the hills (around 40 m.p.h.) and would get back up to 55 m.p.h. on the uphills and on the only straight areas where I could have passed. I knew I was in for an interesting ride so I settled in and relaxed. It was then that I saw her cross the center line a couple of times and turn the turn signal on where there was no cross road. I looked closer and a small dog was hanging out the driver’s side window. I’m guessing the dog’s antics running back and forth across her lap was causing the car to swerve and the dog must have unintentionally turned on the turn signal. I like dogs, and I know they are smarter than many of the drivers I’ve seen in the past, but THEY DON’T HAVE HANDS…PEOPLE SHOULD NOT LET THEM DRIVE. And besides…this one was a small “toy” dog so I’m sure his feet could not reach the pedals.

I can visualize another problem. You’ve had a couple of drinks, so you let the dog drive while you ride in the passenger’s seat eating combos and drinking wine disguised as Gatorade in a sports bottle. All of a sudden you drop a combo on the floor of the car and, within a millisecond, the dog is down there eating it. WHO’S DRIVING THE CAR? Dogs just don’t have the necessary concentration skills and their driving should be against the law. Sorry Becky. Please don’t send the ASPCA to my house.

My Ironman race “weather pox” history has blended into the Sunday runs. The last time we ran from the lake it was really, really hot and really, really humid. We ran from the condo this morning and it was really, really humid and uncomfortably warm. I sent out an e-mail saying that the run was at our place but we would only have bread and water. People felt sorry for us and brought all kinds of good food. That was great and thanks to all who made the effort, but it set my “weight loss plan” back a few days.

Rocky, Jean’s youngest, and Sara, my middle child, are home for their 10th high school class reunion. Not counting the ride home from the airport, we’ve seen Rocky for about an hour and Sara for about the same amount. Actually, we’re happy that they’re out having fun with their friends and we haven’t gotten any calls from the police department, so they must be being good. But, wallflowers they ain’t! Of course, when Rocky got home, “Mom” thought he looked undernourished so she bought him a banana cream pie. He’s had one piece and I’ve had two. Another blow to the “Just Jack Patented Diet Plan”. Where’s Kirstie Allie when you need her.

I just got the ingredients to brew Fat Tire Amber Ale, a beer brewed by the New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. Fat Tire is their flagship brew so I thought I would see how we like it. It may become the signature beer of the Trilanders.

Just (No Weight Loss Yet But No Gain Either) Jack

Unrelated Drivel

While we were at the Dimond cottage at Torch Lake last weekend for the Mini Tri Camp, I saw something attached to a tree just off the front deck and I didn’t know what it was. You know me well enough to know that I couldn’t just let it go, and I believe you can find anything on the internet. So I went to an “all experts” website, selected a category and a person who should know what it was and asked the question:

“I was at a friend’s cottage in the northern part of Michigan. Attached to a birch tree was a hand carved piece of wood in the shape of a “T”. The base was about two inches long and was about as big around as a pencil. It was flat on one side and was tacked to the tree with a wedge at the bottom to make it perfectly vertical. The “stem” of the T was round, started out about the diameter of a small nail and tapered to a point. This piece was about 15 inches long. It was quite supple and I noticed in the morning the tip end was about 3 inched below horizontal. In the afternoon it was about 1/2 inch above horizontal. What is it?”

The answer came back: “This is what’s known as a “weather stick”  popular in the new england region of the U.S.    simple to make, cheap to buy.  easily found if doing a search.  try this link for lots more info and the science of it.  thanks for the question.” . Now we can all sleep better tonight.

Thursday evening I was talking to some friends who were about to leave for a couple of months for their place in Montana. Since the cottage at Crooked Lake hasn’t sold, I’ve thought seriously about taking it off the market and renting it year round for a year or two until the housing climate gets better.  They have rented their place at Gull Lake for 17 years from September 1 to June 1 and have only had one bad experience. You know my luck in the past, so my one in 17 years bad experience would probably happen the first year. Anyway, they were telling me of all the ways they had offered it for rent and suggested I go to Craig’s List and look at the listings so I did.

I was looking through the listings of “wanted to rent” for Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. I just happened on the following one in the Grand Rapids listings:   $100 Need One Bedroom For Me And My Mistress-Afternoons   My mistress and I would like to rent a bedroom of someone’s home for $100/month. We only need a place in the afternoons, and an occasional overnight. Would prefer a discreet, upscale house with a proximity to downtown GR and northwards.

I figured this must be a joke, but the more I thought about it, I’m thinking it may be real. Just when I thought no one would ever reply to this ad, we talked about it Friday night and Becky thought it would be a good way to make a few bucks. She seemed genuinely disappointed when I said the person wanted downtown Grand Rapids and north. I thought it would be a lot of work to wash the sheets every day and she said they could wash their own. Besides, she continued, they would probably only use it every couple of weeks. I answered that if they were only going to use it every couple of weeks, why would he want a mistress. We could see that the conversation was headed South so we dropped it at that.

Just (Learned A Bunch Of New Things This Week) Jack

A Bear Doesn’t Always @&$* In The Woods

It’s taken a couple of days to recover from the frenzied pace of the second annual “Mini Tri Camp” at Torch Lake. Again Diane and Mike were gracious enough to open up the “cottage” to several of us for triathlon training. Many of us came up separately so we had to stay up late and make sure everyone got in safely. I’d say we huddled around the campfire, but actually we sat in lounge chairs on the deck, drank some wine, and told lots of stories.

I expected everyone to get up bright and early and be in the water swimming by 7 AM. Not so! We didn’t get up until a quarter to eight and we sat around drinking coffee until someone finally suggested we may want to swim before the wind started. We straggled into the water at around nine and didn’t swim very hard nor very far. We straggled out of the water the same way we went in and it was on to “the bike”. Triathletes know that the transition from swim to bike is important and you do it as fast as you can…sort of like controlled chaos. I figured the rest of the group would practice the transition, which we all refer to as T-1, and I would watch since I’m still not biking. After a while I did point out to the group that “T-1” was approaching 45 minutes so, apparently, that part of training wasn’t in the camp plans.

I kind of expected everyone to ride the 45 miles around the lake and go for a 20 or 30 minute transition run afterwards. Again, not so. Three people rode around the lake. A few people rode down to Alden where they were celebrating Alden Days. They didn’t turn right around and come back, so I’m guessing they stopped and perused the vendor tents. Another group rode to Central Lake (around six miles away) and shopped until the credit card started to melt and rode back happy but poorer. I think only one or two people did the transition run. The rest filtered in, went back down to the lake, and rested in the sun. Transition from bike to run, also known as T-2, also failed to make the camp syllabus, so I guess T-2 practice is now going on 5 days.

We did get out and run on Sunday morning and followed it up with a cool off in the lake. A couple of people swam at least some distance while others, including me, washed off the sweat in the lake and rested from the long run in the easy chairs. Between the naps and laying in the sun, everyone made a full recovery and no one was injured.

On the way home, about a mile North of the first Cadillac exit, we saw a bear standing by a fence near the expressway. Yes, we actually did see a bear and alcohol was not involved in the sighting. I’ve driven Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula for several years and I can count the wild bears I’ve seen from the car on one hand. Now I’ll have to grow a sixth finger if I ever want to say that again. So now when you ask someone a question with an obvious answer and they say “Is the Pope Catholic?” or “Does a bear @&$* in the woods?”, you can say “Not always!”. Well, I guess the Pope is always Catholic, but you know what I mean.

Just (Finally Rested Up From Tri Camp) Jack