Some thoughts on this past week…

     Having been a registered voter for the past  41 years, I’ve had the opportunity to vote in several elections.   I consider voting a privilege and a responsibility.  Going into the voting booth, I’ve usually felt very secure in my voting decisions.  It was with some degree of angst and disdain that I cast my ballot this year.

You see, going into this election, I was struck by feelings I’ve generally had in the past when I’ve heard about the controversies experienced by many third world countries when they held governmental elections.  I’ve often felt some degree of embarrassment for those countries and felt fortunate to be in a country where we don’t have to confront those issues; at least to that degree.  Well, I guess we’ve descended to that level.  So, now it has passed…or has it?  When I heard there were demonstrations, and even riots, in various cities my first thought was:  I thought this might happen if Secretary Clinton had been elected due to some of the statements made by Mr. Trump and some of his constituency.  To hear statements like “he’s not my president” make me think back to when Mr. Obama was elected; accept I don’t recall organized demonstrations or riots.  I only recall hearing this said by individuals.  I feel, since the American Civil War, our country has never been more divided.  I understand many feel an extreme since of being let down, even depressed, by the results of the election.  I think many folks sincerely felt it would turn out differently.  It’s the vicious reaction of many that I don’t get.  I mean, what happened to tolerance?  Does tolerance only work when it’s in one’s own favor?

I believe now is the time for the people of the United States to do what they know is right.  That is, to be kind to one another.  You know, like what Jesus meant when he said we should treat others in the way we want to be treated.   Once the elections are over, we can’t always do a lot about what the government will or won’t do other than offer our opinions.  But we can still effect the changes we want to some degree by respecting each other and our differences.

There’s one other thing.  I still believe in the Constitution of the United States and how  it governs our government and protects us from tyranny.  There are some sharp individuals in our government that are considered constitutional experts and we need to rely on them to “watch the shop” as it is.  Remember, all our elected officials swear an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States.  To do otherwise is tantamount to treason.

So, let’s all hang on and, yes, pray, because the next year is going to be something!

 

Adventure!?

IMG_20161012_124433_107.jpg     Much is said about adventure these days.  It usually seems to carry with it the word “awesome” or “epic”.  However, if one studies the definition of the word, adventure, it is not always as positive as it sounds.

My touring buddy, Chris Johnson, a.k.a. Pondero, and his son-in-law, Carey Jones, recently rode a four day/three night bike tour of the Great Algheny Passage from Pittsburg, Pa. to Cumberland, Md.  My memories of the actual tour will always be one of beautiful weather and scenery.  Around every bend of the trail was like looking at another post care photo.  Also, Chris and Carey are both fine gentlemen who make the touring experience most enjoyable.  Chris is quite gregarious and was able to arrange a couple of meet-ups with internet friends who have a similar affinity for bike touring.  I found the time spent with these new friends to be very pleasant.  I’ll always be grateful to Chris for taking the time to arrange the tour.  Yes, a most positive experience!

There, however, seems to be a “black cloud” hovering over my touring experiences.  I’ve done a few other tours in the past few years.   On two previous occasions, I became ill during the tour (food poisoning one year and acute vertigo the next) and had to drop out whilst the others finished.  This year, it was, unfortunately,  my wife who was dealt the illness.

Cindy and I had traveled in our van to Pittsburgh to meet up with the guys and to begin our tour.  Cindy drove our van on down to Arlington, Va. to spend a few days with her sister and brother-in-law there.  On the day before our tour was to be completed, I received a phone call from my wife stating “I think I’m having a gall bladder attack; what should I do?”  With sketchy cell service in rural Pennsylvania, I was able to get through to her and obtain some history and provide her with some advice.  After finishing the call, I had the sinking feeling her symptoms sounded like acute pancreatitis.  Well, to make a long story short; it was acute pancreatitis and she was admitted to the hospital in Arlington, Virginia.  Fortunately, her family was there to be with her until we finished the tour the next day.  Brother-in-law, Dave, made the drive to Cumberland to transport my bike and me on down to Arlington.  The next few days were very difficult for Cindy however, Praise God, she was discharged six days after admission.  She and I decided she would spend a few days with her family to gain strength before flying home this coming week.  She has been very weak from this serious illness and will require a prolonged period of recovery.  Strange thing is, her physicians could not identify the cause of her pancreatitis.  She does not drink alcohol, has near normal triglycerides, has no gall stones, and is on no medications known to cause pancreatitis.

I tend to be a pragmatist and don’t usually view life through rose colored glasses.  However, I’m also a dreamer and am want to envision myself on long tours through beautiful bucolic vistas without a care in the world.  After three episodes of illness coinciding with bike touring, I’m beginning to think I need to re-evaluate my goals and dreams.  For the time being, I intend to keep my rides much closer to home.   A lot will hinge on how my wife’s health returns over the next months.   This is not intended to be some kind of “pity party”, though, and   I’m not trying to be superstitious thinking this is “bad karma”, I’m just not up to any more “adventures” of this kind for a while.

To get a very good report of our bike tour, wonder on over to the website, pawndero.wordpress.com.  Chris is masterful at documenting in word and image.

Continuing education/B.O.N.

IMG_20160921_100210_780.jpgOne of the requirements for maintaining my state’s medical license is to acquire 50 hours of continuing medical education every two years.  For many years, I’ve returned to Jefferson City, Missouri for this very purpose.  The hospital at which I served my internship provides a nice annual continuing medical education conference the last full weekend in September.  The conference is a nice blend of topics suitable for a family physician and, by attending, I am rewarded with 28.5 hours of C.M.E. credit.  To obtain that credit requires a lot of setting; a lot!  Usually I drive to Jefferson City the day the conference starts; which is about a 3 hour drive from my home.  This year, I decided to do something different.  I elected to drive up a day early and ride the Katy Trail from Jefferson City to McKittrick, spend the night, and ride back to Jefferson City the next morning arriving in time to get cleaned up and ready for my meetings to begin.  I’m really glad I did.

The weather turned out to be beautiful in spite of predictions  of thunderstorms just a few days prior.  This part of the Katy Trail is one of my favorites as it runs the gamut of terrain from open farm land to hardwood forests to many beautiful views of the mighty Missouri River.   The only thing missing from the ride, which I’ve enjoyed on past rides,  was the beautiful autumn hardwood foliage.  I did have the opportunity to see a number of critters on my ride including a box car full of squirrels, a ground hog, a small slumbering copperhead snake, and the tail end of some black snake as it hastily exited the trail.  Riding conditions were probably some of the roughest I’ve ever experienced on the Katy due to unseasonably late and large amounts of rainfall which badly washed and rutted several places on the trail.  Also, some of the worst rutting was where heavy farm machinery had crossed the trail getting from farm to field.

At McKittrick, I stayed at the quaint Joey’s Birdhouse Bed and Breakfast.  McKittrick is a small village located right on the Katy Trail and just a couple miles from the larger German town of Hermann; which is just on the other side of the Missouri River.   The Birdhouse was very comfortable and Joey’s  breakfast was great.  She even treated us to a pawpaw which is also known as an Ozarks banana or a custard fruit.  She explained that a pawpaw is a tropical fruit and it grows wild in parts of Missouri.  I’d highly recommend Joey’s for anyone riding the Katy.

The ride back to Jefferson City started, for me, about 8:30 the next morning.  It was much cooler and I made pretty good time even though I stopped several times for photos and to make a couple of bike adjustments.  As I was riding both out and back, I stopped at some of the various kiosks that provided information on the Lewis and Clark expedition which traveled that same area.  Also, I took note of the many smaller rivers and creeks in the area; many of which have French names.  It was then the idea of B.O.N. came to me.  Anyone who is familiar with the French language will know “bon” means good.  I, then, decided to call my ride a “B.O.N.” ride which not only means good, but “Bicycle Over Night”.   So, if the reader would indulge me, please head on over to my Instagram photos which appear under graveldoc.  Pardon the lack of quality as I only had my cell phone handy to take photos.  Should you have any questions about the Katy Trail, please feel free to ask.  There is also an interactive website called Katy Trail Missouri Trail Maps, Businesses, Events, and more.

Scent-sations.

     It’s been said that scent is one of the most potent sensations to stimulate memory.  I’m often reminded of that when riding my bicycle.

My bike ride to work is about 4 1/2 miles.  In that short distance I have the opportunity to enjoy many sights, sounds, and, yes, scents.  I live in rural southwest Missouri and my commute takes me thorough farm lands; mostly pastures.  Recently, while riding to work one early morning, I caught the musky scent of cattle.  Having grown up on a farm, this scent prompted memories of our raising cattle.  Getting closer to town, I pass a Department of Transportation barn which is usually getting all fired up by the time I ride by.  There, I experienced the scent of diesel fuel or, perhaps, kerosene.  Again, a prompter of memories from farm life.  Finally, this past weekend for two mornings in a row, my wife cooked BACON!  (she does this mostly when my daughter and her family are visiting; as in this past weekend).  Oh, the joy of the scent of meat candy!  This scent often reminds me of my grandparents pantry where they often kept hams they had cured after butchering hogs.  I was very young at that time.  What wonderful memories.  Well, gotta get going as the workplace calls.  I’ll see what scents await me this morning.

A cycling community…

     Following a number of bicycling types of folks on Instagram, I’m impressed with the vast communities of cyclists who gather together and participate in group rides displaying a definite conviviality centered around the bicycling lifestyle.

It’s in this context that I’ve found myself somewhat lonely as a cyclist.  As far as I can tell in my little community of Stockton, Missouri (population approx. 1800), I’m the only “regular” bicycle commuter.  (not trying to blow my own horn, it’s just a fact of life here) Anyway, I very infrequently see another bicyclist around; let alone an adult on a bicycle.  So, it was with some degree of enthusiasm that I lifted my hand and my voice to greet a fellow cyclist whom I met on my ride to work this morning.  He was riding a vintage red Trek with what appeared to be moustache handlebars (on the bike).  So, I thinks to myself, this is a cyclist who rides a pretty cool bike, I’ll say “good morning!”.    So, it was somewhat to my surprise the velocipede looked my way, expressionless, and did not even seem to acknowledge my salutation.  Hrrumpf!   Well, in his defense, he appeared to be kind of bleary eyed so he might have been only half awake.

So, if anyone reads this and are involved in an active, vibrant cycling community; count your blessings!

Training

     I’ve always admired people who train for cycling events.  There is obviously an anticipation for the outcome of the event.  Some talk about being “dialed in” and feel ready to compete.  Others, opine they had not started their training early enough or did not prepare for a particular part of the event.  For all who train, it takes both time and energy.  A lot of time and energy.

In my own life, I’ve never been a competitor (outside of P.E. class in high school) and have not really experienced the feeling of competition.  I suppose I have somewhat trained for the few social rides I do every year by taking some longer rides just to make sure I’m up to it; but that’s about all.  Usually, on those rides I’m amongst the last to finish, anyway.

I’m not anti-racing by any means.  I guess I’m kind of an “unracer” as the popular mindset goes.  Still…sometimes I wonder what it would be like.  Then, I go for a ride, and reality kicks in, or should I say, the first hill kicks in?

So, here’s to those who put in the hard work and sacrifice: keep on training,  keep on achieving, and keep on inspiring.  I’ll be satisfied to stand back and congratulate you.

Teach your children well…

     This song keeps coming back to me.  I’ve often been amazed by and admired folks who seem to have their lives all planned and mapped out.  Career, location, children, etc. etc.  I’ve also been amazed by and admired folks who are able to pursue and realize their dreams by stopping one phase of life to chase those dreams then start over again.  I’ve never been able to functionally be either kind of person.

I grew up on a medium sized farm in west central Missouri.  My dad and grandpa were hard working farmers who did a very good job of being farmers.  My dad died when he was 52 of renal cancer.  I was 25 at the time and preparing to graduate from medical school.  My family placed within me a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility.  They were quite proud of the fact they had a son who was going to be a doctor.  In hindsight, I think part of the reason I became a doctor was to please them.  Unfortunately, my dad never got to see me enter this phase of my life.  Now, some 33 years later, I reflect back on him and what our lives might have been like had he continued to live.  He would have been 86 this June 19th.

Life as a doctor is not always an easy one.  Yes, the income is good and the work is stable.  However, your life is not always your own to live and you always have a responsibility to your patients and employer.  Then, there are the changes that have taken place in the last several years with the implementation of the electronic medical record and “meaningful use” of that record.  These have put a strain on many physicians and created, in a sense, a shortage of healthcare providers due to the additional time it takes to see a patient in the clinic.  I digress, however.  Needless to say, my life professionally is not quite what I’d envisioned when I started out.

Then there’s the matters of family and health.  Both my wife’s and my mother are living close to us and we are helping them with various needs they have.  Honestly, it has not been that much, yet, but we can see the “writing on the wall” and their needs are going to be greater in the not too distant future.  Our siblings live some distance away which makes it difficult for them to share in helping to meet these needs.  More responsibilities.

Recently, on a bicycle related forum, a friend of mine related his desire for  taking an extended bicycle tour and the struggles he has had with allowing himself to take such a tour.  When I got back into bicycling, my original goal was to just ride for health and enjoyment but what I have found is the desire to do a lot more (which has lead to a garage full of bicycles!).   Yes, I too dream of the open road but find too many obstacles to overcome.  My profession simply does not afford extended lengths of time off.  I live in a medically under served area and being gone for 3-4 weeks simply is not feasible.  Also, I have sleep apnea and am dependent on the use of c-pap most of the time; though I can miss a night or two.  Finally, I’m noticing some joint issues,for both my wife and I, that are creeping in which makes me wonder what the next years will bring, physically.  Nearly daily, I hear my older patient’s opine “these golden years…aren’t golden”.    So, the reader can see what my frame of mind has been of late.

So, what does this have to do with the lyrics, “teach your children well”.  I suppose one way to look at it is to instill in your children to look ahead and really contemplate the meaning and impact of every decision you make in life.  I know we can’t control every variable but need to look carefully at the one’s we can manipulate.  So, now, I think I’ll get ready to go for a bike ride, maybe make some coffee, and dream about what other bicyclists are doing around the globe.  I’m just grateful to still be able to get out there and ride.  Hope to for years to come.