Friday, June 29, 2012

My Take on the Affordable Care Act

When we are in our 20s, we don't think about health care. Our focus was getting ahead in our jobs, developing meaningful relationships (finding a partner). Great if we had an employer that offered health care insurance was a bonus.

A couple times I entertained thoughts of leaving GM for another company. It was after about 10 years, I started realizing it would be more difficult to change employers as I age – invested stock (401k) benefits, vacation time, etc. I was still healthy, so a change of employer was mostly “can you pay me enough to match my benefits”.

Then in 1990, about 19 years into my career (43 years old) I was diagnosed with 2 “predetermined conditions” - hypertension and incurable (but treatable) viral infection.

From that time until I was able to retired with benefits, I was walking a fine line. There was a chance that our division of GM could be sold – what would that do to me health care? We went through down-sizing – was I going to be cut? I was concerned that disputes with supervision could put me on the chopping block.

Finally, I got to the magic 30 years and the year of my 55th birthday. I could retire with benefits. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Three years into my retirement I suffered a stroke cause by a failed heart valve. Thankfully, I still had my good GM insurance coverage. As a cost cutting move, GM changed retiree health care plans – now at age 65, we would lose GM insurance and go onto Medicare. There was a promise that we would get $300 a month more in our pension to help offset our cost of Medicare and MediGap. At this time I am NOT holding my breath that I will ever see this money.

Then came the GM bankruptcy.

At this same time, I was going through surgeries, radiation, and chemo for cancer. Did not know if I would have my GM health care insurance. Didn't even know if I would retain my pension! Just what I did not need while trying to battle cancer.

What would I do? I was facing pleading for the VA for health care (as a Viet Nam vet) and losing all of my savings. Thankfully, President Obama saved the auto industry, and perhaps – my life.

I am still undergoing routine CT scans for my cancers. In a couple months I turn 65 and will be covered under Medicare. Now, if the Republican's don't cut my Medicare and Social Security, I may be able to continue a reasonable comfortable lifestyle riding my bicycles and shooting photos.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

To Kenosha and Back Home

Monday, I loaded up the car and headed to Kenosha. Uneventful drive (except for the skyrocketing toll rates). At my mom's by 11am.

Aunt "Mouse" came by to visit. I did a quick drive to cousin Sue's to delivered my old darkroom equipment. Hope you can use it Makenzie.

Looked at some of the photos I have taken the last year. A cousin of mine had sent a link to a bunch of old ancestral photos. They are one an online album so found (thanks Chelsey) Boat House to eat and view the photos.

Photo with this posting was my aunt and mom looking at the photos.

Morning, it was load the car again, and breakfast with mom and Aunt Audrey at Gateway Cafe. Good food and great breakfast special. Only problem was the waitress though she is funny/cute. When I asked for water for the road in my travel cup, she made some comments about I was demoting her, but got my water. I learned that it was the guy taking car of coffee refills was the one I should have asked for my water. My though -- well "Excuuuuuse Me".

With the toll rate hike, decided to bypass the tollway. Drove via Beloit, Galina, Dubuque, and Cedar Rapids. Late lunch at the Ox Bow in Amana Colonies. Exhausted by the time I got home.

Would have liked time to ride in Kenosha (trail was paved since last rode), but had to get home - eye doctor appointment this morning.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Exploring Duck Creek Trail

As I headed to Scott County Park, there were storms brewing on the West. Breakfast was breakfast pizza and coffee. Rain was starting by the time I finished eating. Said my "good-byes", stopped at registration for fester goodies, and back to the hotel.

While I was waiting for the rain to stop, I posted the last of festival photos on the web site. About noon, it was time to prepare for my ride. Plans were to ride on the Duck Creek Trail.

Parked at 35th and Welcome. Headed east on the trail. Stopped many times to take photos. Most of the trail is relatively flat - but there were a couple climbs. Had some problems shifting down to the little chain ring. That caused me to walk on hill on the way out.

Made it to "Riverdale" at the end of the trail. Today's photo is me and the road bike at the trailhead sign. Turned around and headed back to the car.

Weather was sunny and very humid. Temp was in the low 80, but it felt like 90 or more. Had to walk a couple hills on the way back. Was happy as I got less than a mile from the car.

No speed records on the ride. Fifteen and a half miles in 1:51. Twenty HDR photos. Should have one to use in a calendar.

Shower and change of clothes, I headed to Thunder Bay Grill for brew and grub. Processed the photos while eating.

Time to put my feet up, get horizontal and relax. Kenosha tomorrow.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

MidWest Mountain Bike Fest

Today was a busy day the the mountain bike fest. The day started with a pancake feed sponsored by the Eldridge Lions Club. Needed the food and coffee to get started. The breakfast was served at the Sac-Fox campground site - convenient for all the camping festers.

Next was MtB101 workshop. I want to give a SHOUT OUT for the instructors - Ray Nees and Becky Barnard. This was the best presentation of building mountain bike skills I have ever seen. I should have brought my bike this morning and participate in the class.

MtB101 was a logic progression starting with basics like pedal location, attack position, looking up the trail, et al. Each participant learned riding: a large stick, stick & log, skinny, short drop, log bridge, teeter-totter, and combo with ramp ending with logs. On the naugabike web site I will spend more time detailing the workshop (with photos).

Also in the morning group rides were heading out to ride the other trails FORC maintains in the area - Sunderbruch Park, Sylvan Island, and Illiniwek Park. Others stayed at Scott County Park for group rides. I positioned myself on Long Grove Loop to take photos of the some of the groups.

By this time, it was lunch and then heading back to the hotel for some horizontal time.

By the time I got back to the park, it was about time for the games. Billed as the "Not Lame Games". There was the ever popular "Huffy" toss, followed by Bunny Hop, and "Dodge Tire".

There were more games, a cook-out at the camping area, beer potluck, movies, and night ride. Just a bit too much for this old body. I headed toward the hotel, picked up a Blizzard, and settled in for the night.

Watch for my fest photos on my photo web site:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Drive and a Ride

Back on the road for another mountain bike festival. Today, I drove across Iowa to Scott County. Checked into my hotel in Davenport, changed clothes into my cycling kit, and headed to Scott County Park.

That's the location of the MidWest Mountain Bike Fest. Got registered, visited a little and headed off for a bike ride.

Rode the Long Grove Loop. About 1.5 miles of singletrack and another mile getting to the trail and back to the festival shelter. Problem was I was in A-Fib for the whole ride, per my heart monitor. The ride really tired me out.

Treated myself to a beer, drank my G2,took a couple photos and headed to the room. Early to bed tonight. Today's photo - "High road or low road", a trail junction.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Paul Bunyan Country

Ya Betcha, that's olde Paul himself. Took this photo when I stopped for lunch after my ride. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Plans were to ride the Paul Bunyan Trail this morning. When I stuck my head out of the hotel door, it was overcast and threatening rain. was showing showers moving in the area, but looks good by 9/10 am. After light breakfast, I went back to bed for some more recovery. Before I knew it, the sun was shining.

The Paul Bunyan State Trail runs some 110 miles through the northcentral Minnesota woods from Brainard (Baxter) to Bemidji. Its a Rails-to-Trails on old railroad bed. The trail is paved the whole length.

Kitted up, prepared supplies, and loaded the road bike onto the car for the drive to the trail. Planned to park in Jenkins, ride South (into the wind) to Nisswa. There is no "trailhead" parking lot for the trail in Jenkins. At the convenience store, I was told most park along the road at the trail, or across the highway at the old "Dollar" store.

As it started heading South on the trail, it was 80+ degrees, humid, and partly cloudy. Wind was gusting, with some places no air moving. Stopped it several times to take photos of the trail. Rode on through Pequot Lakes.

My legs were telling me it was not a good idea to make Nisswa, even if I have the wind with my on the way back. At a little over 8 miles, I came across a bench with a view of Little Cullen Lake. Looked a great place to turn around and head for the car. Drank some of G2 and back on the bike.

Now, I thought I would have the wind with me on the way back, but it seamed at times I was back into the wind! Stopped at the old Depot in Perquot Lakes for a rest and finish my GC. Chatted with a couple others at the depot. I though the trail was very busy (at least Perquot Lakes and South. I was told that the traffic today was actually pretty light today.

North from Perquot Lakes to Jenkins, almost no one on the trail. Think met 2 folks total (counting both ways) on the 3 miles. Getting back to the car, I probably couple have made the extra miles making it to Nisswa. But, it was better to be safe. Did not want to bonk.

As I rode South from Jenkins, I noticed a crowd at A-Pine Restaurant at the South end of Jenkins. Looked it would be a good place to eat my late lunch. It was. After a sandwich (grilled ham & swiss) and wedge fries, treated myself to a slice of wild berry pie with ice cream.

Now that the photos are processed and blog entry is written, time to get horizontal and relax.

Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival

Saturday was a busy day at the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival. I arrived about 7:30 am the check in my art work for the show. About the same time whey were starting the morning kayak tour. It is always interesting as organized chaos gels into a festival.

The festival opened at 9am. I was pre-registered, which made check-in a snap. Wrist bands for various function, My red band signified I was on the Poker Ride. This was also time to contemplate raffle prizes and souvenir purchases (t-shirts, socks).

At the same time, the XC time trial was run on the dirt trails. I did not go to shoot the time trail or the hill climb (later in the morning). The vendor area opened. Bike manufacturers, bike shops, eateries, trail groups, paddle boat rides, masseuses, even a B&B hawking Viking wares. There dare-devils were jumping from a lift, dropping onto a big air bag (US Air Bag).

10am it was the Bike Parade. Crosby Fire Department and IMBA lead off the parade. The parade came out of the park, up Hwy 210, through downtown Crosby, and back. Once the parade departed the park, I headed to the hotel to change clothes (into my cycling kit).

By the rime I was back, the festival was in full swing. 11 am was the Kryponite Hill Climb. Live music started at the pavilion. Youth and beginner skills ares were off to camp to hone their trail riding skills.

Group rides departed Crosby Memorial Park at 12:30, The same time the group rides were out on the singletrack, back a the Park were clinics on basic bike maintenance and trail preparedness.

Twin Cities Fantasy Factory had two BMX stunt shows featuring their traveling Mega Jump. Amazing how high these kids and their bikes could fly. The photo with this posting shows a riding and his bike fly over another while standing on top of the Mega Jump. Took .many photos of the stunt show - posted on the events web site

I did the poker ride. With the heat and my health, I drove part of the way. Still took me 1 1/2 hours to get the 5 cards. But no luck, the hand I was deals -- K-Q-J-9-3. Winning hand was 4 Ace's.

There was the always popular kid's races. I have never seen so many kids on bikes! The kid's races earned a separate section of the events photo web site.

There was the second performance of the BMX Stunt Show. Following was the awards ceremony. I received a commemorate medallion for my entry in the Art Show. By this time, i was past exhausted. Headed for the car and drove back to the hotel. Ended the day with a shower, dinner at the Deerstand, and then into BED!

I had a good time. As I expected, the organizers crammed too much into one day. I would have prefered a 2-day event.

Photos I took during the festival are posted on my events & race photo web site

Friday, June 8, 2012

Red Dirt!

Took me some time to get moving today. Guess it was the busy day yesterday. Took the Fuel EX7 out to the Mahnoman Unit of Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, MN. Goal was to explore more of the "green" trails.

Pretty good weather when I headed out of the hotel. Sunny, 70s, breezy. Should be a nice day in the woods.

Drove to the Boot Camp parking lot off of County 128. Mounted the bike and rode the Overburden Road to entrance of Little Sidewinder. Took me some time to get used to the trails, again.

Did not take much time before I was sweating. Even with the 10-15 mph winds, the air was almost dead still in the woods. The ground was damp from the recent rains. Trail conditions were what the racers call "tacky). No soft, wet ground, but surely no dust.

When I got junction with Mucker Mountain (shorter route back to the car) I decided to continue on Little Sidewinder.It this part of the trail along ponds between June Lake and Alstead Mine Lake. Tight, twisting singletrack, but not so many climbs and descents. My kind of riding.

Next decision point was at the junction of Little Sidewinder and Grub Stake. I was ready to take Grub Stake, the shorter route back to the car. Grub stake is typical for the Green trails in the area. Mostly flowing singletrack with sections of up and down. The photo with this post was taken on Grub Stake.

In no time, I was at the junction with Mucker Mountain, taking that trail to Overburden Road. Rode the cravel road back to the car. While it was only 2.3 miles and 31 minute riding time, I was exhausted.

Chatted with the hotel owner when I got back. After a shower, I was craving a sub - so found the Crosby Subway. Relaxed over food. Back to the hotel I processed my trail photos and then crashed to bed.

Hoping to meet up with the Mountain Bike Summit folks this evening.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Arrived Deerwood, MN

Uneventful drive from home to Deerwood, MN. Weather was "changeable". Cloudy, sunny, sprinkling, humid, pleasant. Arrived at my hotel a little before 3pm. Took some time to unloaded the car.

Debated for a while - Do I just have dinner? -or- Do I take a bicycle ride THEN dinner. Eventually, I decided I really wanted to get out and ride. Visited a little with the hotel owner as getting ready to leave. Headed out for a road ride to Crosby. Hwy 6 from Deerwood to Crosby has an awesome wide shoulder - even wider than a bicycle lane. (Need to take a photo of the hwy while here.)

When I got to Crosby, I rode on to the Cuyuna Lakes State Trail. (today's photo - the road bike on the trail) Rode the trail to Hwy 6 at the Croft Mine. Could have ridden a little further, but knew I had to ride along the highway on the way back and there was a rough hill as I enter Deerwood.

Felt energized when I got back to the hotel. Showered and walked over to Coach's for food. Special was a 1/4 lb burger. Pint of Fat Tire and a cheeseburger & chips cost me a whole $5.15!

Now that this blog post has been written - time for bed. Was a productive day - 500 miles in the car, 9 miles on the bicycle and $5.15 dinner.

Riding in the red dirt at Cuyuna Country Ride Center tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why I Prefer to Ride Alone

Yesterday I got my road bike back from the shop and planning to take it with me to Minnesota. Today was my chance to make sure everything was ready for the trip. Told D that I was planning to ride pavement about 9am, from the Wabash Trace Trailhead.

On the way to the trailhead, I stopped in to get the car serviced. Was at the trailhead about 8:50. J was already there (did not know he was riding too), Before I got my shoes changed, the other 2 were ready to ride (still not 9am). I like to take my time getting going, so feeling rushed, I was already not happy.

I was told to head out. Stopped quickly to reset the computer and headed down the trail at about 10 mph (into the wind). Over the last couple weeks, D has been saying he was not in shape, and to take it easy on him. Withing 1 1/2 mile, he was passing me and picked up the pace.

We used to stop at Indian Creek Bridge for hydration. I stopped, we had to flag down D. I rode most of the rest of the way to the Trails Center by myself. At the Western Historic Trails Center, I had to re-adjust my saddle - it had slide nose down on the ride. Used my multi-tool. D had a allen set, which allowed me more torque. Drank my G2, refilled water, and a quick visit with Dewey.

Once again, I brought up the rear. After all, I was not in a hurry. Wanted to enjoy the weather. After the hydration stop at the bridge, D wanted me to lead out so he could draft off me. Then complained that my speed was changing too much. So, I made it even more difficult for him to draft (by this time I was steaming inside). For info, I have problems keeping constant speed on the road bike because the bike wants to go faster than my body can keep up pedaling. So, not thinking, I speed up, and coast to bring back down to speed. Rode the rest of the way to the trailhead in silence.

I'll say that last summer when J and I rode Sunday mornings, I never had those issues. We just enjoyed the ride and the morning. Exhausted and depressed when I got home. Held mail for the trip and crashed to bed. Now trying to finish up my packing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Yes, I've Been Riding

From my blog postings, you might think I have not been riding. Oh, contrair'. Just not much to report nor shoot a photo of. Have been getting out on the paved trail from Wabash Trace Trailhead Park towards Lake Manawa. Two rides to and around Lake Manawa. Riding the streets - not been that way since the Veterans Memorial Trail opened. Also was a little gun shy with all the glass shards on VM Trail along E. Manawa Drive.

The other ride was from the trailhead to Western Historic Trails Center. A frequent destination for my rides.

The weather has turned warm (almost hot), so have started riding mornings. This morning started with coffee, computer work, and conversation at Panera Bread. From there, it was my bike ride. Stopped by along Navajo St. to take this photo of the hybrid overlooking Lake Manawa.

On to Xtreme Wheels to pick up my road bike, want to bring it on my upcoming Minnesota trip. The bike got new shoes, new bar tape (with gel pads), and annual check-up. Sam's Clubs for supplies and gas the car. McClelland for voting (primary election day in Iowa). Now rest and start packing for the Cuyuna Mountain Bike Festival.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Quite possibly, the Greatest Show on Earth.

Saturday is Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival. The festival headquarters will be in the park in Crosby, MN. Crosby is an easy 2 hour drive North of the Twin Cities.

Why Cuyuna? Cuyuna Country Ride Center. Over 25 miles of sweet singletrack in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. Ride amongst and over the overburden from the iron ore mining. Add in the northern hospitality and its a great time. I was there last year for the grand opening of the Ride Center. Came back for rides in the Fall colors.

Friday is the IMBA Great Lakes Summit at Cuyuna.

Weather is forecast to be awesome for bicycle riding.

Hope to see you there.

ps: Next on my schedule is MidWest Mountain Bike Festival. Scott County (Iowa) Park near the Quad Cities.

Maskenthine XC Classic

Photos of Maskenthine XC Classic Mountain Bike Race are posted on the photo web site

As usual, the photos on the web site are proofs from jpg. Before shipping any ordered files, I will adjust exposure and lighting from the camera RAW.