Me and you and a dog named Boo; travelin’ and livin’ off the land. Okay…but without the dog!

As a kid I so remember many family camping trips across this great land of our — where we’d all six pile in into the Chevy station wagon (1960’s), the GMC truck/camper rig (1970’s), or the Ford Class B motor-home (1980’s).  Most memorable were two-weeks in Glacier National Park in 1968, the three weeks spent in and around Yellowstone National Park in 1970, and the cross-country trek to Terre Haute, Indiana from Marysville, Washington in 1974 to visit a favorite aunt on my father’s side.

 

I remember these trips vividly because Mom captured each on Super 8 movie film whose reels we watched time, after time, after time again. An image of me breaking into a jig on a rope suspension bridge at Glacier is lastingly burned into my brain.  I DO however, need to get these reels converted to digital DVD (my bad!) so we can continue laughing at my severe Summer crew cuts Mom gave my brother and I.

In 35 years of marriage my wife Carla and I had never taken a drive further than Seattle, WA to Sheridan, Wyoming – 947 miles, 14 driving hours, one overnight (in Missoula, MT). Which by many standards today is a good drive.  However, this Independence holiday adventure was looking more daunting.
The task.  Drive from Seattle, WA to Larchmont, NY to deliver this car to our son, Omar. He was taking possession of our older Volvo convertible with our recently having bought a newer model.  It’s a car he always admired, so trading it in just would not do. He deserved this car…
silver c70So I was excited for this trip. I was going to repeat the route my father used on our trip to Terre Haute back in the day (see the map above), then extend my efforts further east and thus break Dad’s old distance record! I was also pumped to share parts of our country with my wife, who’d never had a family road trip further than Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California. With memories intact of my childhood experiences, captured for all to relive on Super 8 moving pictures (Yes, I know…I keep promising to get those transferred to DVD)…we headed out after work on June 27th.
The route.

seattle to larchmont

Thirteen states in 3.5 days.  I quickly learned though that this would be a different trip altogether than any we’d taken before…
The luxury of time.  This we did not have!  Being on a new job my vacation days were limited to June 28th through July 4th. So while my Dad drove the 2,159 miles from Washington to Indiana in five days, getting driving help from Mom and a brother who was old enough — I was logging all 2,871 in just three and a 1/2. I was gonna have to get into my best Road Warrior mentality to make this happen. Points, Dad.
A comfortable ride.  This one I win. Now having made the trip I can’t fathom doing so in a Class B, or truck/camper combination, or towing a travel trailer. Unless it was with this beauty here:   classic truck_trailer

I was spared the noise, fussing, and frequent bathroom breaks that four impatient kids create and need in these environments; and I was delivering a Volvo convertible with heated seats, 6-disc CD changer and the all-important ability to drop-the-top and experience the wind in your hair at 70+ mph.

Logging all the miles solo.  Not her fault really, my wife has not been able to drive much after having two strokes a year ago.  And while she gave it a go in Montana, the roads were not flat enough nor straight enough for her comfort level.  So I took to the left seat and motored on. I love her just as much, if not more, for having tried and she was an exceptional navigator; she did not sleep even a wink (okay…maybe for 30 minutes once) the entire way while keeping me hopped up on sugar and caffeine.

Road construction.  I can’t remember ever driving through as much construction, with severe lane and speed restrictions, as I did on this trip!  I’m sure my Dad faced some back on those family outings…but our interstate highway system has aged 45 years since then.  Thanks to AAA of Washington, we had our TripTik Travel Planner booklet that not only mapped our routes and overnight options, but gave us a heads-up to all the ongoing construction. I imagine I got more lanes to use most of the way than my dad did.  And it’s nice to see the states using those federal matching funds to replace some really horrific infrastructure. Give it five years and you’ll want to make that drive yourself!

Too few Ddunkin donutsunkin’ Donuts west of the Mississippi River.  ‘Nuff said.  (You think I’m joking?)  Have you had Dunkin’ Donuts coffee?  Dad didn’t have Dunkin’ in his day so this ones a draw.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike.  O…M…G!  This was the best $25 in tolls spent the entire trip. It’s a great roadway with it’s limited access and stunning scenery.  And rest stops like you don’t see on the west coast. Actual services like food courts, hair salons, massage chairs, and of course — Starbucks!  If you get the chance, take this route.  Sorry, Dad…points me!

penn turnpike

Larchmont, NY.  What can I say?  Larchmont is a lovely and fascinating village outside of Manhattan. The people there have been so gracious and welcoming of our extended family that we can’t help but feel like we’re a part of it, even 3,000 miles away. So we spend three great days with family, friends, a one-year-old grandson who is really special; golf with my boy, cigars and Tequila. The perfect decompression following the drive and knowing I would not have to repeat the effort east-to-west.

We flew home. This is my “gotcha Pops” moment. After a week in Terre Haute way back when, Dad had to drive home.  Same number of days he spent driving out there.  But the wife and I hopped a JetBlue Airbus A380, landing in Seattle five short hours after takeoff…on the same day…July 4th.

Would we do it again?  We talked about this on our flight home and agreed we’d do it again in a heartbeat. But before we slog another trip like this one where we were under pressure to arrive in New York – we think a relaxed road-trip to Oklahoma to see more family would be nice and manageable. Take one route there, another back. But would we do this next trip with a dog along for the ride?

Me and You and a dog named Boo – Lobo, 1973
I remember to this day
The bright red Georgia clay
And how it stuck to the tires
After the summer rain
Will power made that old car go
A woman’s mind told me that so
Oh how I wish
We were back on the road again
Me and you and a dog named boo
Travelin’ and livin’ off the land
Me and you and a dog named boo
How I love being a free man
I can still recall
The wheat fields of St. Paul
And the morning we got caught
Robbing from an old hen
Old McDonald he made us work
But then he paid us for what it was worth
Another tank of gas
And back
Until next time…Keep It Relevant.
Advertisements

It’s been one year…

…since I wrote about anything relevant. I’m not starting now either, except to tell you that I feel it’s a time in my life to reboot.  I didn’t want to bore you with my continuing progress following my gastric bypass surgery, and the results of our latest national election just gave me headaches thinking about it. So I think the year off has been good.

Time to start over.

And by “over,” I mean a completely new outlook on why this blog exists, and why I feel compelled to share myself on these pages. Over the next few weeks I’ll take you on a shortened journey of my recent year that should give you a flavor for how I now see my life, this world, our mission.  Until then…

…keep it relevant.

A Leaner & Less Meaner Me!

Post-Surgery Update

When we last touched base I was still waiting for my much-desired gastric bypass surgery to find its way onto my surgeons calendar. Lo and behold — it did — and now I write this entry 3 weeks post-surgery and feeling exceptionally well! My surgery took place on Friday, May 22nd. I don’t recall much about the day, thanks to the use of general anesthetic, but I’m here to let you know that I have experienced very little post-surgery discomfort.  After two weeks laying low at home I’m back to work and re-energized.

E_Bunny

Post-Surgery Diet

If you’ve never had to blend everything you planned on eating then this may be hard to understand, but that is certainly a necessity with any form of gastric surgery — gastric band, gastric sleeve, or full by-pass. The hardest thing to overcome is how everything you put in your trusty Ninja, be it vibrant green, red, yellow or whatever, becomes a sludgy gray-brown color once blended. I don’t recall my color wheel exercises from art class showing me that! Sipping everything you take in for the first four weeks post-surgery also become very boring. You quickly learn how much “eating” is attributed to the pleasure you gain from chewing things. I mean, these feelings start when we are children and putting everything we touch into our mouths.  It’s the tactile, emotional response to textures and sounds of chewing that I unmistakably miss right now!

baby_eat_corn

The Payoff

Everyone you tell about having had gastric bypass surgery immediately goes to “weight loss,” as the reason. It’s natural, I get that. I was that way for years. But having learned a year ago that I could possibly eliminate my diabetes and reliance on medication to manage it — I was all for the procedure. Did it work? You bet!  I left the hospital after my two-night stay free from high-blood sugar levels and any dependence on my oral medications. As a bonus, I’m 20 lbs lighter after 2 weeks and steadily losing additional weight. I figure to be at my goal weight in about a year.

What’s next?

A marathon?  Learn how to surf?  Cycling? Who knows. All I know is that the opportunities again are as endless as my energy level!  Until next time…stay relevant!

Gastric bypass surgery update: Weight loss continues…

I think I recall lamenting the fact that I must lose weight before having weight-loss surgery. Yes, silly as that sounds they make a good argument – “we want you to be as healthy as possible for surgery.” What they (the insurance company paying the bill) won’t tell you is that if you lose enough weight, your BMI falls below the minimum required to qualify for bypass — and they deny the surgery.  Well, I don’t think that’s a risk with me.

My BMI? A whopping 37.8%…which is okay if you’re an offensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks, but not if you ride a desk all day!  And with a minimum BMI of 35% to qualify…I’ve only got 2″ of waist to spare. Two inches, that’s about one notch on my belt. For easy reference, here’s a BMI calculator  BMI Calculator for Adults

So this is my focus for another 30 days…lose weight, just don’t lose too much weight.

Until next time…keep it relevant!

Lane

Gastric Bypass Surgery (on the horizon) – Stage II

In my prior post I announced my decision to undergo a gastric bypass (hereinafter GP) procedure call the Roux en-y. Since that time I’ve been accepted into “the program.”  Yes, there’s a program because I’m asking my insurance company to cover it.  Do they?  Mine does…but that is so rare.  And I just slid in under the wire with a body mass index (BMI) high enough I could be accepted. Why is BMI important? Your BMI is the best way for an insurance company to decide whether to accept or deny your request for GP coverage. Being heavy isn’t enough.  Take a person who weights 250 lbs for example, there’s a big difference between that weight on a 6’4″ frame and on a 5’10” frame:

6foot45foot10

This difference reflected is a much higher BMI for the 5’10” man.  At my current BMI, I’d need to be 7’10” tall to be height-weight proportional.  Alas I’m just a paltry 6’4″.

So the program requires I lose weight to be healthy enough for surgery. But here’s a trick the insurance company doesn’t come right out and tell you — lose enough weight that my BMI lowers to a number below the acceptance threshold and I can’t then get the surgery.  Tricky bastards!  So I agree to drop weight…just not so much I can’t get the procedure.

The program also requires a psychiatric evaluation.  Apparently insurance companies want people getting the surgery for all the right reasons.  Or that once the surgery is accomplished you’ll need the mental fortitude to stick with the strict post-procedure eating protocols. I told my wife that my plan is to march into that psych office and regale them with my plans of being the first billion-dollar print-model as a senior citizens with an eye toward some Hollywood agent seeing the next great gray-haired action hero. No?  You’re right…that might just tank the whole program.

I really think I have a great reason to get this surgery: Before she’d marry me my wife made me promise to outlive her.  This is my making good on my promise.

’til next time, keep it relevant!

Diets and exercise don’t work – for me!

In past posts I’ve talked about diets and exercise, of committing myself to successful application of both, and of doing what’s necessary to extend my life beyond my wife’s timeline – for her sake. I promised her I’d outlive her but I’m not doing much to make that promise a reality.

I’m here to tell you today that any form of diet have not worked. I’ve done Nutri-System, Weight Watchers, Paleo, Dash, low carb, high carb, Atkins, you name it. I’ve increased my activity level, but not yet to the degree I could say I’m “working out,” each day.  Why not? I’ve got excuses aplenty. Here, pick one:

  1. No time
  2. Too busy with work and family obligations
  3. I’m unmotivated.
  4. None of the above, and/or All of the above.

Realistically I’ve come to realize two key facts that lead to my obesity: 1) I love food, and 2) I love more food. When I was young, age 7 to 12, I was an eating machine! I was certain that I was not “full” until my stomach hurt. So I ate until I felt it. From 13 to 21 I was eating to gain and maintain weight to play football on the highest competitive levels. I was so good at eating I could coach others on the tricks for maximizing their personal caloric intake. Yes, this is not good…

Maybe you think I was just lazy — too lazy to work out, to lazy to turn off the television and get moving. Not true! I do both very well. Exercise has just become an excuse to eat more. The more activity I engage in, the larger meal I can afford to eat.

Image

I haven’t gained or lost a pound in almost eight months. Plateau city. Rock steady. Flat-line. So my options have narrowed to one of three choices of gastric-bypass surgery:

  • Restrictive – Reduces the amount of food the stomach can hold but doesn’t interfere with normal digestion of food and nutrients.
  • Malabsorptive – Shortens the digestive tract to limit the number of calories and nutrients that can be absorbed.
  • Combination – Restricts the amount of food the stomach can hold and reduces the number of calories absorbed by altering the digestive tract.

My choice is a combination procedure called Roux en-y. Beyond the benefits of losing approximately 60% of my excess weight in the first year, the other health benefits are beyond reproach:

  • Resolution of type 2 diabetes in 83.8% of patients often within days of surgery.
  • Resolution of high blood pressure in 75.4% of patients.
  • Improved cholesterol levels in 95% of patients with high cholesterol.

This is what I know at this point.  I’ve just begun the process leading up to the procedure and will continue to update my blog here as I have experiences to relay.

Until next time…Keep It Relevant!

Retirement: Living abroad is a viable option!

Mrs. B and I are considering our retirement years; how we’ll spend them, who we’ll spend them with (aside from each other!) and where we’ll live; and whether our residency will be full- or part-time out-of-country. Owing to changing economic conditions in the USA (and its impact on our retirement accounts!), we started looking at options abroad to help “stretch our retirement dollar.”

When this idea of living outside the boundaries of America came to us we headed directly to the internet to find the answers to our most pressing question — “How do we begin to find credible information on becoming ex-pats?” What we discovered is yes, anything you want to know can be found on the Internet, and not everything printed on the Internet is true.  The challenge is knowing what to believe. So here are some examples of good resources that will get you started should you be embarking on your own search-similar path:

  • The U.S. State Department has a website dedicated to answering your most pressing questions about living abroad, like “Do I retain my US Constitutional rights,” “Can I still vote in U.S. elections?” and “Will my government continue to ensure my safety as an American abroad?”  Did you know the U.S. government encourages International travelers to register with them before going abroad so they can be more responsive to the travelers’ needs?  Check out the STEP Program at Travel.State.gov.
  • Launch a Google(R) search beginning with “Expatriate in…” and the name of any foreign country or city that has your attention.
Isn't Google the best?!

Isn’t Google the best?!

  • Look for blogs from other expats, or people who thought they would expat and returned.  The tales and recommendation you’ll read from fellow coutrymen and women will be straight up, no bullshit, no attempt to lure you into their timeshare investment.  100 Blogs on Living Abroad
  • Visit the country or city of your desire and find people who have done just what you’re thinking about doing.  Nothing beats hearing it first-hand from someone who is experiencing the highs and low, and is available to answer the many questions you’re going to have.

run with the bulls

So…what are you waiting for?

Until next time, keep it relevant!

Some People Don’t Love All Their Children Equally

I haven’t written in a while. The days (months?) between my last post and this one make that the obvious statement of the new year! And while I’ve had the desire to write, I just haven’t felt all that passionate about a given topic on which to write:

pas·sion·ate /ˈpaSHənit/ Adjective
Showing or caused by strong feelings or a strong belief.
Showing or caused by intense feelings of sexual love.

Synonyms
ardent – fervent – hot – vehement – fiery – impassioned

Until today…

Why do so many “pet people” not seem to care about their animals?

Monday morning at three a.m., my wife and I are awakened from a sound sleep as a roaming coyote is trying to capture one of our neighbors cats – IN OUR BACKYARD! Ever hear he sound a coyote makes when homing in on it’s prey? Watch & listen:

This was pretty nerve-wracking to say the least. No one likes being awakened from sleep for any reason, but when it’s this racket, accompanied by the wails of a cat that is pretty damned frightened, and all the banging of the stacked lawn furniture I had up against the house (under which the cat was seeking refuge)…well I can tell you sleep did not return that morning!

Who to blame? The coyote? No. It was just looking for an easy meal, and many of our neighbors store their trash cans outside their homes. I’m also convinced that our housing development was once several acres of trees the coyote used to call “home.” I can’t blame the cat. She was doing what she does when put out for the night, looking for refuge in our backyard where I’ve created several dry and covered areas up against our home. A backyard that’s usually free of wild animals.

Urban Coyotes           urban coyote

No. This issue lies strictly at the feet of neighbors who routinely ignore all the reports and visual signs that coyotes have chosen our neighborhood for their very own midnight buffet. I understand the convenience of having your pets do “their business” outside. However, putting them out for the night is just plain cruel. Aside from it being winter, no pet should be the appetizer, main course or dessert for a hungry wild animal…period! But let’s say you do love your pet, but it won’t let you sleep unless it gets to spend the night outdoors? I know this is a possibility. Well, there are alternatives that will cost a little bit of time and money, but both you and your beloved feline/canine find the win/win:

domestic petsProtecting Your Pets

But what should you do if you fear your beloved pet has added a few pounds to the local roaming coyotes? After a reasonable period of mourning, let me recommend VERY HIGHLY that you adopt your next best friend from a local “no kill” animal shelter. Your local Human Society can help you select the perfect match to fill that void your feeling. Yes…even my neighbors deserve a second chance at being better pet parents.

Hey, Charlie and Donna, click here and welcome a new member to your family!

Seattle/King County Humane Society

Until next time…keep it relevant!

“Your Life is Worth Protecting:” Remembering Mom’s Advice

Tomorrow marks the one week anniversary of another senseless pedestrian death on a cross-street not more than 3/4 of a mile from my home. What makes this a senseless loss of life are a few facts that are atypical of most Auto-Pedestrian deaths in this country:

    1. The accident took place at 3:30 pm — in broad daylight
    2. The pedestrian was walking on the shoulder of the road — several feet beyond the fog line
    3. The pedestrian was wearing bright colors.

Of course, there are several facts about the accident that are also VERY typical of accidents that result in pedestrian deaths:

    1. The pedestrian was walking in an area with no sidewalks
    2. The pedestrian was walking with their back to traffic and listening to their iPod.
    3. The car was travelling fast enough to carry the pedestrian 500 feet after impact
    4. The driver of the car left the scene to get a soda – to try and neutralize his over-the-limit blood alcohol level.

Clearly the driver here is responsible for the accident and tragic outcome.  But I can’t look at this situation and wonder had the pedestrian been following the guidance my mother gave my siblings and me, might they still be alive today?  And while this accident took place on a little two-lane well-traveled country road, I daily see pedestrians in the city commit infraction after infraction, each putting their lives into the hands of drivers who may not be paying attention.  Time to channel my mother:

  • Always walk facing traffic, and pay attention to cars as they approach
  • Use the crosswalk and where a painted crosswalk doesn’t exist, cross only at the intersection
  • Make eye contact with the driver of a car making a right turn (and not looking your way) before your foot leaves the sidewalk
  • Wait for the walk signal…it’s at most a minute of two of your life to be patient

And…since personal music players weren’t part of my childhood, my wife and I added this one for our son:

  • Keep your music low enough to hear what’s going on around you.

It’s a sobering statistic to read that “one pedestrian is killed every 107 minutes in America.  Thirty-seven percent of pedestrians are “alcohol impaired” versus just seventeen percent of drivers in fatal auto-pedestrian accidents.”  (Courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Association).

We learned to crawl before we walked.  We walked before we rode bikes.  We rode bikes before we drove cars.  How can we not be expert “walkers” after all this time?

The “Anti-Bucket” List

There are so many people today looking at their lives and taking stock of their accomplishments.  It’s easy to find yourself in a moment of quiet reflection considering the things you haven’t done, but have always wanted to do.  Yes…I’m talking about the Bucket List.  And yes, I’ve got mine.

But just as important, I think, is the anti-bucket list.  Not to take a negative approach, but how do any of us intend on living the years necessary to check off all that’s on our bucket list if we don’t also consider those things we’re going to avoid that could maim or kill us?  Huh?  I’ve considered it.  So without further eloquence — my “anti-bucket” list:

Skydiving
There’s just something I can’t understand about the supposed thrill you get leaping from a plane at 10,000 feet. You do know that, as designed, planes can take you up in the air, then bring you back down again?

The only purpose I can see for skydiving is practice for when your flight from Seattle to Miami to take a cruise suddenly develops engine trouble over Denver, and you may have to bail. As my pilot friend Marv would say, “Why leave the safety of a perfectly good airplane?” I agree.

Bungee Jumping
Close behind skydiving comes this ludicrous activity from our very nearly educated brethren to the north…Canada. Tie some rubber bands around your ankles and jump off a high bridge over a raging river. Right?! Someone’s been hitting the Molson a little hard! I’ve seen the videos of those chords snapping under the pressure of 180 lbs humans…imagine the number of bungees (clean out the Ace Hardware boys!) it would take to keep my 3 bills from hitting that water…hard. No thank you!

Swim with the sharks
Technically, having snorkeled in the Caribbean on several vacations, I’ve already completed this task. There are sharks in the Caribbean…they just weren’t around us at the time. And I think I’ll keep it that way. Hey! Get that chum out of here!

Run with the bulls of Pamplona, Spain
Okay…we’ve all seen this on Wide World of Sports, or ESPN. A bunch of idiots dress in all white — except the red belts and red bandanas around their necks — and try to outrun (or run alongside) some 100 fully horned and pissed off bulls. “But it’s a generations old tradition,” people tell me. So what? I…Don’t…Care! It’s not that I can’t run, or jump the fence to safety. White makes me look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man — I don’t wear it well. Nuff said.

Buy a Harley Davidson
This is a favorite hobby of many middle-aged men…several I know personally. I had a big motorcycle in high school so I understand the attraction: The open road; best girl on behind you with her arms around your waist; wind whipping past your ears so fast that, coupled with the roar of the engine, you can’t hear your best girl hollering at you to slow down; your mustache/beard collecting flying bugs and getting so tangled you can’t comb it out. Total bliss, right?

Step into any local Harley dealer, find a pre-owned bike with low miles (there are plenty) and ask the salesperson why the original owner returned it. Chances are the owner took that Hog onto the freeway and got so scared by the lack of courtesy of other drivers…let alone the lack of steel around the body to protect it…they returned the bike and wondered what ever the hell they were thinking! Operating a motorcycle on anything other than an empty country road just isn’t what it once was…safer. I trust me…I don’t trust the other guy!

Now I’ve been pretty vocal in this blog how I believe that one is only as old as they act. Want to feel young, then act young. But I’m also pretty certain that some things just come with a risk not worth taking. So I figure that sticking to my anti-bucket list gives me a better chance of out-living my lovely wife…which I promised her I’d do more than 35 years ago.

Till next time…cheers!