Friday, July 25, 2014

When The Sun Goes Down

A warm summer night. Kris was busy with her French lessons. Seemed like a perfect time to go for a night ride. So I fired up the old F6 and took to the road. If you don't ride, it's difficult to describe how your senses, all of them, just come alive when you're "in the wind." Maybe even more so at night. The sun hadn't quite disappeared over the western horizon as I put the first few miles behind me. Ahead were the Black Hills, which were blacker than usual this particular evening. On nights like this it's obvious how they got their name.
One thing I just love about my rides is that my mind wanders and I have time to think about a lot of things. I wonder about what the future might bring, try to be completely aware of the present, and remember the past. The past was a recurring theme on this ride, with the wheels of my memory starting to turn faster as I rode past the Spearfish Water Park.  It was closed, but looked very inviting. I wondered if anyone ever tries to sneak in after hours. Probably not, because it's well lit and close to the road.  Not like the swimming pools we raided when we were kids.  One of our main targets was a private pool behind a house in my hometown that had easy access by way of the railroad tracks that ran right by it on one side or from the alley on another side. Under the cover of darkness we would scale the wood fence for a quick dip before making a clean getaway. The other popular spot was the pool at the golf course.  I will never forget one night when I was a freshman in high school, probably 14 or 15 years old. Some friends and I decided a midnight swim would be fun. So we tramped on out to the golf course and were in for quite a surprise when we arrived. A group of girls was already in the pool wearing only their bras and underwear. They were senior girls! And they didn't even care when we jumped in with them. That was probably the best night ever for me up to that point in my life.  Me and couple of friends in the pool at midnight with a bunch of senior girls. How cool were we? As I look back now I'm pretty sure there were some adults in the club house smoking cigarettes and drinking Old Grand Dad bourbon who knew we were out there. I would like to say "thank you" for letting us have some fun. You were some pretty cool cats yourselves. 
Now - back to current events and my night ride. Since I was already close I decided to go on up Spearfish Canyon a mile or two. I stopped at the Corn Flake Bowl, named by a friend many years ago as a group of us sat there looking at the stars and having the impression we were in just such a bowl. 
Things look different there at night -

I could have used a flash, but this is a more accurate illustration of what I'm talking about. 

And the stars. So many stars. I arrived just as the transition from dusk to dark was complete. I looked up to see dozens of stars overhead. Then I turned around to look at the sky behind me and suddenly there were hundreds of stars. I turned again and there were thousands. Then millions! It was good medicine. Medicine for the spirit. Medicine for the soul. If you've never just stood quietly in the forest looking at a clear bright night sky, you don't know what you've missed. Really. Do it. Even if it's not in a forest but just in your own back yard. You will be better off for it.  
I didn't stay long. It wasn't necessary. I had gotten what I came for. It was time to go home. But the star gazing didn't stop for the night.  We both went outside to watch a little bit more of the show. We saw satellites, airplanes and even a shooting star. So it turned out to be everything a perfect summer night should be. Well, almost. The only thing missing was falling asleep on a blanket on the ground.  But that will happen before summer is over. I'm pretty sure of it.


Roger O'Dea    7-25-14

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bumpin, Buglin, Mangy and Crazy

Three day weekend! I don't get many of those, so I like to make them count. This one over the 4th of July holiday weekend was great!  It started off with the huge parade that is part of the Black Hills Roundup celebration in Belle Fourche. It's fun to see all the class reunion floats, the dignitaries, bands...including a bagpipe group and even a couple of banjo players this year...and a lot of cool old cars. But even more fun for me than the parade itself is observing the people who line the streets to view this once a year extravaganza.
No matter what is going on in the parade, there's always someone watching the parade who is just as interesting.  Like this guy -
"Goonies Forever."  Classic.

Then it was off to the Black Hills. There's nothing like the Black Hills of South Dakota in summer. Any season really, but especially summer for me. We would be staying at a campground in Hill City, and no trip to Hill City is complete without a stop at the Bumpin' Buffalo. It's across the street from the Mangy Moose, which also looks like a fun place, but the rooftop patio at the BB is pretty cool. It's even better when there's a hard rain beating out a rhythm on the tin roof. It made for a very pleasant evening, which included us and a couple of friends around the campfire after the rain stopped; talking about the events of the day and plans for tomorrow.
We enjoyed a nice bicycle ride Saturday morning under a bright sunny sky that was so blue it was almost purple -


In the afternoon we traveled on to Custer to see what all the excitement was about regarding a popular burger joint. And, by popular, I mean lines out the door and around the corner. No way we were going to wait in a line like that to get in to what looked like a very small and unexceptional cafe. Good thing we didn't wait, because we found another place close by called the Buglin' Bull (what's with these names?) that also had rooftop seating ... and the best nachos I've had in quiet a long time.  
We decided we would visit the Crazy Horse Memorial that night and see the laser light show. We had heard mixed reviews about it, but had never been there ourselves so we decided it was time. I have always been suspicious of this place and my visit confirmed my suspicions. I was extremely disappointed. The laser show appeared to be very low tech, something that you may have seen in 1995. The first image projected onto the mountain at the beginning of the show was...wait for it...a logo for U.S. Smokeless Tobacco. Other corporate sponsors followed.  "This program to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians is brought to you by EconoLodge."
Okay, I know they need money to keep the memorial open, but I believe they've gone too far. Other examples of the excess in solicitations are the donation boxes everywhere and the raffle ticket displays in the main exhibit halls.

And as far as their proud claim of not accepting any federal or state government funding, could it be that it's because then they would have to finish it? That would mean the donation angle would be diminished and they would be forced to depend on admission ticket sales for their income. There has been very little progress made in the last decade. I would think that a project begun 65 years ago would be completed by now.  Mount Rushmore was carved in less than 15 years.  And that was over 70 years ago.  Construction methods, tools and technology have greatly improved since then. It simply shouldn't take this long.
Despite the fact that it is not anywhere near being completed it still is a beautiful sight to view at night when the mountain is bathed in light. 

And even though the museum and cultural center is not much larger than the gift shop, it is very interesting to see the artifacts and historical photos, as well as the Native American and Western art.
But, as far as the sculpture itself on the big mountain in the heart of the Black Hills - get to work and finish it! 

Roger O'Dea     07/08/2014






Friday, June 6, 2014

Storms Never Last

"Stormy weather,
Just can't get my poor self together ..."

Anybody else notice how many storms we've had already? Severe storms. It's hard for me to complain because I've always liked a good thunderstorm. But it seems like they've come early and have been more fierce this year. We've been fortunate so far in our town. No big hail or damaging winds. But we can't seem to shake the trend of almost daily afternoon darkening skies, often leading to some heavy downpours and threatening winds. We do get an occasional respite. Like yesterday. It was sunny and 75. But now as I write this the clouds have gathered in a sinister plot to once again deny the sun its rightful and proper place of prominence in the summer sky. So it looks like another one day in a row, then back to what must be climate change because it's sure not global warming. Forecast says rain and highs only in the 50s or maybe low 60s for the weekend. That just doesn't seem right for June in South Dakota. Although, as I've already mentioned, it's not entirely a bad thing. Because with bothersome or disagreeable weather often comes some pretty good photo opportunities. Which suits me just fine.
It's also true that some of our most fun and exciting family times have been experienced in the grip of a raging storm. Like the time we were camping near Mt. Rushmore with our son, who was about 9 or 10 years old at the time, and a thunderstorm of near epic proportions moved in so quickly it caught most everyone totally unprepared. Most everyone but us that is. We were skilled campers. We had pitched our tent on a very slight incline and driven the stakes deep into the ground when setting up, and even carved out a shallow trench around our tent to divert the water around it in the event of rain. And, oh, did it rain! There was also some of the most intense lightning and thunder we had ever  experienced. We were huddled together inside that little tent, dry and cozy, while the storm raged outside. It was awesome! We still talk about that night and how much fun it was to "beat the devil."
Some storms, however, have not provided such good memories. There was one a few years ago that sent us scurrying into the crawl space under our house to escape the high winds and huge hailstones crashing through our windows. That was scary. So, I guess the quote by Forrest Gump about a box of chocolates could also apply to summer storms... "You never know what you're going to get."  
One other thing - have you ever seen the tree pollen as thick as it is this year? It's crazy. I snapped a picture one afternoon a few days ago because I couldn't believe what I was seeing off in the distance. The pollen was so thick in the air it looked like a pale yellow fog rolling through the trees. It was kind of creepy.
If there was a time before when it was this bad I don't remember it. The rain started just a few minutes after I took the photo and knocked it all down, but for a while it was quite a sight.  
As I look out the window now from my desk I see the sun has lost another battle against the clouds. Guess I'll load some fresh tunes into my playlist for the drive to work, and take some comfort in the fact that, just like storms in life, storms outside never last either. Now I just need to decide which version of Stormy Weather to include. Billie Holiday or Lena Horne? Actually, I'm going with the Etta James version. I like that one the best. I might even turn it up real loud and sing along. I don't even care if someone is watching, as long as they can't hear me. That would be one box of chocolates no one would want to get.


Roger O'Dea   06/06/2014





Monday, May 5, 2014

Ten Years After

I don't like taking a test. I'm usually not very good at it. But sometimes you have to do it, even if you're afraid of what the results might be.  This December will be the 10th anniversary of my heart attack, so during my regular annual checkup the doctor recommended I take a stress test to see what condition my condition is in.  I've only done this once before, nearly three years ago. It was the abbreviated version which consisted of walking on a treadmill while being connected to an electrocardiogram. It was toward the end of a summer packed with activities and I felt good, so I wasn't very worried about the results.  And I pretty much aced it.

This time I would be taking the test near the end of winter...a season where I do nothing.  Not even regular exercise. I could exercise. I should exercise. I just don't.  I don't like it, and prefer to get my workouts naturally by being outside between May and October. I am admittedly a little soft right now.  So it was with some trepidation that I showed up for my scheduled appointment.  Adding to my anxiety was the way they would be conducting the test this time.  I would not only be hooked up to the machine as usual, but I would be connected to an ultrasound device so they could actually observe how my heart responded to the strain.  I wasn't expecting that, but didn't protest.  That is until they informed me that they weren't getting a clear picture during the prep process so they were going to insert an I.V. with a solution that would allow them to see into my heart more clearly.  Great.  If I already wasn't worried enough, now I had to think about getting a needle jammed into my hand and having a tube hanging off me - in addition to all the wires.  I could feel my blood pressure rising.  Oh. Did I mention that I also had a blood pressure cuff around my arm?  I seriously considered calling the whole thing off.  The I.V. was something I just wasn't sure I wanted to allow.  I've had a few of those in my day, and more often than not the person attempting to insert the needle into whatever part of my body they were attempting to insert it into had a difficult time getting the job done. I don't blame them. I apparently have difficult veins for this type of procedure. Also, I tend to tense up which just makes it even more difficult.  The nurse was very reassuring, though, and very skilled. It actually went in quite smoothly and with very little pain.
The test got underway at slow speed and just a slight incline. After three minutes the speed was increased and the incline raised.  So far so good.  Three minutes later the speed was increased and the incline raised again.  This cycle was repeated a couple more times until my brisk walk turned into running at a pretty good clip.  After that cycle I reached my limit and had to stop.  The nurse and ultrasound tech both said I did well and everything looked good even after I maxed out on my heart rate.  They even said I beat my time from the previous test. That surprised me. But I was very happy to hear it.  I was also pleased (and relieved) when I received this letter from my doctor a few days later -











Brief and to the point. But good news just the same. And a relief, because as I mentioned, it's coming up on ten years since my heart attacked me. The reason that is significant is that the surgeon told me at the time, and my follow up doctor has repeated it several times, the type of by-pass surgery I had generally only lasts from 10 to 15 years before the veins used to build the new arteries wear out and the surgery needs to be done again.  Because I had five by-passes (yes...five) and because I was relatively young at the time it is very likely I will outlive the rebuilt arteries and will need the surgery at some point in the future. That's still true.  However, the results of this latest checkup have provided me with at least some assurance that I have a few years before I need to start worrying about the inevitable.  I can put it off even longer by eating better, exercising regularly, and being more mindful of my health on a daily basis.  I really should do those things.  Everybody should.  And I intend to. I hope I can follow through.  Guess I'd better get started, because I have a lot of things to do and a lot of places to go.

Roger O'Dea   5-4-14

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Waiting For The Road To Open

It's been approximately 178 days now since I've gone on a motorcycle ride. Or teed up a golf ball. Or bicycled down a single track trail on the back side of Old Baldy. Or hiked to a secret place that only I and a relatively small band of ragtag fellow travelers know about. Of those 178 days, a majority of them have been cloudy, gray and terribly cold. Yes, it has been a long winter. According to the National Weather Service our area has experienced its snowiest winter ever, and 10th coldest winter on record. My senses have been dulled and my energy level is diminished. That's not good.
Yesterday was nice, though, in the 60s. But I was working so I missed most of it. I miss a lot by working Saturdays, but that's the cost of being in retail. Besides, somebody has to be there to keep America rolling and I don't mind (much) that it's me. As I write this it's about 50 degrees on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But it's cloudy and windy, so it doesn't feel all that nice. And this is the outlook for tonight and tomorrow -
 By the time most of you read this the storm will be in full force, or over. That's the good thing...storms never last. But, I want to be prepared so I'm already getting in to full storm prep mode by searching for videos to add to the queue, like highlights from the 1977 Duke Kahanamoko Surfing Championship which was won by Eddie Aikau.  That's probably not something you remember, but I remember watching it on ABC's Wide World of Sports and never missed a broadcast from 1969 through 1979. Not being a surfer myself, I can't explain my loyalty to the DK Classic. Just one of those things we get caught up in, I guess. Sort of like today's obsession by so many people with The Walking Dead. That phenomenon has just recently hit our household. I bailed on it fairly quickly, although when I am otherwise occupied I still occasionally hear zombie sounds coming from the TV in another room. Fortunately we are still fiercely resisting getting hooked on Breaking Bad. But I digress. Getting back to my storm prep - also on the list is the movie Almost Famous, with back-ups of Groundhog Day and possibly one of the original Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers. Books on stand-by include One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I've wanted to read for quite a while but the time has never seemed right up to this point. Or, Advise and Dissent - Memoirs Of An Ex-Senator by Jim Abourezk. I kind of remember reading this one when it was originally published about 25 years ago. I didn't have it in my library, though, and bought it about a month ago after discovering it in the cluttered aisles of a wonderful used book store in Rapid City. Although my days as a political activist are long over, Senator Abourezk is one of only two politicians (George McGovern being the other one) that I ever truly respected for standing firm on their principals as opposed to standing for whatever they think will get them re-elected.
So bring it on Storm! I'm ready for you this time, and can outlast you. It's almost April. There will be more cold days ahead, and even more snow. I understand that. However, I also know that soon brown and gray and white will give way to greens and blues and yellows and all the colors of summer. The roads will be open and clear, and it will be time to RIDE!

Roger O'Dea   3/30/2014


Thursday, March 6, 2014

No More Bomb Throwing

To Whom It May Concern,
Stop it. Just stop it.  I am so tired of the acrimony, name calling and hatefulness from both sides of the so called marriage equality issue.  Using hurtful, offensive or angry words and displaying such malice in your comments and actions only hurts your cause.  I have seen examples lately in social media like this ---
"...take that all you self righteous, bible thumping, chest beating apes!"
Now, what did that accomplish? How did this comment do anything to further your position, belief or argument?  The other side is probably just as bad, although they are not quite as vocal around here about their position.  And it seems their opposition to marriage equality is largely based on religious beliefs.  That's fine.  I respect that. Both sides have every right to their beliefs, and the right to assemble, protest peacefully, lobby, debate and try to change the things they think need changing.  But, please, do it in a way that doesn't insult, demean or belittle others.  Is that so much to ask?

Personally, I don't understand the problem.  Love is an emotion. A feeling. You can't just make it go away.  Two people, any two people, who love each other should be able to get married.  Or not get married.  It should be their choice.  How does that decision affect the health or well being of anyone who is opposed to it?  This comment made by a friend of mine on a social media site seems to put it in perspective quite well ---
"Every person deserves equality in all their rights...regardless of who they love. Isn't that what we are here to do is love one another?? How can that be wrong or judged when it is in fact the most powerful and positive energy there is...regardless of who is loving who! Life is way too short to be anything but happy. Make your memories good ones. We are here to make it the most amazing journey we can for ourselves and others. Be Kind and Love One Another. Simple."

Then there's this from Ellen ---
"Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don't think we hurt anyone else's marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they're fine. - See more at: http://perezhilton.com/2013-03-06-ellen-degeneres-supreme-court-brief-marriage-equality#sthash.wmftDrIo.dpuf
"Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don't think we hurt anyone else's marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they're fine. - See more at: http://perezhilton.com/2013-03-06-ellen-degeneres-supreme-court-brief-marriage-equality#sthash.wmftDrIo.dpuf
"Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don't think we hurt anyone else's marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they're fine. - See more at: http://perezhilton.com/2013-03-06-ellen-degeneres-supreme-court-brief-marriage-equality#sthash.BhWndcb2.dpuf
“Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don’t think we hurt anyone else’s marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they’re fine.” 

Nothing like a little humor from Ellen to make a point.  I guess that's really what this essay is about ... there's a better way to make your point.  Be firm, but be kind.  Have conviction, but also have compassion.  And if you want to win friends and influence people - stop throwing bombs.  Please.

Roger O'Dea    3/6/2014