While You Still Can….

Suze Orman is a motivational speaker, financial guru, and author who just happens to also be a multi-millionaire. I suspect that life in the rarified atmosphere of untold wealth tends to influence your perspective in regard to the life we live and want to live. She is an eternal optimist, entertaining and offering sound advice to those of us who care to admit that we just may not have all the answers to living beyond fifty. Anytime I am not “doing something” I am reading and I recently perused her take on the rules of retirement in the September issue of AARP, the magazine. Clever lady.

While I have not amassed great fortunes, I have managed to live awhile in a cluttered world leading me to develop a personal philosophy for what is important to me as my ability to do “stuff” declines. I thought I might share a perspective or two developed from years on the streets, some of which were located in countries offering far less in comfort than we currently enjoy in America.

Friends are a high priority for me. We all develop many acquaintances over time. Some of these acquaintances develop into friends, and fewer still into close friends. If you haven’t done so lately, it might be a good time to take stock of your friend inventory and recognize them for the treasure they really are. What is the difference, you might ask, in levels of friendship. Real friends will always tell you what you NEED to hear as opposed to what you WANT to hear. They can absorb a difference of opinion with you, smile and hug you anyhow. Call it tough love and always remember this love flows both ways. I recently enjoyed a wonderful evening with an old friend that, literally, had my back in life and death circumstances. Mike who lives not far from me, was a bright, razor sharp trooper who joined the Highway Patrol a year or so ahead of me. We laughed hard, tears flowing down our cheeks, at the peccadillos we found ourselves in, and on occasion, shot our way out of. Between the two of us, we might be able to muster up 50% of the horsepower and enthusiasm we possessed 50 years ago…maybe. It occurred to me as we enjoyed bar-b-cue and beverage that I owe Mike, the least of which is an honest effort to maintain a friendship honed in circumstances that are unimaginable. How many friends like this are you ignoring or, in more pleasant terms, taking for granted? One of these days, one of us is going to be begin that final journey under a sheet and it will be too late to offer our appreciation for the other’s contribution to our life. So, thank you Mike, I love you brother.

In Ms. Orman’s article, she points out another disturbing fact regarding our entry into the “golden years”, a description that I am sure refers to the cataract induced halo that begins to affect our vision as we age. American’s are loathe to plan for retirement when they are younger and can make decisions not affected by some current circumstance. A whopping 54% of us have no retirement plan beyond a few thoughts that rattle around in our heads. Even scarier, 34% of Americans have nothing, not even a random thought about tomorrow. That leaves around 12% of us who have spent time with a financial guru to establish a plan for the time when the aforementioned halo becomes a cane and trained canine. I suppose if you live hand to mouth with no hope of retiring then planning is a matter of keeping ahead of the ever present hand out to grab your precious “discretionary” money. If that is your lot, God bless you for your honest effort to carry your own freight until the end. I am not remotely qualified to offer financial advice, but there are many folks who are. They might make an interesting addition to the list of friends that will tell you what you need to know as opposed to the alternative. We love our advisor and have long since welcomed her into our inner circle! We took advantage of her expertise, while we could.

Finally, life itself. I will deliver a pristine, very low mileage Harley Davidson motorcycle to a friend of a friend this week. I am not looking forward to this inevitable closing of a great chapter in my life. Serious issues with my feet and arthritis have combined to make throwing around this big iron far less than pleasant. I am thankful that I was able to work 6 or so years of road “freedom” into a full life but hate admitting that quitting is the absolute right thing to do. Buying a new “lighter” bike is not going to bring back the sharpness that is intrinsic to managing the odds of a motorcycle surviving in traffic, and I am forced to acknowledge that while I could once heft a 150# person and carry them up an embankment when the need presented itself, today I have to steel myself to heft a 50# bag of kibbles into the mud room. Another venture into life at an age when many folks are shutting down their involvement involves piloting an airplane. I have always wanted to do this, and while I had a little left, undertook flight training. I progressed through soloing, cross country solo flights and was, as my instructor said, “ready to be kicked out of the nest”. At this point, aging stepped in and reminded me that I needed to rethink this wonderful pastime. While I can fly very light aircraft on my driver’s license, my AME (flight surgeon) tells me that I likely will not pass a third class medical exam. So, I decided to concede on this issue as airplanes are expensive and I damned sure would buy one, but for how much longer? I should have considered this business a few years back……but I didn’t. To my flying friends, kudos for grabbing this ring when health was not an obstacle, but beware. You all know exactly what I am talking about.

So, where are we. I have enough close friends to help get my pine box to the crematory and share my checkered existence with Sharon over funeral potatoes and ham. God granted me just enough patience to accept the few times that I was told no, either by circumstance or more directly. I have learned to accept failure when I simply wasn’t up to the task and I seldom am forced to acknowledge that I should have done something “while I still could”. My hat is off to those who read this and can say the same. If you are among those who are harboring regrets, get up off your comfortable duffs and do something about it. I am still not through tackling new adventures and will continue to do so, but will be much more cautious and outcome oriented. Can you say the same?

Tackle life while you still can!

Assembly Required

These simple words strike fear into the very souls of folks who have acquired the latest offering from China designed to make life either easier or more fun. Sharon and I often utter gentle oaths at the Chinese when we acknowledge their raucous laughter at Americans struggling to put one of their offerings together with a “few basic tools”. It is getting better, though, at least the directions of late are spelled out in a crude form of English, accompanied by little drawings that will send you to the coffee maker for a fresh cup of common sense. Before we hurl additional invectives at the folks over there bent on acquiring America a little at a time, let’s have a look at our own evolution.

My grandfather worked out of a tool chest about the size of an Army footlocker. In it were enough basic tools to keep an old John Deere tractor running smoothly as well as craft necessary wooden masterpieces for everyday farm use. He could work on the well pump, mend a mule harness or replace a porch rail with little exertion and his trusty tool box. An extension cord wasn’t required to operate the brace and bit and carefully sharpened hand saw used to work wood. A basic set of wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers and two hammers rounded out his equipment, a ball peen and claw hammer to be exact. His wizardry with a few hand tools is the stuff of legend. My own evolution was tempered by necessity. My first new bicycle was acquired after I was employed as a Highway Patrolman, thus necessitating the ability to keep a succession of used bikes running with those few precious tools that were lying about. My own father was not particularly mechanically inclined, however; could field strip and reassemble any small arm in the Army’s arsenal in a matter of minutes, blindfolded. In spite of his prowess with the weaponry of the day, I remember him baffled by the simple design of a closed face spinning reel. I did take the time to learn to set the points in a distributor, gap a spark plug and change the oil in my cars. These fine arts are of no use to me today as ignitions are well beyond points and condensers and Jiffy something or other can handle your oil change before you can polish off a bag of popcorn provided for your entertainment while you wait. We gladly pay for convenience these days and wonder why we need alcohol to settle our nerves when we crack open a box with a simple table needing assembly.

Recently we acquired a set of rock guards to keep rocks from beating the daylights out of our aluminum RV. They came in a box proudly proclaiming assembly was required. How difficult can this be? I cracked the box and had my answer immediately. The rubber guards had to be trimmed and a series of holes punched into them for mounting screws. There was the very real consideration of spacing on the stainless steel support poles and a bag or two of screws, washers and such that easily weighed a pound. The folks in Beijing were kind enough to provide a punch that was to be used to create the mounting holes. This punch was useless as the force needed to drive it through the industrial, reinforced rubber mats required inhuman force through a five pound hammer. I finally prevailed, and the guards look good. I am confident my readers understand this frustration. I suspect that all of us at one time our another have struggled with a wall mount for a television or the simple task of assembling a set of steel storage shelves for the garage. The Beijing engineers smile knowingly at each other as they adjust the presses that spit these shelves out to be just a skosh out of square presumably to offset the latest tariff on their products.

Recently, I decided to change the oil in the pads that line my motorcycle helmet. After a full season of riding in the midwestern heat, my full face helmet was acquiring the aura of Peppi LePew, and needed to be refreshed. The pads are designed to “pop” out, and after a few hours of soaking in Woolite and drying out, are ready to be “snapped” back in. There are 8 of these little pads that must be snapped in a specific order and are not interchangeable from left to right. Don’t do this at home, pitch the helmet and buy a new one…

I smiled knowingly at a photo sent to me by one of my sisters this past Christmas. Her husband is a construction manager who oversees huge construction projects. The picture was of him and his son-in-law both totally engaged in assembling the latest gizmo for the grandkids. They were totally engrossed in this project and laboring furiously as this device needed to be ready for action on a time table provided by the jolly man in a red suit, due any moment. Completing a multi million project on time and within budget is one thing but a race with Santa is something far more serious!

After retiring from the Patrol, it occurred to me that retired police officers were not particularly in demand as our skill sets were generally out of the mainstream of American commerce. I hired out, at 10 bucks an hour, to a general contractor, with the intent to learn to build a house from the dig-out to finish trim. It was a fascinating and instructive adventure. I then put these skills to use and contracted as well as participated in the build of our Truman Lake home. While I certainly wasn’t ready to begin contracting as a vocation, I took great satisfaction in knowing that I could do something with my hands besides cuffing a suspect or drafting an accident report. We have come a very long way from those days when my grandfather was the mechanic, carpenter and general handyman that we quickly google the services of today. I applaud those who can still function in today’s world without googling “the guy” to handle most of our tasks. I worry about the new generations who will never know the challenge of “some assembly required”. A week or so ago, while shopping for a new lawn mower, I watched a young couple negotiating the purchase of a mower for themselves. They wanted it “assembled” which in this case meant popping two bolts through the handle after extending it. The salesman told them that assembly was a flat 20.00 additional charge. That was okay and the deal was closed. This couple was not going to take the bait and opt for anything that required assembly.

They probably just finished assembling a set of steel shelves from Beijing, or Heaven forbid, a plastic garden box, some assembly required!

Arthritis, The Ultimate Bully….

Police officers, even those of us in remission, are trained to despise bully’s. We are what often stands between bully’s of all stripes and those that are bullied which presents a real problem for the bully as we are also trained to not lose in confrontations. That being said, I am writing this at 2 AM because my personal bully, arthritis, is on the job. My readers who suffer from any one of the hundred or so types of arthritis know what I am talking about, however; a review of this disease’s impact on our lives might prove interesting to everyone.

I have fought arthritis with every imaginable resource to include a terrific set of rheumatologists, one at the Cleveland Clinic and one in Springfield, two pain management specialists, again one at the Cleveland Clinic and one here, an orthopedic surgeon here in Springfield and my PCP. These efforts are directed to the management of the disease with no chance of curing it. As all sufferers know, there are bad days and days, well, that aren’t quite as bad. I have experienced two thumb surgeries to relieve pain, trading this relief for the strength normally found in a thumb. I have also experienced a series of x-ray guided injections in my lower back. The point here is that I am trying to keep old “Arthur” at bay.

Post surgical X-ray of my left hand.

Dr. Mathew Bunyard, of Cleveland Clinic fame, began our association by suggesting there is much that doctors know about arthritis and much more they do not. After an exhaustive head to toe examination, x-rays and extensive blood work, he concluded that my arthritis might be a type associated with European descendents afflicted with an anomaly in the way our bodies manage iron. My affliction is associated with the more common osteoarthritis as opposed to the more dangerous rheumatoid arthritis. After all of these medical interventions, we are left with two strategies to combat “Arthur”; symptom reduction and slowing the progression. The emphasis here is on symptom reduction, a strategy that presents a new set of problems as the medicines all have sometimes dramatic side effects.

I rely heavily on prescription strength NSAIDs. These medicines combat inflammation and provide pain relief. They are a two edged sword with the benefits being offset by gastrointestinal bleeding and a negative impact on cardiac function accompanied by an increase in stroke probability. The second approach involves powerful pain relievers, such as Tramadol, a synthetic opioid believed to be a safer option in terms of dependence and abuse. Tramadol works very well, however; you cannot set foot in the cockpit of an airplane while taking it, even though I seem to function normally. There are a few drugs that are thought to slow the progression of Arthur, but their efficacy is questionable.

Next comes the diet approach. There are a number of theories here, often contradicting each other. Generally you should adopt the Ewell Gibbons (of Grape Nuts fame) approach, eating rocks and sticks and other stuff that is disgusting. One should avoid baked goods, sugar in any form, red meat, fried foods, salt, refined grains, cheese and corn oil. Even some vegetables, such as tomatoes, are not in your best interest. Apparently boiled eggs and kale are your go to treats! I am not handling this approach very well.

Although counter-intuitive, exercise in moderation is thought to be very good for those of us in relationships with Arthur. I am fine with this premise, although some gym functions are not pleasant, especially ones that involve the hands to any extent. Exercise also falls under the heading of “two edged sword”, just as the meds do. Grin and bear it….

Now, how does Arthur impact my daily life. I have given up most forms of fishing as I do not have the dexterity to tie a Palomar knot or decent blood knot. Handling a 2# tippet is out of the question. In addition to the dexterity necessary to handling terminal tackle, I cannot handle a trolling motor pedestal for much more than a few minutes. With weakened hands, I imagine I would look like a harpooned walrus trying to get back in the boat after tumbling out, an event that has happened on occasion. The simple manipulation of a rod and reel is accompanied by pain, especially aggravating if the conditions are cold. I am incapable of putting more than 4 rounds of ammunition into a pistol magazine without relying on one of the many excellent load assist devices on the market. It is a race when I mow the lawn, with the pain in my feet and toes competing with the hand pain that begins building immediately after the mower is started. I love yard work, however, there is a price to be paid when outside. I am determined to ride the Harley as long as I can, but even short trips challenge Arthur to a duel. My clumsy footwork does not lend itself to the smooth flying of an airplane on those days when I am not taking a med for pain control. I am adapting but refuse to concede in this conflict.

One in four Americans will suffer from some form of arthritis. I absolutely do not feel sorry for myself as there are many who are in far worse shape. I can remember a time when I had little respect for this malady, thinking it to simply be an inconvenience. I can assure you that Arthur is a monumental pain in the butt, a world class bully. In a final attack on the dignity of people suffering from Arthur, many specialists now believe that coffee aggravates this malady.

Oh hell no……I am having none of that!

An Evening in the ER……….

I am a trained observer in remission, that is a retired officer of the law years removed from my former vocation. This past Tuesday evening, I was able polish my observational skills in an eye opening experience in one of our large area hospital’s emergency room. I thought I might share our experience with an eye toward one of the many problems with our medical care system in America.

Sharon, my wife, doesn’t fall well. She suffers from a form of neuropathy that results in poor feeling in her lower legs. This affliction, in turn, results in her body occasionally getting ahead of her legs, not a good thing. We were enjoying a Netflix movie Tuesday evening when she suddenly decided to hop up and thaw a pound of shrimp for dinner. As you might guess, her legs were not in sinc and down she went striking the corner of the coffee table and bending her ankle in a direction that ankles cannot go. This graceless tumble was accompanied by a distinct cracking sound and a great deal of pain. (We later determined the cracking sound was the sound of my laptop slamming shut when she hit the table it was on.) Putting my observational skills to good use, I suspected we had a major issue on our hands and I elevated her leg and began preparing for a trip to urgent care. The swelling was instantaneous and significant as was immediate bruising. Her last fall resulted in a titanium plate in her wrist, which only served to increase my sense of urgency. I was able to get her into the car and off we went. This is the beginning of the train wreck.

A quick perusal of the urgent care centers seemed to indicate that most had closed at 4:30 or so, and given the nature of the injury I made the command decision to head to the local hospital ER as I suspected a fracture was likely, necessitating a care level above an urgent care shop. After all, it was Tuesday and the ER surely would not be that busy. I parked, grabbed a wheelchair and rolled up to the triage nurse who was polite but unimpressed. We checked in and began the wait for a room and examination. The next two hours constituted a college level course in the observation of human behavior. Immediately to our left sat a portly young woman engaged in a FaceTime call with a male during which she laughed and joked with the gentleman over the course of a full hour. They were on the speaker phone and he could be heard encouraging her to not smile when the vitals nurse made her rounds so as to appear really sick. When asked by the nurse what her pain level was she somberly replied 7, and suggested the pain was located in her abdomen. She kept the gentleman on the speaker phone during the course of her discussion with the nurse and immediately resumed her animated discussion with him when the nurse departed. A quick survey of the triage area and waiting room revealed two obviously homeless folks (their bicycles, laden with trash bags of clothing and such were parked in the entryway) and a surprising number of folks who had turned the trip into a family get together, laughing and visiting as they awaited the vitals nurse. To be sure, there were some very sick people in the waiting area, including a young girl who was absolutely miserable and nearly unconscious. I felt very badly for them. There are a number of ambulance bays outside this ER, all full, resulting in a steady stream of ambulances discharging their patients outside the ambulatory doors. Some of these folks were able to get off the gurney and walk in to the triage desk. Interesting.

In the middle of the waiting area there is a counter with an automatic coffee brewing machine, operated by pushing buttons to select your preference and to add cream and such. People who were very sick were following people who were presumably very sick to this machine sharing whatever pestilence they were afflicted with through the manipulation of the machine. Sharon was taken back for an X-ray, about halfway through this ordeal, thus precluding our walking out which was exactly what we wanted to do. I sensed a monumental miscalculation on my part in deciding to use this facility. My fears were confirmed when Sharon was whisked back and confronted by a nurse practitioner who said there was no fracture and told her to see a doctor tomorrow for the possibility of a tear or other soft tissue damage. The nurse said she had no idea how much soft tissue damage there might be.

At this point a very nice gentleman walked in and demanded 627.85 be paid immediately for the services rendered. He had already checked our insurance status and noted that she had not exhausted her deductible, accounting for the charge. Our insurance had negotiated a ER rate of 671.00 as opposed to the normal rate of 802.00. I paid, tendering my MasterCard while standing under a sign that said if you cannot pay the hospital will treat you free. The guidance provided by this sign undoubtedly accounted for many of the folks waiting for care in this ER, as I can guarantee that few of them were prepared to lay 802.00 on the barrelhead.

This event underscores one of the many weaknesses in the delivery of health care. To be sure, my amateur diagnosis and suspicion as to the extent of injury led to our not exhausting the possibility of care at any number of urgent care facilities that we later learned were open. An expensive lesson. A conversation with one of the staff in the hospital resulted in my learning the ER begins to fill immediately after the dinner hour as folks stroll in for their medical needs that most of us handle through a relationship with a primary care doctor. The sign says it all. They will treat you for free if you do not have the money or insurance to cover your care. As I understand it, ER’s are losing propositions for hospitals, irrespective of those of us who chip in to cover the expenses of those who cannot pay.

As a last point. It is interesting that I have endured two surgeries and Sharon one, as well as both of us relying on a PCP and various specialists within the Mercy system. We have never carried a balance for the services provided, immediately remitting all copays and after insurance balances. Our loyalty and track record was of absolutely no interest to the fellow with his hand out Tuesday night.

That is how they roll in the ER!

The NCAA Tournament Is Not A Rose Garden…

I love college basketball. This is a sport where raw athleticism reigns supreme. Well, raw athleticism, desire and great coaching, if you really want the full picture. Today’s musings were prompted by an article written by an Associated Press sports writer who disparaged Michigan State’s coach, Tom Izzo, in response to the coach clarifying his expectations with a freshman player who casually drifted back on defense, seemingly oblivious to the task at hand. The writer thought Izzo was out of control as he addressed the player. There are those that might agree however; I am not one of them. The writer made his point and I will make mine.

The writer’s position is one of the great tragedies today. I was raised in an environment somewhat similar to the one this freshman ballplayer found himself in yesterday. My father, a career Army officer was a reasonable man, until an expectation wasn’t met as a result of a problem with the concept of “effort”. The next conveyance of expectation left absolutely no doubt in my mind as to the necessity of getting the job done. All to often today, a failed expectation, particularly with our young people, is met with calm reflection and a suggestion that they had “perhaps not given the task their best effort”. This approach is appropriate in a number of circumstances, but in the middle of the biggest “one and done” tournament of the year, it is not. Each of the five on the floor are carrying at least a 20% responsibility for the games outcome on their shoulders. Izzo is a passionate coach, known for his enthusiasm and demanding style, as many excellent coaches are, and is coincidently, a winner. This young ballplayer admitted, after the game, that his showing was one of his poorest performances this year. That is a sign of maturity. Interestingly, the response from a very large number of players who played for Izzo, has been to endorse the coach’s actions yesterday, even if they had fallen victim to one of his “inflight adjustments’ on occasion.

Now to the bigger picture. The ability to handle adversity is vitally important to personal success in virtually every walk of life, especially team sports. All this talk today of “safe places” and fragile egos is not in our national interest. What happened to this ballplayer has been repeated a million times in the shaping of a civilian to a member of our Armed Forces, in terms that would make Izzo’s intensity look like child’s play. The no-frills delivery of an expectation, in terms that are unpleasant, even harsh, has it’s place in everyday life. It is normally reserved for folks who failed to get the message the first time around. I worked for a number of Patrol Commanders who were perfectly capable of making their point, especially when we failed to grasp the issue at hand the first time around. It is a part of life. When I think back to my High School coaches, the names that I remember are of those who possessed the Izzo gene in terms of intensity. We did not gather around the flag and sing kumbaya in an effort to pursue excellence, believe me.

There are those who suggest that Izzo should have responded to the players lack of effort privately. Really? There is precious little time to address matters privately in a college hoops timeout, especially when the matter is critical. It is also important to note that every player on the team was privilege to the coach’s position relative to a lack of hustle. Clearly, the rest of the game was comprised of foot races in transition. The point was made and the consequences of failure clearly conveyed. I found myself yelling “hustle” to the players in every transition…..

As a final note. I can guarantee that every player that played for coach Tom Izzo, one of the great coaching masters, beams with pride in acknowledging his association with the coach. With rare exception, I strongly suspect they will tell you they are a better man for it.

Thanks, coach. Demanding excellence is a beautiful thing to watch!

Yet Another Motorcycle Thought….

WAIT! Before you move on to surfing Facebook or searching for that next internet purchase, give this article a few minutes. Even if you do not ride you will encounter a motorcycle on the road soon as the season is just getting underway, besides a peek into the psyche of motorcyclists is bound to be just a little entertaining!

Let’s start with an industry in decline. Motorcyclists exhibit nearly rabid brand loyalty. This industry produces motorcycles for nearly every conceivable application from cruising sedately down an interstate in relative luxury to flying off a mogul on a high winding dirt bike, executing a 360 before landing hundreds of feet from your departure point. Harley Davidson’s latest issue of their periodical aptly named H.O.G., (Harley Owners Group) printed the results of an informal poll where enthusiasts could choose their preference, breathlessly running through switchbacks and curves or the long straightaway. It was a virtual wash. Fortunately most bikes today permit traveling over both surfaces. Bikes are loosely classified in broad categories; Adventure, Cruisers, Dirt, Cafe Racers, Commuters, Choppers, Enduro, Moto Cross, Dual Sport and Naked. No, naked is not the obvious, rather referring to the lack of accessories on the machine. Google Triumph and look at their venerable 650 to get the idea. We can add electric to this line-up as there are two very fast electric bikes in production as I write. I am hard on millennials, admittedly likely because I am envious of their incredible array of ways to spend their discretionary time. A perusal of the current motorcycle market clearly indicates they are not entering the world of motorcycles. They would rather spend several thousand dollars on a carbon framed bicycle, another incredibly diversified market. Or technology.

Sorry for the digression…..

There are a good number of motorcycle manufacturers around the world. America does not have this market cornered and never really has. The Japanese and Europeans are building gorgeous, practical and inherently reliable machines, mirroring their experience in producing automobiles. Sales of motorcycles in Europe and Asia are sailing right along, perfect conveyances for the narrow road infrastructure in their homelands. Not so here. I stopped in an Indian motorcycle dealership one day last week. If you can’t ride one in this weather, you can still look at ’em. I noted they had a good number of holdover bikes of 2017 and 2018 vintage, many of them the same bikes on the floor during my last visit nearly a year ago. I ride a Harley, a big, heavy cruiser with all the amenities. Harley and Indian dominate the made in America segment in our part of the world. They are facing a rapidly shrinking demographic and are obviously perplexed as to how to deal with it. The generations these riders represent are rapidly parking their quickly depreciating asset as folks my age do not hold one of these 900 pound behemoths up at a stoplight as easily as we once did. My generation also doesn’t replace their bikes with any degree of frequency, the result of stickers easily ranging up into the 40s. You have to rack up a lot of miles to justify this many Benjamins.

When you venture out on a sun soaked spring afternoon and encounter a motorcycle, smile, wave and give him room. Notwithstanding the very occasional millennial on his new, Nippon pocket rocket, the rider you see is likely near the end. If he is astride a big bore trike, he has acknowledged his love for motorcycling and is attempting to get as much saddle time as he can before he backs it into the garage for the last time. Harley Davidson recently participated in a study of the brain waves of motorcyclists in an experiment coordinated with UCLA scientists. They were looking for the positive mental advantages and responses to the motorcycle experience. I wish them well as they crunch their data. I suspect that most of us that ride cannot account for the silly grin on our faces when we strap on our helmets and fire our steeds up.

I can help them, without the necessity to pee in a cup and wear an electrode bristled cap under my helmet. We ride because it is a hell of a lot of fun, something you have to do to understand. A thrill that our younger generations are choosing to take a pass on……

Weather, Meteorologists, And The Master…….

They are going to get the temperatures right this time, really most of the time, but they missed our snow storm today by a scant 4-8 inches, depending on the meteorologist you listen to. Call it climate change or not, these folks with their balloons and satellite imagery still have a hard time with forecasts these days. I am not bashing them. As a novice pilot I have spent a lot of time pouring over charts and data, but am careful to note the locations of various inviting airports along my flight path should their prognostications fall short. When in the air, it is all about wind and clouds for me, not really too complicated. When it doesn’t look good, I don’t fly. It is that simple. Fishing presents another, different weather challenge. The following story illustrates my point.

The exact date is of no consequence. Suffice to say it was sometime in the very late 90’s on an impossibly clear April morning that three good friends and I enjoyed a cup of coffee before launching our boats on Truman Lake. In those days, we were all still gainfully employed and when you took a few days off to fish, usually clustered around a weekend, you went. We were convinced that is why a fellow named W. L. Gore invented Gore-Tex back in 1969. This miracle fabric could repel liquid water and at the same time allow water vapor to pass through. It was during this time that cell phones were evolving with the ability to capture somewhat crude but useful radar images of storm fronts and such. One of our group, Mark Musso of Special Olympics fame, possessed such a phone and we gathered around to look at a loosely formed storm front that was some distance to the west of our location. These radar images were not as sharp as today and the accompanying script did not mention the speed of this squall line. It also failed to mention the expected intensity. With this information in our heads, we launched and began the ride from Berry Bend to one of my crappie haunts, Wright’s Creek. We were not alone, as the crappie were rumored to be biting, resulting in a line to launch our boats. Finally, we were underway, turning west on Truman Lake for the 25 minute boat ride. Being courteous, I throttled back my boat to provide guide service to the second, less powerful boat. I noted the “gathering” clouds to our west and made a mental note to immediately break out the rain suit when we reached our destination.

Wright’s Creek is a long tree filled creek and I was the lead boat, again coursing a route through the trees and such when our entourage gathered boat to boat to discuss the rapidly advancing squall line. Not being meteorologists, we quickly deduced this was not an ordinary spring thunderstorm and a decision was made to get back to the ramp and pull out until things settled down. Truman is filled with dead trees with limbs big enough to easily kill you when they become waterlogged and snap off. With unbelievable lightning just to our west and a freshening breeze kicking up, we retraced our route back to open water and made for the ramp. The front was catching us and I abandoned any gentlemanly instinct and ran, wide open, for the ramp, trusting that Ralph, the driver of the second boat could remember the way back. He told his partner, Mark, that when he saw the rooster tail come up behind my boat that it would be the last time they saw us until and if they made it back to Berry Bend. Our troubles were just beginning.

When we made the wake buoys at Berry Bend, we were one of easily 30 boats who had made the same decision to pull out. Lightning was striking both sides of the bank where the ramp was located, leaving the acrid smell of electricity lingering in the air. It was just a matter of time before one of the boats was struck. I have never seen such intensity in my life, with the issue complicated by driving rain and wind. I managed to get my brother-in-law, Dennis to the courtesy ramp and he ran for the truck, in a lot located straight up the side of steep hill. To suggest there was confusion on the ramp would be an understatement. Folks were panicking, backing into one another and up onto the courtesy dock, creating quite a show. Soon, Ralph heaved into sight, white knuckled, and worked his way to the dock sending Mark for his tow vehicle. He then hunkered down and drifted toward my location, with lightning still flashing all around us. When he came along side, I suggested he get his boat, made of aluminum, away from me as it was surely a lightning rod. We shared a laugh but understood the gravity of our predicament. It was at this point, in the height of the storm, that a fisherman came in, obviously panicked, and ran a beautiful Ranger boat up a rocky bank, before jumping out and running toward the lot. It was that bad.

Finally, the mess on the ramp abated and both of us managed to trailer our boats and make for a little cafe not far from the the launch point. We were wet, cold and still wide eyed from our experience that morning, and enjoyed a big breakfast and copious cups of coffee. The storm front passed, however, the radar indicated there were additional squall lines developing to our west and we put our recent experience to good use. We stopped in to visit our custom jig maker where we waited out the next storm. Later that afternoon, we did venture back out and all caught a number of nice fish. I have a healthy respect for thunderstorms, having lost an uncle many years ago to a lightning strike while standing on his porch after a storm had “passed”. My experience that morning enhanced that respect.

Today’s meteorologists, like Gore-Tex are pretty good, but they can’t stay ahead of Mother Nature, who serves at the hand of the Master. Mother Nature is just one of the tools the Master employs to send a message and on this day, I got the message!