Friends Far Away

This morning, I got up early so I could get to the gym before first light.  Another weekend with crap weather – rain.  We’ve had A LOT of rain here in Southern Middle Tennessee this year.  Last week – Monday through Friday – was mostly sunny with temperatures not super cold.  But most weekends, we’ve had rain.  That’s what is expected again this weekend – more rain.

I didn’t make it to the gym this morning, though.  After paying a bill online, I checked my email and read an email update from the Gibello family.  I’ve mentioned them before on this site.  My son still asks about them and remembers their visit and their camper trailer, which he thought was pretty cool.  My wife and I agreed to make what for us is a fairly large, one-time donation (in addition to our small monthly commitment) because while we’re looking for a congregation to worship with, we’re not doing regular local-church giving.

Friends from the Chattanooga area are coming up to visit this afternoon and when my son woke up this morning, he talked about the Gibello family, confusing them with the family that’s actually spending the afternoon with us.  Odd, huh?  I hadn’t mentioned that I’d just been reading Melissa’s blog posts from her journal.  My son enjoyed looking at the photos of life in PNG, thought the stilt house was cool, thought using a leaf-hut outhouse might be problematic, and he thought having a large river near the house would be “kind of creepy, actually.”


January Highlights: Strife, Illness and Skunks

An honour to a man is cessation from strife, And every fool intermeddleth. Proverbs 20:3 YLT


In a setting where I should have been mindful of the proverb above, I stupidly let a troll hook me.  Unlike the chuckle-headed ‘keyboard warrior’ who, uninvited, visited his bogus wisdom upon our congregational Facebook page, this fellow was actually present in the real world.  I let him hook me with loud talk disparaging in general terms the work I do.  Was the guy trying to troll me or was he just mouthing off?  Dunno – it’s hard to say – but I tend to think it was deliberate.

My errors?  One – responding to the troll at all.  Two – instead of leveling with the guy and letting it go, I took a snarky tone and argued the merits of my profession.  The troll in question is really good at arguing and spends a lot time doing it at a semi-professional level whereas I am considerably less expert.  So, I can’t chalk up the encounter as a “win” for me.  This fellow ended by questioning whether I am actually a Christian, claimed his definitions of terms were the only valid definitions, and he tried to police my speech – the way I verbalize and conceptualize my scriptural understanding.

I remember trying to have friendly exchange of opposing ideas with a lesbian activist, back in the 1990s, and that woman during our discussion continually tried to police my speech, redefine terms to align with her beliefs.  I found that exchange less than satisfactory and approach to disputation unsettlingly similar to that used by the master-debater mentioned above.

Does the “win-lose” thing matter?  Nope, it really doesn’t.  Does the other guy’s estimation of my faith, my conceptualization of scriptural issues and my speech matter?  Nope – his opinion is of no value.

What I did right?  One – I listened to what the guy said and took some reflective time to evaluate it later.  Two – during the encounter, I tried to address big-picture issues rather than get drawn into tedious disputation of minutiae.  Three – although I disparaged his work – that of a would-like-to-locate-more-financial support religious professional whose paying gigs have failed or were in jeopardy whose basic presentation is that of a high pressure salesman – I didn’t lose my temper.   Four – I didn’t submit to the master-debater’s demands that I adhere to his conceptualization of Christianity and scripture.  Five – I discussed the matter with my friend – the congregation’s pastor – honestly and self-critically – and likewise discussed it with my wife and best friend.  And, except for this blog post wherein I don’t name names, I’ll leave it at that.

Sick?  Ugh. I Hate Getting Sick.

Then, the next day – Monday, while at work I succumbed to a January illness – headache, sore joints, nausea.  Barfed at work got to the doctor’s office, spent Tuesday at home and returned to work Wednesday morning.  After a course of antibiotics, I felt a lot better.  At least it wasn’t flu, but it kept me out of the gym for longer than I like.  It’s been too cold here in Southern Middle Tennessee for me to do any bike-riding, so I’ve switched over to weight training to maintain some level of fitness.

Skunks Under the House

And skunks – we were plagued by one or more skunks under the house, lived with and carried their stink to our workplaces and school.  Amazing the way the human olfactory system can adjust to the horrific.  After a relatively lengthy and expensive intervention, our home is again skunk, and largely stink, free.

And February?

Yesterday, Friday 2 February, my car had a flat tire at the office.  Yay.  Reinflated it, got it repaired, didn’t cuss.  Hoping to get a bike ride, today.


1974 Raleigh Sprite Update

Since I last wrote about it in this space, I’ve had the fenders restored and improved; original seatpost, gooseneck, and handlebars powdercoated; had a Campy Record headset professionally installed (because I can never forget how badly I fared trying to get the Tange Levin bashed into place on that Bridgestone MB-4 I used to have); got as a Christmas gift new handlebars for the old bike.

Those fenders are GMC Freightliner Yellow.  I wish I’d got the frame and fork done a darker gray, but I think the colors still look okay together.

Also I’m including a photo of the original Brooks saddle that came with the bike.  It weighs almost as much as the bare frame does.  Dunno whether I’ll keep it or not.

The new handlebars are more porteur-like than the originals and I think I’ll like them better.  They’re Soma Oxford Sweptback bars.  Yes, I know that Soma branded products have the same reputation for preciousness that Rivendell stuff’s got, but they were black and the Nito bars were chrome and I hate chrome on cars and bikes.  Even if I liked chrome, it would’ve clashed with my color scheme.

My father-in-law purchased the bike in 1974 while living in Honolulu and serving as a medical officer aboard an aircraft carrier.  He reports he used to ride the bike from the family’s home to his duty station.  He said the bike never shifted very well and I’d guess the problem had to do with the odd combination of Suntour, Sturmey-Archer, and Huret drivetrain components OR whoever assembled the bike didn’t adjust them correctly.  All that to say I chose a utilitarian color scheme – a naval gray, a blinding ‘safety’ yellow, and flat black – reminiscent of the bike’s origins.

Here are some photos I took this afternoon in the yard:

Headset Fork Fender

Original vs Replacement Bars

Original Brooks Saddle

Inside Fender Treatment

Completed Parts


Thinking About Another Kayak Part 4

I’ve been communicating with a seller who’s got a Seavivor Greenland Solo with one broken part.  Sent the photo to the folks at Longhaul Folding Kayaks and they opine the repair can be effected at a reasonable price.  I’ve asked for some additional photos before making an offer.  And, of course, that’s going to be contingent upon my wife’s willingness to go along with my justification for the expense.



Orthodontic work yesterday – braces to straighten my crooked teeth and correct an overbite.  Not painful at all the procedure, but when I got home and finally had a chance to make a sandwich for lunch the first bite resulted in a couple of lower brackets breaking away from the teeth to which they’d been anchored.  The dental office was able to get me back in to repair the damage and make a couple of adjustments.  My mouth feels strange and my speech sounds different/feels awkward.  Probably a soft diet for a couple of days.  I’m hoping this intervention will help prevent dentition problems as I get older and, Sparks fans, that I’ll look a little better.


Better Motivation, Thanksgiving, Living an Ordinary Life in an Ordinary Way.


For about the past three or four weeks, on weekends, I’ve been consistently getting up around 4:00 am and either riding my bike or driving to the gym Saturdays and Sundays.  Been a little hit or miss before that.  No idea why I’ve had better motivation recently than formerly.  My doctor told me about a year ago I should concentrate on strengthening my back and rotator-cuffs to alleviate bilateral shoulder pain he attributed, in part, to having overdeveloped my pectorals.  But to look at me, you wouldn’t think so.   Still, I’ve complied with his advice and my posture has improved as well as, a little bit, that shoulder pain.

My workouts have lasted about an hour and a half, and I incorporate legs and abs, some tricep and chest, with my primary lat, back, and bicep work.  Am I a glorious specimen of beautiful middle-aged masculinity?  Not so much, although I feel better – it’s good to feel strong.   I’m gaining weight, but my clothes still fit, so some of that must be muscle.


This was our year to spend Thanksgiving with my wife’s family but we stayed home for the holiday because of my work schedule.  We spent a really pleasant day with my family, instead.  Friday, my wife finished decorating the house for Christmas and my son and I went for a bike ride around the neighborhoods.  We stopped by and visited my godparents and then rode home when the boy looked like he was about to fall asleep.  He’s not ridden much over the past couple of months, so he had a hard time riding back up hill.


By some miracle or fluke of predestination and providence, I turned out not to be a complete monster.  I’ve written in this space, at some time or other, that for me or someone like me, the great adventure is to live the ordinary life in an ordinary way.  You can probably not grasp how unimaginable an outcome that seemed for me when I was young or how much joy it brings me now.  It’s what I’m daily most thankful for – my wife, son, our health, meaningful work for both my wife and myself, a modest house in a modest neighborhood, self-directed recreational activities like cycling, paddling, strength training, reading, a small and extremely Calvinistic congregation where we are accepted and maybe for the most part liked and to which we contribute by participation, prayers, offerings.  Also my extended family – much more important to me now in middle age than it seemed when I was a young man.

I have a lot to be grateful for and I hope you do, too.


From Smooth Rapids to VFW Lodge, McMinnville – Folbot Aleut

With the 2003 Anniversary Edition Folbot  Aleut I bought in late June, I drove to McMinnville again to float the Barren Fork River from Smooth Rapids to the VFW lodge.  My son and I paddled that length of river  in our Grumman canoe.  Longer ago than that, after a rainy week, I’d taken the Aleut to Smooth Rapids only to be advised against putting in there by the guy in charge that day d/t debris, etc.

In late September, I finally got back to Smooth Rapids with the Aleut, but by then we’d had about no appreciable rain on the Upper Cumberland Plateau for about two weeks, and I had some concerns about low water level.  Still, hypalon’s supposed to be a tough material for hullskins, and I numerous times dragged a 75# wood-framed solo kayak with PVC hull over rocks and fallen trees and heaven knows what crud may choke a laughably small river’s channel.  Without mishap.

During my late September paddle/float down the Barren Form & Collins rivers, I had reason to regret leaving a handy painter in the car.  Two or three times I my kayak hung on rocks and one time I just got out and pulled the Aleut, wagon-like, behind me.  I started writing this post about a month ago, but I’d already prepped the snapshots, so here they are:

Bow Half Float Bag

Stern Half Float Bag

Bow and stern sections, respectively, with NRS medium float bags. Inflated, they take up most of bow and stern sections under the deck.  Pretty good displacement for the 12′ Aleut, I’d guess.

Smooth Rapids Put In

That’s the Smooth Rapids restaurant, office, store up there on the hillside. Restaurant seating is available up there  on the deck.  You can drive down near the put in, then back up the hill to a parking lot out of frame to the building’s left.

Aleut Seatback

That’s how I got the Folbot’s seatback to stay in place. I’ve got the seatback’s tension pretty high and lean forward when paddling.  Sort of like a backband, but not quite.  Just making due with what I’ve got.

Aleut & Klepper Paddle

That’s the first kayak paddle I ever bought – probably close to my own age, it’s about 240 cm in length and is a Klepper paddle.  I tried it out on this river float trip and found it far superior for the purpose than my Eric Renshaw Greenland style paddle that’s a lot shorter.  Also, the Klepper paddle’s got metal riveted to the blades’ edges which proved helpful this day.  I think in future this is the paddle I’ll be using with the Aleut at least until I get a longer Greenland paddle.  I think I mentioned in a previous post about smashing fingernails against the Aleut’s deckline D-rings using the shorter paddle; not a problem with the Klepper paddle.

Barren R Steep Rocky

Meadowy Grove

Future Fossil Bed

Confluence Construction

Construction Site Runoff

Too Shallow Need Painter

Barren R Curve

I wish I’d had time to get out and paddle a Franklin County slough, today, but instead dropped off the Jamis for some repairs and the Sprite frame for headset.  Stopped by a gun store and range where I spoke with a fellow I haven’t seen in several years, entered a drawing for a “tactical” shotgun.  If I win it, I’ll review it here.