26 December 2007

Going under a very small knife!

Well, for those (3) of you following along, I'd posted back some time ago that I would not need surgery for my September knee injury. Unfortunately, shortly before Thanksgiving, I was stretching my patellar tendon, bending my knee as far as I could, holding it, then stretching it back out. Repeated this about 10 times before bed. I awoke in the middle of the night with my knee bent at a 90 degree angle, in terrific pain, and my knee wouldn't move, in either direction! I had a small but very tender lump just to the right of my kneecap. For the next week, this little lump wrought havoc any time I bent my knee, so I made the earliest appointment I could get with the orthopedic Dr, for Christmas Eve morning.

As I suspected, that little lump is a bone chip, which you may recall, was a possibility from my first set of x-rays. So, sometime next month, I'll be having arthroscopic knee surgery. The plan is to have the surgery on a Thursday and only be off work two days. While he's in there, the Dr will remove the bone chip and check the meniscus to see if any ragged edges or tears need to be trimmed up. He said I should be able to play softball again with a little physical therapy. My own goals are a little more practical. I simply want to be able to walk normally again!

15 December 2007

Memphis Vacation

When we moved to Oregon in June, we knew that we’d still want to make occasional visits back home, though the mental concept of “vacationing” in Memphis seems weird, having lived there almost all of my 42 years. But my mom is still there and we still have many friends that we wanted to see, so we spent the better part of this fall trying to find a deal on plane tickets. Flying out of Salem was out of the question: over $700 each and we have to have 5 tickets! Portland was a little better, but still over $350 each, so we were looking at flying out of Seattle. Weeks passed and we couldn’t find anything cheaper than about $260, and that was for a 1-stop flight at odd hours. Finally, just a couple of weeks before my scheduled vacation, we were blessed to find a great deal on Priceline for 5 plane tickets and a rental car: under $1,500 for 5 NON-STOP tickets on Northwest, plus an Avis full-size rental car for 5 days; only $21 a day!

We were scheduled to fly out Tuesday, the 4th, about noon.  As you may have seen, the Pac-NW experienced record breaking flooding the first weekend of December. A 20 mile section of Interstate 5 was under as much as 10 feet of water! About 5 miles short of the exit where they had closed I-5, my boss called my cell phone to warn me. Sure enough, at exit 68 in Washington, we hit traffic stopped and exiting. Many of the big rigs were simply parking for the night, since most of the available back roads were closed to vehicles over 10,000 lbs. Thankfully, I had my GPS with me, and we snaked our way around Hwys 12 and 7, only having to go about 75 miles out of the way. It was kind of a white knuckle drive, though. Twisty mountain roads, old snow on the ground along the sides, pitch black! I had to zoom the resolution down on my Garmin Legend Cx to about 200 feet just so I could see the curves approaching! We arrived safely at grandma’s house about 9PM, though, thinking our worst trip hardship was probably behind us.

WRONG! We arrived at SEA-TAC Airport in plenty of time, knowing that getting the five of us through security can be difficult. I wear a big honking knee brace from my injury a few months ago, and Timothy wears plastic and metal braces on his feet, which have to be removed before going through the metal detector. He also doesn’t understand “don’t touch the sides,” so he inevitably does and sets it off. So he and I both get hand searched. But that turned out to be smooth sailing compared to simply getting our boarding passes. We learned something important that day. Apparently, there is a “William Spencer” on the FBI National Terrorist Watch List. Wow! What a coincidence! WE have a “William Spencer” with us! But although he can be a little terror on occasion, at FOUR-YEARS-OLD, he is unlikely to be the “William” they are looking for. After convincing the ticket agent that, no, we do not have a government issued ID for a 4 year old (including a Driver’s License, I swear, one of them asked!), the agents (at least three of them by now) spent about 20 minutes trying to get the computer to bypass the warning and print him a boarding pass. If all they are going to give the agents at the ticket counters is a “name,” God forbid that “Joe Smith” ever decides to become a terrorist! Could they not give the agent at the counter a brief physical description of the watchlist person, so they can look at my three foot tall four year old and know that he is not a “26 year old Caucasian Male, 6’1” with medium build and black hair?” The agent had to call an 800 number to get instructions and was finally able to get us a boarding pass. Other than the expected and brief delays of the hand search, our outbound flight to Memphis was uneventful. We arrived in the early evening and did what all rednecks do when visiting a new town: we went to Walmart! After picking up a few things for the mini-fridge, we stopped at Sonic for dinner, since we were having withdrawals as there are no Sonics in Salem, then we crashed at the hotel for the first night of our visit.

We stayed at the hotel that [my now-ex-wife] used to work at, the Best Western Galleria at I-40 and Hwy 64. The owner gave us the employee rate, which was a great deal! It’s a nice hotel, and our only incident the whole week was the fire alarm that went off at 3:30 one morning! It was, apparently, false, but the night clerk didn’t know how to shut it off, or call the monitoring service, or send the security guard up to check it out, or shut it off, so it went off for something like 15 minutes!!

On Wednesday morning, smarting from the 2-hour time difference, we finally got moving and got over to see my mom first thing about lunchtime! She’s doing about as well as you can expect at 84, she has issues with COPD, her heart, and her short term memory. After visiting with her for an hour or two, we went by our old church, Leawood Baptist. Not that much had changed in the 7 or so years since we’ve been gone, other than not knowing very many of the staff anymore! It was sad to catch up on all the folks who have passed away, and many others who are now in nursing homes, etc. Leaving there, we stopped by an old neighbor’s house and drove by our old houses before heading out to Cordova. We stopped by Tennessee Sports Zone for [my now-ex-wife] and picked up a case of Corky's BBQ sauce to ship back to Oregon! After that, it was time for Wednesday night church at Bellevue Baptist Church.

Boy, things have changed here! The new security measures in the children’s area were a little disconcerting. There is now only one way in or out, all the other doors are locked from the outside and alarmed from within. Seems to be a bit of overkill to me, but I suppose in reaction to the criticism they have received (some perhaps justified, some irrational), better safe than sorry. We finally found our way to the other side to the church (without finding the cheese) and were able to meet up with a number of our friends. It was great seeing them again! So many more we would have liked to get together with, but time is finite, and many were home that night because it was the Wednesday before the start of the Singing Christmas Tree.

After church we grabbed take out: McDonald’s for the kids and Corky’s BBQ for me and Barb! Boy, that stuff is good! It’s another of those things you just can’t get in Oregon, though I admit we haven’t sampled the local “BBQ” joints, yet. Barbeque is a special thing, as much instinctive art as culinary science! This site does a pretty good job of explaining for the uninitiated. In a nutshell, BBQ has three variables: Type of meat; type of wood fuel, and sauce-vs-no sauce. Never confuse grilling with barbeque, however. The difference is heat and speed: barbeque is low and slow; grilling is high and fast!

Thursday, we again stopped by to see Mom, then met [my now-ex-wife]’s grandparents at Chick-fil-a for lunch. They drove up from Olive Branch, a good 30 miles! I love it when people in Salem (a town of about 140K) say “Oh, I don’t want to go there, it’s all the way across town”, meaning it’s 5 or 6 miles away! In Memphis, when something is “all the way across town,” it’s 40 miles away! After lunch, I met up with my good friend “Hoot Owl,” and we found a couple of geocaches. It was wonderful hiking the woods of Bartlett Park (aka "Stanky Creek) again, though my knee ached some afterward! Later, he dropped me off at the hotel so [my now-ex-wife] could attend the Christmas party of her old Bible Fellowship class at Bellevue. While she was there, the kids and I stayed at the hotel and I finished up my final paper for one of the college courses I took this semester. I finished class with one A and one B, and only have one class left in the spring to finally graduate in May with a Bachelor’s Degree from Univ. of Memphis, only 23 years after taking my first college course!

Friday, [my now-ex-wife] had set aside for me to geocache with Hoot. I am very near my 1,000th find, and really pushed the last couple of weeks to make it to 1K while on my trip back home. We met up about 10AM and began a short tour of Bartlett before heading downtown. We found some really neat ones along the way, like 'hood Wood,, & The Butler Did It,” and weren’t able to find a couple of neat ones because they seemed to be gone: “Go See Tom Lee,” and “That Devil Forrest.” Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife are actually buried in the statue/tomb in Forrest Park, a fact that causes great consternation among many in the area. Unfortunately, the park is also a homeless haven, and several caches have come and gone from here, including apparently this one. This is a good place for Waymarking: it still brings you to the interesting location, but does not require constant replacement of stolen containers! As long as the statue and nearby historical markers are still standing, the Waymark can remain listed.

By about 3PM, it became obvious that I was not going to make my 1K. I currently sit about 35 short, but that’s okay, it was still a great day with my old friend, and it wasn’t over yet. We planned to meet our friends “JBGreer” and “Mackheath” to hunt a special cache hidden by another cacher I’m proud to know: “BitBrain.” His cache is called “Mission Improbable,” and involves finding a container that includes a special mission for the cacher to complete before logging a find on the cache. After meeting nearby, we carpooled to a familiar area to begin our search. A portion of this multi-cache is a night cache, meaning it must be done at night because it requires locating reflectors that cannot be easily seen in daylight. A miscommunication caused us to not have the “exact” coordinates of the starting point, so we had to rely on the Owl’s memory of where to begin. After some wandering around, difficult to do with my gimpy limb, stubbing toes and almost turning my recently healing ankle on cypress knobs, snagging my boot on hidden blackberry vines and having a hard time extricating myself when I can’t lift my foot more than about 18 inches off the ground (but I’m not bitter), we finally picked up the first set of reflectors and made our way to them. I finally got to be of some use to the group by helping to spot the next set of reflectors, sometimes more than one set at a time. Eventually, we found the last set of reflectors and the cache box itself (all but Ed, who was…ahem…indisposed at the time). We sifted through the missions and found one with my name on it. My mission had to do with bulldozers, a historical reference to my first cache, for which BitBrain was the first to hunt (but not first to find), which died an untimely death to destruction by one of these behemoths, which at the time I assumed was a bulldozer. JBGreer and Mackheath didn’t have personalized missions, which I thought was odd, since they are among the more likely hunters of such a cache in the area. BitBrain is obviously an optimistic soul, as some of the personalized missions belonged to good friends of his, but persons highly unlikely to be in a position to hunt this cache. As we made our way out, JBGreer realized he’d left his walking stick leaning against a tree near the cache, so we drove back to the cache and Ed leaned out the passenger’s side window and snagged it. ;^)

After getting back to Hoot’s vehicle, we said goodbye to our friends, though I hoped to see them again the following night (which will be covered below). Hoot and I headed back into town and I texted Barb to see where she was. She’d spent the day visiting friends in Arlington and the kids’ old schools, though she didn’t get to see her friend Michelle due to sickness at their house, and didn’t get to spend a lot of time in Arlington because Timothy kinda freaked out wanting to go “home” to our old house. By this time, she was with our friends at Randy and Sheila’s house with our other friend Mary. I had Hoot drop me there and made plans to see him tomorrow night (wait for it). I was sad not to have made 1K, but it was a great day with my old buddies and I was glad to get to visit with Randy, Shelia, and Mary.

After catching up on dinner, which they had already eaten, we sat and chatted for a bit before they decided to take the kids shopping for their Christmas presents. We needed a couple of things from Walmart, so I suggested Randy ride with me to do that. William decided to stay with the boys while the girls went shopping. While at Walmart, I fulfilled my “mission,” which was to have my picture taken with a bulldozer. Since Bit didn’t say what kind of bulldozer, I found a cache safe version! After finding zilch in the way of “Memphis” or “Tennessee” souvenirs at Walmart, we went to Walgreens. Although there were closer Walgreens stores, I chose the one at Chimneyrock and Berryhill so I could pick up a simple little cache that had eluded me for a variety of reasons when I lived in Arlington. I picked up a few “local” items for a Christmas party back here in Oregon this weekend, then dropped Randy off at home and headed back to the hotel, stopping at Sonic for milkshakes on the way. I also tried their “cheesecake bites,” with which I was not impressed.

Saturday morning we got up earlier and went out to see my mom again. Before we left, [my now-ex-wife] got to see Michelle for a few minutes when she dropped off some boxes we’d left with her when we moved because the moving truck was full. We then took those things and a few others to UPS to get shipped, paying more than all the stuff was probably worth! After visiting my mom, we went by Sonic (I love thier tots and coneys!) for lunch and headed out to Millington to see our friends Ben and Dee, spending an hour or two out there before heading back through Arlington. It was my first chance of the trip to see the town, our old house, etc. Sometimes I really miss it, Arlington is maybe the best place I’ve ever lived, the perfect small town.

By now it was getting dark and we had a long drive down to Mississippi to attend the !Holiday Bash 2007 at Team Sprout International Headquarters. I’d attended one other event there, and Paul and his wife Erica are the consummate hosts! It was fantastic seeing so many more of our friends, though JBGreer and Mackheath couldn’t make it. I was especially proud to have personally delivered two wandering travel bugs back to their owners: CGeek’s Panda Bear and BitBrain’s Dreadlock Photo Op. After visiting for some time, we settled in to a most enjoyable game of “Dirty Santa.” Hilarity definitely ensued when we drew numbers for, then stole, then re-stole gifts for the next two hours! Of course, our own gifts stood out as the only ones that said “Made in Oregon!” Overall, I was happy with the ones we ended up with, since we only got stuck with one of our own things, and I made our only “steal” toward the end, nabbing a cool “Space Pen” and the best bug repellent made from BitBrain, who will in all likelihood beat me to 1K! Later that evening, the most gracious and generous PCSenn gave me the 20 Questions game to give to Chicklet, who was not happy at having it stolen earlier in the night! She hardly put it down all the way back to Oregon. It was also great to see our friend Chibongo, with whom I can commiserate in her infirmity, though she certainly did a better job on her leg that I did on mine! As the hour grew late, and our early morning departure grew near, we said our goodbyes and went back to the hotel to finish packing and get a brief night’s sleep before flying out Sunday morning.

I really wish we could have stayed over a Sunday, as I would have loved to attend Bellevue that morning and see some more of our church friends, but we had to drop the rental car at 7AM. We had NO trouble getting boarding passes this time, but had a heck of a time getting through Memphis Intl Airport's version of TSA security! We must have had 10 trays of stuff lined up on the belt and I had to practically get undressed to get rid of all metal on me!! The scanner “lady” threw a rude fit at a small tube of hand lotion in [my now-ex-wife]’s backpack, which had sailed through SEA-TAC with no problems. She demanded that I throw this $15 tube away, though giving me NOWHERE to throw it!! Finally what appeared to be a supervisor looked at it and chunked it back in one of our bins, saying it was okay. When will TSA learn: ain’t no redneck gonna blow up no plane WHILE HE’S SITTIN ON IT!!

Remarkably, Tim breezed through security thanks to a kind assist from a friendly TSA employee. I, of course, got thoroughly checked due to my knee brace. The screener was through, but courteous and professional as he swabbed and scanned me, my brace, and my clothes. The rivets in my jeans, even the foil label on my breath mints set that thing off!! You couldn’t sneak a staple onto that plane! I don’t mind the scans, I have nothing to hide, it’s just the feeling that all we’re really accomplishing is making sure that the only ones on the plane armed with anything more useful than their keys are the ones who are trying to sneak weapons onto the plane! Sort of like my feelings on gun control laws: I’m not opposed to some minor common sense restrictions, but if a person is willing to break the law against murdering someone, why would they have any compunctions about breaking the gun control law?

We finally made it through security relatively intact, and made our way to our gate, of course nearly the farthest one possible. While waiting, I picked up a coffee mug and a Neely’s Interstate BBQ sandwich. First time I’d had Neely’s. Good BBQ, but the sauce was a little sweet for my tastes. That’s what’s so great about BBQ, though; there’s something for everyone’s tastes: sweet, spicy, hot, mesquite or hickory wood, beef, pork, chicken, sauce or no sauce, it’s all good!

The flight back home was again uneventful, though the stewardesses were about as close to rude as I’ve ever seen! Mom met us at the airport and we had lunch there before hitting the road back to Salem. I-5 had been reopened by then, so the trip was about normal. I was surprised at how little damage we were able to see from the interstate. WSDOT must have done an incredible job of repairing the damage to the roadway!

Before going home, we stopped by the home of our friends the Kensquatches, who had baby-sat our dog Rascal while we were gone. I promised them a “real” BBQ dinner once the holidays are over and my stash of sauce arrives via UPS! Having picked up the two hours we lost going east, we’d been up since the equivalent of 3AM and it was closing in on 9, so we retreated to the apartment and crashed. The kids had to get up and go to school Monday morning, but thankfully, I had one more day off.

It was a great trip, but it’s kinda nice to get back into the routine and get some sleep! Hopefully, we can plan a spring time trip back to see some of the folks we missed!

09 November 2007

Not just giving thanks, saying thanks!

War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. - John Stuart Mill

Last Sunday, my new church, Morning Star Community Church, handed out boxes to be filled and sent to Oregon National Guard troops currently serving in Iraq. The project, called Love Boxes for our Troops, grew out of the experience of one member who volunteered to do a second tour in Iraq back in 2005. What started out as one box mailed to a friend has turned into thousands of boxes in the past couple of years. The concept is not unique to Morning Star, however, and can be seen in similar efforts like Operation Shoebox.

My family picked up five boxes Sunday, one for each of us. Before deciding which items from the suggested list to include in the box, I asked my good friend TitansFan his opinion. Andrew has “been there/done that.” He’s served in the Persian Gulf and been in a position to receive boxes like this before. I asked him, “when you were there, what did you want to see in these things?” He suggested that DVD’s were nice, but stressed AT&T prepaid phone cards, which the troops can use to call family back home.
It’s hard to imagine how much a simple phone call can mean to these overworked, and VASTLY underpaid men and women (I’ll get on that soapbox someday soon). So each box included a phone card. We also sent some Kleenex, body wash, toothbrush-paste-mouthwash, Tylenol and Aleve, writing paper and envelopes, bubble gum, snack cakes, peanut butter crackers, fruit cups, hand sanitizer, playing cards, trail mix, a magazine and a small jar of locally made jelly (the Willamette Valley is a big berry growing area). My compassionate and artistic daughter also added a hand drawn thank you note to each box!

Let me encourage you to participate in an effort like this near where you live. If there are no organized efforts near you, consider starting one or donate to an existing one, like this one, sponsored by The Veterans of Foreign Wars.
These brave young men and women are getting paid less to get shot at than I used to make as a bank clerk. You might even go one step further. Look around. Chances are you know someone who has a family member deployed, and you could be more help to them than you might guess. Mow their yard. Rake some leaves. Clean their gutters Change their oil. Offer to sit with the kids for a few hours.

Many people today are drawing comparisons between the war in Iraq and Vietnam. The surest way to make Iraq another Vietnam is:

A. Pull everyone out immediately. Send the choppers in to fly people off the Embassy roof, and leave our “friends” to fend for themselves.
B. Take your opposition to the war and the administration out on the grunts, who are simply doing the job they were told to do, and sacrificing, at a minimum, time with their families, to do so. That makes as much sense as heckling the meter reader because you don’t like the mayor.

But then again, if we have learned one thing from history, it is that people rarely learn from history.

What you can learn is how to do something simple that cost you a little but can mean more than you can imagine to someone doing a tough job over there, so we don’t have to do it over here.
"People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf" - George Orwell

UPDATE: We have received the following reply one of the soldiers!!
Happy Thanksgiving Spencer family, I’m 1SG Michael Amen of the 224 Engineer Company. I’m sending a note to let you know we have received the care package you sent. You and many like you have held our Soldiers in your prayers, and for that I want to say thank you. Your dedication to this nation and the Soldiers who serve is inspiring. On behalf of the Commander and Soldiers of the 224 Engineer Company I want to express our appreciation. I have attached a photo depicting our company sign, we are currently assigned to Balad Air Base, just north of Baghdad.

Warm Regards

1SG Michael F Amen

224 ESC

Balad, Iraq

DSN 483-2681

“Blades Deep”

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Caveats: NONE

29 October 2007

Put that knife away!! :^O

I returned to the orthopedic doctor this morning for the results of my MRI. The results are about as positive as I could have possibly hoped for! NO SURGERY!! He noted a significant dislocation of the knee cap, some damage to the Patellar ligament, and some stretching of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament, but no ruptures. He gave me some exercises to do in lieu of seeing a Physical Therapist, since my insurance won’t cover this injury. He also encouraged me to wean myself off the crutches as soon as possible, and to push the exercises as much as possible. He says I should be significantly better in about a month, and if not, I should go see him again. He said walking and eventually some mild bike riding were good exercises to do. I plan to start back wearing my knee brace for a while, mostly just to avoid any accidental setbacks, and to give my knee some extra confidence and support in the steps I take. I guess I’m still a little gun-shy of dislocating it again.

The numbness I noted earlier has progressed to occasional sharp, “hot knife” burning pains that are more annoying than painful. He associated that with probably damage to the saphenous nerve, which runs down the inside of your knee before crossing below the knee cap to continue down the front of the leg. He said it should heal on its own, though some potential long term numbness in possible.

All in all, he saw nothing that will not heal with time and exercise, and predicts a full recovery. Thank God!

24 October 2007


I just returned from my MRI. They're not that bad. I spent a half hour listening to Toby Keith. If they'd piped in white noise, I probably could have slept through it! I'll get the results on Monday.

No time for that

I did something yesterday I said I wouldn’t do. I read a blog. One I haven’t visited in a long time. I knew pretty much what was there and didn’t feel the need to read it. I don’t need to pick up a cow patty to know it stinks.

But a friend posted to it and I wanted to see what he had to say. As I suspected, the blogger spends 500 words trashing a group I’m affiliated with, then two sentences telling us how they don’t need to trash talk and criticizing us for bashing them. ***Edited to add: He's added another chapter to his missive. We're all liars, he's a saint, he's just trying to leave us alone, but we won't let him. SOS. It's a shoe in for this year's Geisel Medal, or at least the Newberry Award. Reminds me of one of those sit-coms where, depending on who is telling the story, one is an angel and the other is a devil and the truth is that both were at fault. Get a grip, dude.***

Their de facto leader has done a fair job of getting most of them to complete the split and tend to growing their own organization, ignoring the other. But a notable few just can’t “let it go,” even while they criticize others for not “letting it go.” They visit the site every day, some several times a day, fishing for responses to some new insult hurled from behind keyboard walls.
They’re puppets, unable to resist being baited, and they can’t even see it themselves, that they are doing exactly what they criticize others for doing and responding just like their baiter wants them to. They’re quick to spot troublemakers they disagree with (like this blog), but don’t mind posting their own irrational diatribes. And when anyone calls them on it, they claim their words were twisted to make them look bad. Hogwash. Wasn’t necessary. They condemn themselves far more eloquently that I could.

Why they feel it necessary to do this is a mystery to me. I’ve never once said anyone could not be a proud and fruitful member of both organizations. In fact, there are a few people who manage to do just that. But some feel that the only way to boost themselves is to trash the others. Being the leader of a two man race where the other guy is horrible isn’t much to brag about.

I’ve avoided all this for the most part, concentrating on making my own organizations better, and more importantly, simply trying to walk again. So don’t bother me with your “You suck, we rule, you’re wrong, we’re right, and anyone who disagrees is blind, stupid, or evil” ravings. I don’t have time for that. I have enough to worry about with an MRI in an hour that insurance won’t cover.

If someone wants to form an opinion of me based on someone else’s criticism, knock yourself out. If you decide to hate me, having never met, talked to, or geocached with me, it’s your loss not mine. Most people get to know me, then decide I’m a jerk.

I encourage all west Tennessee geocachers to heed the right honorable gentleblogger from Beech Bluff’s warning. Get to know people from both groups carefully. Attend their functions and visit their forums. I guarantee you will find a few things:

1. The vast majority of these people (in both orgs) are really pretty nice…in person.
2. You’ll be able to spot the few (in both orgs) that need to get a grip.
3. You’ll find that geocaching is a LOT of fun, but sniping in forums isn’t.
4. You’ll find that you can geocache and have fun without ANY local organization.

Mostly, you’ll find that some people fit in better in one org, others will prefer the other one, some will like both, and some will like neither, and that ALL FOUR of those possibilities are completely acceptable.

19 October 2007

Brief update on Gimpy

I was finally able to see the orthopedic doctor today. His name is Dr. Pollard, and (you'll never believe this) he's originally from Earle, Arkansas, about 30 miles west of Memphis! Thank God we got a doctor that speaks real english!

He xrayed the ankle again, and although the xrays look the same to me, he said it is on track to a full recovery. He put me in an aircast. This is much better than the real cast, or even a walking cast I was afraid I was going to get. He said I could begin to try putting pressure on it, 50% weight bearing this week, 100% next week. The atrophy of the quad muscle was not at all unusual, he said, and it should bounce back fine once I start exercising it again.

The knee was not so optimistic. He tested the stability (by bending it in the same direction as the dislocation) and found it to be fairly stable, but still infused (full of fluid) which makes it a little swollen. He has ordered an MRI ($$$$$$, oh my!) for next Wednesday, then a followup appointment a week from Monday.
He's concerned about a torn meniscus or possible a ruptured ACL. I'm hoping they can just drain the fluid off and it will be okay, just needing Physical Terrorism, I mean "Therapy," to heal up, but if the ACL or meniscus is torn, I'm looking at surgery, they won't heal by themselves. It's a similar injury to the one that ended New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister's season this year. Since I don't have millions of dollars of sports medicine rehabbing me, it looks like my softball career is definitely over.

On a really positive note, we received the proceeds from the sale of our house today! It's official, the house is sold!! Praise the Lord! Of course, in a way, it's a little sad, too. That was the first house we ever owned. We'd watched it being built from the dirt up, then rebuilt after the fire. But I suspect the nostalgia will die down when I DON'T have to write the next house note!!

17 October 2007

A few notes of praise

First, a brief update on the wounded limb: I am still in the temporary cast that Salem Hospital Urgent Care put on. I finally got an appointment with an orthopedic doctor for Friday morning, a full 4 weeks after the original break. Hopefully, the fracture has re-attached and is healing, but I have my doubts. I can still feel a little popping around the joint when I move it a certain way. The bruising on the calf was caused by the edge of the temporary cast. I readjusted it, and it subsided some. I really need to progress to the point where I can put some weight on this leg. The quad muscles have developed an alarming case of atrophy and need to be stretched and strengthened. The range of motion in the knee is still very limited and also needs to be rehabbed. With a walking cast, I could at least begin to get some exercise on it.

Praise the Lord, it looks like we have finally sold our house in Arlington!! A couple moving from out of state offered us full price and quick closing, subject to a few contingencies (read $$). Commissions, repairs, and closing costs (ours and theirs) just about ate all the profit out of it, but we will be able to break even, which was our bottom line goal. Mostly it means no more double house notes, thank God!! Closing is scheduled for Thursday the 18th; we signed our closing papers today. We still have a few minor repairs to have finished by then. Pray that nothing goes wrong, and for the new family moving into the area. We had good neighbors, hopefully they will be too.

We have also, we believe, finally found a church to attend up here. We have had a very difficult time finding a church home. The culture is decidedly unchurched. Back home (and I'm just guessing at percentages here), probably 75% or more at least go to church, though that counts all sorts of "churches" and a pretty casual level of commitment. Up here, it's probably the reverse: 75% or more don't go anywhere at all. The remaining 25% are scattered amongst all denominations, orthodox and otherwise. Churches, where they exist at all, are mainly small ones.

Here in Salem, there are three or four "large" churches. We did not set out specifically to find a LARGE church, but in order to have a specific ministry geared towards special needs children like our son Timothy, it generally takes a fairly large church to have enough special needs kids to warrant a special needs ministry. We tentatively contacted one or two of the larger churches. They basically said, "well, we don't know, but we'll see what we can do if you'd like to visit us."

Ask anyone who knows me, I’m a conservative Baptist. Not a legalistic Baptist, but conservative. Too many churches nowadays strike me as one of those "come as you are, leave as you came" places. You know the type: "God loves you and that's enough, don't worry about your behavior, God doesn't judge people and neither do we." True enough, God isn’t just waiting in heaven to smash people that get the least bit out of line, but He is also a loving, correcting parent, who expects His children to obey Him, for their own good as well as His glory. I'm FAR from a legalist, but I know enough to know that God does care very much about our lifestyle! The Bible is far more than a list of rules and regulations, but there are some dos and don’ts. When God says "Don't," He means "Don't." And after all, God has the right to make the rules. When you create a universe, you have the right to establish the rules by which it operates. When you make your own universe, you will have the right to rule it. I personally have not managed to create a universe myself. Heck, I can’t even finish that 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle I have in my closet!

Anyway, we were striking out in our hunt, beginning to wonder if we'd even find a church at all. Knowing that God was not caught off guard when we moved up here, but wondering if we'd done the right thing (or I was, anyway). Then the parent of a child in Timothy's and Elizabeth's school mentions to [my now-ex-wife] that his church has a special needs ministry. He'd seen a promotional video in their services just a week or two earlier. It's called Morning Star Community Church. I sent the church an email through their website asking for information. Within two hours, the Children's Director and the Special Needs director both replied saying yes, they have a place for him and would love to have us. We attended a couple of Sundays, were warmly welcomed, and the class for Tim is EXACTLY what we were looking for! Elizabeth loves the middle school program on Sunday and Thursday nights, and even William talks about wanting to go back to church during the week! I know that simply making people feel "wanted" isn't a good test of theology, but it's better than making them feel like you don't care whether they come or not.

So I did a little checking on them and found that they are a Calvary Chapel fellowship. I'd listened to Chuck Smith on Calvary Chapel's radio program many years ago when WCRV AM640 back in Memphis used to carry his program and liked him very much. But that was a long time ago, so I searched on Wikipedia and found their doctrinal beliefs. I found them to be theologically very similar to my own beliefs. Being a Southern Baptist, I'm a bit more congregationalist in my beliefs on church government, while they follow a more Episcopal style. They are perhaps a bit more charismatic than I am, but not too much so. Certainly within the pale of orthodoxy. I won’t go into the whole huge debate of Calvinism versus Arminianism here, but if you’re curious, email me.

In any event, I think these folks are more orthodox in their theology that many of the other places we are likely to end up. We certainly won't find a Bellevue Baptist Church up here. To be sure, there are small pockets of orthodoxy up here, but they are definitely the exception rather than the rule. Liberalism rules, in the big cities, at least, though the less urban areas are suprisingly conservative (although no one recognizes my Mike Huckabee bumper sticker). Who knows, maybe I can be the one to bring a little more orthodoxy to the area, I've certainly never been afraid to debate a position I feel strongly about! Hopefully, what we have found at least is a place where we can worship God, fellowship with others, make some friends, serve God with the talents and bents He has given each of us, and have our kids make some friends in a safe, nurturing environment, all without sacrificing the essential non-negotiables of our faith: That all men need a Savior, and that Savior is found nowhere other than the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, bestowed by God’s Sovereign Grace alone, through Faith alone (Acts 4:12). As long as we can meet at the foot of the cross, or better yet, at the mouth of the empty tomb, we can debate the other stuff!

27 September 2007

Update in Gimpy

Well, I had to give up and go to the doctor. The swelling just would not go down. Now I know why.

Initially, it was the knee I was more worried about. It dislocated significantly, and having experienced the same injury before, I thought it would be sprained worse than the ankle. I knew that the ankle had briefly dislocated (or so I thought), but at the time, my knee was stuck out of joint and screaming in pain, so the ankle was an afterthought. After a 2 hour wait in the Salem Hospital Urgent Care waiting room, and another hour in the exam room (I guess "urgent" is a relative term), a very nice doctor came in to examine my injuries. I explained everything to her and she checked the stability of my knee, which was better than I expected. Then she wiggles my ankle and gets this shocked look on her face. "I need to get you into xray right now, that ankle is broken!" She says I must have an incredible threshold of pain not to be screaming while she's wiggling my broken fibula, but it really didn't hurt. I could feel it wiggling, but there really wasn't any "pain." Which is what makes it so frustrating, because when I saw the xrays, it is OBVIOUSLY broken. Which means a 6-8 week recovery, probably half of it completely non-weight bearing!

The ankle shows a classic "spiral" fracture. The break runs up and around the bone.

This view shows the break very clearly as the dark separation that comes to a sharp point.

This is my right patella (kneecap). The small "bump" on the right may be a bone frag.

This knee view shows two small, flat horizontal lines that MIGHT be bone frags. I'm hoping the knee will strengthen on its own and I won't have to have surgery. Probably somewhere down the line, I will, though.

So this is what I get to look like for a while:

They placed me in a temporary cast on the ankle that runs almost to my knee, and gave me a velcro immobilization brace for the knee. What an incredible pain in the tush!! It's worse than the injury! Worse still is the extra 20 pounds on my foot, which tweaks my knee nearly everytime I move.

If you've never had to use them, you have no idea how the simplest tasks are impossible on crutches. Your hands are tied up, so you can't carry anything, unless you carry it in a plastic bag. Try carrying a drink in a plastic bag. Just getting up to get a pen requires a lot of effort. But as hard as the crutches are, you should have seen me in the courtesy wheelchair at Target last night! I drew the line at using the motorized one!

Now I get to try to get an appointment with an orthopedist. I've already been told to expect this guy to refuse to see me because I have no insurance. But I really have no choice now, I've got a temporary cast on that has to be replaced by a real one, then I'll have to have someone to cut that one off and take more xrays to see if it is healed. Now that I think about it, the stars I was seeing while I lay writhing in pain on home plate must have been glittery dollar signs! Actually, I remember thinking "Crap I gotta get off the field! We're behind and the time limit is running out, we gotta get another batter up here!

I had high hopes of finding my 1.000th geocache (kind of a big deal in our hobby) before we travelled back to Memphis for a visit. Now it looks like I'll be lucky to be out of a cast by then! And paying $1,250 for plane tickets is gonna be tough given the untold sums this is all gonna cost. We've got to get back home for a short visit at least, though. We really need that house to sell!

If I may prevail, please pray for healing and that we can keep the costs down. Fortunately, none of this takes God by surprise, and He never needs a Plan B!

We may also have found a church to attend up here, one that has a special needs ministry for Timothy, so I'll update all three of my readers once we visit, hopefully this Sunday.

23 September 2007

Just call me Gimpy

Well, this is certainly not the way I wanted to spend this weekend. Some regular readers (all five of them) will know from my posts on the GOWT forums that I’ve been playing softball in a Friday night league for my new employer, Pioneer Trust Bank. I’ve played for many years, mostly in church leagues, and although I’m not highly talented, I play hard, I enjoy it, it’s good exercise, and at least I’m usually not a liability to my team.

This past Friday night we were playing the first game of a double header. I think it was the fifth inning, and I was up for my second plate appearance, having walked the first time. I think it was a 2-1 count, and he gave me a pretty good one, so I swung, and connected well, and I remember seeing just enough of it to know I’d roped it right into the huge gap they’d left in right center field. I was looking at a double, at least.

Unfortunately, I’d never see first base. About the time the ball was passing over the second baseman’s head, I was writhing on the ground screaming; holding my right knee which was bent at what I’d guess was about a 20 degree angle to the side, and obviously out of joint. I was vaguely aware that my ankle had also popped out, but the knee was the painful one because it stayed popped out for 3-4 seconds.

The ligament involved is the MCL, Medial Collateral Ligament. It runs up the inside of your knee to prevent side-to-side movement.
The injury is most common in football, where players get hit from the side. It's the same injury New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs recently suffered. He's expected to be out 3-5 weeks. Of course, I don't have to get back into "game" shape, I just have to get back to walking unaided again!

The ankle is swollen, too, and has some numbness that I hope will go away with the swelling.
The knee pic just wouldn't come out, my legs are too hairy. :^P

This was the second time my knee had done this. The first time was about 3 years ago, and was much less severe. What makes this one so frustrating is that I was wearing a brace with a metal hinge that was supposed to prevent this very type of injury. Since that one time 3 years ago, I’d not had a problem, and just wore the brace as a precaution. It may have actually hurt the knee worse by holding it out of joint briefly, preventing it from popping right back in.

So here I lay (thank God for laptops), ice on both joints and a set of crutches by the bed. I’ve made an interesting discovery. I love the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the Military Channel, those kinds of programs. But they are not made to be watched all day long. They have about 3 different programs each that repeat in sets of three all day long. Once you run through the sets, it’s reruns. Thank God today is football day.

I think I’ve also discovered what it is about my batting stance that makes me susceptible to this type of injury. When I plant my back foot to push off into the swing, I don’t sufficiently pivot the foot to the front, so the stress forces on the knee remain lateral, instead of transferring into a natural striding motion. Unfortunately, I’ve reached this remarkable “DUH” moment too late for this season, and at 42, perhaps too late to recover from a career ending injury, if you can call what I’ve done a “career.”

The really bad part is I am five days from the end of my probationary period at work, so we have no health insurance. My wonderful wife is nursing me very well, though, so unless the swelling doesn’t go down (and so far it hasn’t), hopefully I’ll be able to simply keep the weight off of it and keep it iced for a few days and gradually let it heal. It took about 2 weeks last time, but I was able to at least limp on it almost immediately last time, too. I think this one is going to take a little longer as of tonight, it still can't bear weight. Let’s hope we don’t have to change my name to “Stumpy” (oh yeah, that’s already taken), though I admit, amputation looked pretty good lying on the bleachers Friday night with no pain meds yet! I just hope it doesn't come to this:

PS. Whoohoo to my Blog for its 2,000th page hit!

06 September 2007

Reconnecting, 1,800 miles away.

I made a lot of good friends in West Tennessee through geocaching. One, who goes by the name “Hoot Owl” (and can do a pretty fair imitation of said animal), is one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and I miss hiking in the woods with him and my other WTN friends terribly. Another good friend goes by the name “CGeek.” Wanda is a computer wiz, and largely responsible for keeping the Geocachers of West Tennessee website running after the original designer had to step back. Wanda has a travel bug. No, that’s not an insect in your luggage.

Travel bugs are items of significance to their owners, to which they have attached numbered tags that can be logged on the Geocaching.com website. You can watch its movements, track its mileage, and folks sometimes post pictures of their travels. I’ve got quite a few of them myself. One was a small replica of my black 2003 Dodge Ram. This bug made it all the way to Baghdad! If you remember seeing the big “crossed swords” monument on TV, there used to be a geocache in the right hand (apparently, you could climb up into the monument). Unfortunately, one of the “occupational hazards” of being a travel bug is the tendency to get lost or stolen. It’s hard to complain, though: once you leave something in a box in the woods, you pretty much lose control over it.

Wanda’s bug is a Panda Bear. It started its travels very close to my former (and still for sale!!) home in Arlington, TN. I knew about the bug and long ago placed it on my “watchlist.” This means I get an email from Geocaching.com anytime someone posts a log to the bug’s travel page. Wanda’s bug is one of the more successful bug’s I’ve seen, having made it all the way to China and back safely.

Last weekend, Labor Day, we traveled up to Washington State to see my mother-in-law, who lives just southeast of Seattle in Auburn. Near Auburn is a place called “Tiger Mountain,” which has a neat series of trails criss-crossing up the side, and a few geocaches. One, called “Tiger Mountain's Logging Legacy,” has been on my watchlist (and my to-do list) ever since I first discovered geocaching back in 2004. In all of our trips up to mom’s house, I’d yet to set aside enough time to do it. But this weekend, while we were at mom’s house, I got an email saying that Wanda’s bug had just been placed in “Iverson Railroad,” another cache about a half mile from Logging Legacy. What are the odds that your friend's travel bug, 1,800 miles from home, gets dropped in a cache just a few miles from Grandma's house on a weekend that we are in town visiting? I purposed then and there to head up to the cache the next morning and pick up this link to my West Tennessee friend. What I got was not only a travel bug, but one of the best cache hunts I’ve ever been on!

Overview map of Tiger Mountain trails:

The next morning, Labor Day, I got up early and headed out for Tiger Mountain. I arrived at the parking area about 8:30, with just a few cars of mountain bikers already there. Not knowing the trail system, I simply headed up the gravel road vaguely toward the cache. About a half mile and 100 feet higher, I spotted a trailhead, and investigated. The sign at the trailhead gave instructions on what to do if you encounter a cougar or a bear!! My kind of cache hunt!!

The trail was well worn, but seemed to lead away from the cache. We had to leave to get back home, at least by mid-afternoon, since I-5 can be a disaster between Seattle and Portland. I needed to make the hunt as quick as possible, so I backtracked to the road and continued toward the cache. Not as scenic, perhaps, but quicker. I encountered a couple of hikers, two bikers, and a jogger, but the road was mostly deserted. Why, I’m not sure, the weather was fabulous, sunny and about 65-70 degrees!
About a mile and a half later, I could tell from the GPS that the cache was going to be off the road to my right, so I started looking for a trail. Shortly, I came upon the “Iverson Railroad” trail; the same trail I had checked out before. This time, I was within about 500 feet of the cache, and started off.

This trail was well marked, but undergrowth, especially poison oak, encroached like the grasping arms of a would-be tackler reaching for a running back. I am fortunate in that I am not allergic to poison oak or ivy. I’ve had one or two VERY minor spots on my hands, but just don’t seem to react to it much at all. So I’ve never paid much attention to it. Up here, Western Poison Oak is like kudzu, second only to blackberry vines. After being fussed at (good-naturedly) for my “blatant disregard” for this vegetation after my first cache hide up here in Oregon, I’ve tried to learn what it looks like and avoid it. How anyone that is allergic to it can cache at all up here escapes me. But, I digress. In short order, I found the spot on the trail where I needed to head off into the woods, which was well marked by the signs of a geotrail. Shortly, I had the “Iverson Railroad” cache in hand, & sat down on a root to open it up, very happy to see a little panda peeking out at me.

With mission accomplished, I checked my watch and the distance to Logging Legacy. Thinking to myself, “Yeah, I’ve still got time,” (ala “Mr. Incredible,” if you have seen that movie, which I highly recommend if you have kids). I waffled a bit about which was to go: back the way I came to the road, or continue up the trail. I eventually chose to go back to the road.

I had to follow the road for about another half mile to get to another trailhead that led to the next cache. I have to admit, I’m not in great shape, and I was huffin and puffin a little up this road that was a steep as steps in some places. As I approached a trailhead, I stepped aside to read the signs. A friendly fella came along and asked if I needed directions. Knowing that all I had to do was follow the road to get back to my car, I thanked him and said no, I was just reading the sign. That by itself wouldn’t have been so bad, but he was at LEAST 20 years older than me and he was JOGGING up the hill!

Heading off trail here was like entering the woods of Lothlorien! Moss hung thickly from tree limbs, the cedar and fir trees towered above the hillside, reaching at least 100 feet high!

Enormous stumps, some must have been 7 or 8 feet across, gave evidence of Tiger Mountain’s “logging legacy.”

The cache site is near the site of a 1925 train wreck, and the woods are still littered with debris from the 82 year old wreck.

I also had to cross a neat little homemade log bridge.

Once at the site, I had to look for a while because the heavy tree cover was playing havoc with my GPS signal. Finally, I just glanced at a tree and thought it looked a little unnatural, and bingo!

There was another cache just about 1,000 feet away called “Karl's Peak,” but I was alone, I’d left without my hiking stick and only in tennis shoes, so I decided to let that one wait for another day. Heading back out, I was really missing my buddy Hoot Owl, if he'd been there, we'd have found Karl's Peak! Six plus miles round trip, over 400 feet of elevation change, quiet you can only find deep in the woods, this was our kind of cache hike!

Round trip took about 3 hours from mom’s house and back. For my trouble, I got a lot of good exercise, fresh air, a long distance connection with a friend through her travel bug, some time alone in the woods, and two smiley faces; three if you count the one I was wearing!

24 August 2007

OregonSAGA CITO at Wallace Marine Park

(Warning: This post contains conservative political views, liberals are advised to use discretion when reading as entries may cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, and a sudden wondering "Hey, why ARE we paying all these taxes?!")

One of the cardinal tenets of geocaching is the practice known as CITO. It stands for “Cache in, Trash out.” The idea is that, as you go about geocaching in an area, try to remove any litter you find, to leave the place better than you found it. Just a little effort by a lot of people can make a big difference.

Periodically, individual geocachers or geocaching organizations hold “CITO” events: concentrated, organized efforts targeted to specific areas at a given time. This concentrated effort requires planning and participation, but can yield a remarkable result in a very short period of time. Usually, the area is a public park, greenway, cemetery, etc., especially an area that is friendly toward our sport. It is a small way of giving back to the communities that provide us a place to pursue our geeky little hobby.

The OregonSAGA group recently held a CITO event at one of the largest parks in the Salem area, Wallace Marine Park. Wallace Marine reminds me a lot of Kennedy Park back in Memphis, which my GOWT friends will recognize. Although both parks are plagued with their share of undesirable activities, this was my first exposure to this type; namely, homelessness and drug abuse.

Kennedy Park is famous for “cruising” by men looking for other men. Wallace Marine is sort of the “catch-all” place for homelessness in the Salem area. (I’ll spare you my conservative Republican philosophy, for the most part, for now, but stay tuned to the blog!). Despite healthy taxation and government assistance programs, and a very healthy network of faith-based shelter activity, a significant number of homeless people still congregate in Salem, in a variety of areas. It’s not just Wallace Marine Park, but the size of the park and the amount of wooded trails, along with the proximity of the Willamette River, make the park an ideal choice for the homeless to set up camp. It is a problem that, for the most part, Memphis just doesn’t have. Oh, there are homeless people in Memphis, perhaps in similar numbers and worse shape than these folks, but bear in mind, Memphis is a city of over 600,000 people, and an MSA of well over 1 million, while Salem stands relatively alone and has about 140,000 people. Having a similar number of homeless as Memphis means a significantly higher percentage of the population is homeless. Part of the problem is imbedded in the institutional history of the city, which I don’t have time to cover here, but makes an interesting study.

I understand that I’m painting with a very broad brush here, but one of the common threads that run through the typical WMP homeless person is a rejection of the available resources that provide other options. Area shelters have rules, and one of the main rules is “no drugs, no booze.” Some just don’t like rules period, but most choose to live here rather than avail themselves of conventional shelter because they have habits that are not welcome in the shelters. One of the by-products of these habits is trash, namely bottles, cans, and more seriously, needles.

So you can imagine my disappointment at having to brief my 12 and 4 year old kids on what a discarded needle looks like, not to pick up ANYTHING without gloves, and try all day to get my 4 year old, who really likes to help, not to pick up pretty much everything he sees. Especially dangerous is discarded clothing, which can have needles hidden in it.

All negativity aside, we had a large group of Cub Scouts and about a dozen geocachers, complete with a City of Salem provided police officer as chaperone. We spent a couple of hours picking up over 500 pounds of trash including two bicycles and a shopping cart! I personally didn’t see any needles, so for that we were grateful! After a brief lunch of chicken, fixings donated by Roth’s Grocery Stores, and some great pizza donated by Garlic Jim’s, three of us headed out into the woods into an area that we were not allowed to clean, strictly for the purposes of documenting, with photographs and GPS coordinates, the abandoned camps that litter (literally) the northern half of the woods at the park. I was amazed. There were areas where trash was just heaped upon trash! Remnants of large camps were found! It was obvious that a large number of people had camped there for some time. There were fire pits, alcoves carved into the hillside into makeshift shelves. One site was so bad and so large that the only remedy I could suggest is to bulldoze it flat, bring in a load of clean fill, and make a tiny landfill out of it! Bizarrely, right in the middle of this site stood an empty trash can; one of the rolling ones provided by the city’s contracted trash collection service.
It still had the serial number on the front, obviously taken from some house or business.

Hopefully, by providing documentation of what is going on out here, the residents will wake up and take steps to reclaim this wonderful park. No one else can do it. Government is not the end-all be-all answer to the problem. Simply ignoring it as long as it doesn’t affect “my neighborhood” isn’t the answer. Providing a “safe” isolated are for homeless people to break the law isn’t the answer.

I’m strongly conservative, fiscally and socially, but I’m not heartless. I never liked the term “compassionate conservative.” I prefer “common sense conservative.” You can’t simply tell the homeless “you can’t be here.” You have to provide alternatives, governmental and more importantly faith-based. American churches has somewhat abandoned the care of the downtrodden to government, one of the few flaws I see in our American society. Simply doing nothing because “there are government programs for that” is unacceptable. Conversely, governments throwing money at these people isn’t solving anything either! The government doesn’t HAVE any money! The only money the government has is MINE, and YOURS, and every other taxpayer out there! It’s time to get rid of politicians who think they are spending “the government’s” money!

But for the most part, the area I’m talking about is not inhabited by people who have fallen on hard times and need a helping hand to get back on their feet. It’s not people who really WANT to have better circumstances, and are willing to put in the effort if given the chance. These are people who LIKE their addictions. They CHOOSE to live here rather than obey the rules of civilized society.

Does someone’s 4 year old have to get AIDS from a discarded needle in the woods before we get permission to clean it up? It won’t be mine! Sadly, we’ll avoid those trails with the kids unless and until common sense prevails and the community stands up for itself and takes back the territory it has ceded by inertia.

No one else can.

Article in the Salem Statesman Journal:

23 August 2007

The 2007 OregonSAGA Great Willamette River Tour

My new home geocaching group, Salem Area Geocachers Assoc., has been hosting their discussion forums on Yahoo! Groups for some time now, although we recently established a phpbb board. A couple of weeks ago, someone mentioned that they were going to make a geocaching float trip down the Willamette River, notably one of the few north-flowing rivers in the northern hemisphere, one upcoming Sunday morning. There are several geocaches along the river that are either only accessible by water, or at least more easily accessible by water. Many folks, including myself, immediately shouted “OOO! OOO! Me, too! Me, too!” There was such a response that the original poster decided to make a geocaching event.

Geocaching.com will not approve events for get-togethers specifically for the purpose of hunting geocaches, so my friend made this a breakfast event. People were free to come only to the breakfast and still be able to log the event. With that approved, we met at the nearby McD’s for breakfast, and then several folks continued on to the float trip. Taking all three of our kids out to eat, even fast food, is a bit of a chore, as is getting up and out of the house at an early hour, but we made it and managed to have a decent breakfast and chat with a few folks before heading out.

There were a few geocachers back home in West Tennessee who also liked canoeing, but I was never able to hook up with any of their trips. The Mississippi river is way too big to safely canoe or kayak, the Loosahatchie has been so channelized it’s kinda boring, and the Wolf is full of snags that would dump a newbie like me, so I was thrilled to get up here next to the Willamette, a sedate little river (except during high water, or so I’m told) perfect for a novice. I may even get my own boat. I’d prefer a canoe, though. Never felt comfortable with a kayak. Somehow I don’t cotton to the idea of a vessel that, when they teach you how to use it, the first thing they go over is how to right yourself WHEN (not IF, WHEN!) you capsize!

In any event, my darling wife was kind enough to stay on dry land with our oldest while the other three of us put out to sea. This small, one man trip turned into a six boat fleet! There were at least 15 of us out there! I had arranged to ride in the canoe with the trip leader, who is 6’ 9” and about 375lbs (goes by the geocaching name KenSquatch). I had never set butt in a canoe before, but I think I did okay for a first timer, though I was as much ballast as anything else. Our four year old, LilSpencersb, rode in the middle of our canoe, and Chicklet rode in a Kayak with another new friend, Dragon’s Passion for Caching. We drove up river about 15 miles from downtown Salem to Buena Vista, after dropping a vehicle at Independence, and finally got in the water about 11:30 AM.

Not too long into the trip, I managed to snap my paddle in two! The jagged end tore about an inch long gash in my right palm. I guess I was gripping it too high with my right hand and trying to push too hard in the water. Seems like we were trying to pass a certain Chicklet-bearing kayak at the time.
The caches we found were pretty standard fare, nothing spectacular, but fun and well-placed. One was soaked due to a substandard container (nothing beats ammo cans, but at least use a Lock&Lock). On the last one, MaryAnn's Island, my canoeing partner decided that my injured hand was not a sufficient battle wound to mark our journey and proceeded to fall off a fallen log, leaving two nice skid marks up one shin and a few other strawberries. It was also at that last stop that we found some solace in a patch of wild blackberries! Back home, they never seem to really get ripe and sweet, so there’s no reward to offset their thorns, and they are nothing but a nuisance. This patch was ripe and sweet, and we left it a little lighter than we found it!

We finished the trip with about a 3 mile section of the river, sometimes with a nice current, sometimes needing to paddle. We had planned to continue on to downtown Salem and a couple of caches there, but by the time we reached Independence, it was 4PM, we were tired and hungry, and just not up for another three or four miles. We disembarked there, where Ken’s wife and mine met us with the vehicles and a van-load of sandwiches I’d made the night before. They were a welcome respite after a long day on the river! (Note to self: take snacks ON the boat next time!)>

[My now-ex-wife] and Ken’s wife Debbie had found 7 land caches while we were on the river, a new one day record for [my now-ex-wife]. Timothy had been a little snotty all day, as he doesn’t like to ride much, but all in all, we all had a great day. The weather could not have been better! While Memphis was sweltering through several straight days of 100+ temps, it was overcast and about 70 degrees for our trip, nearly perfect, even a tad chilly on the water with a light breeze. It was the kind of geocaching trip that makes me remember why I love it, and one I’ll remember for years to come. It was so well received, that Ken says he’ll make it an annual event. Keep and eye out for the 2008 OregonSAGA Willamette River Tour.