29 July 2008


At some point in your life, you realize your childhood dreams won’t come true. You’ll never be (in my case) Roger Staubach or Johnny Rutherford. You realize that those dreams, the ones that filled your head when you were 8, the ones you thought would just happen because someone had told you “this is America! You can be anything you want to be!” were never realistic to begin with. You don’t have the God-given talent or physique for football or buckets of money and connections to drive racecars. I suppose I reached that point a long time ago. I don’t recall an epiphany or anything, it just never happened and it seemed natural that it never happened.

Other times in life, you realize that your smaller, slightly more realistic dreams won’t come true, but you have no one to blame but yourself. I was never possessed with great physical size, but I had good hands and speed, and could have been a pretty good wide receiver. Not NFL good, or maybe not even NCAA good, but I could have played in Jr. High and High School. In fact, I tried out in 8th grade, assured that at my small school, anyone who tried out would at least “make the team.” I went to the first practice, 4 hours of sheer hell in the hot Memphis in July heat, and when I got up the next morning, I couldn’t move! I mean literally couldn’t walk! Remember those old Army commercials: “I’m hurtin in places I didn’t know I had?” Well at 13, there were a LOT of places I hadn’t found yet, but I found many of them that morning and they all HURT! Looking back, it’s my own fault that I didn’t force myself back and work through the soreness. Genetically, I’d never have been a 6’6” wrestler, but I could have been bigger than I am if I’d followed through with the weights and training and stuff that would have gone along with being on the football team. Or when I was in my early 20s and thought about joining the Army. If one desired to do one’s duty and perform at least one stint of military service, it would have been the perfect time to do so. It was after Vietnam but before Desert Storm. The biggest thing we invaded was the island of Grenada, which I think required a bass boat, four riflemen and a squad of cooks. But alas, I had already discovered the allure of making just enough money to spend it all, and the military don’t pay SQUAT (a fact I will rectify one day when I’m President), so I started college, started working at the bank, and began what for most of us is the normal path of life. It is a path you really don’t think about going down, you just kind of wake up one day and realize you’re on it, and you’ve been on it for a long time, and you’ve got a long way left to go on it. You’ll ease into something called a “career” doing something that you (hopefully) don’t loathe and that (maybe) pays the bills, and you’ll work for 45 years or so, hopefully get your kids out of the house, into college and out on their own, then maybe get to enjoy a few years of retirement. Although, with the stock market the way it is right now, I pity any bank employee retiring right now! Thank God I sold all of my Regions stock when I quit, I sold at about $34 and it’s trading today at around $9.50. Of course, giving up on the concept of retirement takes a lot of the pressure off. If you just resign yourself to the fact that you’ll have to work until you die, it’s not so disappointing to look at your 401(k). Retirement planning becomes a matter of managing the timing of your first heart attack. (Hillshire! GO MEAT!) But as I said, this is where your dreams become more manageable because you realize the semi-realistic ones ain’t gonna happen, but it’s your own darn fault! I got there maybe a few years ago. Again, no “Light on the Damascus road,” but I can narrow that one down a little more.

Then there are the dreams that you didn’t really think were dreams. Dreams that should have come true. Dreams that had to be actively shattered, by you or someone else, usually a little of both. Try as you might, you can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again because you don’t hold all the pieces. Our lives are intertwined with other people, all of whom hold small pieces of that shell. Some people hold more, or larger, pieces than others. I am responsible for my own pieces, and in some way for the pieces of certain others, all of whom will have to live with the scrambled egg (in Oregon, the sidewalks aren’t hot enough to instantly fry it like Memphis). Humpty can never be what he once was; a smooth, pristine white egg perched on a pedestal he never should have been sitting on to begin with. Maybe he was pushed. Maybe it wasn't realistic to expect him to balance on that wall to begin with. Unrealistic expectations are a recipe for disaster. Humpty will never be unbroken, but unlike the fairy tale, this dream Humpty could be pieced back together. With a lot of time and effort, he could be repaired. He’d be scarred, misshapen, a little dirty here and there, perhaps, but he’d be more or less whole. But no one person can do that. You can’t make each person contribute their pieces to the whole. And unless they do, everyone’s pieces stay where they are; broken, scrambled, and less than what they were made to be. Life goes on, but you move on with a handful of cracked eggshells that don't fit anymore. You can either contribute your pieces to the whole, or refuse to. Either way, each piece-holder can only contribute the pieces they have and pray for the others, especially the ones who, through no fault of their own, have to lived with their broken pieces.

I’ll contribute mine, what will you do with yours?

20 July 2008

"I've had all I can stands, I can't stands no more!"
- Popeye the Sailor Man

If only there was a spinach for this.

16 July 2008

"It is not enough to do our best, sometimes we must do what is required."
- Sir Winston Churchill

15 July 2008

He never said things wouldn't fall apart...

He said we'd be held when they did.

What do you do when you've done all you can do and it isn't enough?

You get held.

10 July 2008

Goin APE

On Sunday, 29 June, a few of my geocaching friends from Oregon drove up to North Bend, Washington for a special geocaching adventure. A little background will bring the uninitiated up to speed.

In 2001, about a year after geocaching was first invented, the producers of the remake of the film “Planet of the Apes” hid a series of 12 caches around the world as a publicity stunt. In each cache, a prop from the movie was placed. Over time, most of the caches went missing and were archived, some within months. Now, only two of the original 12 remain: one is a two day hike into the jungle in Brazil; the other is in North Bend, Washington. Along with a visit to Groundspeak HQ in Seattle, and the site of the Original Stash near Estacada, Oregon, the APE cache completes the “NW Trifecta,” a sort of geocaching Holy Grail, but without the promise of immortality.

My father-in-law is buried in North Bend. My mother in law lives about 45 minutes from there. We’re there several times a year, and yet, it never dawned on me just how close I was to this cache until a few months ago. My buddy Kensquach and I started trying to think of excuses to burn $150 worth of gas and a 14 hour day to make a run on this thing. As it worked out, it was much better for everyone. my ex-wife and the kids left on 23 June to go visit her mom for a couple of weeks. I took the Amtrak from Salem to Tacoma on Thursday the 26th to join them. Her and her mom attended the Women of Faith conference in Seattle on Friday and Saturday while I watched the kids, and I was going back on Sunday to go back to work (they were staying another week with mom). Instead of paying Amtrak to ride back on Sunday, I suggested to Ken that he gather a few friends, drive up, meet me in North Bend on Sunday, do the APE cache, then I could ride back with them, caching as we went. He got two other suckers, er, I mean, willing participants, and the plan was in motion!

I should digress a bit to tell you about my adventure in Thursday with Amtrak. I was supposed to leave Salem at 2:10. When I got to the station, they said the train was running an hour late. Oh well, gives me time to walk across the street and find a cache. When I got back, I was told that there was a freight train broken down north of Eugene, OR in front of our train. The plan now was to bus everyone to Portland at 4:15 to catch the 6:15 train to Tacoma. Instead of getting in at 7:11, I would arrive at 8:41. The bus made its way slowly thru downtown Portland rush hour traffic, to within about 10 blocks of the train station, when the drive pulls over and gets out. He announces that the bus’ brakes were smoking and he had to check it out. He comes back a couple minutes later to say the smoke is gone so he’s going to try to limp the rest of the way, which we did. We arrive at the Portland Union Station, which is like a trip back in time! Old style train station just like you see in the movies! My only complaints were a long line to get re-ticketed (though it moved fairly fast), and that the station’s only snack shop closed at 6PM, just as I got out of the re-ticketing line! The remainder of the trip was uneventful, though we were even late getting into Tacoma.

So, back to the subject: during the weekend, the kids and I visited several of the neighborhood parks in Auburn, along the White and Green rivers. The town has some very nice parks and greenways. We also visited an interesting little historical monument memorializing a couple of Indian massacres along a busy street, just another site I’d never have noticed if not for a fake rock with a piece of paper in it to sign!

On Sunday, Kensquach, Salmondan, and Doylefish left Salem about 7AM and we met at Twede’s Café in North Bend about 11. Twede’s is the site made famous by the “Twin Peaks” TV show. I had a mushroom cheeseburger that was outstanding! We hit the road and arrived at the parking lot start of our hike about 12:30. This is one section of the “Iron Horse Trail,” and includes a 2.3 mile abandoned railroad tunnel. Pitch darkness, water dripping (occasionally pouring) from the ceiling, and a delightful coolness on this hot summer day. I would have liked to hike it, but Ken talked me into biking it to save time and wear & tear on the legs (though our butts took a beating). I’ve only recently gotten back on a bike after blowing my knee out in September, but the ride was not difficult, and we stopped several times to hunt the two caches that are inside the tunnel itself. Once through the tunnel, we stopped for a few minutes to rest and find the almost 8 year old “Iron Horse” cache, a moderate little climb up a creek bed just outside the west tunnel entrance. While we were there, my cohorts helped a fellow trail rider perform some adjustments on his mount before he and his buddies continued on the length of the 20+ mile ride. We remounted and travelled the remaining .3 miles to the APE cache.

I’d always pictured it being halfway down a hillside, maybe a few hundred yards from the main trail. No, it’s about 20 feet from the main trail, in a pile of stump, rocks, and planks the size of a small car! We spotted it from 100 yards away! I cannot believe this thing stays here, except to say that I guess thieves are too lazy to lug this big @$$ container outta here! We spent several minutes noting all the trackables and making some trades. I left a couple of geocoins, including one of my last three Spencersb coins, a couple of travel bugs, and a GOWT cap. I had brought my Moun10Bike coin with me to visit the cache he now maintains (heck of a nice guy, I’ve not met him in person, but traded coins and emails with him before). I picked up a travel bug that needed a little TLC; we packed the container away, and continued down the trail just a few hundred feet to view the waterfall we could hear from the cache site. The cache is in full sun, and the day was pretty hot (by Pac NW standards), so the cool breeze and shade of the waterfall were wonderful! It was amazing to take literally two steps and experience a 15-20 degree drop in ambient temperature. Back on the bikes, we stopped and grabbed “Micro Tomb Raider” because, well, it was there, and then set out to find the last cache in the tunnel, “Old Bald Bison.” Obviously, there’s no GPS reception in the tunnel, so we had to do some distance calculations using the waypoint projection from the cache page. I was proud that between my waypoint projection and Salmondan’s remarkably accurate distance estimate, we nabbed this tiny difficult little cache in almost no time! We paused again coming out of the tunnel, where it was like standing in front of an air conditioner! Back on the road, we stopped in North Bend to buy just enough $4.55 a gallon gas to get us back into an area with reasonable gas prices.

We stopped in Olympia, WA to find an Earthcache (an educational type of cache that has something to do with geology) called Water is Mightier Than Rock.” It is in a beautiful little park along a creek that used to be the site of an old mill. The concrete foundations are still visible, and parts of it have been turned into a fish ladder. It has several nice waterfall features, garden areas, and a couple of totem poles. We also found a gas station selling regular for $4.09, though I’d never have thought I’d consider that a great price for gas!

Knowing it was going to get late and having to get up and go to work the next morning, we hot-footed it back to Salem, arriving home a little after 10, tired, sore, but with some great memories and beautiful scenery still replaying in my mind.