CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the category “Recreation”

My perspective of the 2012 Olympics

NBC, you blew it.  You are my favorite network, even if Fox is more of my political persuasion, news-wise.  I am a huge Bob Costas and Al Michaels fan.  Further, I thought the other announcers did their jobs fine.

Up front, my biggest problem walking in is that I am recovering from very recent surgery, and by the time 8:00 PM comes along, I’m toast (In fact, I am still on some pretty solid painkillers, so this blog post may be slightly ill-advised).  So, anything after that, and I may not have even seen it.  I watched during the day when I could, and usually up to bedtime.  And all day Saturday, and Sunday.  So there are the qualifiers, all out in the open and up front.

So, here’s how you blew it.  Bouncy-balls and hula hoops?  In the Olympics?  Come on!  Those women worked hard, and the movement and coordination is beautiful.  But it’s NOT a sport in any way, shape, or form.  So the Olympic committee erred and let it stay.  You do not have to show it.  Maybe put it on at midnight, if someone wants to watch.  Sand volleyball?  I almost have to give you that one, as I understand that those were the hottest tickets in the Olympics.  However, I suspect it was due to the women that were playing in it, not the sport itself.  And sand volleyball is merely a sport played by people who say, “Dude!” to make them feel like they are almost real athletes.  Dump the sand volleyball.  Handball?  I was jazzed when I heard that one, as I used to play handball.  Tough sport, and one where old guys compete better than young guys.  But what is in the Olympics is NOT handball.  It’s guys carrying a bouncy basketball and throwing it around.  Stupid.  Ditch the handball.

I will list the sports that cause me to look forward to the Summer Games (not in any particular order):  Wrestling, Swimming, Diving, Weightlifting, Gymnastics, Track and Field, Boxing.  Throw in Fencing, Bicycling (off-road and road), Pentathlon, Archery, Judo/Taekwando, Equestrian, Triathalon, Water Polo and Shooting, and you have a real event!  I don’t even mind the Soccer.

But what NBC decided to air was, to put it bluntly, boring.  I was bored out of my skull with this year’s coverage.  Look, I know that sports has become spectacle and entertainment, but can’t you keep a bit of the purity?  Ryan Seacrest and McEnroe (for other than tennis), and you clearly have gone in a non-sports direction.  Now, let me say this.  I think Seacrest is great.  He is charming and witty, engages his interviews well, and is entirely pleasant.  But he is not the first person one thinks of when one thinks of sports.  He was clearly chosen for the entertainment factor.

Now, another disclaimer.  I am old-fashioned enough that I pine for the amateur Olympics, even though I know there were loopholes then, as well as countries that paid their athletes a good salary.  But I believe we have lost the intent of the Olympics when we have professionals play.  And by “professional” I mean anyone that makes a living doing the event for which one is going to the Olympics to compete.  That includes Basketball.  The 1992 Dream Team was great to watch, just because each and every player was one of the best ever, anywhere.  But they should not have been playing at the Olympics.  That would be like me competing with a seven-year old  in a shooting competition.  For the most part, I can confidently say that I would win.  But would that be fair?  So anyhow, I just do not like watching professionals.  When they come on the tube (Volleyball, sand pretend volleyball, Basketball, whatever), I generally turn the channel.

So when did the good stuff air?  I saw very little of the things I like, mostly the boring stuff.  Ribbons, sand, bouncy-balls.  Boring.

In my opinion, it would have been better to show re-runs of the good stuff so more people could see them.  Even knowing the outcome, I would have watched Gabby Douglas and the team compete.  But no.  More hula-hoops.  How about Decathlon?  All NBC did was kind of mention it as an, “Oh, yeah,” kind of thing.

I understand that figuring out what to put on air is a no-win situation.  Even if you did everything exactly as I would personally wish, someone, somewhere would probably complain.  I’m not sure why, since I have the finest mind in the cosmos, but it is possible.  Maybe from the ribbon people.  Yeah, that’s probably it.

I also understand that the time difference was a difficulty, but that’s just something one has to deal with when the events are scheduled on the other side of the world, and we need to just suck it up with stuff like that.  But really, a lot of people actually work for a living, and can’t stay up late to watch the cool stuff.

So.  Put me on record for saying that although I understand how difficult the scheduling would be, this Olympics was a complete waste for me.  And I regret that.  I look forward to the Olympics, especially the Summer Games, but this time?  Dullsville.  Rats.  I was really looking forward to it, too.

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Useless.

That’s me.  Useless.  Worthless.  Incapable of measuring up, of succeeding at…anything.

These are the thoughts and attitudes I have had nagging at me for pretty much my entire life.  I’m not sure exactly why, but I have a few ideas about that.

I am adopted.  My bio Mom approached my folks when she was pregnant to ask if they would consider the adoption.  So, not only was I “chosen” by my parents, my parents were “chosen” by my birth mother.  I grew up knowing of the adoption, and my parents always made sure I honored my mother, even if at the time I did not know who she was; that she had made some very difficult choices under very difficult circumstances in order to see me thrive in a home that I couldn’t have had otherwise.  I looked up my biological family a few years ago, and it has proven to be wonderful.  My adoption and bio family will, in all likelihood be topics of future blogs, but for now I offer it as background.

I cannot speak for all adoptees, but in my case it was difficult on only a couple of fronts.  My parents were fantastic, and I am so grateful to have been their son.  I did, however, sometimes wonder why my mother had given me up.  I knew from my folks that it was for good reasons, but still I wondered.  And part of that, I think, lead me to wonder if I somehow didn’t measure up.  If somehow, it was my fault that I wasn’t found “worthy.”

Growing up it was generally unspoken, but I knew much was expected of me.  I rather coasted through school, with mostly B’s on my report cards, with a couple C’s and A’s thrown in.  It was sufficient, if not outstanding.  My behavior was good, no real delinquency apparent, and I was kind of a “church kid.”  But for some reason I was always striving for more, better, faster, funnier (not attained by studying, are you serious?  Get real!).  I just knew that I kind of disappointed, that I didn’t quite bring home what was expected.

I remember one time, my Grandmother was visiting, and she was standing by the upstairs stairway talking to my Dad.  She turned to me, and looking at me said, “If you ever go to jail, it would kill your parents.”  I laughed at the time, and made light of it, but that has stuck with me for over forty years.

I have worked hard to be approved of by authority figures as long as I can remember.  Not to suck up in an Eddie Haskell kind of way (for you children under thirty, that would be a Leave it to Beaver reference, Eddie being an insincere flatterer), but to perform so that I would be found acceptable.  And that is hard work.  In my case, I could never do well enough at any given task to satisfy my thirst for excellence.  No, that isn’t quite correct.  In truth, I could never do well enough to satisfy my need for perfection.  And therein lies the rub.

Any time that I failed at a task (and in my personal lexicon, the word fail means that I didn’t do it perfectly; I didn’t do it “right.”) the words “idiot!” and “moron!” would ring through my head like the words of a relentless, cold judge pronouncing sentence on a convicted felon.  Over and over, time after time, year after year.

And if this sounds like I’m whining, I do not intend it as such.  I am merely relating how I have lived for most of my life, and actually for as long as I can remember.

I serve a loving God, one who has sent his Son to save me from myself.  And through Christ’s sacrifice, I am whole, unspoiled, in a love relationship with my God and my King.  I think of Jesus as Boromir thought of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.  I look at Jesus and see “my brother, my Captain, my King.”  And intellectually I know that all is forgiven, all is forgotten.  I know that God has chosen to forget my failures, my imperfections.  But I seldom feel it.  Idiot!  Moron!!  FAILURE!!

Beth and I are currently on Grand Cayman for a long anticipated vacation, with some of our favorite people in the entire world.  And this is paradise.  We have relaxed (I read a book!  Due to responsibilities, I cannot tell you the last time I had a chance to read), gotten in some amazing scuba dives, and spent some fantastic time together.  But even here I have had some roadblocks.  We got a flat tire.  Idiot!  I have lost my cool a couple times.  Moron!!  I have been short with Beth once or twice.  FAILURE!! 

I love the ocean.  When we are at the shore, I customarily park myself near the shore and just experience that point where wind, water and land meet.  I feel small, and yet comforted at the same time.  It is one of the few times I feel content.

One of my favorite things to do when vacationing at the ocean shore is to have my devotional time on the sand or on a balcony where I can see the ocean, hear it, smell it.  Where I can feel the breeze and see the waves, the colors, the horizon.  I have done so this week, and devotions have been good.  However, I have felt a nagging “something” that I could not pinpoint.  I have been looking to God to help me let go of…whatever this is.  And I think today I have a clue.

I decided to not open my Bible to a particular passage to read this morning.  Instead, I really felt led to focus on a bookmark entitled “My Identity/Who I am in Christ” which contains a number of key passages under various headings.  (The bookmark is published by Freedom in Christ Ministries, and as far as I know can be obtained at www.freedominchrist.com.)

Under the first heading, “I am Accepted,” it starts out with John 1:12; I am God’s child.  Comforting, but not awe-inspiring.  Ok, next, John 15:15: I am Christ’s friend.  Huh.  That’s right, I had forgotten that.  Christ looks at me as His friend.  Friends with the creator of the universe?  Nice.  And so on for several more verses.

The next heading, “I am Secure,” was the crux of the time I spent this morning.  And it only took the first verse to shock my system like a glass of ice-cold water after mowing the lawn on a hot August day.  It came from Romans 8:1-2, and it told me that “I am forever free from condemnation.”  And I stopped dead in my tracks.  I looked at the water and the waves, the perfect blue skies with perfect white clouds, and whispered, “How can you not condemn me, Lord?  I condemn myself!”  And as I pondered that, I felt the merest touch of God’s finger deep inside me, and He answered me and He said to me, “How can you condemn yourself when I do not?”  Loved!  Cleansed!!   ACCEPTED!!  NOT condemned.  NOT  a failure.  But a child of the Master.

Useless?  Yeah, probably.  Left to oneself, one can live four score years, and by strength of will maybe a bit more.  For what?  To accomplish a bit, die, and after a time, be forgotten.  But not so in Christ.  I am not condemned.  I am loved, I am accepted, and I am paid for, purchased with the most precious commodity in the world: the priceless blood of Christ, shed for any of us who recognize our hopelessness, and who long for something more.  Christ’s blood shed for me.

I expect I will still struggle with the relentless judge, pronouncing sentence upon me, with the words “Idiot, moron, failure. Useless!!”  But I don’t have to listen to the accuser.  I can rest in the promise, and wrap myself in the truth.  I am not condemned!

What a great vacation.

Looking for Adventure…

…go, Steppenwolf, go!   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

So my Suzuki GS1100L and I have seen a lot of adventures together.  I purchased a Rifle Fairing for it, had it installed, and had the bike and fairing painted to match.  It was beautiful!  Until one spring, maybe ten years ago or so.

I have an old High School buddy that works on motorcycles in Cochranton, PA  (Professional Cycle, http://www.procycle1.com/Procycle1/Home.html.  Ask for Dell).  For quite a while I took my bikes to him to service, inspect, fix, whatever.  So on this particular day, I had gotten up early and rode down to get the 1100 inspected.  We live outside of Erie, PA, so it was always kind of a commitment to get there.  After he was done I got going, and entered Interstate 79 at Meadville to get home.  Beth and I had friends that were getting married that day, so I really cranked the throttle.  The 1100 has always had a surplus of power, and within about a nanosecond I was travelling at 90 mph (yeah, I know.  First, stupid.  Second, way above the speed limit.  Third, I’m a cop and know better.  Response?  One, I think I’m smarter now than then.  Two, I don’t drive like that now.  Three, blah, blah, blah.  Fourth, the statute of limitations is way past, so nyah! And fifth, do not try this yourselves, it’s dumb beyond belief!).

About a mile or so north of Meadville on I-79 is a curve to the right, with a “mound” separating the northbound and southbound lanes.  Just north of that is an overhead bridge.  It was just before that spot that I decided that my left mirror really needed adjusted.  As I adjusted the mirror, I drifted left to the edge of the road.  I looked up, and I was in the loose part, just entering the curve (at 90 mph).I wasn’t experienced at that point to get myself out of it, and went off the road into the median, which at that location was kind of a grass ditch between the big mound and the northbound lane.  I did a fair job of holding on, and started slowing down.  Needless to say, the word “calm” was not part of my vocabulary at this point.  Panic, terror (literal terror), oh, yeah.  But not calm.

The rear tire kicked out on me, and I did a low side spill.  Motorcycle on its side, and I on my back did a 90 mph slide down the median.  I remember my head hitting a rock and I flipped over, hitting my face shield on the motorcycle and bouncing over again onto my back until we both stopped.  I got up and looked back, only to see pieces of fairing and motorcycle as far as I could see.  Not my happiest moment.  I called Dell to come and pick up my bike, and called Beth to come and get me.  Needless to say, we didn’t get to the wedding that day (sorry, Steve and Karey).

Dell fixed the bike, and I got it home.  However, it was a couple of years before I got the guts to get back on it, and then only after taking the PA motorcycle safety course (http://www.pamsp.com/).   This is actually a great course, and I would recommend it to every rider, no matter how experienced.

I never did get another Rifle Fairing.  My brother-in-law gave me his old windshield, and I have used it for several years.  It’s cheesy, but I appreciated it.  Like I said, I hate riding without a windshield.  Here’s the bike as it looks today:

LOVED this bike!

I continued to ride the 1100 for several years, but she just continued to deteriorate.  I continued to ride, last year I figured out that I was saving five dollars a day riding it to work versus driving my Chevy Silverado.   I was a bit embarrassed to ride her last year and this year; she just was not the beautiful lady she had been.  It culminated last year when I took it to Crolli, Inc. to get some work done (Crolli’s location: http://mapq.st/IFdPJr).  After the work was done, I’m standing beside the 1100, just looking at it, looking at the other bikes around it, and thinking about how it kind of looks a bit worn.  Some guy was also there to pick up his bike, I guess, and looking down at my bike, the love of my life, says, “Now that’s a beater!”  Well!  The nerve!  Except that he’s right.  I just said, “Yep, she get’s me where I’m going, and she’s paid for.”  He did a major back pedal, but it still kind of stung.  But what could I say?  The poor thing is really pounded.  *sigh*

This year, I was just “window shopping” online, and looking at bikes.  Not seriously shopping, just looking.  I got to the point that I figured that if I ever got another two-wheeler, it would likely be a Yamaha V-Star.  Understand, I have always hated Harleys mostly on principle.  So for a long time, V-stars were kind of out, as they had (I thought) a Harley look to them.  But this year I changed my mind.  I think that instead of a “Harley look-alike” they’re more of a “retro” look, back to the motorcycles of the ’30’s and ’40’s, and I kind of got to like the look.

But like I said, I was just window shopping.  Until Beth told me that she thought I should get a new bike.  What?  “Look, Beth, I appreciate that, but really, I don’t think we can afford it.”  “No, I’ve looked at the numbers, and I think we can.”  Wow!  Well so much for “just window shopping!”  At that point it became a serious hunt.

I narrowed it down to two.  Both were V-Stars, both 1300 cc’s, both local, both 2008 models.  One was privately owned and kind of stripped down with very low mileage and a bit cheaper.  The other was a bit pricier with slightly higher mileage, around 12,000 miles, but dressed out.  The second one was being sold by Precision Bike Works in Erie (http://www.precisionbike.com/), and was the Tourer model, dressed out with windshield, engine guard, and backrest.  I took a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon and looked at both of them.  Beth, to my surprise, also took time off work, and went with me.

We stopped at Precision Bike Works first and talked to Rich. The Tourer was beautiful and dressed up just as I would like.  I couldn’t ride it as it was buried in the back by several other bikes, but she was a beaut!

The privately owned ‘Star was just as beautiful, and I got to take her out for a short spin.  BOY was that a sweet ride!  A bit less expensive, only around 1,400 miles, it was pristine!

Since it was close to dinnertime, Beth and I went to the Tap House in Erie (http://www.upick6.com/).  We sat down, got an appetizer and I got a beer.  We talked over the two bikes, compared them, pluses and minuses.  I described the less expensive one, and how it had low miles, and I could build it up over time with a windshield, backrest, and so on.  Beth said, “You’re not getting that one.  You’re getting the Tourer.”  Now, I don’t normally take orders well, but when she said that, I immediately (after picking my jaw off the floor) called Precision Bike works and told Rich I was buying it, while simultaneously calling for the check and paying the bill.  I didn’t even finish my beer!  We paid up and were on the way back to put money down on the bike in record time.

The next day we went back and paid off the rest, did all the paperwork, and I got to ride it home.  I cannot tell you how jazzed I am with this machine!  Here she is:

Screaming Thunder

Nah, just kidding, here’s  the real deal!

And what a sweet machine to ride!  Comfortable, strong, classy, and beautiful!  Beth and I got a ride on it before the weather got freezing cold again, and she loves it as much as I do.  I think I can see a long future with this bike!  And for safety’s sake I took it to Crolli and had him install a headlight modulator, a brake light modulator, a 132 dB airhorn, and new rubber on the back.  I figured out that this year I’m saving a ten-dollar bill every day that I ride it to work.  So, look out highway, here I come!  Looking for adventure

Head out on the Highway

…sing it, Steppenwolf!   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

I know, I know.  It has been established that I am not a “biker.”  I just like the song, ok?

The “bike of my life,” the one that I loved more than all others (at least to this point), was a Suzuki GS 1100L.  Although I refer to it in the past tense, I am still  the owner of title; it’s just that I now have a new bike.

I bought the 1100 about 20 years ago, and she was a beauty.  Great lines, classy, and strong!  Shaft drive, and a speedometer that went to 120 mph. I will confess that it took some time for me to figure out the difference between a chain drive and a shaft drive.  For example, one doesn’t slam the accelerator from a dead stop into a right turn.  The bike will just torque sideways and slide down the street while the rider just kind of watches the blacktop grind bits of metal away.  But I soon learned how to ride the 1100, and I just loved it.  Beth, although a bit of a reluctant motorcycle owner at the beginning, learned to enjoy riding with me, and we did a lot of stuff together.

That probably started when I got the Honda 750 (see my post, “Get your Motor Running”).  Once I got a bit more confident on the bike, Beth got on the back and we learned to ride together.  Mostly we did day trips, short rides, that kind of thing.  That continued with the Suzuki 750.  We would ride to small group on Sunday night perhaps, or pick an afternoon when the kids were elsewhere and go for a bit of a ride.  The problem was that although the 750’s were strong enough to take us both, they were just about at their limit.  With the two of us on, they didn’t have a lot left to really jump when I asked them to.  But, we were young, and it was just great to ride together.

I had learned through the earlier years of riding that I really like a windshield.  I can ride without one, and I love to ride, but I much prefer having a bit of plexiglas in front of me.  I like that bit of a break from the wind, and having it catching most of the bugs that decide to splat on something.  And I would rather they went splat on the windshield than on my face shield, my sunglasses, or my teeth.  Although, even with a windshield they can still manage to find their creepy little way to your face.

Since owning my own bike, I have always ridden with a full face helmet.  Yep, I have heard the arguments regarding full-face vs. three-quarters helmets.  For the proponents of a three-quarters helmet, it usually amounts to something like, “If you’re in a crash with a full-face helmet, it could break your neck if you land on the chin.”  My reply?  If you are in a motorcycle accident with a three-quarters helmet and land on your chin, chances are you’re gonna be DOA (Dead On Arrival) anyhow, and your chin, jaw and half of your face will still be back with the pieces of motorcycle on the road.  At least if I break my neck with a full-face helmet, I’ll look good in the casket.  A touch morbid perhaps, but that ain’t nothin’ compared to the stuff I have seen and heard with thirty years of police work behind me.  And I would rather look good than be chinless…

Anyhow, back to the bugs.  I’m riding along one day on one of the 750’s, can’t remember which one.  In one heartbeat, I clearly saw this wasp come at the windshield, ride the air current over the top of if, and flow right into my helmet.  My face shield was up, and up to that point I was enjoying the fresh air flowing through the helmet.

And it had to be a wasp.  I hate them all!  Bees, wasps, hornets, doesn’t matter.  I call them stingy-things, and I!  Hate!!  Them!!!  The bottom line is that I have loathed stingy-things since I was a young teen.  My theory is that anything with a needle in its butt is an unnatural object, and it needs to die.

That’s a story for another day, but…ah, why not.  Growing up, my family lived a few miles outside of Meadville, PA, in a rural area.  Pop was pretty good with fixing things, but not such a good teacher.  Ergo, I was the I-need-a-wrench-fetch-it kid, the “hold the light right there;  no, stop moving!” kid, the “hold this tight while I whack it with a hammer” kid.  If it sounds like I’m griping, I’m not.  My Pop was the best in the world, and I would give anything in the world to be one of those things for him again.

So on this one day, he was making fence posts out of 4×4’s, and he did this by sharpening one end of the 4×4 with a double-bitted ax we had.  My job?  Hold the 4×4 against the side of the garage so it doesn’t shift while he whacked away with the ax.  It was a beautiful summer day, and I was a young teen, bored out of my mind.  I had gotten to where I was pretty good at being invisible when Pop had a project, but I guess I wasn’t quick enough this time.  Anyhow, here I am holding this stupid 4×4 while Pop was whittling away with the stupid ax.  I’m looking around for something interesting, and I saw a wasp nest hanging under the eaves of the garage, probably about three-quarters of the way down the garage.  I remember seeing this one wasp drop out of it and start flying.  It was pretty cool, it just dropped, and then picked up the pace.  It made a slow, lazy loop, coming right toward me.  And then the little #$*&!! landed on my left eyelid and hammered me three times, bam, bam, bam!!  I started howling, and holding my eye.  Man did that hurt!  Three pops from a wasp right on my eyelid.  Dad went nuts, trying to peel my hands off my eye and yelling to find out what had happened.  I later found out that he thought he had hit me with this double-bitted ax, but at the time, I had no idea this was in his mind.  When he found out that he had not hit me with the ax, and that I was “only” stung, he called me all kind of names.  Yeah, Dad, I might be dumb, here I am holding this stupid fence post, but Pop, I am not a son of a bitch, and when Mom hears what you called her you’re gonna be in big trouble, mister!

So, back to the wasp in my helmet.  Imagine that which you hold in an unreasonable fear.  Now imagine that it’s happening right now.  And that you’re moving on a two-wheeled machine at about, uh, the speed limit, and you can’t do anything about the situation.  Since this is my story, I’ll tell you what I did.  I pulled over to the side of the road, slowing down just as quickly as I safely could, and pulled off the road.  When I stopped the bike, I put it in neutral, put the kick stand down, and got off the bike.  So far so good.  I can still feel the wasp inside my helmet, and have been able to feel it this entire time.  It’s little stingy-thing feet are crawling on my face, and it feels like it’s searching patiently, looking for my eyelid (do they go to wasp school for this?  What the hey!).   I then had to get my gloves off (come on, come on).  Next, I undid my chin strap (this is taking forever).  The wasp was on the right side of my face, around my ear, on my cheek, just crawling around.  Apparently the impact made it’s little stingy-thing mind go blank for a minute, because it hasn’t been able to find my eyelid yet.  I pushed the helmet as far as I could to the right, and then slowly, slowly I lifted my helmet up.  Did I mention that this seemed like about twenty minutes to this point?  I finally got the helmet up far enough that the wasp found the opening, and without ever stinging me even once, it just flew away.  Then I did St. Vitus’ Dance all over the highway.  I ripped my helmet the rest of the way off, and if a football coach had seen how far I flung it, I would have probably been immediately recruited for the pros.  Hollering, dancing all over, waiving my arms around, it seemed like the thing to do at the time, but looking back, I’m kind of glad no one had video cameras then.

Man I hate stingy-things!!!

Get Your Motor Runnin’…

…with a nod to Steppenwolf.   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

Ok, it’s more than a little laughable to try to shoehorn me and a “biker” song into the same thought.  I ride a motorcycle, but no self-respecting “biker” would even sit with me in the same bleacher section at a George Thorogood concert.  My idea of teenage rebellion was when I bought (geez, I didn’t even steal the stupid thing) a comic book and hid it in the Sunday paper my Dad had sent me to buy.  I hid it so Pop wouldn’t know I bought another comic book with my allowance money.  Yeah, I was a real wild child, alright.

When I was a teen, I had friends with motorcycles, but not me.  I didn’t work at jobs that paid enough for me to afford one, and my cruel parents refused to see the necessity of a teenager having a motorcycle.  Never mind that I was an irresponsible and reckless teenager.  That has nothing to do with it, and I clearly needed one.  Maybe I could have tried the holding-my-breath-until-I-turned-blue trick, but I’m kind of doubtful that would have helped my case much.

So I had to wait until adulthood to get a bike.

I was a young-ish cop in North East, PA, and I worked second and third shifts, almost exclusively.  One of my younger-than-I-was friends bought a motorcycle, and I was really envious.  I had wanted one for a long time, but still didn’t have one.  Rats!  JB’s “new” bike was an old (I don’t even remember the year) Honda CB 500.  It had been sitting behind some guy’s garage, and

Not my bike, but a nice shot of a Honda CB.

was just a mess.  JB paid only $300.00 for it, and then took it to a nearby motorcycle dealer for repair.  After several weeks, the shop told him that for them to fix it would cost him way more than the bike was worth.  Disgusted, he said he was just going to sell it.  I asked the price, and he told me that he was just looking to get his $300.00 back.  I yelled, “Sold!” and was completely jazzed about my new purchase.

Those that know me are probably wondering what Beth thought about this whole thing.  Well, I didn’t tell her.  I value my marriage, and I just didn’t think it was a healthy thing to explain this to Beth at this point.  Sometimes, no matter how rational I am, she takes a negative tack.  So I kind of, uh, waited for the proper moment.  Timing is everything.

We had been discussing the purchase of a motorcycle.  The conversations usually went something like this.

Me: “I want a motorcycle.”

Beth: “We can’t afford one.”

Me: “I want a motorcycle.”

Beth: “They’re too dangerous.”

Me: “I want a motorcycle.”

Beth: “No.

See?  Unreasonable.  So, being the thoughtful husband, I thought it best to tell Beth at a better time.

JB finally got the bike (MY bike!!!) back from the shop in the back of a friend’s pickup.  I was working 8PM to 4AM, so around 2-3 in the morning, he backed into my driveway, and we unloaded it, putting it in my garage.  At the end of the shift, I went home and went to bed, with visions of motorcycles dancing in my head.

When I woke up, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.  I couldn’t wait to tell Beth.  It just happened to be her birthday, and I just knew she would be as jazzed as me (like I said, I was young), so I took her out to the garage and stood her in front of the door.  I had her close her eyes, threw the door open, and had her open her eyes.  And it felt like I had stepped into a walk-in freezer.  We were standing outside, but the temperature dropped about thirty degrees in a heartbeat.  I swear!  She looked at this unbelievable symbol of masculine freedom, and in a voice that I would expect from Regan in The Exorcist as her head is spinning around, Beth said, “What.  Is that?”  Suffering from short-term male dementia, I failed to keep my mouth shut.  I said, “It’s a motorcycle!”  Head still spinning, and now spitting pea soup, she next asked, “Who’s is it?”  (Well, maybe more of a shrieking sound than an actual voice) My answer?  “It’s mine!  I just bought it last night!  Happy birthday!!”  I can safely say that I did not get the reaction that my deranged young mind thought I would get.  It probably didn’t help that we were renovating Beth’s kitchen, and she thought her new cabinets had come in.  Whatever the case, our house was chilly and quiet for a loooong time. (note: I am not as stupid now as then.  We have a fantastic relationship, probably mostly due to Beth’s stupid husband actually becoming an adult…)

Well, we kept the bike, and I spent a lot of time getting it into running shape.  I loved that bike.  I’m not a small guy, I stand about 6’3″, and back then probably weighed in at 180 lbs.  Riding it I probably looked like a monkey sitting on a softball, but I felt like a million bucks on that thing.  A couple of years later I traded up to a CB 750.

Also not mine, but beautiful!

I didn’t keep this one long.  It was from Utah, and when I emptied the carburetor bowls, there was about a half-inch of sand in them.  I could just imagine what the carbs, valves, and pistons looked like, so I sold it and bought a Suzuki GS 750.

Mine was a gorgeous red.

Now that was a beautiful bike!  I kept that Suzi for a couple of years, and then traded up to a Suzuki GS 1100L.  I have had that bike for twenty years.  But as time goes on, things like motorcycles tend to wear down, get tired, not look as good.  And I didn’t have the money or talent to keep ‘er looking and running like she should.  But I loved that bike!  Even when it was unsafe and looked a little (ok, a lot) run-down, I loved that bike.  I tend to get overly sentimental about things, and that motorcycle was no exception.

Next up: From GS1100 to the present!!

I want to go diving!!!!!! (fini)

Being a scuba fanatic and a NAUI certified Training Assistant, I have worked with a few students, and I have talked with a number of new divers at diving club functions (Blue Dolphin Skin Divers of Erie, PA).  One of the things I often say is that as divers in the Erie, PA area, we are privileged to learn to dive here.  I then ask, “And do you know why?”  Always my answer is that we are privileged to learn to dive here because in Erie, the diving sucks!!  And I’m quite serious.  While I would not consider us diving experts, my wife and I are fairly good divers, and have dived in a number of miserable conditions; cold air, cold water, poor (or literally no) visibility, unexpected currents.  And we dive relatively frequently in similar conditions.

At the other end of the spectrum, I know several people who enjoy diving, but are “warm water divers,” many of whom give themselves this designation.  So this is not a slam, but an observation.  Warm water divers enjoy diving, and often plan vacations around diving.  But they do not dive much at home.  At home, the water is usually cold, the visibility poor, the comfort level less than optimal.  Critters aren’t as spectacular or as colorful as in warmer climates.  A thicker wetsuit or even a drysuit is mandatory.  True story: some time ago, a national magazine, as part of an article, sent a professional diver to Erie to take some photographs.  One of our Instructors went with him, and offered several times to dive with him if he desired a guide.  The professional answered rather bruskly, finally telling our Instructor that he was a professional, and could handle it alone, thank you very much.  Our buddy just waited on the boat, and within about five minutes, the professional fairly exploded to the surface, ripped his regulator from his mouth, and yelled, “You people dive in this $#it???”  Yep, that’s right, we do.  And we like it.

And that’s my point with my somewhat crude statement regarding why we are privileged to learn to dive in Erie.  I believe that diving in cold water and poor visibility conditions (such as our area) produces divers of the highest caliber.  When one can dive in poor conditions, dive well and enjoy it, that diver can dive well and enjoy their dives anywhere in the world.  I am not saying that warm water divers are by definition not as good as us “cold water divers.”  Many warm water divers are fantastic divers, and I am not worthy to tighten their fin straps.  But many are not nearly as good as they could be if they dived “cold.”

Our younger daughter dives, and has been certified for a few years now.  However she gets cold while diving in the Caribbean, let alone around here, and absolutely refuses to dive at home in central Pennsylvania.  Beth and I have a doctor friend that dives warm water only.  He’s a weight lifter, body builder, and is in amazing shape.  But Beth and I could dive circles around our daughter and our friend.  We are more comfortable and more confident in the water than either of them, and that is due not only to the number of dives we have in our log book, but very much because of the conditions in which we have dived.

I have written extensively about the one-week mission trip that Beth and I took to the Dominican Republic.  My posts included my difficulties, as well as how God worked on me through that entire experience.  What I did not write about is how that entire time affected my desire for diving.

This past November, Beth and I went to the Caribbean island of Bonaire, and it was perhaps the best vacation we have ever had.  Prior to the vacation, my Mother had recently passed away after a brief illness, and we had a number of other “life issues” we were dealing with at the same time.  For whatever reason, we really needed that vacation, and our time on Bonaire was absolutely fantastic.  We came home refreshed and healed.

But after we got home, the only thing on my mind was that “stupid mission trip” that I had committed to.  I was so focused on going to the D.R., I enjoyed little to nothing between returning from Bonaire and the start of the mission trip.   I didn’t think about diving, and had no desire to even participate in our annual New Year’s Day dive.   This lack of excitement was entirely out of character for me.  I am usually buzzing with anticipation for the next dive, wherever it may be, and I constantly think and read about diving.  Subscribing to three dive periodicals, I usually can’t wait until the next dive magazine comes to the house, at which point I devour the entire thing.  And through this period of time, I barely touched any of the magazines that did come.

And then the time of the mission trip came, Beth and I experienced it, and we came home.  It was an unbelievable trip and as I said, I have written extensively about it.  But my passion for diving didn’t return.  We went to club meetings, and talked with diving friends, but I didn’t feel the “burn” to get wet.

One of our Divemasters was going on a dive vacation to San Salvador in February, and asked me to cover for him with a Scuba Diver certification class while he was gone.  My role was to assist the Instructor, mostly in the pool, with the students.  The Instructor was Gene Krahe, who was also the Instructor that taught me in my first certification class.  So I guess that makes him my Scuba Dad.  Kind of fits, he is a lot older than me.  Ahem.

Anyhow, I wasn’t even looking forward to helping with the class.  And that worried me a bit.  As nutty as I had been about diving in the past, I couldn’t even work up excitement about getting in the pool.  As much as I have loved diving, I was worried that I wasn’t all that excited about it now.

Until I got in the pool.  It was so good to get wet again.  It was only a pool, but wow, it felt great!  I enjoyed working with the students, and Gene is easy to work with.  He gives great direction, and really connects with his students, so that was fun.  And the diving!  Feeling so fluid, my movements so easy, it was great!  I remembered how much I loved the sport, and the excitement returned.

And this is how the past few posts got started.  Scuba diving is a great sport, and I love sharing it with Beth.  I love being in the water, I love the joy and challenge that it brings.  We have a trip planned later this summer to Grand Cayman, but right now it is only March.  If  Beth and I want to dive before then, we will have to dive here in Erie, where the diving “sucks.”  We can look forward to typical Erie diving in cold water and low viz.  And I want to go diving!!!  Man, I can’t wait.

I want to go diving!!!!!! (part three)

Beth and I took up diving three years ago and four years ago, respectively. We both love the sport, and have been growing steadily more confident, and skilled as divers. When Beth reacted well to a bad situation (her inflator hose came loose from her buoyancy compensator), I knew she was a diver. Since then, we have been racking up a number of dives in our log books, and gaining experience. We have both taken several courses through Diver’s World in Erie, PA, and have several certifications from NAUI. Beth and I are both Master Divers, having earned that designation this past year.

Our diving has taken us to a number of wonderful spots, and we have seen more amazing things than one can imagine. But our training and much of our diving has been in the Erie, PA area. And I tell many of the students that go through the Scuba Diver course at Diver’s World that we are privileged to learn to dive in Erie. I then ask, “And do you know why? Because the diving in Erie sucks.” And I am quite serious that we are indeed fortunate to learn to dive in Erie, and for the reason that I have given.

Last year Beth and I dived two wrecks; the Indiana and the Dean Richmond. The air temp was toasty, but the water temps were frigid. Beth and I both wore seven millimeter wetsuits, with a seven millimeter core warmer (basically an extra a wetsuit) over our torso and head. We each had maybe twenty to thirty pounds of weight, plus the scuba tank and a thirty cubic foot pony bottle of air for safety and redundancy. The wrecks were both around one hundred feet, give or take fifteen feet. In comparison, in the Caribbean, I usually wear just a swim suit and six pounds of weight. Beth, by the end of the week, will be wearing a three mil wetsuit and a few more pounds than I.

At the wreck(s), we suited up. As I have said before, I hate the heat. So, here I am, suited up in about fourteen millimeters of wetsuit, thirty-ish pounds of weight, and sitting there waiting for Beth. I am sweating like a fiend, and getting a bit, uh, put out. Beth is having some minor difficulties, and is working with the boat captain to get ready. Finally, I tell her I will see her in the water; I have to get in, get wet, and cool down. It is all I can think of. So, over the stern I go. Oops! No reg in my mouth, wetsuit unzipped, no fins. Fortunately I had my BC inflated, or it would have been a very bad moment. ‘Course, my life insurance is always paid up, so Beth would have been ok, but…And that is probably the stupidest thing I have done in my diving career, and I am committed to that being the stupidest thing I ever will do.

When Beth came off the boat, we collected ourselves, got to the anchor line, and dropped down. Visibility was very poor for the first sixty feet down the anchor line, maybe a total of three feet of visibility. We could see each other, and that’s about it. But when we dropped through the thermocline (and into the really cold water), the viz opened up to sixty feet or better. And the wrecks were spectacular! What great dives those were, and I will describe them in detail another time.

Another poor visibility dive we did last year was at Kinzua reservoir, as part of our Master Diver project. When Kinzua dam was constructed and the reservoir filled in the ’60’s, three towns were flooded. The town of Kinzua in PA, Onoville in New York, and Corydon, in PA. Our fellow Master Diver student, Terry Skarzenski, suggested we research Corydon and dive on it to see what we could find. Beth and I loved the idea. We did the research, and planned our dive for a beautiful, sunny and clear day in late summer.

Our families arrived at Willow Bay, and surveyed the area. Based on old photos, we compared the topography, and agreed on where we believed the town had likely been located. We did a surface swim out and caught our breaths before dropping down. We knew the conditions were going to be less than perfect, so we had an eight foot buddy line. I was on the left, Terry on the right, Beth in the middle. When we were ready, we popped our regulators in our mouths, and started our descent. And we dropped into the nastiest mud pit I have ever been in. As we were descending I watched upward, and as we hit the ten or fifteen foot mark, the sun disappeared, as if someone had flipped a switch. No exaggeration. I turned on my dive light (all while hanging on to the buddy line, trying to read my gauges, clearing my sinuses, and letting a bit of air into my BC to stay close to neutrally buoyant). I could see absolutely nothing. The only way I knew we had hit the bottom at about thirty-eight feet was because we stopped descending. I could only read my gauges intermittently. I could not see Beth (just four feet away). And I could see absolutely nothing in any direction. We just sat there for five minutes trying to figure out what to do, and then kind of mutually huddled up. We discovered that we could only see each other from about six inches away. Seriously. And that was not real clear. Beth signalled that she would take the lead and follow her compass, and we would keep pace on the buddy line. Every now and then we could feel something on the bottom, maybe a tree stump, or a rock or something. We had thought we might find paved streets, maybe a sidewalk or house foundation, but not a chance. Have you ever been a fog so thick that you literally could not see your hand in front of your face? Or been driving in a snowstorm with absolutely nothing outside your windshield except snow? Now imagine that same visibility while wearing a set of goggles, and a clothes pin on your nose, breathing through your mouth only, wearing spandex that is two sizes too small, with about three atmospheres of pressure surrounding you, all at the same time. That’s kind of what it would feel like, and it is not the most pleasant moment I have experienced.

Beth, however, did a great job. Remember, she has claustrophobia, vision issues (although we got her a mask with prescription lenses), and nearly drowned when she was young. And here she was, taking the lead in the nastiest diving conditions we had seen yet. Unbelievable. And me? Well, let’s just say I’m glad I was in a wetsuit, because I was peeing my pants for about twenty minutes. That was the freakiest, nerviest, nastiest, scariest dive I have ever done. But we got ‘er done. We did about a fifteen minute swim around, and never once saw a single thing. After fifteen minutes, we headed for the surface, slowly, and did our safety stop for three minutes. Beth and I came to the surface together, with no Terry. We looked around, and that was the worst moment I can remember. His wife, Sue, and their kids were on shore waiting for us, and no Terry. I started going though my mind what to do for a lost diver, hoping that he would show up soon. He finally came up a couple of minutes later, and explained that he needed a longer safety stop, so he let go of the buddy line and did his extra time alone. Hey Terry, if you’re reading this, you owe me a new wetsuit. The “water” I produced from the scary dive belongs to me, but the, uh, stains in the back are from you scaring the caca out of me, and they didn’t come out of the neoprene. Don’t ever do that to me again! Collecting ourselves on the surface, we all agreed that none of us had any desire to go back under on the way back to shore, and so did a surface swim back to the beach.

…final episode next time.  Maybe…

I want to go diving!!!!!! (part two)

(Somehow WordPress decided to post this before I was ready, so several people got this post in email form before I was quite finished.  This is the finished version.  Sorry…)

My scuba diving career started about four years ago when our daughter decided on a destination wedding on Grand Cayman.  I have always been fascinated with the idea of scuba, but could not justify it until then.  I took lessons, got certified, and did my first ocean dive off the south shore of Grand Cayman.  It was truly an experience I will never forget.  I was pretty much instantly hooked, and very much wanted to share this amazing sport with my wife.

Like many people, Beth was reluctant to try scuba, and for a number of reasons.  She almost drowned when she was about ten, so she has some water issues;  she is claustrophobic; and she has vision, uh, issues (we used to spend a lot of money on optometrists until I figured out we could do the same thing by cutting the bottoms off of coke bottles.  We save a lot of money that way.  Kidding, Dear).  I guess I was pushing a bit too hard, which I figured out when Beth put her index finger about an inch off my nose and gently said, “Stop pushing me!!!!!!”  Yeah, gently.  I hate living in fear…

But we did go snorkeling every day we were there, and Beth had just as much fun as I did.  After the vacation, we were talked about how cool the snorkeling was, and we got to talking about scuba.  Unprompted by me (see, I can learn) she said, “Well, maybe I could try it.”  I responded with a non-committal, “Yeah, ok.  Whatever you want, Babe.”  Inside I was doing my own version of the Cherokee Victory Dance, but I didn’t see the need to share that with her then.  Plus, I figured I would remain much healthier that way.

Beth started lessons, and I remember the evenings of her first three lessons .  She would call me as she was driving on the way home, crying, and not sure she could “do this.”

I think I should explain at this point how the lessons work.  The certification classes last approximately six weeks, one evening a week.  There is a couple of hours of classroom, followed by an hour or so of pool time.  For the pool session on the first evening, the Instructor and his Trainer Assistant or Divemaster help the students gear up, explain how the equipment works, and get them under water for a bit.  Each session after that builds on the knowledge from the week before.  The way the classes are designed, the students “get wet” from the beginning; there isn’t a theory portion and then a practical portion.  You get both each class.  And another plug for Diver’s World of Erie, PA.  The Instructors are phenomenal, the Divemasters outstanding, and the Trainer Assistants dedicated (disclaimer: I am one of the TA’s).  But if you want quality scuba instruction, you cannot do better than Diver’s World.

So Beth had to deal with her issues from the start, and it wasn’t easy.  Each time she called crying, I would talk with her, and pretty much encourage her to continue, that she should keep going with the lessons, and if she got through the lessons and couldn’t do it, so be it; she had given it her best shot.

I’m not sure which week it was, I think maybe week four, she came home, and looking thoughtful, said, “You know, I had fun tonight.”  Another non-committal, “Good for you” from me.  Another internal Victory Dance.  She toughed it out, and got certified.  I often tell people that she is the poster child for scuba.  There should be a poster with Beth’s photo on it, with the caption that says, “If I can do it, so can you!”  Honestly.  I have been a cop for over thirty years, twenty in the City of Erie.  I was on the SWAT team for thirteen.  I have seen acts of courage and bravery that would make one weep.  But Beth, having no training or background it that kind of thing, gutted out those lessons and got certified.  And that’s the bravest thing I have ever seen in my entire life.  She says that she did it for me, because she knew how much it meant to me.  But it was her effort and determination that got her through.  She is one tough and amazing lady.

And not only did we get certified, we have continued with our scuba education.  We both have our Advanced Certifications, both are Deep Certified, Computer Certified, Rescue Certified, and are both Master Divers, all through NAUI schools.  I am particularly proud of Beth for the Rescue Diver cert.  That is one tough mama of a course, and she did it.  I went a bit further, getting Ice Certified and my Trainer Assistant Cert as well.  I am thinking Beth will get her TA this year maybe, and I am at some point looking at Divemaster and/or Instructor.  Time will tell.

And we found our “together” activity.  Beth and I have had a chance to dive in some truly amazing locations.  Three times in the Caribbean country of Bonaire, the Florida Keys (the Vandenberg is a really cool wreck), the Gulf of Mexico, lakes and quarries all over the place.  And we dive as partners (“buddies” in scuba parlance).

I think it is probably typical for a husband to be protective of his wife, and worry about her in situations like that, and I am no different.  I tended to hover nearby, worried to death for Beth.  Until our second trip to Bonaire.

We were on a typical dive in paradise, enjoying the warm, clear water, seeing really spectacular stuff.  I saw something I wanted to show her, and turned to get her attention.  Only she wasn’t there.  Where is that woman!?  I did a 360 circle, looking all over, up, down, and then I saw her about ten feet above me, streaking like an arrow toward our divemaster.  I thought, “Oh, this isn’t good,” and saw her make contact with him.  He kind of fussed at her buoyancy compensator (BC for short), and I admit to a bit of jealousy for him touching her, but after a minute they turned and slowly started toward the boat.  At that point I caught up with them, and she showed me her inflator hose.

The inflator hose is the part of the BC that one uses to add or release air to the BC from the attached scuba tank.  In that way the diver can adjust their buoyancy, to be as neutrally buoyant in the water as possible.  Using the inflator hose, there are two ways to dump air.  A button on the end lets a bit of air out at a time, and is useful for most needed adjustments.  The second way to release air is to just kind of tug on the hose itself.  There is a larger dump valve on the shoulder of the BC at the point where the inflator hose connects to the BC itself.  In Beth’s case, she had tugged on the inflator hose a bit too strenuously, and the entire inflator hose came disconnected from the BC, making it useless for her.  That’s when she did an underwater sprint to the divemaster.  Needless to say, Beth was a bit nervy over the incident, but at the instant I saw what the situation was, I ceased worrying about her.  I remember thinking, “She’s a diver!”  When we got on the boat, she was a bit shaky, but I asked her if she knew what she had done.  She did not, and I told her that she had done exactly what she should have done.  We are trained that panic will kill a diver, so do not panic.  Stop and take a breath, analyze the situation, and take appropriate action.  Which is exactly what she did.  Upon analysis, she knew that her husband didn’t have the knowledge to help, so she went to the person that could.  Just a year earlier, she would have probably bolted for the surface, risking the bends or other um, undesirable possibilities.  But that is not what she did.  She did exactly what a diver should do, and I can honestly say that I haven’t felt the need to hover over her since.

…more to come,,,

I want to go diving!!!!!! (part one)

I hate summer.  I hate the heat, I hate the humidity, I hate feeling like a human pot roast, being popped into an oven set at four hundred degrees.  Starting in the fall, continuing through winter, and into the beginning of spring are enjoyable temperatures for me.  Especially winter.  I love the cold and snow.  I love being outside in winter, I love driving in snow, and I love watching it fall.  My theory du jour is that my internal temperature is such that winter brings down my temp to a point that I can relax and just enjoy.

But there are certain drawbacks to winter.  I miss certain activities that bad weather and extreme cold make a bit more difficult.  First on that list is scuba diving.

My wife and I are avid and enthusiastic divers.  I have been diving for about four years, and Beth about three.  We are solidly in our middle-ages (and yes, I plan for my current age to be the mean average for my life span.  I’m fifty-four), and for several years I had been searching for an activity that Beth and I could enjoy together currently, and for decades to come.  Try as we might, we couldn’t come to an agreement for what that activity might be.  The very thoughts of golf just make me want to run screaming, and one or two that we actually tried didn’t take.  Until scuba.

Our younger daughter decided on a destination wedding on Grand Cayman four years ago.  Settling on Cayman as the destination seemed to me to be a torturous path, wandering all over the Pacific, into Central America, touching on the Mediterranean, and finally alighting onto Grand Cayman.  Beth and I had not travelled by passport prior to this, and we were in turns excited, nervous, anticipatory, and apprehensive about our first trip to the Caribbean.  After arriving in Cayman, we got our rental car, and drove to our condo at Turtle Nest Inn, on the south side of the island near Boddentown.  What a fantastic place to stay!  Spacious and beautiful, we had a fantastic view of the ocean from the deck, as well as the bedroom.

In the end, the wedding was wonderful, our daughter lovely, and the vacation truly amazing.  We fell in love with the Caribbean.  It was the first vacation that we have been on that I wept as we left.  Of course, being a typical guy, I only cry when I’m hungry, and I probably should have had something to eat before our departure.  Ahem.

But before the trip, I did some thinking.  Ever since I was a kid, scuba diving has held a fascination for me.  Ever since I saw re-runs of Sea Hunt as a kid, I thought scuba would be an amazing sport.  However as time went on, the idea of diving took a back seat to other things, and eventually kind of receded from my thoughts altogether.  Until the wedding.  When the destination was announced I was in my late forties, and I realized that if I didn’t go diving now I never would.  Beth and I sat down and talked it over, weighed our finances, and decided that, yeah, I should give diving a go.  I contacted a local diving shop, got prices for lessons and basic equipment, and signed up.  Several months before the wedding, I began lessons at Diver’s World in Erie, PA, completing my basic Scuba Diver certification, and much of my Advanced Scuba Diver certification before the trip (click on Diver’s World above to visit their website).

What a rush!  As is my usual tendency, I punished myself studying, figuring I would flunk out, and beating on myself mentally for ever thinking I was cut out for something like this in the first place.  But as is also my usual tendency, I passed with flying colors, got my c-card (that’s “certification card” to you land-lubbing non-divers out there), and completed several additional dives needed for Advanced Certification.

When we went to Cayman, I had perhaps a dozen dives total in my logbook, maybe less.  I was a newbie, a greenhorn, a rookie, whatever terms one would use to describe someone who is allowed to do an activity, but shouldn’t be trusted alone for more than a nano-second.  I contacted a dive shop, Deep Blue Divers Grand Cayman, and arranged for a two tank dive on a given day.

I met Rick  on the dock at the appropriate time, intimidated and nervous.  Rick was great, taking me out by boat to a location that probably couldn’t possibly be much safer.  We geared up, did a buddy check, and got in the water.  Once we were ready, we dropped below the surface.  And I entered paradise.  Being new, I blew through an 80 cu. tank of air in about 22 minutes (for comparison, an 80 cu tank now lasts me about an hour), but those few minutes were more wonder producing than anything I had ever done.

In Erie, the best visibility I experienced was in the pool, and that was maybe thirty feet.  Generally speaking, the viz in the quarries and small lakes that I dived to become certified was ten feet on a good day.  In fact, in Lake Pleasant (clearly not named with the underwater visibility in mind), the viz was at best three feet.  Up to this point in my diving career, this is all I knew.  I had no experience in water in which one could actually see anything.

And then I dropped below the surface of the ocean off the south shore of Grand Cayman.  Visibility of at least one hundred feet, probably more.  The colors, the corals, the fish!  Of the multitude of fish I saw, one was particularly delightful!  It was small, and colored a deep blue with seemingly neon light blue spots.  They weren’t exactly in schools, but there was quite a number of them throughout the dive.  Later on I discovered them to be juvenile damselfish, and they remain among my favorites.  I am still tickled when I find a few on a dive.

Rick took me on an easy, twenty-minute circle in, around, and between corals.  I was mesmerized.  Honestly, if Rick had just hovered in one spot right under the boat for the entire twenty minutes, I would have been happy.  It was unbelievable, and the time was up way too quickly.  We did our three minute safety stop, surfaced, and boarded the boat.  I had been hooked.  I wanted so badly to share my experience with Beth, but how can one describe something like that?  It was my first time in the ocean, and I just didn’t have the words to say.

So I did what most self-respecting husbands would do.  I pestered her to get into scuba herself, so we could dive together.  When I got the index finger in the face with the words, “Stop pushing me!!!!!” (emphasis not mine), I knew I needed to back away.  That having been said, we did go snorkeling together nearly every day we were there.  One time we were snorkeling off Seven Mile Beach, and I would guess we were perhaps a quarter of a mile off shore.  I saw a conch on the bottom, and wanted to check it out.  I told Beth I would be right back, took a couple deep breaths, and had to power my way to the bottom, probably about twenty feet down.  In fact, I had to keep kicking to stay at the bottom.  I looked the conch over, and when I was ready to surface, I simply stopped kicking and turned to look at the surface.  I popped to the surface with no effort at all.  I virtually could not sink!

…continued soon…

Thank you, Father.

I think it was probably clear that God did a great work in me during our recent week-long mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Unbelievable, awesome, needed, wonderful. But then we come back to the “real world,” with all its distractions, troubles, irritations, frustrations, and on and on.

The past couple of weeks have been good, but not necessarily easy.  I have been reconnected to God in a way that I haven’t been in years.  But the tendency, I think, is to fall into accustomed patterns, familiar habits.  Kind if like slipping into a comfortable pair of boots that you’ve worn forever.  But sometimes, even though they’re comfie, they are useless, practically speaking. They are no longer waterproof, and maybe not even eater resistant. They have holes in them, no tread, and can only be held together with duct tape.

We had planned this trip last fall, but my mother began her final adventure here on earth, and Beth and I had to postpone this trip.  At the time we were a bit frustrated.  We needed that time for major decompression, just to regain some strength to continue.

But isn’t God’s timing amazing?

We came down to Black Bear Cabins Thursday evening and will be leaving tomorrow, Sunday morning. Although I gave a good attempt, I cannot tell you how much we were looking forward to it. The solitude, quiet, woods, winter, everything. In that, we were not disappointed. The cool thing is that it has been more than we expected.

Yesterday was a day of introspection for me. Beth notices and remarked that I was “reflective.” Good word. I had a song running through my head all day. It was Kari Job’s “We Are.

Kari Jobe sings “We Are:” http://youtu.be/f0vKeICJBMI

I’m not sure why, but it just kept playing over and over in my mind. And it was great to reflect upon.

Today, the song in my head is Sidewalk Prophets‘ “You Love me Anyway.”

Sidewalk Prophets, “You Love me Anyway:” http://youtu.be/f0vKeICJBMI

The emphasis here is on “How You love me.” And that is sweet water, pure music, balm to the soul.

God used the D.R. as a foundation to bring me back closer to Him; a huge rocket engine to gain liftoff. This weekend has been a booster to keep me from falling back to earth, to keep my trajectory toward the heavens.

I am refreshed. I am renewed. And I am in love with my King.

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