Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I owe it all to Chick & Ruth's

During our 30th Naval Academy class reunion, I walk into C&R to have breakfast with housemates Ken, Ron, and Eric. After squeezing into the wall seat, I look up and and see Bob sitting two tables away; first sighting since 1987. I recognized him immediately.

Bob and I were in the same 2/c summer group; he was also a good friend of Tom, 1st Regimental Commander, and both were studs on the heavyweight crew team.

On that fine Friday morning at breakfast, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I leave my housemates (because they are no doubt bored with me) and take up the table right between the two parties. And then proceed to catch up with Bob and Lisa; I promise Lisa some incriminating photos I have of her husband from our school daze!

I'm very glad I perused my photo albums before making the trip.

Sunday morning, I invite them to meet for our King Hall breakfast, where we all forgot how to get down from the Rotunda! We didn't look too silly, only because no one saw our confused glances back and forth.

Hey, it's been a few years!

 Anyhow, before we all leave for the airport, Bob suggested I come out to Madison for the UW game against Michigan. Hey, thanks for the invite, Bob! That's really nice of you.

Realistically, it's a stretch. Got lots going on at home.

A week later....why not?  I've never been to a major college football game, except for Navy-South Carolina in 1984...and I'm going out on a limb by thinking that UW-Michigan is kind of a big deal.

I tell him I'm looking into it. So I look.

And I decide...yup.

But nature and my physical frailties intervene to a nearly catastrophic level....

In 1990, I went over the handlebars while working in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. 4 years later, a lumbar diskectomy....7 years after that, another disk. Figured my running career was over, but core work allowed me to start running marathons at age 45. Figured I was cured.

Maybe not so much. Running has been precarious since a brutal Thai massage last fall, so I put the shoes away this summer and got back into rope jumping, pure beast mode workouts. Even added ball bearings to the handles for added work.

Two months later, the left leg was starting to feel like I swallowed a knife the hard way. Hmmmm...stop the impact work, back in the pool. Got worse. Navy scoring 42 points vs Cinncinnati didn't help, as I was determined to do the pushups. But by then, I was already sliding into the abyss...

Back home, it's time for intervention...

Alas, poor Yorick...I knew him well
Not sure how they got this out of me so quickly...

Nice picture of Grand Teton in the doctor's office...sidebar: at Idaho Prototype circa 1988, I remember taking a wake-up stroll at 0430 while on graveyards in Arco and seeing Grand Teton backlit by the rising sun...from 110 miles away.

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Good reading material...

Remember those interviews on Inside the Actor's Studio? Host James Lipton was a private pilot, and Robin Williams had a hilarious bit about flying. 

For the MRI, I made sure my attire was appropriate.

Show time!
Oh, and when I went back to the doctor's office and was ordered onto the scale, an error msg popped up. I promptly turned my hat back to Kid Rock mode and the scale rebooted itself without intervention. Just sayin'.

The verdict? As expected.

L4-L5 herniation, pressing on the left leg nerve root like someone stepping on a garden hose. Incidentally, at my follow-on with the doc, the monitor in the waiting room showed "L14-31" on the screen. What????? There are 5 lumbar disks. Then I realize it's the score of the UCLA game.

The good news is there is a clear and fixable problem. The bad news is that my walk appears to resemble a Charles Barkley golf swing...

Surgery.....that would eliminate my travel plans to Wisconsin. I know, priorities....Then the doc says  that a bulge of this magnitude/placement can sometimes heal naturally, much preferred over cutting. So it's steroids and taking it easy for a while. Things seem to have stabilized a bit, and I'm not wincing quite as much as of late.

All this means that my Madison trip is ON!!! While my health is paramount, I really want to get on that plane. And so I shall...

With one small and brilliant concession...I buy a carry-on bag small enough to fit underneath my seat, since I don't want to lift ANYTHING on this trip and have that bubble in my back pop. Plus, the flights are full and I'd probably have to check a standard bag anyway. Instead, it's 18x11x9 and I'm outta here; it helps to wrap all clothes like a tightly wound burrito.

Happiness, thy name is Priority Pass....nice to have a quiet lounge during layovers.

 Not mine....but a bloody at 0900 isn't such a bad idea!

Bob drives down from Milwaukee to grab me from O'Hare. Unmatched hospitality.

Living in Oregon with a population density of 35 residents per mile, I forget that the eastern part of the country is a bit more developed. My town of Bend has around 90,000 residents, but that's by far the largest place outside the Willamette Valley. Meanwhile, an hour drive means passing Redmond (population 26,000), Madras (6,000), and Warm Springs (2,400), with absolutely nothing in between.

The Milwaukee/Chicago corridor is a bit more lively than that.

Turns out, Bob and I are both skate ski fanatics. Wisconsin hosts the American Birkebeiner, a series of LONG ski events, so I decide to add onto my bucket list. But what to do: the 29k, or the 50k?

Oh, how silly you are....I'm doing both. Because, well...me. I have a few lunges to do before February 2019.

Upon arrival, Lisa had a little welcoming snack ready...

Ok, really? I can't get away from my previous employer! Bob's water bottle...

Ooooooh yeah. Goes well with Lisa's fantastic turkey chili.

A Friday morning drive down Lake Michigan. No swimming today, though...

 Milwaukee Art Museum, and a Chihuly...or a Wonka?
 The Fog Room...surreal.

A scene from a James Bond movie?

 Hank Aaron started his pro career here, before the Braves moved south.

Most awesome hosts ever!

Stomach growling...

My new obsession: oil/vinegar bars.

Took a tour of Pabst Mansion. People really lived like this?

Now it's literally...(ESPN) Game Day!  Bascom Hill, Madison.

Still can't believe I'm here!!

This is one BIG stadium.

Bob and I found Margaret, so we grabbed another class shot for USNA '87.

Great game. Wisconsin moved up to 11-0 and is knocking on the door of the playoffs.

Upon our return, homemade pizza.

Bob is quite the connoisseur of fine coffee. He has a beast of a machine with lots of dials, control rods, scram switches....and it makes an insanely good cup of just about anything.

There's cool, and then there's Old School Cool. Love me some steam radiators.

Class Reunion bag now has around 7,000 miles on it and is holding up just fine.

Sunday drive into Chicago...keep expecting to run into Jake and Elwood...or Dr. Richard Kimble.

The city really broke out the hospitality, even putting my initials high atop this building.

Ok, lunch was insane. Go to The Purple Pig on your next trip. You will NOT be disappointed.

Sardines. Amazing.

 Octopus. Beyond Description.

Mario Batali's Eately on Ohio Street.

You want cheese? They have it. 
  Some cool merch.

Pay a little more for legroom on the flight, get some goodies.

Oh, and here's how I board every flight now. As soon as I see the flight attendant in the doorway, I tell him or her that they dropped 'this' in the terminal. Then I hand them 2-4 Starbucks gift cards. Then I get LOTS of freebies on the flight. Like dinner and movies.

Makes sense to tip BEFORE service. And so far, my ROI is only slightly negative! Remains to be seen if I'll ever get bumped up front. Regardless, it's nice to make people smile when then don't expect it.

Amazing trip. If I bypass the reunion, I don't run into Bob and Lisa. And I don't have this experience. Glad I went east. Very glad. Many, MANY thanks to my gracious hosts

And a steroid shot this afternoon! It's all good.

Post-script: when offered a Valium prior to a medical procedure, never/EVER turn it down!!!! I figured, they will give me a local, so what's the big deal?

Here's the big deal: my nerve root is already compressed due to the disk bulge. Now we're injecting an INCOMPRESSIBLE fluid (the steroid) onto an already compromised COMPRESSIBLE nerve root. Basic hydraulics says that something's gotta give, and it won't be the fluid. All that additional pressure onto the nerve root....I was whimpering like the child I am, and the nurse was stroking my head in pity. Thank goodness the worst of it only lasted 15 seconds or so.


Not sure yet if the shot worked; I should know in another week. Meanwhile, I'm popping Advil like Godiva chocolates. Fingers crossed that I'll avoid another surgery!