Free Association in Reno

By Jim Dickens without guidelines

Been a resident of Reno Nevada for 6 months. Take minute to see the slide show below.

I turned sixty the other day. Look for a blog post on that next. I partied like a 60 year old rock star for two weeks.

You live in Reno now? WTH

By wily Jim Dickens

It’s been a while since I have lived by myself and it’s been even longer since I have felt totally overwhelmed. But it happened this winter, and it’s crazy to think I choose to do it during a comfy retirement. Here is the back story.

Some family at the holidays

Spent the holidays in Chicago with my wife Lori, our children, extended family and friends much as before but just as precious and appreciated. Then finalized the decision with Lori to make my home in Reno without Lori. We remain happily married. The decision was made for good personal reasons.

Good friend Steve arrives in Big Sky

As I mentioned in my previous post, I left the Honda Ridgeline stored in Bozeman. After the holidays, I flew out to be reunited and drive to my new home, Reno, Nevada. Luckily, a good friend of mine Steve, agreed to help and he simultaneously flew out of NYC to join me. December 29, 2020 my trusty Ridgeline emerged from storage with all the camping, hiking, fishing gear and dirt from the fall adventure. It roared to life and took us straight to the Big Sky, Gallatin Riverhouse Bar and Grill to meet our good friend, Pete. The Riverhouse is still the greatest bar in the world.

Pete, refugees in gaming area

Steve and I stayed at Pete’s place with three recent college graduate pandemic refugees. The refugees created an outdoor gaming area with lights, sound system and an ice block table that included embedded LED lighting. They smoothed table surface with hot water to it glassy. The game of the evening involved tossing dice in the air onto the table with the opposing team catching the dice on the bounce. A bad toss or a missed catch resulted in a drink and an uncaught toss or a caught dice resulted in a point. We played from 11 pm to 1 am in sub zero weather with bare hands. The key to the game is to have a quick, willing to dive refugee as your partner. Despite my initial misgivings, it was a very fun, challenging and novel experience.

Do again novel experience, snowmobiling

Steve and I began journeying to Reno and stopping in West Yellowstone for another novel experience, snowmobiling. West Yellowstone has 400 miles of trails, excellent snow and hundreds of sleds for rent. Steve and I had never snowmobiled before, at least I hadn’t for over 30 years. The sleds are easy to drive, fast and reliable, and comfortable. We logged over 70 miles and only got lost once over 4 hours. It was a “do again” activity. I look forward to the future, electric sleds, eliminating my #1 drawback, noise.

Continuing our journey, Steve and I had New Year’s eve dinner in Twin Falls Idaho with great wine and a shot of the worst whiskey in the house. We hiked along the Snake River Canyon to where Evil Knieval attempted to jump across it in his rocket powered motor cycle.

New Year’s Day with Steve driving the Ridgeline at maximum speed we entered Nevada at 11 am and reached Reno early evening. Despite the extensive logical thinking, thorough discussion and extensive planning, I found the reality of the situation completely over whelming. Thanks to Lori and Steve’s support, I didn’t bail and drive back to Chicago.

Here is the reality. I have lived with Lori for the last 33 years. She has always been there if I needed help or support. We have a network of friends and family and we know where to go and how things work. I had never spent anytime in Reno and knew no one. Despite doing internet research, unless you go there, see, hear and smell the landscape you don’t know it. Driving into Reno, the uncertainty and instability of the situation really hit me and I was feeling truly overwhelmed in a bad way.

I have said before, to appreciate a delicious glass of cold water you need to be really hot and thirsty. The experience of going make Reno home has made me truly appreciate Lori, family and friends. Again thanks to Steve for calming me down on the Reno arrival. And huge thanks to Lori for her daily/constant support. I am living in Reno and it’s working out. More on that in the next blog.

Rejuvenation: “in it”

By Jim Dickens, a happy fisherman

Yosemite where John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt met!

John Muir, the famous naturalist who conceived of the national park system with Teddy Roosevelt, once said, “Most people live on the world, not in it.”  I am “most people” most of the time.  I live in a climate controlled house and travel in the self contained bubbles of cars and planes.  Although, the Ridgeline is a pretty sweet bubble.  I eat and drink things without seeing the animals, plants and lake from which they originate.  I walk on sidewalks and well defined paths past landscaped scenes except when I hit my drive too far sideways.  However, fishing is different and it puts you “in” the world.

When you fly fish, the more you sense your surroundings the better you fish.  The act of fishing takes concentration and focus so that outside thought recedes.  You need to notice  air temperature, the wind, the light and the shadows.  You must understand the flow, the depth, the water temperature and the underwater structures of the river.  You need to see the bugs on the water, the bugs under the rocks, the underwater fish movement and the splash of the fish on the surface.  You should notice if an osprey or heron or beaver is disrupting the scene.  Then you need to enter the scene and not disrupt it yourself with movement, with sound, with your shadow and profile.  Finally, you need to actually fish and persuade your quarry that all is well and that fake fly really is worth eating.  To fish well,  the current cliches about being in a flow state or being present are relevant.  I would argue that you don’t leave the world behind you enter it.

I fished 12 days in Wisconsin, 2 in Pennsylvania, 6 in Colorado, 2 in Utah, 9 in Idaho, 3 in Illinois, 7 in Montana and 3 in Wyoming for a total of 44.  The rivers and streams were:

BlueDelawareGunnisonGreenLochsaBitter RootDuckDupage
Big Green
Taylor Fork
SelwayBig HoleGibbon
Castle Rock
East Fork
Big LostMadisonFirehole
Spring Run
3 SistersGallatinMadison
Little Grant

I fished with over 50 different new and old friends in blistering 100 degree heat and snowy 25 degree windswept bone cold. It was fantastic.

On my last day, I fished a river in the afternoon that has really grown on me, the Gallatin. They filmed “A River Runs Through It” there. Stopping at 5 spots in 4 hours and finding 10 fish using four different fishing techniques was probably the best fishing done in 2020.  At 6:37 PM, 10/4, a strong 15 inch rainbow took a size 14 gray drake dry fly, the last catch.

In the month of September, no TV was watched and most days were without cell coverage.  I spent 4 days in a tent and 17 in a cabin.  On October 5th, I left the world and reentered my bubble to find highly anxious friends and family suffering from from pandemic and politics.  How fortunate to have had a complete rejuvenation in September.  The formula of going to beautiful places to fly fish is no secret.  It allows you to be “in it” and outside the manmade bubble.

I left my truck in storage in Bozeman and will pick it up in December.  There’s a reason I didn’t drive it back but that is another story.

Oh yeah, I forgot I fished two days on the remote cascadian Stahekin in Washington as well. So 46 days of fishing I guess.

Good Old Boys

By Ol’ Jim Dickens 9/2020

A few times a year I get together with great friends who are good old boys.   First, my friend Walt has a ranch he shares with a bunch of us for a few days in the middle of nowhere in Idaho.   Second, my friend Chet needed an isolated escape has he is a front line health care worker.   Finally, we got a group of good Bucknell college buddies together in Big Sky, Montana.  The great thing about these trips is you get behave as you want without embarrassing your family, hurting your business or ruining neighborhood relations.

Walt by Ranch Pond

Walt turns his ranch into a giant boys camp for us.  Its 250 acres of trout ponds and stream, horses, ATV,s, motorcycles, and lawn games among mountains and rivers.  Additionally, some of the campers are extremely talented musicians.  Nightly, we have a giant campfire, drinks and great live music.   Every camper has duties and it helps you get invited back if you are useful.  I can’t cook, play music etc.  I stack wood for the campfire and head into town for supplies.  I remain on the bubble.   Had a great time this year and the music was especially great.   We had another guitarist and a fishing guide who was fantastic on the harmonica.

Chet, me, Pete

Chet needed to stay away from large groups or face quarantine so my buddy Pete and I took him into the middle of the Selway Bittertoot Wilderness and the Nez Perce National Forrest.  Really beautiful country.  We stayed at a lodge 60 miles from the nearest next building.  We hiked and fished at the end of 20 miles of dirt road on the Selway River.  And we fished 60 miles of road running along the Lochsa River.  Our lodge mates were overland motorcyclists, elk hunters and some really different people.  

One guy we met told us he was staying at the lodge to memorialize his grand pa.  He told us he lived with a friend who had a 10 year old adopted daughter living in the basement.  She lived in the basement  because when they asked her to brush her teeth she screamed so loud the neighbors called the police.  He also said his grandpa left him a lot of guns and ammo and he was going to go fire them tomorrow.  When asked if he was hunting or target shooting, he told us he was just going to go fire them off.  His non stop description of all this pushed away all from the campfire including us.  Very different.

Good Old Bucknell Boys and Cow Bone

Pete and I dropped Chet off at the Bozeman airport and picked up six other Bucknell buddies.  We stayed in Big Sky using Pete’s house and a large home on the Gallatin River.  Because of the pandemic, we cooked at home and spent our time outside floating and wading the Madison and Gallatin rivers with guides.  We trash talked with each other and had a fishing tournament that we named the 2020 First Annual Big Sky Trout Scramble .  The trophy was a cow bone we found and signed, The Sacred Red Thighbone.  And there were non standard rules to enhance your scramble score like chugging beer, playing bag pipes, and fishing in your Tommy Johns.  

Given the tournament remoteness, it didn’t embarrass our family, hurt our businesses, or ruin our neighborhood relationships.  At 59, we were just being good old boys.

Another Canyon Adventure

by Jim Dickens, a pretend explorer

A Different Canyon Experience

By Jim Dickens

According to world renowned Dr. Atun Gwande, as people go past 50, they in general begin to shrink their networks until at the end it is immediate family.  That always seemed a little sad and being aware of that fact, I tend to guard against it.  I have had the good fortune to expand my network through participation as the fund raising chair in the local chapter of Trout Unlimited.  I got invited by a few of them to join a fishing trip down the Gunnison river through the Gunnison National Conservation Area.  Since they were  five great guys and in the interest of preventing network atrophy, I said yes after gaining permission from Lori.  

New friends (left to right) John, Willie, Dave, Richard, Jim

I picked up my trusty Honda Ridgeline which languished successfully in the Montrose airport parking lot for twenty days.  The tires were full and the battery remain charged.  Team mate John and I drove off and joined the rest of the group.

Steep canyon walls

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a lesser known but impressive canyon with walls over 2000 feet.  With steep canyon walls there are only a couple of places where you can access the river.  So the trip is floating and fishing from rafts and camping for three days and two nights. It begins with a 1.5 mile rocky steep downhill hike hucking your personal gear for the next three days.  Dave recently had broken his hip in a biking accident and got doctor’s clearance just before the trip to make the hike.  His hiking sticks came in handy and he made it down without incident.

I thought since it was September 2 and late in the season that the snow melt that feeds the river would have abated and the river would be easy to navigate.  Well the river flows were low but it provided even trickier navigation problems.  Previously covered rocks were now exposed making the river a tight obstacle course.  We had some tense moments.  My raft hung up in the rapids and started to capsize at one point and we snapped an oar in a rapid limiting our ability to maneuver until we made calmer waters.  All that aside the potentially oppressive heat was absent and the fishing was excellent.

I should at this point mention that the trip was fully supported. The hardships mentioned above were much less frightening because we were being led and coddled by expert rafters, fishing guides, cooks and camp hands.   As long as we were attentive and coachable things went smoothly.  We were rowed and the camps were set up so we could extend fishing and the cooking was first class in a tremendous setting.

 The first two days of fishing the expedition leader was also my fishing guide and he barked instruction frequently.  Once I got past the tone I realized the words were supportive and instructional.  Once I started obeying the instruction the frequency slowed.  It turned in to one of my best learning experiences.  I won’t go into fishing here.  If you feel so inclined look for a future post or skip the future post if you don’t.

A favorite part of the trip was the night.  There was little noise and light polution.   The night was cool but not cold and bug free.  Many of us slept under a set of magnificent starts, planets and satellites.  The only sleep disruptions were the full moon in our eyes and a troop of ring tail cats investigating for scraps.

After the float, we stayed at the Almont Restaurant and Lodge in Almont, CO for a couple of days.  When we went to fish the Taylor Fork of the Gunnsion river we realized that it was Labor Day and everyone else was too.  It forced us  stretch out the Ridgeline’s legs over 50 miles of dirt road into the high country to the Taylor Fork headwaters.  We ran into another crowd up there but they were having a retreat and no one was fishing.  So despite them driving loud, dust spewing motorcycles, ATV,s and 4 wheel drives we at least had a good length of stream to fish.  When I returned to civilization an month and a half later,  I realized John and I had fished in the middle of a Proud Boys retreat.  Hmmm……..

A group to fish with again

I have to mention that the group was very laid back for a bunch of detail oriented fishermen who were either ex or current business executives.  I thought we all got along very well.  I would take a trip with them again anytime.  Next post will be about getting to Idaho for another get together.

Desert Canyon Friends

By jim dickens, the desiccated one

Vacationing with good friends is definitely top 5 and maybe even #1.  I think part of my post work purpose is to make sure we as friends stay connected and find joy together.  It feels like it has positive knock on effects that ripple through out our networks as well.  Going to the Utah desert canyons with Lori and another couple was definitely one of those trips.

The other couple, Ron and Cris, are a marvelous combination.  Ron is a man of routines who is thoughtful and well planned.  Cris is spontaneous and free wheeling.  Both are positive, tolerant, fit, outdoorsy and love to travel among other positive things.  So it was a no brainer to invite them to travel with us.

The most exciting thing seen in Iowa and the ominous Fort Cody

We resolved to see the canyons of Utah at the beginning of August with a rendezvous at the Zion Canyon Lodge at 3 pm on the 8th.  Lori and I drove the Honda Ridgeline out across the great plains leaving on the 6th.  Cris and Ron who drive out to Denver once in a while advised us to stay in the Nebraska oasis of Ft. Cody.  We stayed right next to the so called magical Fort and it just didn’t feel right. In fact, it seemed that evil was emanating from there and the Fort was a trap.  We got up and on the road before it opened and something horrible happened.  We drove to Richland, Utah passing through the rockies and some very picturesque rock formations near Green River.  We saw  a forrest fire that a week later shut down I70 near Grand Junction Colorado.  Covid had yet to reach rural Utah and we were viewed strangely for insisting to eating outside and to wearing a mask in stores.

Better than expected! Initial hiking in Zion

Lori and I arrived at Zion a bit early.  I have to admit the canyon was grander and more beautiful than I remembered from my childhood.  Pictures don’t capture it but they are pretty cool.  Ron and Cris were delayed so we hiked a couple of trails and got supplies.  After driving for 2 1/2 days straight it was good to stretch our legs.  We all sat under the cottonwoods in the Zion Valley had a couple of ice cold beers and admired the canyon walls at sunset while the Ridgeline outdoor truck bed sound system kept it lively.  A great way to kick off.

The Kings
Early morning Court of the Kings hike. They may have known there were being photographed?

Lori, Cris and I took an early morning hike to the Court of the Kings while Ron went through his morning routine.  With a quick turn around we then hiked up the Angel’s Landing trail.   The chains were closed covid so we did not do the thrilling last 1/2 mile climb to the landing.  Every couple of years some one falls to their death on this part of the trail.  As someone who has bungee jumped, sky dived and paraglided, it was strange that I was relieved that we would not make the climb.  In fact, trepidation crept in every time I got within 6 feet of a cliff edge.  It must be an effect of aging although Cris, Ron and Lori did not share my cowardice.  We finished the day off with Mexican in town and drinks at sunset on the lodge lawn.

The spot we “had” to stop.

In addition to the canyon being grander than I remembered, I was also impressed with the wild life we saw. In addition to what is pictured below we saw turkey and many raptors including a California Condor!  Young hiking children are good for finding snakes due to their low eye level. We had deer graze on the lodge lawn within 15 feet as we held still.  We went to Bryce Canyon and saw much less wild life.

We convoyed to Bryce and barely didn’t get lost.  Much of the route was without cell coverage making communication and navigating a little more “old school”.  Bryce was the favorite canyon of my youth.  I was prepared for that to change to Zion based on travel books and the previous two days.  However the vibrant red to yellow colors of the gardens of eerily shaped sandstone spires in a backdrop of dark green trees and a corn blue sky keep it my #1.

At Bryce, Ron and I hit upon a great formula.  We chatted up a ranger at the visitor center asking for a sampler of the park.  We told him our preference and capability of hiking/driving and the ranger gave us recommendations.  Ron with his superior planning skills got to the right parking lot, on the right shuttles so we could see and hike through the best of Bryce.  We did some pretty good vertical and about 8 miles of hiking.  It was a great day.  We convoyed on to Moab for some “glamping”. 

The glamping scene

It was a long drive but mostly through stunning wilderness on deserted roads so very cool.  We arrived after 9 pm to stay in tents.  As we pulled in a very large snake crossed in our headlights. And, as we checked in, coyotes group howled.  We had splurged for the star gazer tents with a panel in the roof over our beds to see the stars which are very clear in the desert 10 miles outside Moab.  At three in the morning I awoke to animal noises and when I opened my eyes a desert mouse was staring at me down through the stargazing panel.  That kept me awake for a little longer.  At Ron and Cris’s tent, a crashing noise in the tent had Ron springing to action and beating the crap out of his backpack.  He was convinced invading critters were after his backpack for the snacks.  It turned out a gust swayed the tent wall and knocked over a metal stand.

We used the ranger sampler method and had fantastic hikes and views in Arches and Canyonlands national parks.  And the last night of clamping we had a camp fire, adirondack chairs, cold drinks and live music under the Perseid meteor shower.  Ron claimed it was one of his favorite evenings of all time.  Being so positive he is prone to hyperbole.  The star gazer tents were awesome that night.

The next day we parted ways in Western Colorado as Ron and Cris headed to Teluride and we headed for a flight out of Montrose.  The Ridgeline was left in airport parking lot poised for its next adventure, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Sand Bag in Sand Valley

By Jim Dickens

My good friend Darrin and I arranged a golf trip of old college friends in mid July. He attended Eastern Illinois and I Bucknell. We decided to have a Ryder Cup style match between the schools in North Central Wisconsin at the Sand Valley Resort. It was a great time if you call losing to a bunch of sand baggers fun.

Everything was up ticket, the weather, the course, the veranda and the dining. The Bucknellians ended up buying dinner, drinks and lunch after losing on day one and losing overall. We played three rounds and Eastern Illinois won or tied almost every match. Only one Bucknellian played poorly compared to his handicap and somehow a couple of EIers played the round of their lives. I will say the group had fun drinking and trash talking together. We may do it again sometime.

The Bucknell crew and the Eastern sand baggers

I have decided I miss and like competition so next year I may join in some regular golf competitions to make life even better. Also since I am the author, my point of view is the documented history.

Summer of the 3 F’s

By Covid Free Jim Dickens

Well it’s been a long while since I posted but that doesn’t mean its been eventless, quite the opposite.  It has been constant planning and doing for the past few months.   Luckily, in the crappy environment of 2020, some of my favorite activities are available.  Hence, I have had a summer of the three F’s, Family, Friends and Fishing.  For this post, I’ll share the family aspect.

Family has increasing complexity as you age until around 50.  When you are born there are only parents and siblings.   Then you get grand parents, then cousins, aunts and uncles.  There is a sea change when you add a spouse and a crew of in laws.  Along with that, you add your own children and their cousins.  It becomes a huge matrix of holidays and birthday events.  Throw in births, weddings, illnesses and funerals and your social card fills up crowding out hobbies and friends.  Unfortunately you lose grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles as you approach and pass 50 so the complexity levels off and I suppose starts to decline at some point.

For me family is foundational and as you plan your calendar family events become anchors that others work around.  So we had five family gatherings over the summer, all outdoors and within pandemic guidelines. Three in the Philadelphia area, one near Santa Cruz and one in central Washington on Lake Chelan.

Girl friends and sons

Given travel restrictions we didn’t break out until June18 and flew to San Francisco where we rented a car and headed to our Airbnb on the beach.  My two son’s and their girlfriends joined us.  The marine layer was thick and we had poor cool weather.  Luckily the area is beautiful and after being apart for months it was great to be together.

We cooked out and enjoyed our deck on the beach every time the sun threatened to break through.  Our son’s and their girlfriends are interesting, humorous and low maintenance.  It made the trip for us.  I went for a morning jog on the misty beach and suddenly ran into a giant male sea lion, big and bear like up close and less scared of us.  We stopped at the Moss Landing slough and saw the playful harbor seals and social sea otter congregations called rafts.  We hiked the Garrapata State Park costal mountain trails south of Monterey.  Steep paths made for a good work out and some nice periods of sun made for spectacular ocean views.

The following weekend 6/26, Lori and I went to Philadelphia to see my brother, his family and my mom and dad. My brother is a 1%er when it comes to golf and we played.  It was his first round in 2020 and despite my many days of 2020 practice, his talent overcame my preparation. Playing golf with him is in my top five.  We also had a nice cook out with my brother’s family and my mom and dad.  Absent was my nephew, his wife and brand new baby who needed to stay safe in crappy 2020. Frequent short concise visits before we wear out our welcome are the ticket.

A couple of weeks later July 15th-21st, Lori and I congregated with Lori’s family on Lake Chelan, Washington for an outdoor reunion.  There were 17 of us from small children to a grand parent. My niece’s fiancé’s family has a large family home with 6 bedrooms and we rented another 4 bedroom house nearby.  The lake is a mile across, 55 miles long and over 1000 feet deep however there are no myths of ancient large monsters in it. It was a fantastic pandemic friendly place to commune.

The Chelan reunion showed off family complexity.  With two houses and people of all ages and interests, the logistics, preparation, and meals were hard work.  Luckily my niece and her fiancé are meticulous planners, hard workers and good cooks.   The deck had 3 different grills including a griddle and a smoker.  The garage had a kegerator of craft beer.   The lake was crystal clear with a dock for swimming and a ski boat.  Nearby we had quality wineries where my niece and her fiancé plan to get married next July. The weather was bright sunshine and 90 dry degrees.  It was an awesome environment.

38 ft Pontoon afternoon

My personal highlights were champagne on the wedding winery patio with the adults.  Hanging with the children in the lake at the dock and swimming 500 yards each morning. Playing drunken chanting giant Jenga after a fine meal on the deck.  Being out fished by my daughter on the dock.  My nephew and I went on an over night adventure to the end of the lake on the edge of the Cascade Mountains and I was almost out fished on the Stahekin river.  My son and I golfed with the fiance’ and a nephew amidst beautiful mountain vistas.  I rented a 38 foot pontoon boat and we got all 17 on board with drinks, snacks and swimming towels.  My sister in law and  a 9 year old were the best captains.

In August, I returned sans Lori to celebrate 6 family birthdays, my parents, my sister Iaw, two nieces and one nephew.  Again my brother hosted a delicious outdoor cook out on his patio.  I got to meet my nephew’s brand new baby.  A niece, aka Copernicus, got out her telescope and showed me the 4 moons of Jupiter.  More amazingly she showed me Saturn and I saw its rings for the first time. My parents, 91 and 89, still live independently. It’s a great blessing to still have quality time with them.  Even though the visits are quick they are highly valued.

The Philly Dickens Frequently Visited

At the beginning of October, Lori and I returned again to Philadelphia.  Seeing my brother and his family is always great.  Lori and my brother have a bad habit of picking on me but I like the attention.  Knowing the number of times we can see my parents in good nick is limited, motivates us to return frequently.  My niece showed Lori the rings of Saturn and Lori was as amazed as I was.  Outdoor space heaters saved the evening.

In between all those family visits, I squeezed in the second F, friends.

Metamorphosis in a Pandemic

By Jim Dickens

I had this two stage vision of retirement where I would physically do stuff until I couldn’t and then I would watch and talk.  I have found it more intricate than that but richer.  It is not a steady decline with constant capability loss.  In fact I found myself gaining here and there, in addition to declines.  The absence of work is only that and you continue on as a human being just like when you were at work.  My focus recently has turned to the world my children will inhabit and my desire to be positive.

Since the beginning of the year, 2020, I have become a vegetarian.  And I plan on continuing.  I have done it for the usual reasons, health, being more humane, and positive environmental impact.  The overarching reason is environmental impact thinking of the future world.  I have seen the biased documentaries like Game Changer and Cowspriacy.  More importantly, I have read scientific materials like MIT Technology Review, Sapiens and Nature.  And I have been involved and in the field with Trout Unlimited.   According to the USGS being a vegetarian will save 50,000 to 100,000 gallons of fresh water per year and lower the amount global warming.  So now as I walk around claiming to care about clean water, I am actually doing something about it.  It makes me feel like a better citizen.  For me it is an easy change as I happen not to wake up dying for a rash of bacon.  It would be harder for me to give up travel and being mean to fish.

In addition to vegetarianism, I have added yoga started running again.  The yoga is beginning yoga for complete beginners but it feels very advanced to me.  Once a week for 30 minutes but it has a positive impact.  Due to worn out knees I stopped running 10 years ago.  But there is nothing like running to build leg strength.  Luckily there are now Hoka One Bondi shoes that are like wearing mattresses on your feet.  They aren’t built for speed but combined with a soft trail I can manage a few miles a couple of times per week.

Additionally, a  couple of walked rounds of golf, a 20 mile bike combined with continued shoulder rehab every week start to shape a healthier lifestyle.  The final planned piece is swimming.  Now with two good shoulders returning to a few thousand yards a week will really help. That will be added by year end.

MIT Technology Review at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 did a prescient and great job sharing insight on the danger of pandemics and how to live longer.  This prepared me to invest well during the pandemic.  I switched from investing for growth to investing for volatility.  In terms of living longer, new medication, emerging gene therapy and fasting research progress are all avenues to adding many productive years to lives.  I choose to fast over pills and gene therapy thinking it would have fewer risks and deleterious side effects.

During the COVID 19 pandemic, I have been very lucky to have an easy to handle situation.  We are not essential workers taking on significant health risk.  We don’t have jobs that potentially will be eliminated. We live in a less dense area with uncrowded large parks, close by golf courses and the ability to take day trips to the Wisconsin Driftless, a fly fishing mecca. Our only health risk is being over 50.

I was contacted by my Los Angeles friend and ex workmate, Dave Boden.  He was working for CORE, a non profit, that was setting up temporary COVID testing sites for first responders and health care workers.  I asked if I could help and received a real request.  I spent 60 hours in 4 days designing sourcing and building plexiglass and PVC tubing barriers to shield volunteers from the tested. Then I got to teach City of Chicago carpenters how to build them.  I was tired and sore afterwards but found the work invigorating and satisfying.  

I spent 12 days in late March and April in the Driftless area.  I learned the terrain and exploring without a guide book. It’s called the Driftless because in the last Ice Age it was the only part of Wisconsin that remained free of glaciers.  When the Ice Age ended it had no glacial flattening of the land and ground up rocks called drift.  The area has rolling hills of old limestone seabed laced with cool spring fed streams that support trout,.  There are over 5000 miles of stream much of it on private land and much of it polluted and devoid of trout.  Learning access points, finding fish and learning how to catch them was really a fun and rewarding challenge.

My sister in law became temporarily disabled for a couple of months.  She needed help with outdoor and yard maintenance.  I went over a half a dozen times to weed, trim, prune and hang lights.  At one point, I was trimming her bushes while a hired crew was trimming mine.  However, I didn’t look at it as trimming bushes but as helping my sister in law.  Again this was very satisfying.  I will now be on the look out for ad hoc opportunities to chip in and help my fellow man.

With the partial reopening the Ridgeline tour has resumed with no hugging or hand shaking.  All bars and restaurants are al fresco.  The new me is back on tour with a mask on.

Banging off the Walls

By Jim “Lazyboy” Dickens

It has been a long time since a post.  After shoulder surgery, I was in a sling for 5 weeks and learned the art of doing not much.   The holidays got me going for a while and I made my last post.   It was painful to type so I stopped.   I have used the pain in my shoulder as a crutch and my shoulder exercises as an excuse. Now with the Covid 19 Pandemic, I am banging off the walls and realizing my folly.

In January, I made it to Oxford, England for Uncle Peter’s memorial service.  As a senior researcher, professor and golf team coach/ manager at Oxford you can imagine we heard some impressive stories and met some cool people.  For example, my uncle’s lab produced people and science that led to the invention of the lithium ion battery and a 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for one of his students, Stanley Whittingham.  Or, my second cousin Priscilla is a medical doctor married to one of the top ten all time rugby players in the world. I decided to enjoy these stories instead of feeling pedestrian being the brother that didn’t earn a Blue in golf at Oxford.

While the passing of my uncle Peter was sad, it was great to connect with many Dickens’ relatives.   At one point, we even had a pub crawl past two in the morning.  With english pub regulations, it’s quite a feat to be included in the post closing party at midnight.  When my brother, Tim, starts talking with his hands above his shoulders nothing surprises me.  

Famous family members including cousins Rosie and Hugh

My cousin Simon, a fellow pub crawler, and I went to have lunch in the Cotswolds with my second cousin and other brother, Colonel Hugh Dickens (retired) of the Royal Lancers and his wife, Zeuss Books editor and horse breeder, Rosie DeCourcy.  Hugh and Rosie have 5 golden retrievers, a perfect black lab, Fiske, and we had lunch at a proper english upscale pub, totally great. Finally, many thanks to my Rome based cousin, Alison, who organized and oversaw a wonderful service and celebration of her father’s life.

So upon returning from England I took a woe is me attitude, binge watching TV, staring at my smart phone and occasionally doing something productive. As opposed to doing a real work out, I would do my shoulder exercises. Wife, Lori, and my physical therapist, Dr. Drew, my son’s Jack’s college roommate, were very forgiving.

Luckily, my wife got me to some warm weather in Scottsdale AZ for a long weekend. We attended our first spring training baseball games and hiked among the Saguaro cactus. We had a happy dinner under the starts with Denise, Darrin and some of their spawn. Friends, Barrett and Susie talked me through a rejuvenating five day fast designed to help us live longer better. Their humor and encouragement were appreciated.

My hiking buddy

I can now swing a golf club and cast a fly rod.  Strength and flexibility are improving with pain declining.  Though, sheltering in place, trips to California, Belize and Mexico have been cancelled with two trips to Florida in May in jeopardy.  New realizations are dawning on me.

I still sleep in late more often.  I catch myself looking at my phone or watching TV instead of reading, writing or speaking something substantial.  What to do for dinner has become a major daily item.  I now understand why some retirees get bored and go back to work.  I get why it seems older people are overly concerned about mundane things.  It’s happening to me.

Fortunately, I know how rewarding doing more with freedom is and going back to work will not happen.  It’s time to get back to great experiences with great people.  And, it will be done with greater appreciation.  Look for another blog post soon on a mild personal metamorphosis in early 2020.  Self pity and banging off the walls is over.

Sheltering in place is driving abnormal behavior