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

Joy to the World

By Jim Dickens

Now that I have retired, I am often asked, ” So what are you doing?” People want me to have a unifying purpose and something I am trying to accomplish. I think people see me as a little too young to be taking it easy and I should be working at something. So now in answer to questions like that, I tell people that I am bringing joy to the world wherever I go.

In that light, Lori and I hosted 7 parties of 10 or more people in December. Lori and I lost a sister and two uncles this year. It was healing to have family and friends around. In fact, it was downright joyful. We played games, exchanged gifts, had a drink, shared a meal, danced and watched movies together.

Family on Xmas Eve
Steak night: Series A funding

I tried a new party this year, Wine Day, and it blew up in my face. The idea was that as the holiday season was winding down, a highly casual get together might be welcome. Everyone could come bringing the extra bottle of wine and food from previous celebrations. You could hang out watch a game or play a game with no obligation to arrive or stay or do. Everyone was pretty much responsible for their own entertainment and sustenance. It all started out just as planned.

Kitchen dancing breaks out as Wine Day ramps up!

But it did not end as planned. I should point out the party was Wine Day not New Year’s Eve. It started at 2 PM with the idea it would end earlier and an older guy like me could get a good night’s sleep. Well the party did not end earlier and in fact seemed to gain momentum. I hit the hay around 1:30 AM. It was really fun though and we should try again. There’s no need to throw out the baby with the bath water. We need to keep the joy.

Less than three months of shoulder healing to go and the Ridgeline Tour will be back at full speed.

The Spaces In Between

By Jim Dickens

As you get older, your mortality becomes more evident. So time becomes more precious and keeps whizzing bye faster and faster. When you retire, the job no longer occupies the majority of you wakened hours. Learning to occupy your time well is paramount. The spaces in between adventures are now important. One of my favorite space occupiers this year was a day on the river, August 24th.

Daughter Emily (right) and good friend Olivia (left)

As I have said before, great experiences with great people is my best use of time. My daughter living in Cleveland and her ex room mate now from Cincinnati met me at a central point, a boat launch on Indiana’s St. Joseph river. They are great people and we were going fly fishing on a warm sunny day so it would be a great experience.

The pictures say it all. Getting days like this between adventures is marvelous. It’s now a cherished memory.

First Trip to Montana

By Guest Blogger Shelby Neville

Shelby fishing the Gallatin River near Big Sky MT

My first trip to Montana left me with a few lasting impressions. I was lucky enough to have Jim as a host and guide in a place he loves so much. I was excited from the beginning as we headed out in the Ridgeline straight for Yellowstone. What first struck me about Montana, looking out the window as we headed down US-89, was the vastness of it. Not only the open space, but a sense of the history of the land that surrounds you. It’s not often that you can picture a place that dinosaurs walked and native Americans peoples lived and horse and carriages traveled. The ability to picture history happening around you so vividly gives you a perspective on your time in that place. It makes you feel your own insignificance in the grand scheme, and for some reason that awareness is comforting.

My time in Montana also imbued me with an appetite for adventure and a sense of possibility. There are seemingly endless trails to hike and wildlife to see, and each experience made me hungry for more. Seeing how energized Jim was to get up every day and take a jog and start the day’s adventures really inspired me. It was very apparent how renewing a new stage of life in a new place could be. Montana gave me a sense of hope for a time when I might be lucky enough to work on hobbies, enjoy time outdoors and to pursue cultivating a sense of peace and contentment without the pressure of productivity. Montana is a truly unique place, and I can’t wait for my next adventure there.

Shelby, guide and boyfriend Jack Dickens, fall colors on the Gallatin
Ridgeline getting a morning visitor

Coast to Coast to Coast in October

by Jim Dickens

An unusually early and large snowfall in Montana flushed me out at the end of September. The weather was so derelict, I ended up driving 1100 miles from Gillette, WY to Naperville, IL in one day. Arriving scruffy and smelly, a shave, a hot shower and a stay in my home for the first time in a month was very welcome.

Home from Montana after being away for over a month.

However, there were friends and adventures waiting on either side of the country. The first weekend in October saw me off to Philadelphia and New York to visit parents and play in a golf tournament with old fraternity brothers, facilitated as always by our Stackloaf commissioner, Dave Marren.

It was good to be with old friends from back in the day. Many were footballers, wrestlers or rugby players at Bucknell. They had weathered the years well were often below their “playing weight”. A bunch had been to Wall Street during the hay day when volume exploded and traders weren’t electronic. They had also been there when the pits were automated and broker fees and markets crashed. Those tales brought home how innovation can be personal and hugely disruptive from rags to riches and back. It also confirmed my belief that there are lots of talented hard working people out there but luck is a big factor that creates a subset of those who gain great success. We unearthed long forgotten hilarious stories and enjoyed brotherhood. The young guys, my team, prevailed over the old guys. Remember what I said about luck.

The family with the addition of our sons’ great girlfriends

I left the old brothers in New York and joined family and youth in Aptos, California. We stayed a few blocks from the beach and got to see a few after dinner ocean sunsets.

Golf, kayaking, and hiking filled the days and the barbecue, foosball and billiards at the house made for spirited evenings. Lots of knowledge transferred from the young folks to the old folks and I really enjoyed listening to America’s future.

Then time to get back on the plane home for a couple days and then on to Naples, FL, three coasts in three weeks. Lori and I joined my good friends, Roger and Katie, and Roger’s brother and his wife, Pete and Patty, who have also become good friends.

Team Naples at a newly discovered italian restaurant with their owner.

We golfed, relaxed poolside and beachside, and took a rented boat down the intercostal for a day. The team humored me and let me fly fish off the boat for 40 minutes. I managed a small snook on the fly.

So I crammed in all I could going coast to coast to coast before getting my shoulder repaired November 1. The operation was a success; now six months of healing and rehabilitation before I can swing a club.

The shoulder was a put-off repair from a fall in Sun Valley in February. Thanks to a few jars of pain killers I didn’t miss the spring, summer and early fall. Look for a guest blog from my son Jack’s girlfriend, Shelby, with some insight on the last week we spent in Montana.

Bucknell Big Sky Fishing

By guest blogger and big game fisherman Jon Baum

Bucknell crew with guest blogger second from right.

I was an avid reader when I was a kid (still am today). I was a huge fan of Ernest Hemingway; I mean who wasn’t. So naturally I was exposed to the beauty and allure of fly fishing early on as a kid. Those of you who have read Hemingway know it’s a recurring theme in his novels. The way he described fly fishing brought all of the magic of the sport alive to me. So, I started to fly fish as a kid and really loved the sport. My dad took us on many trips to far away streams and rivers in both Canada and the US. I was hooked, so to speak, until my adult life caught up and got in the way. Don’t get me wrong, I am still an active fisherman and have been my entire adult life. But most of what I’ve done has centered around offshore fishing for big game. I really hadn’t gone fly fishing in many years. So, I was really excited when Slim (Jim) contacted me and said a bunch of old buddies were going to be heading to Montana for a fly-fishing expedition. He’d seen all my posts on social media of all the large pelagic fish I’ve been catching over the years, and he tempted me to return to the challenge and simple beauty of throwing a fly into a river in search of the ever-elusive trout. 

I will admit I was nervous to pick up where I’d left off, after all it had been decades since I tried my hand at fly fishing. But I bit the bullet and met the challenge and headed to Big Sky country to meet my friends in late September. Boy am I glad I went. As I floated down the Madison and Yellowstone rivers, I was reminded of all I had missed. The beauty of the landscape, the stillness of the moment and the rush of the crystal-clear waters. While I still love the thrill of targeting the massively large predators I fish for on the ocean on a regular basis, I forgot just how much a thrill it is to have an 18-inch trout rise to your fly. But fly fishing is so much more than that. Matching the hatch, tying the knots, communing with your guides, perfecting your cast and basking in the awesome solitude that is the majestic fishing haunts of our beautiful country. That is what fly fishing is really about. All of it is easily as satisfying and fun as actually landing the fish. Spending hours with my comrades, reliving stories from almost 40 years of friendship, cooking meals and sitting around the fire…that is what it is all about. Who knows what the future holds, but I can tell you honestly, my trip to Montana to fish the Yellowstone and Madison rivers are now a special memory. A memory that I will always look back on and smile. It was a special trip, and, in the end, it has reignited the passion I have for standing waist deep in a chilly river and hoping the fish will rise up to meet me. 

Floating the Yellowstone. Above: Scoop with a Brown and Girds embracing being a rookie.
Story telling campfire ready

Waltstock

by Jim Dickens

Three Sisters Ranch home to Waltstock

One thing about getting old is considering whether you will ever get the chance and be able to do something ever again. That came into play at Waltstock this year. At 58, how many more times will you ride a dirt bike up a boulder strewn mountain?

My great friend, Pete with the cozy Big Sky home, and my other great friend, Pete who is the best fly fisherman I know, are good friends with Walt who owns a cool ranch in the Big Lost Valley of Idaho. Every September, Walt invites a group to his ranch for fly fishing, horse riding and socializing. I have become a regular attendee over the past several years. This year the group included some talented musicians so the get together was dubbed Waltstock.

The Pete’s (Best fly fisherman on the right)

Every evening after dinner, the group dons cowboy hats and socializes under the stars around a large campfire. Guitars, mandolins, keyboard and harmonicas are manned by the musicians and various percussion instruments are given to the inept to keep them occupied. Pete, the best fisherman, is among the musicians and has a new album on Spotify, “Better Late than Never by Peter Perkins”. It’s easy to listen to and very professionally done so check it out.

Campfire pre concert

At one of these campfires, Idaho Wildlife manager and mountain of a man, Pat, suggested we ride motorcycles to catch some rare trout species in high alpine lakes. Pete, Big Sky house owner, another, Scott, and I agreed it sounded like an exciting expedition. And when would I get a chance like this again? Probably never!

Unloading cycles at trail head

So Pat gathered 3 motorcycles and loaded them into his giant Doge Ram Hemi pickup. I would drive the pick up to the trail head and he would ride the fourth motorcycle there. It was a challenge to take a six speed manual up 20 miles of mountainous dirt road with over a 1000 pounds of dirt bikes in the back. But it certainly wasn’t as challenging as actually riding the motorcycles.

Well, we greatly underestimated the difficulty of riding up to the lakes. The trail was steep, switchbacked and boulder strewn. Pat, an expert rider, spent his time getting us beginners up the mountain. He helped us right and position our bikes as we went down multiple times. It took all my childhood motorcycle riding experience and all my focus and still there were terrifying moments. Pete and Scott were without experience so I can’t imaging what they went through. Eventually I came around a turn and saw Pete lying still in the middle of the trail.

It seemed odd that there was no motorcycle just Pete lying still. But no limbs were bent in the wrong direction and eventually Pete began to stir. I then spotted Pete’s cycle higher up a switchback. Pete had high sided and fallen 10 to 20 feet down knocking the wind out of himself, bruising shoulder and hip, and cracking a couple of ribs. Pete toughly gritted out getting to the lakes and getting down the hill but could not fish.

On the way back, I managed to get a flat tire on the pick up and unwittingly drove on it until it was shredded. Pat ended up having to change a tire in the middle of nowhere. He had a long day taking care of us tenderfoots. We got a little too far outside our comfort zones. However, my son Chris says, if you never missed a flight you have spent too much time waiting in airports. So I don’t regret our decision.

With 20 excellent people having the time of their lives at the beautiful Three Sisters Ranch, the experience is unique. I anxiously look forward to it every year.