Some call it “cross training”

I call it “fun”. My complaining about the snow ruining my skating lasted for less time than it took to shovel it.

I realized that 5 inches of fresh power called for getting out the skis, not complaining about not skating. That same giant park that works for ice skates works for skis as well.

I retrieved the skis from the garage, brought them onto the porch to warm up, scraped off the old wax, added a coat of Special Green (for 14 to -4 degrees F or -10 to -20 degrees C), and walked down to the lake. My old wooden touring skis are perfect for cruising through fresh snow.

I soon found I was over-dressed, as the temperature was almost in double digits (-13 C). I started across the lake on roughly the same route I skated last week, then decided on a change and turned west to ski the length of the lake instead of across. I needed to zip up my jacket to head into the wind.

My ski tips were submarine periscopes poking up through the powder. I was in a pristine wilderness on untrammeled snow.
Pristine wilderness, or downtown? State Capitol at right edge of photo.

I skied downtown with a stop at the convention center, a Frank Lloyd Wright design that only took 50 years of discussion to build.

Monona Terrace, the FL Wright-designed convention center

There were several other skiers, a few snowshoers, a handful of fat bikers (not bikers who are fat, but people riding fat bikes), and a fisher or two. I stopped and asked one, and he told me the ice was 8-12 inches thick – almost enough to drive a car on, plenty thick for skis.

Water expands when it freezes. It has to go somewhere. This is where the extra goes — up.

Another few inches are on the way tonight. With the temperature holding steady at 8 degrees (-13 C) it will be powder again, possibly enough to obliterate today’s tracks and make the park pristine, ready for fresh tracks.

Monday, 24 January

Three inches of new powder overnight heralded the leading edge of an Alberta Clipper. The temperature is up to 18 (-8 C) but the windchill down to -1 (-18 C). The warmer temperature meant adding some blue wax (23 to 31 F, or -5 to -1 C) for traction – blue because I couldn’t find or am out of green for the 14 to 23 range. The snow doesn’t care about windchill, but my windward cheek does. The temperature will be below zero by the time I go to work tomorrow.

I skied to the library. It being Monday I had the lake to myself. The only sounds were the schussing of my skis through the snow and the scratching of my pole tips across the ice. The light was flat and grey. The lack of contrast made the wind-driven waves hard to see and harder to photograph, but the snow had the contours of water on a windy day at the right angle.

Another shoreline ice heave

I skied from our neighborhood park to the beach, then walked to the library.

[Aside to MAK: I can’t disagree with you but, working in healthcare, I have to work the way your source works. When I walk into a patient’s room much of their backstory becomes irrelevant. One of my favorite patients (worked hard to rehab, was appreciative and polite, seemed like an all-around nice person) was charged with manslaughter. I have treated murderers. I have treated people who were shot in drug deals. I have treated people who drove drunk and killed their best friend or their child in the passenger seat. Like their vaccination status, that can’t matter while I’m in the room with them. My brain compartmentalizes that for me. It doesn’t seem to be a conscious process. You, on the other hand, don’t have that responsibility, and I applaud your rant from my position at home in front of my computer. I know that rant is no longer accessible but, to those of us who subscribe via e-mail, it arrived in our inbox. Thank you for speaking honestly. And if you like rants, check out this one: ]

The Park is OPEN

The biggest area of local parkland is now open for the season. One catch – there is no land.

kite skating

It is a beautiful winter day…27 degrees (-3 C), a light breeze, and lots of sun. Since there is very little snow on the lake, no need for sunglasses. Sunday there was an iceboat regatta, dozens of skaters and ice fishers, a few people out walking, and one person riding a bike across the lake. A few skaters used hand-held sails (to which I was introduced by my uncle about 60 years ago) and several had kites or parasails.

ice boat about to set sail

The breeze was from the north, so I didn’t notice it walking to the lake, nor on the shore. Once out on the ice, it was a tailwind, so I didn’t notice it until I crossed the lake (about 1.5 miles plus a bit of meandering around snow patches) and turned around to skate home. On the other side, I stopped to take a picture of the boat above. Seconds later, the sailor appeared and set sail, as shown below.

Setting sail

According to the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club, some boats can achieve speeds of 5 times the wind velocity and Skeeter class boats have been known to exceed 100 mph (160 km/h). Water offers little resistance when it is frozen. We spoke of covering skin when biking in the winter – at 100 mph there is always a wind chill.

The second video (drone video of Sunday’s regatta) is by Deb Whitehorse, widow of Ho-Chunk artist and iceboat designer/builder Harry Whitehorse. We have mentioned him in these pages before.

Image from Sculpture by Harry Whitehorse

Out on the ice, it’s pretty quiet. The only motorized conveyances are the 6-wheeled ATVs the fishers use to haul their equipment onto the ice. No permanent shanties are allowed on this lake, so folks carry pop-up shanties along with an ice auger and something to sit on (plus fishing gear and food/beverage). Some walk and drag a sledge, others drive.

Otherwise, it’s the wind, the sounds of blades carving paths along the ice, and the echoing booms of the ice shifting. That sound takes a bit of getting used to, especially if it happens close by.

Skateable ice is a rarity. If the lake freezes on a cold, clear, still night, the ice is great. If it’s particularly cloudy/foggy, the ice won’t be as smooth. If it’s windy, the ice won’t be as smooth. If it snows the night it freezes, the ice mixes with snow to create a lousy surface. There may be great ice, but it’s cold enough for only the hardiest to want to go out. There may be great ice for a day or two, which is then buried under a snowfall. Freeze/thaw cycles will cause the snow to mix with the surface of the ice, ruining it for the rest of the season.

A day like this means get out while the getting is good. The last year with skateable ice that lasted, it was so clear and so cold that the ice was totally transparent. I could see the bottom. I could see fish. I had to hope to skate over a crack so I could see how thick the ice was. It was eerie, and I turned back before I got across the lake. This year, while the ice is dark, there are enough air bubbles to tell I’m on thick ice and not a thin film over water. It has more of the frosty appearance of ice cubes made in your home freezer and not the total transparency of store-bought ice.

Joni Mitchell, skating on our other lake, from the photo session for the album “Hejira”. Photo by Joel Bernstein

Joni Mitchell famously skated on Lake Mendota for a photoshoot for her album “Hejira”. The woods in the background are Picnic Point. This is the “other lake” from the one I skated today (1/17). If it’s still nice Sunday (1/23), I’ll skate there to watch the next regatta. Meanwhile I may make a trial skate to work (maybe a hundred yards out of the frame to the left above) to see how long it takes and maybe add another form of transportation to my commute.

On a prior album, she sang about skating:

On the album “Hejira” she sang “Furry Sings the Blues”. Rather than that song, I’ll leave you with Furry himself – Furry Lewis – nothing but Furry and his guitar. He has recorded this a few times, but this is the version that introduced me to his work.

Addendum: The regatta was postponed for a week due to drifting snow that hardened, making sailing dangerous. As of bedtime Saturday, it is snowing, and I just shoveled the first couple of inches. And with new snow falling, skating on the lake is probably over for the year. The regatta will likely be postponed again, if not canceled. We’re in a drought and about 15 inches behind on snow for the season, so that’s a good thing…but I was hoping to skate to work. I’ve commuted to this job by walking, skiing, biking, bussing, carpooling, and driving. Skating would have been a nice addition.

It was four years ago today

that this site was born. It began as the chronicle of a coast-to-coast bike tour. For those who weren’t along for the ride, here is that first post.

But first, a word from our sponsor…This appeared Tuesday on the news webpage of a local TV station.

Screenshot from

Sorry, but I’m speechless.

What is this blog anyway?

This is going to become a blog that will chronicle my trip from Seattle to Boston by bike in the summer of 2018. Think of anything posted here before June 17 (departure day) as an appetizer. Some of it will be for bike geeks, some to explain stuff to non-geeks, some of it will be so family and friends know I am still alive (once on the road), some of it will, I hope, be of interest to anyone who stumbles across it.

The genesis for this trip came in high school. My parents’ plan for me was to go to Harvard or Yale on a full scholarship and then become a doctor. I didn’t really want to go to college (nor were Harvard and Yale offering me four free years) and instead wanted to see the USA on a BMW motorcycle. In those days, BMW was a touring bike and came in any color as long as it was black – or so I thought until I came across a 1959 white R-50 out near Cottage Grove. I decided I was going to buy that bike and laid plans for borrowing my parents’ car when they were away for a weekend so I could drive out there for a test ride. Test ride day was stormy and I never did more than look at that bike, but touring the US by bike stayed in the back of my mind. Below is a reasonable facsimile of that didn’t go to Harvard or Yale and didn’t become a doctor. I did injure my ankle quite badly when I was 20 and needed a doctor. While recuperating from surgery I watched my roommate go ice skating almost every day. I couldn’t wait to get out and do that. By the time I was back on two feet, skating season was over. I began shopping for a new bicycle, something else I could do with two feet. In spring I bought that bike and motorcycles faded into the background.

The next posts will talk about how the half-formed dream of a US tour became this actual US tour in about 50 years. Posts will be weekly at first. Once on the road I hope to post daily, though that will depend on internet access and battery life.

So you don’t have to remember when posts will come, click the “follow” button to the right (on your desktop) or below (on a tablet or phone) and we’ll send fresh posts to your inbox.

It is now 2022. With a pandemic still raging, we’re not promising anything, but… we ain’t gettin’ any younger…

Out of the frying pan…

and back to the COVID-19 unit. If it seems these COVID posts are coming closer together, you’re probably right.

We rotate therapy staff through there and the speed at which we rotate depends on how many of us are there at once. Last week there were three COVID Occupational Therapists all week, four on Monday. Once upon a time, there was one therapist for ½ days.

Instead of starting my week there, I ended it there. Saturday I saw three COVID patients. Two were incidental findings in patients admitted for traumatic injuries. All patients are tested on admission and isolated until a negative result comes back. These two were positive but asymptomatic. The third was sick enough to be admitted but breathing on their own on the third day and may be going home this afternoon (Saturday).

Saturday, January 8

Recommendations are in flux once again. When the delta variant blew through, I saw young, previously healthy, unvaccinated, and very sick people. Those who survived were here for weeks or months. Now numbers are up but severity is down. We got new recommendations last night.

PPE from “strongest” to “weakest”:
–For COVID+ patients, I wear a PAPR (Powered Air-Purifying Respirator), gown, and gloves. The PAPR sucks in room air, runs it through a filter, then delivers it to my hood. The filter is self-monitoring to let me know when it needs to be changed.
–I have the option of wearing a fit-tested N-95 respirator with a face shield instead of a PAPR. “Fit-tested” means I wore that mask, a hood was placed over my head, and a bitter-tasting substance was injected into the hood multiple times under varying conditions (standing still, moving around, shaking my head, bending over, etc). If I never tasted the bitter substance, I was now “fit-tested”. Any detection of the taste would mean starting the test over with a different mask model.
–For COVID- (negative) patients, I now wear a “well-fitting” mask. That essentially means an N-95 mask that has not been fit-tested but fits tightly and has no apparent leakage. (Why this? Because we just got a new model of N-95 that is way more comfortable than the one I was fit-tested for. No one has yet been fit-tested for this model but it looks promising. The mask I was first fit-tested for 20 years ago was not an option this time, though is now back in stock and less uncomfortable than my current fit-tested model. We are supposed to be fit-tested annually. I was fitted at the beginning of the pandemic and fitting should be available again soon. [Two years is better than 20 anyway.]) It is also “strongly recommended” that I wear an eye shield, so I do. A mask and face shield makes it hard for patients to hear me. The eye shield doesn’t have that effect. The N-95 is fluid-resistant anyway, so the shield is overkill for non-COVID patients unless you try to wear the same mask for a long time (as we did earlier in the pandemic when supplies were short).
–A standard “barrier mask” (surgical mask) is no longer considered adequate for any patient contact and some are saying only appropriate in your own office. As of today, that’s what I wear to enter the building.We’ll see how that changes on Monday.
–A cloth mask has not been acceptable for many months. We used to wear them in all parts of the hospital except patient rooms.

I’ve seen a bunch of anti-vax memes. Today I saw a batch of pro-vax memes. I couldn’t resist.

From Reddit via The Daily Kos
From Reddit via The Daily Kos

Thursday, January 13

An interesting week so far. The hospital gods must be on my side. I have seen several trauma patients with incidental COVID+ findings, so I feel at home. I’ve also seen patients whose trauma may have been a result of their COVID confusion; there’s really no way to know for sure. Tuesday I saw a young and otherwise healthy person who was sedated due to extreme agitation due to COVID. Wednesday that person looked great, except for the need for CPAP. (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, which feels sort of like a powerful fan being blown into your mouth and nose at all times. It makes it hard to exhale.) They were up and around the room. We stood and looked out the window together. Thursday they were intubated and moved to the ICU. I’ve seen multiple people with brain bleeds – from major trauma, minor trauma, no known trauma. I saw them after a decompressive craniectomy (in which a chunk of skull is removed to allow the brain to swell, the skin is closed over it, and the bone flap is stored to put back later).

We are too busy to keep up. I have 15 patients per day. I can’t see that many. On Tuesday I had 12 newly-diagnosed patients. Most of them I passed on to a Therapy Assistant to see Wednesday, so I could see a dozen more new folks. Today I had a few that I had to leave until tomorrow. The eight hour day is not really an option; nor is seeing everyone who should be seen. Each day is a compromise. “Triage” is my middle name.

Today a bunch of suits came through the unit, led by the Director of Nursing. They stood by the nursing station to hear tales from the front. As I walked by, I heard the word “burnout” and the phrase “we can’t keep up” more than once.

Friday, January 14

One in every five patients in the hospital are now COVID+. We have the incidental finding (here for some apparently unrelated reason, asymtomatic, but COVID+), the here because of severe COVID infection, and the grey area in between. The person who fainted “for no reason” but is COVID+ may have fainted due to weakness from the infection. Do we know for sure? The person who had the ischemic stroke could be coagulopathic from COVID infection, but possibly just happened to have a stroke while COVID+. The person with bleeding on the brain after falling – did the COVID infection lead to the fall? The people with what we call “failure to thrive” (general malaise, lack of appetite, unable to care for themselves) and COVID-19 probably are failing to thrive due to COVID, or it may just be what pushed a borderline functional person over the edge.

At any rate, my COVID caseload keeps growing. It shrunk by two during the course of today. One went home, one died.

I’m not on Facebook, so count on others to read it for me and tell me of the stupidity therein. I’ve seen a lot from people posting anti-vax and COVID-denying memes that stop the day they are admitted. Then their posts are about how miserable they are. And then comes the inevitable post from someone else about the GoFundMe campaign to support all the children this person left behind.

I saw the posts from a person who refused the vaccine because its development involved a fetal stem cell line, then demanded treatment with monoclonal antibodies which were developed using that same stem cell line.

Another series involved people claiming that hospitals are paid a bonus for killing people with COVID treatments, so you should refuse to go to the hospital…then those people show up at the hospital only when at death’s door and wonder why the hospital didn’t save them – probably because they failed to use the proper doses of dewormer and bleach. There are those who seek attorneys to help them sue the hospital for failing to provide them with unproven and unapproved treatments they read about on Facebook. Yet another involved people telling their friend to refuse remdesivir because it kills people (and is one of the ways hospitals claim their bonus). Yes, some people treated with remdesivir die; but at a lower rate than those who don’t get the treatment. So if you show up at the verge of death, the hospital tries everything and you still die, was it the disease or the treatment that killed you? Why is that even a question?

I could argue with equal accuracy that you should refuse to drink water, as 100% of people who drink water die. (Not right away – that’s what makes it so insidious.) I could argue that, if you get pregnant, you should demand an abortion rather than being forced to bring a child into the world. We know that 100% of those who are born die – many only after a lifetime of suffering. Is it more humane to sentence one to a life of suffering, or to save it from birth in the first place?

Saturday, January 15

My eight day COVID week has come to an end. I’ve got nothing to say, but it’s okay (how’s your boy been?). (20)