New Guitar Day!

Chrismas 2011 I picked up a nice Ibanez Artcore. Sounded and looked great. After playing it a bit at home, I found it was too thick for me to comfortably play, at least at this time. I’ve spent the past year or so looking at thinner bodied hollow body guitars. I’ve played a few but haven’t been impressed enough to buy any.

Yesterday I went up to Estes Park to check out the roads in the mountains, spend a few bucks in Estes Park (difficult to access with the washed out roads so businesses are suffering), and deliver a care package to a coworker (a couple of games, a movie, and a six pack of Left Hand Brewery Milk Stout). On the way back I decided to stop in at Robb’s Music in Boulder and spotted a pretty Ibanez Artcore AM93-AYS in “Antique Yellow”. I snagged one of the guys and asked if I could plug it in and give her a spin. The Ibanez sounded excellent, nice and clear. It was in tune too which is unusual to me.

I asked if it came with a gig bag or case and he said that it didn’t but he’d see if he could chase one down and give me a deal on it. Sure enough, he had a slightly oversized case. The guitar fit but with some movement. Find for storage but I wouldn’t want to use the case to take the guitar out on tour :)

I paid for it and took it home:

Very nice to play and quite light. I just finished up a Rocksmith event of 6 songs and it went better than I expected. I’ve made a note of the setlist and the next event will be the same but with the Les Paul. Just out of curiosity.

One of the songs I tried was Rush’s Red Barchetta. The problem I have with it are the Harmonics. Normally you press the string to the fretwire and pluck the string to make a sound. Harmonics are where you lightly touch the string at certain places in order to make a tone. It induces a wave along the string and gives you that different sound. You can hear it in Red Barchetta. But I’ve been struggling with Harmonics on the other guitars. But when I played Red Barchetta on the Ibanez, the Harmonics were so loud and clear, it was like a spike in my brain :)

I went from fumbling around trying to get the G12/A7/D7 and A4/D5/G5 riffs to being able to play the entire Harmonic riff for Red Barchetta (G12/A7/D7/A7/D7/A7/D7/D7/A7) and have it be nice and clear, just like when I watch Alex Lifeson playing it.

I suspect it is partly the pickups in the Ibanez and possibly my getting better at playing. I’ve been avoiding these songs (along with I Miss You and Space Oddity) just because the problem I’ve been having with Harmonics.

Posted in Music | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Alaska Route Planning

Here is where I’ll list up the possible sights and scenery there is along with suggestions for routes for the Alaska trip.

One of the guys at work is from Alaska and recommended the Alaska Marine Highway. Catch the Ferry at Haines Terminal in Alaska and get off in British Columbia at the Prince Rupert Terminal. Costs are $212 for the Hayabusa and $160 for me (so $372 total). However under Special Fares, it says the Driver travels free so it may be just $212. Depends on whether the Hayabusa is considered a ‘Passenger Vehicle’. I’ll have to call.

Website is: Alaska Marine Highway

Times:

Haines -> Juneau – 4:30
Juneau -> Petersburg – 8:00
Petersburg -> Ketchikan – 3:00
Ketchikan -> Prince Rupert – 6:00

Total of 21:30 not including the times for the stops.

I’ll have to plan my route well in order to make reservations.

Posted in 2014 - Alaska Trip, Motorcycle Trips | Leave a comment

Prepping for Alaska

Back in 2008 I spent a few months planning a trip to the Arctic Circle in Alaska. Part of it was the trip of course, but another part was taking the Hayabusa on a longer dirt type road and getting a Denver Post picture of me, the bike, and the Arctic Circle sign. I even thought I could head up to Prudoe Bay. A much longer dirt road but I have seen ride reports from guys on Hayabusa’s making the trip.

I did head up in June of 2008, made it to Fairbanks, but in a twist of luck, I followed the signs instead of looking at the maps (who would have thought). The sign said that Circle was to the right, Fox Hill (or something) was to the left, and Livengood (again, or something) was straight. So I went right. Turns out I went to a town called Circle on the Yukon River. Unfortunately on my way back to the intersection, I got a flat tire and had to get a lift back to Fairbanks in order to get the bike picked up, a new tire, etc. It was certainly interesting but not quite what I wanted to do.

Anyway, since I failed to reach the Arctic Circle, I really want to try again and I think giving it a try in June of 2014 which will let me complete my goal.

This post is meant to provide a little back ground (read the ‘Alaska’ posts on http://schelin.org or the ones on the blog under the Alaska category although the schelin.org ones are being moved to the blog as part of this preparation) and as a checklist or set of goals that need to be achieved prior to the trip. Mainly to make sure I’m ready for the trip again. I’ll mark the goals as Optional or Required and use the ‘strikeout’ option in the blog to mark items as completed. Some can’t be fully completed until May of next year like new rear tire or chain. For the chain, I can partially complete it by getting a new chain any time prior to June.

Motorcycle Checklist:

Required:
1. Pull light bulbs to make sure connectors are clean and carbon free.
2. Check the Fuse Box to make sure all connections are marked and in use.
3. Repair the Autocomm (the cord is coming out) and test it.
4. Change oil and filter.
5. Change brake fluids (front and rear).
6. Change clutch fluid. Just checked and it hasn’t popped but it could be sponged out and fresh fluid added.
7. Remove the broken key from the trunk. Since I’ll be using the spare gas tank, I need to get the trunk off. With a broken key in the lock, it can’t be removed and in fact, it’s hard to perform maintenance on the bike with the trunk on the back.
8. New chain.
9. New rear tire minimum. The front tire is pretty new (115,014 miles) but the rear tire was put on last year (112,057 miles). With 118,000 miles now, it should last to next year with no problem but won’t be able to take a longer trip without making arrangements with the Powersports folks in Fairbanks for a replacement (hmm, an idea).
10. Check the valves and adjust if needed.
11. Adjust the Power Commander. Bike is popping too much.

Optional:
1. Replace exhaust with original exhaust.

Camping Gear Checklist:

Required:
1. Check tent. Poles and pegs. Check rope for tiedowns. Clean inside and out.
2. Check sleeping pad. The big REI one I got is a little bulky but fits the tent well.
3. Check sleeping bag. See if it needs to be cleaned prior to the trip.

Motorcycle Packing Checklist:

Required:
1. Get the saddlebag pins on. A couple broke off last time when the bike fell over. Glue them in place and mount the few new ones.
2. Check the tank bag. Last time I used the three tier bag I’d recently purchased but found it was too high for comfort. I had to use a bungee cord to hold the bag up. So check it out and make sure it is stable with just two tiers.
3. Check the tail bag which snaps into the saddlebags.
4. Check the spare tank to make sure it’s clean and ready for use. Mount it and put fresh gas in it, then use it to fill the main tank to make sure the hose is clear as well.

Riding Gear Checklist:

Required:
1. Contact Aerostich to see if I can get the front zipper repaired. The zipper split and needs to be redone or replaced.
2. Contact Gerbing to get the jacket sleeve connections repaired. The gloves don’t work when plugged in to the jacket.
3. Check the Gerbing gloves to make sure they still work.
4. Make sure I have spare visor parts as they break somewhat easily (3rd set so far). Two sets are currently on order. – Received the parts along with a couple of replacement visors.

Carl Checklist:

Required:
1. Currently I’m 20 to 30 pounds heavier than I want to be. This means losing up to 30 pounds in 8 months, 5 lbs a month. I’ll keep a running “How am I doing” post here for that putting in my current loss.
2. $1,000 more in savings.

Optional:
1. $2,000 more in savings.

Cat Checklist:

Required:
1. Check in with a cat service to come by and feed Slash, change the cat litter, and hang out with him in addition to checking on the house. Of course if Rita comes out again next summer, this may be a moot point.

General Gear Checklist:

Required:
1. Using the gear checklist, go though the items in the list making sure it’s all clean and up to date (where things can expire). Eye-wash for instance probably should be replaced every so often.
2. Make sure I have current maps.
3. Get the Milepost magazine for 2013 or 2014 and run through it for information. Most of it seems to be advertising but there’s some good touring type stuff in there. Since I’m planning on 3 weeks this time, I should have a bit more time to hang out for a day and explore vs just run up and back.
4. Make sure I have travel size chain lube cans, plexus, oil, and brake fluid (dot4).

That’s the list for now. I’ll continue to add to it in preparation. Let’s see how it goes.

Posted in 2014 - Alaska Trip, Motorcycle Trips | Tagged | Leave a comment

Building a Shed

Here’s the thing. I have a bunch of garden stuff in the garage. Lawn mower, shovels, rakes, bags of various fertilizers, weed killer, and of course bug killers of various sorts. It’s a bit annoying especially since I do woodworking in the garage in addition to working on the vehicles. Something has to give.

A year ago (or so), I started looking on line at various sheds looking for an idea. There are quite a few plans of course and even some pretty good ones. But I had a specific bit of space I wanted to put the shed in. I didn’t want to overwhelm the yard but I also didn’t want to get a metal or wooden box. No imagination.

I had an idea that the shed should be around 8′ x 10′. I was at Home Depot checking out the line of sheds they had in the parking lot. From the box size on up to one large enough to hold horses :) In the first barn was a bunch of brochures. As I browsed through it, I found this one:

And an example of the interior:

This actually was interesting. It fit in with being a little different but it also was interesting in that it could be used as a workshop as well. Either I can get further into gardening or in the event I sell the house, the next person will find the shed much more appealing than a box. And of course I think it enhances the curb appeal :)

I broke out the rake and cleaned up the space I had for it. This is next to the neighbors (no fence between us) and that’s his garden. I chatted with Gordon because I also didn’t want to impact his garden. I showed him the brochure and my plan. I also watched the sun and didn’t see that the shed would be much, if any issue with his garden.

I staked out the spot just so I’d have an idea where it should be and to make sure it’d fit.

I went in a few weeks back and ordered the shed from Home Depot. It comes as a kit with everything precut but you have to do all the assembly. Hammering nails, screwing in the screws, painting, etc.

I checked with the city just to make sure I was following ordinances. They gave me a pamphlet of the materials I needed. It said that since it was under 120sqft, I didn’t need a permit. It did say I needed a Plot Plan with street, sidewalk, power lines, drainage, and of course the location of the shed (it said ‘shed’ in the paperwork), an electrical plan, a green plan, an architectural plan with elevations, and a framing plan with wood designations. Plus it had to be stamped by a Colorado Engineer. Well, I figured I could at least get a plot plan going, plus I’ve been wanting one for myself so I could lay out the garden. Since I took Architectural Drafting in high school and was a draftsman in the military, I still had all my gear (I’m not a packrat :) ).

I actually kind of enjoyed it. But finally on Friday I stopped in at the city office again with the pamphlet from Home Depot and the paperwork from the City and confirmed again that I needed all this. She said I did but after showing her the brochure, she stepped into the back and when she returned, she said that as long as it’s under the 120sqft limit, I didn’t need any of the paperwork. I suggested that information be put into the brochure for the next guy.

Looking at this from completion, there are three suggestions to improve the experience.

1. List all the extra components necessary for completion up front.
2. Make sure all the pieces are properly marked. It took a bit to figure out the trim pieces for either side of the door.
3. Paint all the pieces before assembly. There are only a couple of pieces that are glued in addition to being nailed in place. The rest are just nailed in. It makes it a lot easier in the long run and a cleaner looking job when done.

It said in the brochure that you’d need to provide the shingles and paint with a suggestion of 3 bundles of shingles and a gallon and a half of paint. Technically you need to buy:

1. If you have the floor piece and want extra support (the default is 24″ between joists), that is boards every 12″ instead of the default of 24″, you need to buy extra 3″ galvanized nails and the 5 extra treated 2×4′s.
2. Purchase 1/2″ copper or PVC pipe (approximately 8′ long but it’ll be trimmed a tad).
3. Roofing nails aren’t supplied either.
4. Drip trim isn’t supplied and will need to be purchased.

I do note that the panels next to the door weren’t flush with the 2×4′s on either side of the door. I wasn’t comfortable leaving a gap so I trimmed a couple of pieces of scrap approximately 1/2″ wide to put under the left and right door trim so they’d be sturdy.

On the 23rd, the bundle arrived. The delivery guy backed it into my garage, dropped it off, and was on his way.

Once he was gone, I of course started taking things apart. The top smaller “box” was the floor. But it’s a bunch of precut, primed wood with things cut at the correct angle (which is generally the hardest part).

I used the book and lined up all the pieces in order. There were a few pieces I was unable to find but I felt that I’d discover them when needed vs hunting the down.

With the pieces lined up, I started in on the instructions. I figured I’d build the walls in the garage and just move them out to the yard on the following day (Saturday). Honestly, it’s very very simple. The pieces were marked on the sides to match the instructions. So you knew which pieces went where. For the bigger pieces, it was pretty obvious.

Nailed together

After adding the paneling

It’s just that simple.

I spent the night looking over the instruction booklet (it’s on the wall of that last picture) just to see what I needed. One of the reviews suggested the PVC or copper before putting the shed together. Fortunately I had a piece already from a gardening project a year or so ago. The floor plan suggested using additional pretreated wood if you wanted support to park a motorcycle or heavier lawn mower. Since it’s easier to put the pieces in now than later, I thought it’d be a good idea to do this.

Saturday morning dawned and since I’m an early riser, I headed over to Home Depot to get the additional support beams and nails. I also got some weed blocker to go under the shed. No point if having some weed grow through the floor :)

When I got home, I put together the right side of the shed. One of the problems with the left side is it was too heavy for one person or two if one is small (like Rita :) ). So I decided to put the frames together and move them out to the back yard and then put the panels on. That worked a lot better. I also put down the weed blocker and the pieces for the floor.

I put the front wall and back wall frames together next

I snagged the neighbor (John from the other side) and we moved the assembled left side out.

Since he was there and I’d put the panels on the front and rear walls, I went ahead and nailed in the left side and front wall

Then put in the back wall and put up the right side wall.

I assembled the ceiling joists in the garage and brought them out to the shed but it was getting late and looked like it was going to rain so I put a tarp over the front. Rita assembled a larger tarp from the two smaller ones and put them over the back.

I was bleeding exhausted. I was so tired I had a hard time just picking up the trash and other bits from the yard before going inside to shower and take a quick nap on the couch. We did head over to the new Thai place for dinner after I woke up. Very very good food.

Sunday morning dawned and we were ready to put the roof up. Rita held each one up and basically steady while I screwed in the base of each one. They were 3″ screws and could have used some wax to ease the way. As it was, I had a hard time getting the screws in but eventually they all were all in place. There were spacers to make sure they were in the right place. We put the joists up from outside in and it turned out the spacers were just a tiny bit wide so I had to trim them down 3 or 4 skoshes :)

Rita put the top piece into the slots on the joists.

There were spacers for these as well to make sure the top was properly spread apart. I screwed them into place and it’s ready for the roof.

I was going to get help from John in putting the sheet of plywood up for the roof but he was unavailable and I found it easier to just nail in some nails at the base of each of the joists and heave the board up myself.

Rita helped me steady the board while I nailed in the center piece. Then I finished nailing the board up across the joists. Note that the side pieces are up and the 1/2″ PVC is running through the support pieces. This will be used for hanging plants (as seen in the picture).

Next was the smaller piece lower than the main piece.

Then the piece on the other side above where the windows go. It looks like I have a shed firming up here :)

I put the windows in for a fit check. Turns out the lower board was a bit warped. I had to pop it out and give it a good push down before nailing it back in and the windows fit after that. You can see the right most window at the top isn’t seated in the opening and you can barely see the curve to the bottom board under the windows.

Rita had to bail and she took the truck with her. Unfortunately I didn’t realize I needed to get drip trim until after she left. I even went over on the bike because I thought the trim was in a roll but no such luck. Upon return, I decided to just paint. It took 4 hours (roughly) to get the outside done.

I pulled the windows out but it looked like rain again so I covered the shed with some painters tarp (really really thin) and put the tarp on the back. Rita put the extended tarp on the front.

Tuesday and the carpet guys are coming out. I worked for a few hours until they showed up and then spent the rest of the time working on the shed. First I put the windows in. They needed strips of foam for a weather seal and the drip trim put in place before the windows can be mounted.

It was a bit precarious but I got it done. The windows aren’t screwed in but are held in by the foam strips and a strip of metal that’s screwed in over the top. I had to use the big ladder to screw in the top center part.

Once they were in, I started putting the shingles in. The boards already had lines so it was pretty easy to put the shingles up. It was a bit satisfying as well as the windows and shingles were the two main pieces needed so I didn’t need to put tarps on again.

I had to fight the needles and trim a branch because it was just too low. I didn’t want to trim the tree too much as I wanted the shed to look natural.

I had to trim the top pieces and put them in place for the last bit. The black bit at the left end bothers me so I’ll eventually fix it. There’s nothing wrong, it’s just the tail end of one of the pieces.

Wednesday I simply put in the vents. It was a bit of a pain but not horrible. Just a bunch of screwing this time. My arm was fairly sore the next day though.

Thursday and Friday I painted. It was suggested that if I wanted to actually use the shed as a greenhouse, I would need to paint the interior. Since I had two cans of the exterior paint, I figured to use it up inside. Since no one will actually be living in it, I didn’t see a problem using exterior on the inside. But I wanted to get the inside finished before Saturday since I had a door to mount and the floor to do along with various accessories once the shed was done.

I didn’t quite get the painting done Friday but I was close enough. I still had a few bits left for touch up but the biggest bits were done.

Saturday after shopping, with Rita’s help I got the door mounted. I had to mount the strip pieces first and Rita actually screwed in the two bottom screws but it was in and ready for use.

Since all the hammering was done, I mounted the sun medallion Rita picked up somewhere and left behind.

And put the wind medallion we received as a wedding present years ago. Both look good in my opinion :)

Finished painting the inside too.

Looking a lot better now, eh?

Sunday I got the door painted and the hardware mounted. It was actually incorrectly placed so I filled in the hole and lowered it a bit moving it a bit closer to the door jam.

I finished touching up the inside pieces.

I put the door supports on the inside as directed. They firm up the door so it doesn’t flop or warp.

Next I created a workbench from the scrap 4×8 sheet used for protection.

Then I removed one of the shelves from the garage and added a few mounts here, trimmed the board and mounted it.

Next, the floor. Rita suggested a vinyl floor vs a painted one. Excellent idea. At Home Depot, I picked up a roll suitable for a hot shed (lots of vinyl is very soft and would deform in such a hot place). I bought a spreader and adhesive. Sunday I spread it out and using a 2×4 and a straight edge plus a knife with a brand new blade (I cut my hand on the silly thing), I placed the vinyl and trimmed it to fit. I left it overnight to settle.

Monday I spread the adhesive. It turns out I needed more than one container. The floor (like the rest of the walls) is made of the pressed scraps vs particle board so there are lots of pits and dips to collect adhesive so I needed more. I rolled half of the vinyl back and put the first container of adhesive down.

Then positioned the vinyl and rolled it down. Then I zipped over to Home Depot for the second container plus a putty knife and more of the green paint. I had just enough to almost finish the workbench. I laid down the other half of adhesive.

Then rolled it down as well.

I trimmed the kick piece I wanted to protect the doorway so it would fit and put it in place.

And it’s done! Well, actually I have a couple of tiny things to do but in general the shed is done. I want to put up a small piece of pegboard and some mounting boards for the shovel and other long tools but it’s basically done.

Posted in Building a Shed, Home Improvement | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Snowshoe Hike Followup

I went out on a snowshoe hike again to try and complete my hike up to Dream Lake and possibly beyond.

I called Friday to check the conditions. It was to be about 20 degrees warmer overall (last weekend it was around 1 degree with a high of around 20) and the snow was a bit harder and no new snow since last week. I asked about snowshoes. He said he used some traction straps on his shoes to avoid slipping off anywhere but snowshoes would work fine too. I dressed a little lighter (no long johns) and headed on out.

Understanding the crowds now, I left an hour later than the previous Saturday. When I got there, there were a good 20 or so vehicles in place. Plus since the week had been warmer, there was less snow and ice on the road. I could almost make it up on the bike if I wanted to :)

This time I was heading straight up to Dream Lake and decided to grab a picture of the map before I continued on.

The hike up to Nymph Lake was actually pretty easy. I did stop often and about half way up I removed my gloves. I pretty much didn’t wear gloves from then on as it was getting so warm. It’s a half mile hike up to Nymph Lake which is a piece of cake normally but a tad harder when you’re on snowshoes.

It is a pretty day though :)

I actually had to check the camera to see about where the trail was. Since everything’s covered in snow, it’s not particularly easy to know for sure where to head. There were a couple of guys ahead of me so after checking the map, I headed off to follow. It was a quick rise in elevation but the view was pretty good.

In looking at the lake below, the entrance to this path is at the top part of the lake there with the line across it. The way back to the parking lot is along the far edge of the lake and to the right.

This is a look ahead.

This is a turn to the left and a look to the left. A bit farther to the left is Nymph Lake (and down a bit).

And looking back to where I took the picture overlooking Nymph Lake

I’m continuing on to Dream Lake (if that wasn’t obvious of course :) ). The hike is about the same distance as the one from the parking lot to Nymph Lake and a little steeper. I am seeing other folks on the trail, in some cases they’re passing me when I stop for a break :)

This is Dream Lake. A nice little 1.1 mile hike and a nice lake and view. There were 2 or 3 folks out taking pictures. The ice was pretty thick, although none were really testing that theory. Way over on the other side of the lake is the trail up to Emerald Lake. I thought I’d give that a go as well, partly because I couldn’t figure out where the next trail was in order to continue around on the loop. The loop is the next objective (plus seeing the other lakes).

I get to where I think the entrance to the next path is and it’s not super clear. There are a few footprints but I would have expected to see more. Eventually I start up but the tracks shortly turn right and hook up with the correct trail.

Looking back towards the lake on the correct trail (or at least a more correct trail).

Now that I’m on the correct trail, or at least a more correct trail, I hike on up and the discover that at least for part of the hike, I’m following the frozen creek.

The correct trail appears to be this way:

A short hike gets me to here:

About here was where a couple of guys with ice climbing gear passed me as I paused. One guy had a helmet and both had crossed ice axes on their backpacks.

This is just before Emerald Lake

And I’m now at Emerald Lake

The two spots way off on the other side of the lake are the two guys who are ice climbing and who passed me a couple of pictures back.

Nice view of the mountain.

The fun part is going back is much easier. I actually need to be careful at a couple of spots and almost took a header down the spot where the two guys passed me. It wasn’t long before I made it back to Dream Lake

Looking down at the ice, you can see it’s pretty thick

I’m actually a little bit out on the lake itself. The ice is pretty thick and fits the little mnemonic “Thick and blue, tried and true; Thin and crispy, way too risky.” as being thick enough if you’re careful.

These rocks are surrounded by ice, which would be water in warmer months.

I wasn’t sure about going out on this but there were a couple of guys on the ice and it looked like it was frozen all the way to the bottom. Cool pressure ridges though of the wind blowing across the lake as it froze.

And heading back down the path to Nymph Lake. There was a couple on the lookout so I didn’t stop again. I was stopped a few times by folks coming up asking whether the snowshoes were necessary and if there was more snow above.

The last walk down to Nymph Lake.

And finally back to the parking lot. I was the last vehicle parking this morning. Looking at the line of vehicles on the right, I’m the 6th or 7th vehicle, the white pickup with a darker piece under the tailgate latch than the one two vehicles down from me.

And that’s it for this trip. I’ll be heading off again in a couple of weeks to try the loop.

Posted in Outside Activities, Snowshoe Hike At Bear Lake | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Niki Part 2

I bailed from work at 11 and headed over to Chipotle’s to grab some chicken for her and lunch for me. At home, she again was a little slow getting up off the couch but she did get up. I helped her to the floor and gave her some new food as she hadn’t touched breakfast, not more than a few bites anyway. I tried scrambling up an egg but she had no interest and I offered chicken but again, no interest.

A gaming friend of mine had offered to come up and spend some time with Niki and me. When she arrived, I was in the back yard with Niki on her leash.

She was soaking up the sun and had nibbled on some grass as well. She came over a couple of times for me to pet her and then went back over to sit in the sun some more. She spent time cleaning her face, paying special attention to the left side. I think it was sore because she’d wash it pretty hard (it probably felt a little numb based on what the vet said).

After a bit of chatting with Wendy, we headed down to the lake. I’ve carried Niki around the lake before. We’ll go a little ways and then I put her down and she checks things out for a minute or so before I pick her up and we head off again. We headed around and walked down the dam. I kept her from getting too far away, down to the water or generally heading back home. I was checking the clock as I didn’t want to make the vet wait and we turned back not more than half way down the dam. I’d let her flop onto the grass so she could warm herself. It was a bit windy so she wanted to head away from the wind.

As we returned, we walked past the elementary school. She’d actually been walking a bit more than she normally does, probably just happy to be outside. She kept checking the school windows and doors to see if she could head inside to get away from the wind :)

I’d picked her up a few times. Like most cats, she’s not happy on her back but this time I was able to cradle her and she pushed her head back into my shoulder, kind of an upside down head bonk :)

On the way back to the house, I put her down in the soccer field. I was expecting a flop or grass much but nope, she just wanted to head home. She headed across the asphalt and into the gravel.

Once home, we went into the back yard again and I basically let her soak up the warmth.

After a bit, I even brought out her cat food and water dish. She snarfed it

And didn’t budge even when one of the neighborhood cats came by to try and mooch.

Not long after that, it was time. I’d left a note on the door for the vet that we were in the back yard and met her when she came around the corner. She had her equipment and a red towel. I held Niki as she went over the details and paperwork including disposal.

Then it was time. I decided I wanted to hold her if I could and since it was getting later, I held her by the back fence. The sun was shining and still a foot or so from the border but I wanted to hold her. The vet injected her with a sedative and said it would take a minute and she would likely kick and try to get away in part because it’s making the pain go away so she feels young again. The sedative took about a minute and yes, she did hiss and growl and even try to get away a couple of times. But she eventually fell asleep. The vet asked if I wanted to keep holding her but I just couldn’t. So she laid out her towel and comfortably put Niki down on it. I kneeled next to her and pet her quite a bit. I’m so filled with sadness and emotion that I can’t speak and give the vet a nod to go ahead. She didn’t react at all and I had to wait for the vet to pronounce her as gone.

:( :( :(

We spent a few minutes with Niki laying in the sun and the vet fussing around her. She was gathering up her gear and said she’d be back to get Niki, but then said, “unless you want to carry her”. It didn’t take but a second but I said yes and carefully picked her up in the towel cradling her and slowly walking out to the vet’s SUV. She had a blanket in the back and as I lay her on the blanket, I said “I know it’s just a shell but I miss you already”. :(

I walked away and the vet left.

Posted in Colorado | Tagged | 5 Comments

Niki

Today is a sad day. Today I will be saying goodbye to my cat Niki.

I found Niki in the Prince William County shelter after my first marriage broke up. I was in an apartment by myself. I’d grown up with cats and left our cat behind when I moved. Niki is a Tuxedo cat, colored black and white. In the shelter she was active and responsive which appealed. When I accepted responsibility for her and took her home, I found she was infested with fleas and that she had an odd limp to her rear right leg. I got her cleaned up and used a lice comb to clear out the fleas I couldn’t get with the shampoo (forehead mainly). Amazingly none reproduced and she has never had to deal with fleas since then. I called the shelter and mentioned her lame foot. They said I could bring her back and get another kitten but I was already bonded. I found out from a neighbor kid that she might have been hit by a car or abused by the family that owned her.

Her full name is Nikodemus, the name of the mouse (rat?) in The Secret of NIMH. She was in the house and I hadn’t picked a name yet so I was trying a bunch of different ones to see which one she responded to. After 10 or so minutes of different names, I threw out Nikodemus. She perked up and came to me and that was her name. Niki for short.

After a few months, I was thinking she should have a companion while I was at work. The apartment was smallish (2 bedroom) and she was always so happy to see me. I went back to the shelter and found a young Maine Coon. He was found in the cemetery and brought to the shelter. I claimed him and named him Charon. He was a pretty cool cat. Unlike Niki, he would sit on my lap. But they would fight and Niki would chase him off the bed. I was getting close to having to make a decision on taking one of the cats back to the shelter and I was leaning towards taking Niki back when Charon contracted FIPs. Feline Infectious Peritonitis. Over the course of a week, he went from being a happy cat to not being able to jump up on the bed without help. I took him to the vet and got the news. Since there wasn’t a cure, I decided to have him put to sleep. I was pretty broken up over it and made the poor decision to not be with him when it happened. I still feel pretty bad about not being there for him.

A week or so later, I still felt Niki should have a companion, another cat. My youngest and I went to the shelter and she picked out a long hair flame point male cat with a creamy white coat. She named him Precious although we also called him Stupid from time to time. It turned out he had worms which I discovered after he threw up in the laundry room and I found worms in his vomit. I took him to the vet and had that cleared up. Niki never did get along with him though.

Probably a year later, my ex bailed on the house we had bought and headed south. I moved out of the apartment and back into the house. My ex had no interest in the cat my youngest had so Precious was left with me in the house.

Not too long after that, I picked up a girlfriend. She moved in with her two kids and all her gear. Six months into it, we went to her sister’s place and picked up her cat. Morgan Le Fey. She was a long haired tuxedo cat and slightly insane having been left on her sister’s back porch for a year. She’d pulled all the fur from about half way down her body to her tail. The vet said she was just in need of company so she was welcomed into the house.

At the same time, my oldest came to live and brought her cat. Tazzy was a blue-grey cat. He was actually younger than the others and quite active. When my daughter bailed to go live in Sacramento (I think) she left Tazzy behind. Then I found I was unable to deal with my girlfriend’s kids. I was getting stressed and really annoyed by the way they were taking over the house and I asked them to leave. She and her kids headed to Richmond and for some reason moved into a pet-free apartment which left Morgan with me.

So now I have four cats in the house.

In the mean time, I was not doing my job well as a caretaker of the cats. There were a couple of cat boxes in the house but Niki pretty much pooped and peed on the floor near the upstairs cat box. Since it was in the Mother-In-Law apartment entrance hall which I never used, I would clean but didn’t really do anything to try and figure out what the problem was.

Moving forward in time, my second wife and I found each other on the ‘net. We were both on the same dating site and she had broadened her search accidentally and found my posting. We exchanged e-mails, Internet Messenger chats, and even exchanged recordings. I flew out to meet with her over Columbus Day and over Halloween she moved from Colorado to Virginia and moved in with me. Plusshe had two cats; Socrates and Ariel. Socrates was an long haired orange and white cat. He really never trusted me as far as he could throw me. Ariel is a black cat and was originally her daughter’s cat.

So now there are 6 cats in the house!

We had several cat boxes in the basement laundry room but Niki was still rather particular and wouldn’t always use any of them. My second wife was more of an organic hippy type so we used more natural cat litter vs the clumping Fresh Step (for example) type litter.

In 2004 we moved from Virginia to Colorado. At that time we made the decision to halve our population of cats. Our next door neighbor took Tazzy. We found out a couple of years later that Tazzy got Leukemia and was put to sleep. I made my younger daughter come get Precious. She took him to a no-kill shelter. Morgan went with my second wife’s daughter. She made it to being around 22 years old before being put to sleep.

In Colorado, we have three cats. Socrates, Ariel, and Niki. Niki refused to use the cat box though. We got to the point where we left newspaper down so she could pee on that vs the floor. Then we’d just pick up and discard the newspaper every couple of days.

Socrates was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and needed to be put to sleep. He was brought home and put in his favorite chair (an Ikea one) and the vet came. We were able to say goodbye while he was in a friendlier environment. I felt better too as it wasn’t in a vets office on a cold stainless steel countertop.

Niki was always a pretty friendly cat compared to Ariel for example. While Ariel would go hide, she’s come out and say hi. She had a few places she liked. She loved to sit and watch the mouse cursor on the monitor. I’d put the cursor on a white part of the screen and let her try to catch it. She had fun with laser pointer lights as well.

When we moved to Longmont, the prior folks left a couple of things behind including an old chair. I had the chair next to the computer and Niki would lay in it to hang with me.

She also would lay on the old couch they left behind while we watched TV.

Earlier in 2011, Niki started acting oddly. Stumbling around a little even falling when walking around in bed. Since she had arthritis, I figured it was just the age thing catching up. We started giving her SynFlex for her joints, which of course she hated as she was getting it via syringe. At one point I was sitting on the couch when she headed downstairs and she fell down the stairs. I’d been watching her and checking her out and I figured she’d had a stroke. She could flare out her right whiskers but not her left whiskers and at one point, I was able to touch her eye without her blinking. Puzzled, we took her to the vet. He said there were a couple of possibilities including a brain tumor or possibly an abrasion on her spine. This is generally caused by abuse. He recommended an MRI to check it out but also said that if she got better in 6 weeks or so, it was likely the abrasion. She did seem to improve a little.

A couple of months later she all of a sudden got worse again. Not falling down the stairs worse (especially since we were watching for such things) but still worse than she had been. The commonality was that we’d taken a vacation both times and left the house in the hands of house sitters. She got better over time but still not back to “normal”.

Not long after that, Ariel was diagnosed with failing kidneys. With my second wife’s daughter giving birth last year, she went to Virginia to be with her and took Ariel with her. She didn’t want him to miss her, which was understandable. While she was gone though, I rethought the cat box situation. I emptied the pine pellet based cat litter and replaced it with Fresh Step. Niki started using it immediately! A very picky cat, Niki is. :)

In September, my second wife left moving back to Virginia and took Ariel with her. Ariel has been getting home infusions to deal with his kidney issues and seems to be doing pretty well (although he hates the needle of course).

About a month later, I noticed that Niki was really making a mess of her rear feet. Initially I thought it was the cat food (Science Diet). I was thinking she was throwing it up a little. I cleaned her up and every couple of weeks gave her a bath to try and clean it up for her. Ever since she had fleas, she’s been extremely picky about her fur. If I ruffled it, she’s spaz out and clean it again. I talked with my new ex and she suggested getting the Wellness cat Food. I switched and while it made it a little better, it was still a problem. I called the vet and took her in for a check up.

She had a dental problem. Her teeth were so bad, the vet thought she could see bone. I made an appointment with an oral surgeon and took her in for an operation. Since Niki’s now 18 years old going on 19, the vet said that she might not make it out of surgery in part due to her age. So I said goodbye to her before taking her in. Made her happy (purring) and spent some time with her.

I got her back and the doc said she had to extract 10 teeth. She thought she lost her at one point but ultimately she was returned. About a week prior, I’d received some antibiotics to give her to help with the obvious infection and after getting out, I received a 20 day supply (2 bottles). She had hated getting it before the operation and didn’t much like it after. She’d fight it, spit some out. I wouldn’t get it all in her but she did get some each day. After a week, I tried giving it to her in her food which she actually ate. So for about a week or so, she got the full dose of medicine. When I ran out, I called the vet because she was still puffy in the eye and leaking fluid. It also had a pink tinge to it as if there was blood.

The vet checked her out and suggested an MRI or X-ray. I opted for the X-ray and brought Niki back in to get that done. Since you can’t ask a cat to hold still for an X-ray, she had to be sedated again. And again, since older cats might not come out of it, I spent a few hours Thursday saying goodbye again. Like before, I didn’t want to have her go without me being able to say goodbye. But she came out of it successfully and was ready to come home. The vet showed me the X-ray and suggested she had an abscess due to the dental issues. She showed me where she felt it was an abscess. I was concerned that it might be an injury since she’d fallen down the basement stairs at least once and might have hurt herself. She assured me it was an abscess and provided a list of specialists (ophthalmologists for her eye) and had one specially highlighted. He was in Boulder only once a week though.

This past weekend, I noticed the swelling around Niki’s eye was much worse. She also started having a nasal discharge which looked a little bloody. Monday I called to make an appointment. They were able to get me in on Monday at 2:45 if I was able to get her down there. This was in Englewood, about an hour away. The way she was talking, they’d be able to perform the work Monday afternoon. Since it had gotten worse, I was able to get the rest of the afternoon off and bring Niki to the doc. I left work at 1:30pm to pick her up and take her down to the specialist.

The assistant took a history of Niki from me and then the doc came in to check her and the X-rays out. He did a pretty thorough checkup around her eye. He poked at the left and right sides of her face. She flinched when he tapped the right area but no reaction when tapping the left side of her face. He did a side by side finger compression comparison (like press thumbs below the left and right side of her face). He checked her eyes themselves, the third eyelid kicked in on the right side but the abscess behind her left eye pushed it out so much that it didn’t come out. Then he said that it wasn’t an abscess but it was cancer behind her left eye. The bloody nasal and eye discharge indicated there was a breach in the bone between her eye and nose and the X-ray show bone distortion. In his 20 years of experience, this was cancer and pretty aggressive. She probably had a week to a maximum of a couple of months.

We discussed options, a radiologist, oncologist, operations, and a feeding tube with a good chance it won’t make any difference. I asked the doc if she was in pain right now. He asked how she was doing. She was still bugging me for food and pigging it down and greeting me at the door when I got home so based on that, we didn’t think she was in much pain. The swelling had to be a little throbbing like pain but not the pain as the doc was indicating would happen. It would happen though. The pain would increase until she wanted to hide from the light and not come out even to eat.

I thanked the doc (he said “peace” as he shook my hand) and we went home. I fed her dinner and did what I normally do in an evening.

Just two days later though she was picking at her food. She didn’t want to get up out of bed and was very very slow coming down the stairs I made for her. She would sit in the kitchen doorway and meow at me but without actually vocalizing. I’d read an article on how pets and cats specifically show pain and I realized I didn’t want to wait too long before letting her go. It would be selfish of me to keep her around if she was in pain. She’s already been stumbling around. Her eye looks horrible and puffy. She’s shaking her head pretty often and rubbing her face. While she may not be in the final amount of pain, I really didn’t want to wait that long. I think part of my responsibility is to help her on her way when it gets to a certain point. And yesterday morning she basically took a couple of bites of food but didn’t eat the rest. I came home at lunch and she was on the couch but was slow in getting up.

So at lunch I went ahead and took her out for a short walk and let her eat grass. She was pretty happy at being outside but still stumbled about and shook her head. After bringing her back in, I gave her new cat food and she ate that pretty quickly. At dinner she had a little of what I gave her but came back a few times. I took her for a walk around the block but every time I put her down, she tried to head back home :) This morning she ate a little of her breakfast and then watched me as I got ready for work. I gave her more breakfast before I left.

I’ll be coming home today at 11:15 or so to grab lunch (she likes the chicken in Chipotle’s) and maybe feed her some scrambled eggs. A friend will be coming up at lunch to provide comfort and support, walk with me and Niki around the lake and generally be a friend.

Then at 3pm, the vet will come. I’ll say my goodbyes for the last time as she fades out and then the vet will take her away. :(

If it should be….
If it should be that I grow frail and weak,
and pain should keep me from my sleep,
then you must do what must be done,
for we know this last battle can’t be won.

You will be sad, I understand,
but don’t let grief then stay your hand,
for this day, more than the rest,
your love and friendship must stand the test.

We’ve had so many happy years,
what is to come can hold no fears.
Would you want me to suffer? So,
when the time comes, please let me go.

Take me where my needs they’ll tend,
only stay with me until the end,
and hold me firm and speak to me,
until my eyes no longer see.

It is a kindness that you do to me,
although my tail it’s last has waved,
from pain and suffering I have been saved.

Do not grieve, it should be you,
who must decide this thing to do.
We’ve been so close, we two these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

by Julia Napier, copyright 1999

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First Snowshoe Hike of 2013

Headed out Saturday morning to give snowshoeing a try. It’s important to me in part because it’s the first time I’ve investigated, planned, gathered, and then actually gone all by myself. So it’s in part a learning experience, and in part getting outside under my own initiative.

At the beginning of the week, I decided to go snowshoeing. I picked Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park mainly because a couple of sites I checked out indicated it an easy trek and if it was easy enough, I might head up to Nymph Lake or even Dream Lake. During the summer the hike is pretty easy but when hiking and snowshoeing in the winter on the snow, there are additional issues to be aware of. It’s similar to hiking on sand with the step forward and a slight slip back. Snowshoes is better in that you’re on top of the snow, but you’re also carrying extra weight from the snow and ice on the snowshoes and the snowshoes themselves. Add in the additional weight from the gear to keep you warm and it’s a bit more of a workout than a summer hike up a moderate incline.

There were references to the Ten Essentials when going out. 

The Ten Essentials include a topographic map, compass, extra food, extra clothing, firestarter, matches, sun protection, a pocket knife, first-aid kit, and flashlight.

Some of these are extra important for winter hiking and snowshoeing:

Adequate extra clothing – plenty of layers made of materials such as wool or polypropolene that wick sweat and moisture away from your body.
Headlamp or flashlight (and extra batteries) are especially important in the winter, since days are short and night comes quickly.
Plenty of extra food – snowshoeing is strenuous exercise and you burn a lot of calories, so bring along plenty of extra food and keep your energy level high.

In addition, snowshoeing requires much more energy than hiking, so keep your mileage goals small, and turn around when conditions are beyond your skills or your energy level is low. A few extra items to put in the winter backpack include:

Plenty of water – keep hydrated by drinking often.
Emergency shelter and/or sleeping bag – seriously consider carrying these in case you have to spend a night out there.
Portable shovel – a critically important winter survival tool, which will assist you in digging snow caves in which you can survive a bitter, cold night.  And, it’s nearly impossible to dig someone out of an avalanche without a shovel.
Avalanche beacon – in avalanche country, consider carrying an avalanche beacon. And know how to use it properly.

As practice for a longer hike in the future, I gathered the 10 items (I bought firestarter and a compass plus a waterproof case + whistle combination Friday night) plus added the head lamp I bought a few months back. I did not go all out since this is a well traveled area and I wasn’t heading into the wilderness yet. But it did let me prepare and understand my own limitations.

I’d called the park Friday to get a report on the conditions so I knew what the conditions were like. 18″ of prior snowfall plus an additional 1.5″ or so of fresh powder. The volunteer also said it was going to be cold so be prepared. I planned on heading up geared up and ready to go, but prepared to bail if conditions weren’t acceptable for me. I had no intention of being a statistic and this was really a warm-up for additional hikes in the coming months.

I set the alarm for 5am and checked the weather report for Estes Park which is just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Temps in the park were at 1.5 degrees, windchill at -7 when I bailed Saturday morning at 5:45am. I had prepared and put on long johns (top and bottoms), jeans, snow pants (bib up the back so the snow from the snowshoes don’t get in your pants), fleece jacket over a t-shirt and a windbreaker/ski coat over that. I had a head and face covering (you’ll see it in the pics), scarf, and knit hat. Add ski gloves and I’m on my way.

I got to the park at around 6:30am. Since the gate is manned at 8am, entrance to the park was free (I actually hadn’t expected that). I made the left turn on Bear Lake road and headed on to the parking area.

I stopped a few times for early morning pictures.

At Moraine Park, I hopped out and put the camera on the top of the truck for this picture. The thin line is the truck antenna :)

Turning the camera around for a view of the park with Stones Peak ahead and Sprague Mountain just to the left. And it’s really cold here. Just the quick hopping out and pictures has my fingers numb. Continuing on, I came around the corner and had to stop to get a picture. The mountains with the overhanging clouds were pretty.

As I was lining up the shot, I noticed the Elk on the right busy with breakfast :)

If you’ve ever been to Bear Lake in the summer, this picture should be interesting. Bear Lake is a pretty common area to hike so the parking lot is generally full. There are parking areas farther back and the park has shuttles. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to get here early. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t expect just two other cars though :)

The Ranger station is on the left and the covered seating is on the right. I geared up putting the snow pants and jacket on as well as the head coverings and headed up to Bear Lake check out the area to make sure the snow hadn’t been cleared. I didn’t want to use snowshoes if there was no snow (I’d carry them as there’s sure to be snow later). Fortunately the path had snow. Back at the truck, I pulled the snowshoes out, locked the truck up, carried them and the hiking pole to the covered area and put them on. It’s more than a tad cold so I had to put my gloves on between shoes to warm back up. Once done, I headed on my way.

The bridge to Bear Lake. Bear Lake is actually pretty small and the hike shouldn’t take long. Checking the third route picture above and the picture of the parking lot, and you can see the lake is about as long as the parking lot. So not big at all, smaller than I’d expected which is a good thing.

At the first turn out upon reaching the lake. There was one or two folks going this way earlier this morning, I can see their footprints. No snowshoes though.

Same spot, just turned to the right a little. More of a lake view.

The folks who came before took the right trail and are heading to Bierstadt Lake. I’m taking the left trail around the lake.

Farther around the lake looking at the same mountaintop as the one at the turnout. I have to take my hands out of the gloves for the picture and it takes a minute or two for them to warm back up. It’s frigid.

The trail. Untouched, at least this morning, by humans. It’s actually mostly hard under the inch or two of fresh snow although there are places where there’s a bit of a deeper drift.

About two thirds of the way around the lake. It’s still not quite sunrise so things are a little dark. I’d been seeing snow flakes on the ends of my eyelashes and wanted to see if they were visible in a picture.

My right snowshoe. This is one of the higher drifts and starting on the downhill part so there was a bit more fresh snow here.

Rabbit tracks. I expect he was eating bark as there’s not much else here to nibble on. I could see tracks going back into the woods on my right.

Since Bear Lake was a short hike, I decided to head up the trail. In looking at the map, this is roughly a four mile loop, five if you go up to see other lakes, and you come out back here. I thought about taking the full route but decided to take it easy. So I headed on up the right trail to Nymph Lake.

The sun comes out quickly. This isn’t much farther up the trail to the lake. The lake is about a half mile hike. I got most of the way there before I decided I was getting too sweaty and even feeling a chill as my sweat was cooling down. I’d been stopping every so often to rest because of the altitude and so I wouldn’t overheat too much but eventually decided to return to the truck.

It was a total of two hours hiking and I probably went a total of two miles. I think had the trail been flatter, I would have continued on to the various lakes. I do think it was a good first effort. I snagged a snowshoe hike guide from the park visitors center. So I will be continuing. Stay tuned :)

And Moraine Park on the way out, 2 hours later.

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Titan Missile Complex

I went with a friend from work and a group of several others to go tour the underground Titan Missile Complex east of Denver.

The site appears to be a gathering ground for the area youths based on the amount of graffiti, beer cans, candy, and general crap in the place.

It appears to be actually owned by someone who is selling it for $2,800,000 bucks and according to this site is being refurbished although you couldn’t tell by visiting the place.

These guys have some pretty clear pictures. Looks like they had some much brighter lights plus I don’t see any of the graffiti I saw when we were there and lots of the nicer stuff in the pictures are broken or just gone.

Update: A nice link to lots of details about all the missile sites: Titan History

This is a small overview of the complex. We came in at the bottom entrance at the lower right dome (big square in the center). We went straight across the main hall to the other dome, then back and left to the three silos at the top. Then back to the very bottom to the antenna arrays. Then back to the entrance and down to the very bottom. The small circle is the room for the exhaust fans for the site and a big motor which presumably ran them.

The pictures themselves have sufficient information so rather than post a bunch of stuff, I’ll just link to the pictures themselves.

Enjoy.

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On being sick

Saturday at about mid afternoon, I started experiencing a runny nose, mild headache, and lightly scratchy throat. It felt mainly like a severe allergy attack. I’d been leaving the windows open most of the week because of the nice weather so I figured it was just allergies. I doubled my honey dose and headed off to Brian’s for some gaming with Wendy and Brian.

Sunday upon getting up, my throat was pretty rough but I didn’t feel bad. Just a runny nose and rough throat. I figured the rough throat was just the result of sleeping with a runny nose. I hit the honey again and throughout the day, I felt better. I cleaned the house. I worked on the motorcycle. Even rode into Boulder to test the bike and redeem a couple of Barnes and Noble coupons.

But last night at 6, fever kicked in. Then a stuffy nose. I sent an email off to work. I generally take some cold and flu meds and if it is a cold, I’m knocked out and spend the next 14 or so hours sleeping it off. I let work know that if I was sick, I’d take the day. Otherwise I’ll be in like normal.

I hit the sack at around 7 and promptly passed out. I did wake up a few times. Pee breaks and of course, feeding Niki (she can be insistant :) ). But didn’t really get up until around 10am.

I’ve been somewhat sick feeling today. Normal cold symptoms. I did feel well enough to take on call and even logged in to work, mainly to clear email. I am a tad warm now and have a mild cough. Still have the runny nose though.

The fun thing about this though is that I’m reading a Zombie Apocalypse series of books by Mira Grant. Feed, Deadline, and now Blackout. Plus I’m watching The Walking Dead. So viruses and such are already on my mind.

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