March draws to a close and I have hardly ridden my bikes. Events have intervened. The summary version is that my father, who lives alone in Des Moines, hurt his back in early March which, when added to the unsteadiness he already has from his Parkinson's disease, left him largely unable to look after himself. A sister of mine from Kentucky happened to be there for a week but was concerned about leaving him alone and asked me to come down and see him, so I did the weekend starting Friday 3/10. It became apparent by Sunday morning that I couldn't just leave him alone and I called an old friend (and cyclist!) of mine who's a psychiatrist (and therefore also an MD) and he came over. He said this isn't getting resolved until his back's looked after, let's take him to the ER and get it evaluated. Dad was in hospital until Thursday and had to go to assisted living, at least until his back improves, and chose a place in Bellevue, Iowa, near Dubuque and another sister, where he hopes to move into a senior apartment. I took him home Thursday morning, threw a party for him in his house of 39 years, and on Friday took him to Bellevue, returning to Saint Paul late Saturday.
In the meantime, the same afternoon I was hosting an Open House and having all his friends over to say Hi before he left, my mother in law, who also lives alone in Des Moines, was found in her house, having collapsed and lay for 30 hours before being found. She was rushed to hospital and I managed a couple of quick visits while neighbors tended to Dad before I left to take him to Bellevue. So, Sunday, after playing the morning services, Karla headed to Des Moines and left me a single parent for the week, a large amount of work even when you don't come down with a nasty cold, which I did.
There are side stories to all this. I'd previously whined about having to drop $1,600 to fix my Ford Ranger's differential. Well, while in Des Moines tending to my Dad, the truck acted up again, shaking badly. I won't go into all the gory details, but I ended up leaving it to get fixed under Ford's parts warranty and taking Dad's Mercury Sable to Bellevue and Saint Paul. So, last weekend, with my truck and wife in Des Moines, I found someone to take the kids and took Greyhound to Des Moines Friday to get the truck Saturday. I got it, no charge, and spent several hours at Dad's packing up things. I wouldn't say Dad's an extraordinary man, but he's certainly an interesting one, and old photo albums in particular are cool, photos from his service in the Royal Navy in World War II aboard the HMS Vengeance (aircraft carrier) and in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and photos from a month-long trip around Spain in 1953 with three others in a 1927 Humber (car) with sleeping bags lashed to the running boards. Anyway, Sunday the truck acted up again, shaking badly in back. With the original repair the guys had said I needed new tires, so I dropped $400 and got that done, but it still shook, so I left it at the dealer again and came home with Karla.
The dealer managed to replicate the shaking, which was intermittent, and it's a bad carrier bearing, something in the middle of the two-piece driveshaft, $250 to repair, so I authorized it and expect tomorrow to head out on Greyhound to Des Moines again to collect my truck, visit my mother in law and bring back all the stuff I packed up last weekend.
There are other wrinkles in this; you know that snow you guys got on Monday 3/13 and Thursday 3/16? I was in Des Moines for those and missed them and poor Karla, when she tried to start the snowblower, found it spewing gasoline on the floor and had to hire in a snowplow guy who, with our serpentine driveway, managed to rip up some grass, for which he didn't charge any extra. Then Karla goes to Des Moines and gets caught in their snow and her Mom's shower won't turn off and she has to run dripping around the basement to find the main water shutoff and then hire in a plumber to fix that. While I was at Dad's and he was in hospital, and electrical fault knocked out half his house's electricity, then when I came home to Saint Paul, one morning when I flushed the toilet, filthy water rose in the bathtub. Not content to spend all this money fixing my damn truck, I also laid out over $300 to put two new tires on Dad's car, get it aligned and have the headlights reaimed.
Not that I'm whining. There is a certain refreshing clarity to decision making and priorities when all this kind of stuff happens and it has forced some major decisions that had to be made anyway. It's annoying to have to layer in plumbing, electrical, snowblower and car problems all on top of the health issues of the surviving parents (I forgot to mention that my sister's mother in law suffered from ill-health the week I was in Des Moines and had to be rushed to hospital Tuesday evening and then got a pacemaker installed Wednesday, which didn't directly affect me of course but did make for the trifecta among the surviving parents) and of course the routine of the kids' lives continues apace while at church, Karla's job, Holy Week and Easter loom, but you cope with a certain ruthless intensity with the problems as they arise.
With all this, I've hardly ridden. Coming into March I was still in long-undies and studded tires mode; now, as soon as I am able, Sunday, probably, I'll switch out the knobby studded Nokians on my Marin for the usual burly smooth tires. I also haven't had the Atlantis out in months, preferring not to ride it in the salty slop of a Minnesota winter, but shortly I'll be back on that bike with cleated shoes and high-pressure tires. Whatever low level of fitness I managed to maintain with my meagre miles in January and February has probably been squandered in the last month of fast food on the run, single parenthood, driving and sickness. Still, spring is upon us, it was actually raining this morning which corrodes away the remaining snow very quickly and makes a start on cleaning the streets, and the regular cycling season is about to commence. It is likely I'll end up in Des Moines and Bellevue pretty frequently the next few months, that my weekends in particular won't be fully my own until later in the summer, but I'll grab what cycling opportunities I can.
In the near term, I have some wheels to build. I have a Shimano dynamo front hub and a 1967 Sturmey-Archer 3 speed rear and a Shimano Nexus 8-speed rear that all need to turn into wheels. The 3-speed I intend to use on the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour in May. One minor benefit of the running around is that on the way back from Bellevue on 3/18 I managed to pick up a $20 Lands End 46 Tall blazer at one of the Bargain Nooks, perfect wear for the 3ST, and then stopped at Wabasha to check out the Hotel & RV Park where I have a reservation. I've been unable to find an actual English 3-speed in anything approaching a large-enough bike so am instead going to 3-speed the 68cm Schwinn World Sport I bought on a whim last summer and ride that although I am likely to get a lot of crap from the actual English-bike riders. Once the 3ST is over, I'll pop in the Nexus 8-speed hub instead.
Anyway, for all those multitudes clamouring for more blog entries from me (hi Bob!), this is why I've been so quiet most of March. Choir rehearsal was last night but I didn't go, the residual effects of my cold making my throat very tender, so didn't get in that ride, which has been a common one for me through the winter. I haven't commuted to work yet this season, but that ought to start soon. I have some thrilling news about a rear basket for my bike which I'm sure will enchant all (you can take votes to decide whether my basket or my kickstand is dorkier) but it'll have to wait a few days. Once this next weekend is over, life ought to become more normal once again. We'll see.