When? When did it happen?

For close to eight (8) years the Republicans have been telling us how bad the Affordable Care Act (ACA or also known as Obamacare) is and how it is exploding and going under.  Really!  Well tell that to the millions of Americans that did not have healthcare before the ACA and do now.  Tell that to those who because of Pre-existing conditions were denied coverage, even for having acne as a teenager, or to the women who gave birth and were then denied coverage because of pregnancies.  How about those who were not denied but because of the amount the insurance companies charged effectively denied them coverage.

Insurance companies really do not want to provide anyone coverage unless they are young and healthy and have never been sick or injured in their life, other than minor ailments.  That effectively eliminates a lot of folks.  There are a few ways to get around this – 1) is to be covered under an employer’s healthcare plan, 2) join the military (they have great coverage), 3) (this goes with #2) go to war, get injured and be covered by the VA (great benefit and care, but not everybody qualifies and this is probably the least desirable way to become eligible).  Now what are Health Insurance Companies, really?  They do not see patients, nor do they prescribe medications, do surgery or any other form of medical procedure.  They are bankers, they move money around, they collect your premium, pay themselves an incredibly high salary, then they nickle and dime the doctors and hospitals to accept lower payments for a procedure.  Even worse are those (especially doctors) who are not in NETWORK, boy do they get the shaft.

Now the Republicans in the Senate (and later in the House) plan to vote on a Repeal and Replace bill before the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2017).  So what does this new bill do?  It will allow insurance companies complete control over who will or will not be covered.  Over the next several years it will eliminate Federal Medicaid, coverage that millions of our citizens (especially children) need and turn it over to the state who will decide what to use the funds for.  It will change how states will receive Medicaid funds by changing them into block grants.  It also changes the formulation that affects distribution of funds to the states.  Under the ACA states were encouraged to expand Medicaid, the federal government would pay 100% the first three years and 90% thereafter.  Some so called blue states including California, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington, to name a few, will be penalized for following the rules and expanding their Medicaid programs.  So called red states such as Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and others will benefit because they decided not to expand Medicaid.  Because California and New York are such large states and they had the audacity to expand Medicaid and they will not be allowed to go to a single payer health care system.

This bill, which has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), will eliminate millions of our citizens from being able to afford, let alone qualify, for health insurance.  What does this really mean?  It means that people are going to DIE.  Die because they could not afford to see a doctor or if they do see a doctor it will be at an emergency room where we, who are insured, will eventually pay the costs.

Now to answer the question “When did it happen?”  I believe that we really started this downhill slide to this point of our country’s history in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan told us “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  I have always found this statement to be absolutely absurd.  Why you might ask, because under our form of government WE are the government.  We ask people, that we think that we can trust, to represent us, therefore a representative type of government.  The more you ridicule and distrust those who are elected only means that you ridicule and distrust yourself.  If they pass laws that are contrary to what you want, it only means that you were not paying attention and keeping your elected officials in check.

How do we stop this madness?  How do we regain control over our government?  It is by taking charge and stop being so cynical.  Step up and declare yourself to be a candidate for an office.  It does not matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican as long as you do the job with honesty and integrity.  Run for office be it for dog catcher, for a position on the school board, or any number of offices that can use a fresh face and new ideas that help rather than hurt our fellow citizens.  After a couple of years at this level try running for the city or county council, from here and at high levels of office, you have an impact on state and federal legislation and regulatory decisions.  If you are young enough, and age is not necessarily an obstacle,  step up to state offices, positions in the State legislature, House and Senate (most are part-time positions and in some states your regular job, by law, must be held for you), are just as powerful and rewarding as on the Federal level.

On the Federal level positions in the US House of Representatives and the Senate are not as plentiful, but this is prestige and strut time.  This is where you make a name for yourself, by being a leader or a follower.  It is what some people want, they like the cheers, the music, the glad-handing, and the speeches.  This is where the big boys and girls live, work and play, many will not have the stomach for such high power living and others seek even more.

Okay, are you in – as a voter or as a candidate?  But most importantly be an active, charged up citizen that is ready to take on the idea that – if you are from the government and you are ready help – it is not used in a negative way.  We are Americans, we stand up and take charge and do what is right.  Let us stop sitting on our hands and continue to gripe about how the government is no good and they do not listen to the people.  You and your fellow citizens can and must join together to change this country to again be caring and compassionate.

Will He or Won’t He

The most important question every Senior needs to ask

Well here we are stuck in limbo not knowing if Mr. Trump will protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as he promised.  All through the campaign he said that these programs would not be changed but should be made stronger. 

Then came the transition and he nominated Tom Price, a Congressman from Georgia and a Physician to be the secretary of Health and Human Services, he also nominated Mick Mulvaney, a Congressman from South Carolina to head the Office of Management and Budget.  Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney are outspoken critics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  They do not think that the government should have anything to do with these programs and calls them “Entitlements” which we all know is shorthand for “Welfare”. 

I don’t know about you but after working over 50 years I think that I am entitled to the “Earned Benefits” that I paid into for all those years.  Ok, I know the story, I paid for those who were already retired and the next generation would pay for mine, but wait they say there are not enough in that generation to keep Social Security afloat.  That was true until the early 1980’s when President Reagan and the Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal came up with the idea that the Baby Boomers would pay double the payroll tax.  That way they not only paid for those who had already retired, but would also pay for their own retirement, and then the tax would revert to its previous level.  That way the working generation would take care of those who had gone before as the law was originally intended.  Now the story is Social Security and Medicare is going broke, They have been saying that ever since I can remember in the 1950’s.  How can a program that people are still paying into go broke?  I remember an old quote my father use to say that “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”.  When it comes to a politician I don’t trust them doing the figuring.

As if Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney were not bad enough, the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan wants to privatize Social Security have you seen the fluctuations in the stock market since 2008?  Mr. Ryan, Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney want to change Medicare to a voucher system.  This is where the government gives you a voucher for a set amount of money and you go out and purchase your own insurance and if the voucher does not cover the amount of the insurance then tough luck.  I do not know many seniors that have extra money lying around to cover the extra cost of health insurance.

Ok, so Mr. Ryan, Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney want to privatize Social Security, change Medicare to a voucher system and make Medicaid into a block grant.  What in the devil is a block grant you ask?  Well a block grant is a set amount of money the federal government gives to the states and the states decide how much of that money is used for health care for the poor, or if it is to be used for other projects.

I just turned 68 and have been retired for four years.  I am enjoying retirement with my wife, even with the major surprise that occurred with her health.  A year and half ago my wife was diagnoses with Parkinson’s disease.  For her it has been a major change in her life, she no longer drives, nor does she go for the long walks she used to do, her energy level depletes rapidly, and one of the side effects of the Parkinson’s is that she falls asleep very easily.  Parkinson’s is a very strange disease, no two people have the same symptoms or severity.  It has also changed my life, I am now responsible for taking care of her, walking the dog, and chauffeuring my wife to and from appointments.  My biking has come to a sudden halt and my golf game has also suffered a major hit. 

Now back to the question at hand “Will He or Won’t He”?  I am quite concerned with what will happen to Social Security and Medicare.  My military retirement supplements my Social Security.  Kathy and I could not live on what we get from Social Security alone.  The military retiree medical program is my supplement to Medicare. 

If Social Security is privatized will my benefits be reduced or increased, will the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) still be applied?  What about Medicare?  Will the military retiree supplement still be available (retirees were promised medical care for life) relocation to be closer to a military base is not an option, on top of that will the military facilities be able to handle the increase of retirees?  Besides it will be telling military retirees where they must live when they retire, my wife and I have returned to where our families lived when we retired.  Will the insurance that we buy with the voucher accept the retiree supplement?  How about pre-existing conditions, Parkinson’s definitely is a pre-existing condition and like most conditions such as these are very expensive to treat, will the insurance cover that?

Too many questions and not enough answers.  The main reason that answers are slow in coming or even non-existent, in my humble opinion, because those who want to change all of this don’t know the answers themselves.  Playing it by ear is not good enough.



Whoa, Hold on, Wait a minute!!!!

New Year Celebration Anywhere
New Year Celebration, this is like celebrations held all over the world.

What do you mean this is the last day of the year? The year has only started, correct? It only seems like we just started 2015 and now we are on the verge of starting 2016. How quickly time passes and many of us are so busy that we barely notice the changes as they occur.

Looking back over the last year many significant events occurred. We, like most, started January off sleeping in late, not because we were out partying though we did stay up later than usual. After that quiet beginning everything was off to the races.

I had good intentions about getting onto my bike and start riding and getting back into shape. It did not go as I had planned, do they ever? I let myself be my own worst enemy, I did not want to get up, I had too many errands to run, I needed to help Kathy with whatever (she usually did not need my help). We did notice that when she walked Scamp, she was taking longer and the distance was getting shorter.

In March two significant events occurred, the first event was that we made arrangements to start visits with my 12-year-old grandniece, Diamond. She is in Foster Care and likes the visits she has with family. The second event involved Kathy taking a series of tests. The results were somewhat surprising but not overly so. In October 2014, after a couple of near accidents, we decided that Kathy should not drive for a while until she was more aware of her surroundings. The test indicated that we had been wise to in our decision. Shortly thereafter Kathy decided that because she was walking so slowly, because of the pain, and Scamp was not getting the walk he needed and was use too I would take over walking him.

Because of these and many other changes I decided that I should give up being the Building Manager for my lodge. I enjoyed the interaction with the many groups who share the building and the work to maintain the building, but spending more and more time taking Kathy to appointments, I was not devoting the time I thought needed to be spent at the lodge.

In late June Kathy had a visit with a Neurologist. He ordered a mass of tests and procedures and in August told her she had Secondary Parkinson’s Disease. This threw both of us for a loop, even now 6 months later we still have times when it does not seem real.

Towards the end of August was a difficult time for both of us. I had gotten up early and walked Scamp, met with a friend to play a round Scamp with haircut 2002-11-02_0034of golf, drove out to Forest Grove where I picked up Diamond, we took her shopping for school clothes and out to dinner, back out to Forest Grove and then returned home. I took Scamp for our usual walk before going to bed.  During our walk Scamp was playing, running and having a good time. Near the end of our walk Scamp jumped over a curb, gave a yelp and fell over. I picked him up and was holding him when he decided he wanted down. When I put him down he fell and had a Grand Mal seizure. After the seizure he had a hard time standing and walking. Kathy and I took him to the Emergency Vet Clinic and after evaluation we decided to let Scamp go. I did not want to prolong his suffering.
October began with Kathy and me spending a few days at the Oregon Gardens near Silverton, Oregon to celebrate our anniversary. It was good to get Kathy away from home and even though she had started using a walker most of the time, I had borrowed a wheelchair which we used while in the gardens. Adjacent to the Gardens is the Gordon House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which was moved to its present location to save it from being demolished. It is an interesting place to visit, but it is not a place that I would like to live in.

A few weeks later Kathy was referred to the Parkinson’s Clinic for evaluation. Since it only meets once a month we had to wait until December for an appointment. Here she was evaluated by another Neurologist, a Social Worker, a Physical Therapist and a Speech Therapist. The diagnosis was changed from Secondary to Primary Parkinson’s.

Over the past year our lives have changed in ways we could have never imagined. Becoming a care giver has changed my life in so many ways. Sometimes I think that Kathy feels that she may be a burden on me. In all the years we have been together and all the events we have shared, nothing could be further from the truth. We have taken care of each other all these years and many times I have felt that she has taken care of me more than I have her. Caring for her is a privilege for me to give back all that she has done for me.

New Year Celebration in Munich, Germany
New Year Celebration in Munich, Germany

Happy New Year – 2016

In Memorial

Who me?
Who me?


January 1, 2002 – August 22, 2015

I got into bed at 3:30 this morning. I usually do not go to bed so late, but today was a celebratory day, but it was not a day of excitement or merry celebration. At 2:30 am I held Scamp, my miniature schnauzer, in my arms as the veterinarian administered the drugs that put him to sleep. It was a very painful decision that I had made and I had the full support of my wife who was by my side.

We got Scamp as a 9 month old puppy at the local county animal shelter. They had found him running around loose in a neighborhood some distance away and we were the first to see him and place our name on the list. When we first saw him he was brown and gray and that was how the shelter had listed him also. We were told that since he did not have an ID chip or any tags that we had to wait three days before we would be allowed to adopt him. Three days later we went to see if he had been claimed by anyone and found that he was at the vets for a little procedure, and we would be able to pick him up the following day.

We left church about 12:30 pm and got to the shelter about 1:00. This little ball of hair was ready to see someone, anyone, he was ready to go. As we walked out he did not yet have a name. A lady was passing by and said “You are such a Scamp”. It was decided there that we would call him Scamp.

When we arrived home, and as it was my wife’s custom, he got a bath. The brown started to roll down the drain. The grey got lighter and the brown became white, talk about a surprise. His eyebrows, mustache, belly and leggings were the prettiest white which was offset by the silver-gray.

 You got to be Kidding?
You got to be Kidding?

Being a nine month old pup he was curious about everything. We had not had a puppy in the house for so many years (our last two dogs were older dogs when we got them) we had forgotten what it was like to have one this young. He looked everywhere, chewed on everything, and if we were not fast enough he did his business anywhere he wanted.

As a carpenter it was not unusual for me to be laid off for varying lengths of time, but this time was not the usual. The nation had suffered the blow of September 11, 2001 and now a year later construction had dried up. Money was not being lent, projects on the books were being cancelled, and those projects that did move forward were manned by employees who had been with the company for years. I went back to the companies I had work for in years past, but they had their crews and were not hiring. I was out of work for two years.

Enjoying a trip to Crater Lake.
Enjoying a trip to Crater Lake.

During this time I picked up small jobs to keep busy and to make some extra money, I took Scamp with me everywhere. Scamp was a traveler from day one. He was ready to go at a moment’s notice. No matter how close or how far, he wanted to go. When I was ready to go, so was Scamp. He would run out and be ready for me to open the door of the truck. Even though he was small, his legs would propel him up on the seat. I had rigged up a short leash for his safety and he would lay down next to me. We became inseparable.

After that two years I returned to work, but not in construction, but in the claims department of a health insurance company. My wife told me that Scamp would pout and be depressed all day until I got home. It was quite a while before he accepted the fact that I was no longer at home with him during day.

When I was a child my parents would not allow dogs to sleep on our bed or even in the same room. I now had a small dog, I wanted him to sleep on my bed. After a while he ended up sleeping down by my feet under the blankets between me and my wife. This became the norm through the years.

After an incident at work that caused me to retire, Scamp was happy to have me home again full-time. My wife was still his

I like the Oregon Gardens.
I like the Oregon Gardens.

main caregiver and took him for a walk every morning.   She walked him every morning until a few months ago when she was diagnosed with a progressive disease that started to interfere with her walking. I took over walking Scamp in the morning and then in the evening before going to bed. Scamp and I could now go off and do things together again. When I went somewhere and it was too hot for him to stay in the car while I did business he had to stay home. He was not pleased and would let you know about it.

In the past year we changed churches, and now Scamp would go with us. He sat in the pew with us and he wanted his own cushion to sit/lay on. I don’t think he liked the cold, hard wood of the pew. We allowed him to go to church only once a month, but he loved going and visiting with the people. Last week was the last time he went to church. At the end of the service everyone joins hands forming a circle and we sing our closing song. Normally he just laid there and listened, but this time he sat up and joined us.

Friday morning I got up at 4:30, showered, dressed and took Scamp for a walk before I headed out to meet a friend and play a round of golf. After that I went to Forest Grove, where I picked up my niece, and brought her back to our home for a Bar-B-Que and to do some shopping for school clothes and then back out to Forest Grove.

Even though it had been a long day and I had to get up early the next morning I still needed to give Scamp his evening walk. Our walk started out uneventful, we walked our normal route and when we turned around to go home, Scamp’s excitement increased. As we were walking home he would stop and smell areas along the way as I would continue to walk. He could sense when the end of the retractable leash was near and he would run past me and find a new spot to smell ahead of me.

This happened 3 or 4 times before he stopped to smell a hedge. When he was through he needed to jump a curb. As he jumped the curb he gave a sharp yip and fell onto the asphalt driveway. I rushed back and picked him up because he was not able to stand and started to carry him home. A few minutes later he wanted down. I knelt and when I placed him on the sidewalk he fell onto his side and went into a major seizure. I petted his head with one hand and with the other stroked his chest and belly. I kept saying “Oh Scampie, Oh Scampie” over and over again. After a couple of minutes he laid quiet on the sidewalk. At first I thought I had lost him there on the sidewalk.

It has been a hard day.
It has been a hard day.

I again picked him up and headed for home. I stopped and called my wife and told her what had happened and that I was taking him to the Emergency Vet Hospital. When I got home, we gathered some things and drove to the hospital. After checking in, they took Scamp to the back for examination. It wasn’t long before the Doctor came out and talked to us about our options. First we could leave him overnight for observation or we could take him home. We discussed the merits and drawbacks of these options and discussed if we should continue with more tests.

After a long discussion we turned to the idea of euthanasia. I knew that he was having a hard time standing and an even worse time trying to walk. I thought about the life he had with us and what his life would be from this point forward. The doctor left us to discuss it alone. Instead I went outside and took some time to think and collect my thoughts. When I returned the receptionist offered us a room that was quiet and we could talk easier. It was better than sitting in this great big empty lobby.

After a short while the doctor came in and we gave her our decision. She went back to Scamp and prepared him. We were shown to another room that was much nicer and comfortable. The technicians brought Scamp in and laid him in my arms. We sat there talking to Scamp and as he laid there with his chin in the crook of my elbow he relaxed. He later moved to where his front paws were crossed on my arm and he laid his chin on them as if he were praying and saying I’m ready. That is where he was when he went to sleep for the last time.

I missed seeing him first thing in morning. I miss his running up and down the hallway. I miss his slapping the floor in his playing manner. I miss fixing his meals. I miss him sitting in my chair or lying next to me in bed. He was my little buddy. I will miss him more than I can imagine. Bye for now my friend, sleep well.

Decisions at the Crossroads

Yesterday while driving and listening to the radio I heard a conversation about a singer from the early part of the last century who sang the blues and many of them contained a reference to crossroads.  It got me to thinking about the many times I have had crossroads in my life.

The first major crossroad that I really remember was after my first year of college, for up until then the choices in my crossroads were pretty minor. I had not been a good student, I would rather play around and have a good time than study. This was the era of Vietnam and since my grades were not good I realized that my student deferment would not last very long.

Looking at this crossroad I figured that I had a couple of choices: 1) Find work in a field where I could get some training or 2) go into the military. Going into the military was not an option that appealed to me very much, so I tried option 1. I went looking for a job as a carpenter and hoping I could get into the apprenticeship program. Every place I went the superintendent wanted to know my draft status. If I had known that getting into the apprenticeship program would have extended my student deferment I could have told them that I had a student deferment. This meant that I was looking at the other side of the crossroad.

This branch of the crossroad involved the military or going to Canada and avoiding the draft. Many men were taking this option, some came to regret their choice and others survived the experience and return home after many years. I was talking to a friend, who was a few years older, and we were discussing my situation, he suggested that I go down to the recruiting office and see what they had to offer. Without telling anyone I went down to the recruiting offices. First I went to the Coast Guard, then the Air Force and the Navy, they all had the same message; “Sorry, but we are filled up and it will be some time before we have any openings”.

This presented a new crossroad, the third in as many months, go back across the hall and talk with the Army and see what they had to say and if I did not like what they had to say or just leave and pack up and go to Canada. Those were my only to options now, because I was not about to climb the stairs to the second floor and see the Marines. Mind you I have nothing against the Marines other than many I have known are just plain out and out crazy.

I ended up talking with the Army Sergeant and decided that joining would definitely be better than getting drafted. Going to Canada was still in the back of my mind and I had not signed any papers, yet.

I went home and for the next couple days pondered what I should do. I ended up going into the Army. After the physicals, waiting around to be sworn in, going to the airport and waiting for a flight to Fort Ord, CA, I paused and said to myself “What the hell did I just do”?

After Basic and Advanced Training, I found that I was becoming to like the military and its way of life. After a year and a half of living a pretty easy life, reality jumped out in front of me, I got orders for Vietnam. Since I worked in personnel, I like everyone else tried to find any way feasible to get the orders changed, to no avail. So the next year was spent sitting behind a desk on the Army side of beautiful, downtown Cam Ranh Bay, though the Air Force side of the peninsula was not much better except they had the beaches on the South China Sea. I did not see any combat during my stay, for that I am grateful.

Upon my return to the US in May, which was a short stop over on my way to Germany, I proposed to Kathy, the girl I had been seeing and writing to for over four years, she said yes and we planned to be wed in October. This meant that I would go to Germany and arrange for a place to bring my wife, go back to the US, get married and return with my bride to Germany.

Not long after moving into our apartment my wife became ill and was sent to the hospital in Nurnberg. They were unable to treat her and she was sent to the Army hospital in Landstuhl to continue her treatment. She spent six long months at Landstuhl before they decided that she needed to be treated in a hospital closer to home. We were sent to California, she to the Presidio of San Francisco and me to Oakland. We were in California for two years and she got progressively better.

From California we traveled to Massachusetts where our daughter was born and off we went again to Germany, this time to Munich. We spent three years in Munich, going to the Oktoberfest, Volksmarching and learning about the culture. Now came the first of two major crossroads we would encounter during our years in the military, all of them concerning either to stay in or get out. Towards the end of our three years in Germany we needed to decide if we wanted to reenlist or move back to Portland, Oregon. Many letters went back and forth across the seas and we finally decided that with ten years already served it would be foolish to throw them away and return to an uncertain job market.

Our next move was to Fort Huachuca, AZ, a post out in the middle of the high desert of Southern Arizona, not far from Tombstone. We liked our new home, we bought a house and began to think we would retire there. During the ten years we called Arizona home I went back to Germany again, by myself, and was fortunate enough to return to Fort Huachuca until we decided to retire.

Our second crossroad occurred in January of my nineteenth year, we learned that my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. After visiting my parents and returning to Arizona we decided we needed to retire and return home and be with our families while we still had time to spend with them.

Returning to Portland I was unable to find work that corresponded with what I did in the Army. Now after twenty years and thousands of miles traveled I finally became a carpenter. The work was challenging and rewarding. As a carpenter you work in many different areas, I worked with concrete and finally worked in clean rooms for a major computer chip maker.

September 11th had a major impact on our industry, one year later work came to a grinding halt. Many were laid off and work was hard to obtain. I was out of work for two years when I looked at another crossroad this being whether to continue waiting for work to pick up or step out of this field and go back to my army training of administration. The decision was not all that hard since my unemployment had been exhausted and we did not want to dip any farther into our savings.

Working for a temporary agency has its ups and downs, one day you get called for a job that will last one day or one that will last a week. Finally I was called to a long term job, it lasted six months when I was then eligible to be hired full time. I was there for eight years before I lost my job and had to again decide which path of the crossroad I would take. For social security I was right between early retirement of 62 and full retirement of 66. The economy still had not picked up from the 2008 recession and being a senior did not make for a good job prospect, opportunities were slim. Kathy and I decided to pull the pin and fully retire.

Retirement has had its benefits and its challenges. I know that I am enjoying my retirement. Now that spring is here I am looking forward to getting back onto my bike and do some traveling in the area. Kathy’s retirement has not been as easy as we had hoped, her illness has not allowed her to fully experience the joy of her retirement.

Crossroads are intersections where we must decide whether to go straight ahead or to turn left or right. I have experienced that I was able to choose the right course for me and my family with a fair amount of confidence. Whether it be luck or the hand of God (which is what I believe), it is with the knowledge you are not alone, and that choosing the right path is a matter of believing in yourself, and hopefully when you look back it is with the confidence that the right choice was made.

Is there Really a of Joy of Christmas?

We see it every year in the faces of children on TV. The dChild Sitting on Santa's Kneeays before Christmas we see their Little Girl Waitingbright shiny faces, the sparkling eyes and big grins whenever Santa appears. Then the thrill of Christmas morning as they open presents filled with the dreams promised on TV and in store displays. This is the Joy we see every year on our TV screens, in advertisements and made for TV Christmas movies. It would be nice if these were the sights and sounds of the Joys of Christmas.
Today too many children do not get to feel the Joy of Christmas. But it is not only the children who are left out, it is their parents and those without families, and the homeless, the forgotten in nursing homes and hospitals. It is the family whose house or apartment is destroyed by fire, be it from Lonely Boycarelessness or a deliberate act. It could be the family torn apart by domestic violence, fathers or mothers removed from the home by the police in handcuffs or the children taken by officials for their welfare.
They are all suffering and not feeling the Joy of Christmas. Their suffering can be caused by many forces. Most of the time it is fear, fear of the unknown or of someone who has beaten them and threatens them with more of the same. It can be the fear of not having enough to eat, because Mom and/or Dad is working two or three minimum wage jobs and still there is not enough toBoy looking at his dinner provide adequate food for growing bodies, or instead of food the money goes for alcohol or drugs.
TV has played upon our emotions to the point where we forget about those not like ourselves. A population that is growing larger by the day. Many think they are those who dropped out of school or are too lazy to get better work. It is not only those who dropped out or are lazy, certainly there are those fit into that category, but they are high school grads and college and post grads who cannot find work within their field of study, and many with college and post-graduate degrees have debts so big that many may never get them paid off.
So I ask “Is there really a Joy of Christmas?” I have my doubts. I can find it within me and that is where it starts. But I must work at it to make that Joy be seen and felt beyond the frame-work of the TV and store displays. It is not easy, every day is a new struggle to show the world what the Joy of Christmas really means.

My Challenge for the Year

The Challenge: Ride the premier route called the “Bridge of the Gods” ride from Portland to
Cascade Locks and return.

The other day I took off on a ride that was certainly a challenge. I rode the one of the premier rides of the Great Pacific Northwest the “Bridge of the Gods” ride. It is a very demanding route, depending on which way you start and finish. You can ride it as a century or cut it down at the last moment to 87 miles, as I did. When I first started planning I intended to start by crossing the I205 (Glen Jackson Bridge) travel along Washington State Route 14 to the Bridge of the Gods where I would cross over to Cascade Locks, Oregon, this would then cause me to climb up to Crown Point, a long and steep hill. In discussion with friends it was suggested that I should think about going the other way. This is one time I wish I had not listened to my friends.

The ride started out uneventful, I left the house at 6 am and traveled east towards Troutdale where I picked up the Historic Columbia River Highway. After passing the Stark Street Bridge I started the long and slow climb up to Corbett. Little did I know that this climb was a snap compared to what I found lying ahead, passing through Corbett it felt like they were still sleeping at 7:30am, it seemed too early even for the roosters to be crowing. The sun was just starting to peek over the top of the mountains. It was warm and it felt good. At the top of the hill I stopped and took off the jacket, my first mistake for the day. Not more than a couple hundred meters I again entered into shadow and now an east wind came down the gorge, the jacket went back on.

Starting down the hill my first stop is Vista House situated on the majestic and prominent out cropping of rock called Crown Point. Stopping I took pictures, one cannot seem to have enough pictures of Vista House and views from this vantage point are magnificent. Leaving I started down a long hill, curling around the house I started to gain speed, after the climb to Corbett it felt good to coast my way down the hill. Passing through Bridle Veil the road became a series of long rolling hills.

Arriving at Multnomah Falls I stopped to replenish my water bottles and grabbed an oversized cinnamon roll. Continuing on I passed Ainworth State Park and few small towns that were by-passed by the old highway and the Interstate. I finally ran out of the active part of the historic highway, it now became the abandoned part only accessible to pedestrians and bicycles. Even though the terrain continued a slow uphill grade I was able to maintain a constant speed. Before long I reached a place where I needed to navigate down a series of stairs. With the wheels in the trough, one hand on the brake, the other on the handrail and the seat pressing into my back I slowly descended the steep stairway.

After the stairs it wasn’t long before I was peddling into Cascade Locks it was now 11:00 o’clock and time to look for a place to have lunch. Everywhere I looked I could not find a restaurant that had places to lock up a bike. I ended up at the local burger joint. As I arrived there was a group who had passed me when I had stopped to read one of the historical markers along the way.

As I was waiting for my order a young man and his young son drove up and parked near the place where I was waiting. They got out of the SUV with two mountain bikes on top and went over and ordered. As we waited we started to talk, they had come to Cascade Locks to participate in a cross country ride, as it turned out the ride wasn’t until 4:00 pm. I asked them what they were going to do until then, and man’s son piped up and said that they were going fishing.

I asked the young boy how old he was. He told me very proudly that he was 5 years old and his name was Ethan and his dad’s name is Demetri. Where are you going fishing? I asked. He told me a place that I was not familiar with and his dad told me it was a brewery located near the river and they were going to fish near there.

My order came and I sat down at a picnic table to eat, a few minutes later their number was called and they asked if they could join me. As we ate we got to know each other better. It was a joy to spend time with them and the time passed much too quickly. As I prepared to leave I thanked them for their company and it had been a pleasure to break bread with them. I proceeded to retrace my steps to the bridge where I crossed into Washington.

Crossing into Washington I headed west toward Vancouver. The going was easy for several miles and I was making good time. Then I hit my first hill, as I started to go down the gears my pace got slower and slower. Before long it felt as if I were crawling up the hill, I felt as if I would never reach the top. When the top finally came into view it was a welcome sight. Passing over the top I started to gain speed and race down the hill.

It wasn’t long after the hill when the road started back up again. This time it was for four long miles that took even longer to climb. At one point I stopped to rest and decided to walk the remaining few hundred meters to the top. I realized that I was walking almost as fast as I had been peddling. Again I sped down the hill the wind cool upon my face as I neared my turn off into Washougal. As I got closer to the turn I decided to forgo a portion of my ride and go in a more direct route home.

The map that I was following showed that the route followed the main highway, as it turned out it was more a freeway than just a highway. After passing under the I205 freeway I found my turn directing me to the bike path to cross over the river back into Oregon. As I got nearer to the other side of the river it was like a magnet pulling me closer and closer to home. Now there was only one more hill to overcome and I would be home in less than a half an hour. As I completed my 87 mile trip I arrived home to be greeted by my wife and dog, she directed me straight into the shower. After dinner we watched some TV and then I went to bed concluding a very long day.