This brings back some memories! I did not have one of those original Macs from 1984, but I do remember visiting a computer store with my dad and playing around with MacPaint on one of their demo machines. I’m not sure when it was, but it was definitely an early model. And I decided right then that I really wanted a Mac myself.
We actually had a computer back then, an Apple II+ that we had since I was in grade school. At the time this was pretty unusual; none of my friends my age had computers at home, and I don’t think we had any at school, either. I used to plunk around on that thing all the time, mostly playing games, but also occasionally experimenting with programming in BASIC.
I was motivated to learn how to type for real because I got tired of the hunt and peck method every time I wanted to type in the command to play Space Invaders.
It was a big deal when my dad installed a chip in that thing that gave it the ability to display both upper and lower case letters, rather than just all upper case.
I also have this vague, excessively geeky memory of checking out computer magazines from the library that contained the code for various games and programs…and then typing all that code in. I find it hard to believe today that this was something people actually did. Just to make sure I didn’t imagine this, I had to look it up. Yes, it was a real thing, and I really did this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type-in_program
A few years later, in 1987, I worked out a deal with my parents to get a Macintosh SE. I know I helped pay for it, but I suspect they footed the majority of the bill. The Mac SE was an upgrade over that initial model – it had two floppy drives instead of one, and it had the “superdrive” that could read 1.4 MB floppies. So you could store an entire megabyte of data on a single disk! Megabytes. Not gigabytes. How far we have come in 30 years!
Mac SE (photo from Wikipedia)
I was a junior in high school in 1987. I used that Mac for all sorts of things – typing out school papers, writing short stories, writing letters to my sister in college (I used Microsoft Word to format the letters in columns, like a newspaper, and called it The Waubonsee News since that was the name of our street. I wish I still had copies of those letters.), making greeting cards and big posters that I printed out on our dot-matrix printer.
That computer came with me to college, where I kept it in a computer cabinet that my dad built (he was really into woodworking in those days). I remember the convenience of having my own computer and only using the computer lab when I need to print on the laser printers.
Eventually I splurged on a 40 MB hard drive so I didn’t have to keep swapping floppy disks in and out of the drives. Again, megabytes, not gigabytes. And at the time it seemed like way more space than I would ever need.
A little over a decade later, my first iPod could hold 500 times more storage. And fit in my pocket. What a difference!
One of the things I mentioned in my Good Things in 2013 post was learning to snowboard. This was really a terrific experience.
It all came about as a somewhat impulsive idea when Renee and I were shopping for a new winter jacket at the Bob Wards outlet store. And it seemed a little outlandish at first. After all, I was nearly 42 years old, and I had never learned how to downhill ski. And my cross-country skiing abilities were…well, not that good. I can mostly stay upright, but my stopping and turning skills are pretty poor. For cross-country skiing, I tend to be most successful on flat, straight stretches.
I can snowshoe pretty well, but that is pretty much just…walking through snow.
So learning to snowboard sounded impossible. Especially at 42.
But…on the other hand, I had lived in Montana for seven years at the time, and it just sort of seemed wrong to live within a short drive to multiple ski resorts and yet never once go to one of them.
So we went on a mini shopping spree and picked up some basic equipment. Snowboard, boots, bindings, warm snowboard pants, and goggles. As an aside, finding goggles that work well over glasses is a bit of a pain.
The Bunny Hill, Lessons, and an Evil Rope Tow
We drove down to Lost Trail Powder Mountain for my first lesson on December 20, 2012. The plan was to do their “1 2 3” program. You get three 1-hour lessons with a lift ticket for each of those days. After completing the three lessons (on any days in the season), you get a punch card for an additional 3 lift tickets for practicing.
It is really a great deal.
I remember being extremely nervous on the 2-hour drive to Lost Trail, and looking back, I’m not entirely sure why. It just felt like I was going into completely unknown territory.
Once we arrived, it didn’t take long to sign up for lessons (Renee was doing a similar program for people with some snowboarding experience – called “4 5 6”). I remember worrying that I might end up in a lesson with a bunch of athletic little kids, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my lesson would just be the instructor and myself.
Even though the instructor was probably in his 20s, he didn’t seem to think there was anything odd about me wanting to learn to snowboard.
I spent the first day on the bunny hill learning how to move around with the board strapped to only one foot. We progressed to learning how to stop and do basic turns; I ended nearly every attempt on my butt in the snow.
The good thing about just learning is that you go so slow that the falls don’t really hurt that much. That comes later, once you pick up a little speed.
I think the most memorable part of the first day was discovering that the rope tow is evil. It looked easy. I watched other skiers and boarders just grab on and glide smoothly to the top. Every time I grabbed on, I’d slide up a few feet before losing my balance and falling. I got good at scooting out of the way of the next person in line. I also burned quite a few calories hiking up the hill just to get to the top.
Overall, the first day was really not bad — although I had sore muscles the next day, and I had a hard time believing that I would ever make it off the bunny hill.
We went back two more times in late December for the next two lessons, and I slowly progressed, even with the evil rope tow.
My last lesson in the “1 2 3” program was on December 27. After the lesson, I recorded my bunny hill practice runs with my phone’s GPS; here they are shown on a satellite view. The little red marks are all the places I stopped.
On New Years Day, 2013, we decided to go to try Discovery Mountain for a change. I started out on the bunny hill and the “easy chair,” which is a slower chair lift great for learning. No rope tow! Although I still fell every time I got off the chair. Again, I got good at scooting out of the way before the next skier or boarder dismounted the lift.
After lunch, Renee convinced me to try a real run — and a real chair lift. We took the chair up to Gold Bug, an “easy” green run.
It took me about an hour to make it down the run. It went sort of like this:
Ride a short distance. Fall in the deep snow off to the side. Thrash around for 10 minutes trying to get up. Finally get up, ride a few more feet and then fall again and start over. Repeat for an hour.
According to my phone’s GPS, it was about 20 minutes of actually moving down the hill, and 40 minutes thrashing or sitting in the snow. Not particularly encouraging. But it was also my first time off a bunny hill, and just a few weeks earlier, I was convinced I’d never get off the bunny hill and onto a real run. Progress!
About two weeks later, we went back to Discovery for my birthday weekend. This time, Gold Bug took almost no time at all!
We continued with several more trips that winter, both to Lost Trail and Discovery. I did a second round of three lessons (the “4 5 6” program) as well, just to have more professional advice and suggestions. I continued to dislike the rope tow, particularly the second tow at Lost Trail where I had to be oriented with my back to the rope. More hikes up the hill.
I continued to fight with dismounting the chair lift. By the very last day we went (in March), I managed to slide off the chair and down the ramp without crash landing. Progress! And I made it down a few “easy blue” runs at both Lost Trail and Discovery.
So Why Did I Do This Again?
Back before my very first lesson, when we were shopping around and buying gear, I remember the advice I got from just about every sports store sales guy once we mentioned that I was going to learn to snowboard. “Be sure to go at least three days before you give up. You’ll hate it the first day, you have to keep trying before you give up.”
I found this to be mostly true, although I didn’t hate it during my first day. Not until the next morning, when I woke up with sore muscles and my mind attempting to analyze just why this seemed so frustrating.
Then I figured it out. I was teaching my body an entirely alien physical skill. I tried to remember the last time I learned a new, purely physical skill. I couldn’t remember. Maybe when I learned to ride a bike? That was so long ago I had no clear memories of how hard it was. In my memory, I’ve just always known how to ride bike, just like those lucky toddlers out on the bunny hill who will never remember a time they couldn’t ski.
Once I realized that, the frustration faded a bit. It came back, frequently, especially on my first attempt with Gold Bug on New Year’s Day, but my best defense against the frustration was to remember that I was learning a new physical skill and it would just take time. And practice.
One thing I didn’t expect when I started this snowboarding journey was the amazing views of the mountains and forest from the ski mountains. When I thought about learning to snowboard, I thought about the technical difficulty of locking my feet to a board and teaching my body to guide it down the mountain while staying balanced and upright. Getting the chance to admire beautiful vistas of trees and snow and mountains didn’t even cross my mind. But even the view from the lowly bunny hill was gorgeous and inspiring.
Interestingly, this weekend I saw this article in the Missoulian making the exact point that everyone should ski at least once, just for the amazing views.
During some of our runs, Renee took some video of me with her phone and made this little video. This was mostly from the first few times we went in December and early January; hopefully by the end of the season I looked a little less stiff!
This year, we had big plans for the 2013/2014 snowboarding season. Back in November, we had Christmas early and bought Go Pro cameras we could mount to our helmets to record our runs. We each had to have our own camera so we could record each other.
Life intervened with these plans when Renee became sick in early December and was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. She had surgery to remove it on December 20, 2013 (exactly one year after my first snowboarding lesson!) and obviously won’t be careening down the ski hill until her skull and brain are fully healed. I’m hoping that the snow will still be around in late February and early March and she’ll be up for some late-season snowboarding. But if not, there’s always next winter!
But, to be fair to 2013, it wasn’t all bad. We had some good times in the last year…some really fun events and trips. I flipped through all the pages of my journal over the last few days just to remind myself of this…
Last winter was the year I learned how to snowboard! I remember feeling a bit ridiculous as I signed up for lessons at Lost Trail Powder Mountain. Who learns how to snowboard for the first time when 42 years old? Especially when you never even learned how to downhill ski, either?
I remember seeing little tiny toddlers scooting about on their adorably tiny skis and feeling somewhat jealous. Their parents had the right idea! Those kids probably wouldn’t even remember the painful falls (not to mention that they didn’t have nearly as far to fall!)
One of my first runs when I was off the bunny hill
Renee spent much of the springtime helping Carolyn and Ally get their Potomac house ready to sell. I came out there a few times on the weekends to help as well. I think the day I remember the most was when Ally and I ripped out old, icky carpeting.
This all paid off in the fall when the house sold, and Carolyn and Ally treated us to a terrific weekend in Big Fork as a thank-you for the help!
Cricket and Tango hanging out at the Poto house while we did renovations…
Later in the spring, we took a trip back to my hometown, Batavia, Illinois. Renee got to meet my sister and see where I grew up. It was the longest trip we have ever taken in our trailer. It was also the first time we ever did the real “RV” thing, staying in RV parks with hookups rather than dry camping. I have to say, I can see the appeal of traveling this way instead of staying in motels!
Batavia windmill, down by the Fox River…
Of course, we also did quite a bit of planting and garden prep in the springtime…which led to our best vegetable garden ever!
One of our pepper plant seedings in March
The summer was very busy and just flew by in a blink. Some highlights…
In June, we went white-water rafting on the Lochsa river in Idaho.
On the Lochsa!
We also spent an afternoon at the shooting range, where I got to fire a few different guns and discover just how bad my aim was…although I did manage to hit a few! The holes marked with “S” were mine.
The holes marked with “S” were mine!
In July we took a terrific trip to Glacier National Park. I think this status I posted on my Facebook sums it up:
It was a fabulous trip. 12 days, nearly 70 miles of hiking, 11,000 feet of elevation gain, about 10 or so bear sightings, a few ptarmigans, some deer, three moose, a couple marmots, and too many waterfalls, mountain sheep, and mountain goats to count
As part of that trip, we trekked the long uphill to Ptarmigan Tunnel, which was incredible. Who came up with the idea of blasting a tunnel right through a high cliff face?
Carolyn at the tunnel!
The people who rented my house on the other side of town decided to relocate to Portland, which caused me a few day panic. Much to my surprise, just a simple “For Rent” sign brought in the calls and we had new renters so quickly that we really only had time for a few quick repairs and touch-ups. This was a pleasant surprise, as I expected it to take much more time.
Finally, the summer ended with Renee’s 50th birthday celebration. We camped for the weekend up at Tally Lake near Whitefish. The camping trip was great, Tally Lake is a really nice lake (it actually made us want a boat), but the highlight of the weekend was zip lining at Whitefish Moutnain.
Renee and I zipping through the trees
Did I mention our gardening success this year? We harvested about 17 pounds of peppers (anaheim, ancho, and bell peppers) and 19 pounds of tomatoes. Our freezer is still packed with roasted peppers, just waiting to be used on our favorite pepperoni, green chili, and mushroom pizza.
One of our pepper harvests weighing in at about 3 pounds
Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. It came quick in 2013 since the summer flew by so fast.
In late August / early September, we decided to trade in our 22-foot Jayco trailer for a new Lance truck camper. It was an adjustment to lose storage space, but we are hoping we can now be more mobile on our camping trips and get into more remote areas than we could with the trailer. The Lance may be smaller, but it is a definite upgrade in quality.
We only had time for a few short weekend trips with the new camper, but we’re looking forward to some longer trips in 2014.
The new Lance camper!
Later, in September, we decided it was time for a second vehicle. We bought a 2011 Nissan Juke. We want to use the smaller car for most of our around-town driving and even for driving to the ski resorts in the winter to save on gas. So far, the all wheel drive has performed great on the snowy and icy roads.
The new Nissan Juke!
Later, in November, Carolyn and Ally took us, Martha, and Nancy on a trip to Big Fork as a thank-you for our help with the Potomac house. We had a great weekend exploring little shops and staying at the Mountain Lake Lodge.
So, I guess I have to admit that 2013 wasn’t all bad. I’m still hoping that 2014 will be better, though!
So here is a fact…I didn’t post a single blog entry in all of 2013. How did that happen?
I can’t say that I’ll miss 2013 very much. There was definitely some good stuff that happened in this last year, but the year was bookended by huge, major, difficult events.
The year opened with losing our sweet standard poodle Sirus. She got sick just a few days into the year, on January 4. She passed away just a month later, on February 6, after a long, difficult fight with an autoimmune disease.
Beautiful portrait of Sirus
The year closed with the discovery of Renee’s brain tumor early in December and the surgery to remove it just five days before Christmas. Not to mention sudden changes in my professional life, as my home-based technical writing / business analysis position will be eliminated by June, so I need to find something new in this new year.
Diagram of the brain showing where Renee’s tumor was
I’m not a particularly superstitious person, but that seems like a awful lot of bad luck for one year. Particularly one that ends in”13”!
I am optimistic that 2014 will be much, muchbetter than 2013!!