African Connection links are now in the sidebar to the right, just below the My Travel section.

Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dear Boston

Once again I feel moved to connect with those people who made an impact on me during a trip, in this case, the one I made to Boston to be with Stellan - something like when I wrote about my trip to Tyler, Texas.

To the pilot on my flight from Chicago,
Thanks for calling our attention to the view of Niagara Falls on the left side of the plane. It was an awesome sight, even from 32,000 feet.

To the Red Sox,
Your welcoming* Stellan to Boston was SO cool. Thank you. I'm definitely going to have get myself a Red Sox cap. And, while I couldn't stay up to catch the end of last night's came (ESPN Gamecast), I see you came back and beat the Yankees in 11 innings. Way to go!**

* According to this article in the Boston Herald, what you did was give Stellan a Shout Out. I can't find the Bostonian-to-English option at FreeTranslation.com, but I'll try to remember all the new words I learned during my five days in Boston.

** Update. Now, a 9 game home stand sweep!!

To the people of Boston,
You are a friendly group blessed to live in a great city. But there is something you lack and I think I can help... here you go:


If you run out and have to go back to pahking your cahs, give me a call. I'll send you a refill. No need to thank me, it's the least I could do. However, if you really feel moved to show your appreciation, just send over a Dunkin' Donuts franchise.

To the marathoners,
I AM impressed. Congratulations! And you guys from Seattle - did you ever meet up behind the Kenyans Ethiopians?

To Dr A and the entire team in pediatric cardiology,
I hope I never see you again; and I know you don't take that personally. But thank you so very much for taking such good care of Stellan. He's a tough case. You guys are a great team. The children who need to be cared for so intensively are blessed to have found their way to Children's Hospital Boston.

To the mylar balloon people,
Singing balloons. Stop it! Now!

To the Park Plaza Hotel,
A really nice place with a lot of history. But do you know the meaning of the word "high?" As in "high" speed internet? I'm thinking the answer is "not really."

Update: OK, so I griped a little about the internet - all in good fun. Right? I suppose so, as you have graciously arranged to return the clothes I left in the closet to me at no cost. Thank you.

To all of you who brought (or tried to bring) gifts to the hospital,
Oh my goodness! The thoughtfulness that has poured out from so many is overwhelming. The hospital put Stellan on a fairly high security level and I know this limited what you were able to do. Please know that each and every contact, gift, meal, was so terribly appreciated. Your generosity literally overflowed... what we could not use right away was shared with other families on the floor.

To MJ O'Connors Irish Pub,
Now that was great Fish 'n Chips in a traditional pub setting. You might want to think about adding mushy peas to the mix, but it was a first class meal. MJ would be proud.

To my cab driver on Tuesday evening,
Thank you for reaffirming my belief in miracles. I could see NOTHING through any of the windows, yet you found your way through heavy traffic and got me back to the hotel in good shape. You know that little knob on the dash? The one with the "Defrost" setting...?

To the Admiral's Club at BOS,
My company sells air-conditioning equipment. Give us a call. Soon.

To the entire MckFamily,
I am so very proud of you.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Stellan is settled into yet another new routine, this with (so far) fewer, shorter bouts of the SVT that stubbornly holds on in the face of all that modern medicine has thrown at it.

My Trek is settled in at the shop after a few days of stubborn shifting experienced on rides prior to my trip to Boston. It COULDN'T have been the rider so it was given over to Dan to work his magic. I heard from him a couple of days ago, vindicated, but looking to lose a little weight in the wallet: a bottom bracket transplant will be performed and we'll be back on the road in no time.

I'm settled in at home, but not on the Bianchi, as thunderstorms have settled in over La Crosse. This leaves my total climbing stuck at one Bliss Road climb shy of 20,000 feet.

It's good to have so many things settled in these unsettling days. And just in case you hadn't heard, Stellan is one tough, cute little boy. And that settles it!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The doctors were able to easily induce Stellan into SVT this morning and had to work to get him back out. Whatever the plans are for the immediate future are being discussed as I write.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Morning Has Broken

Walking over to the hospital after my last :-( stop at Dunkin' Donuts, I'm singing along with Cat Stevens:

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Like Stellan's first morning on October 29, he greeted the sunlight today with no arrhythmia, no SVT. A re-creation of his heart function, this more like what was intended from the start. Details from mom's point of view can be found at (as if I needed to tell you) : www.mycharmingkids.net. And me, what's my take?

I'm the optimistic sort, yet understand that there is still a way to go and the path is uncertain. But Dr. A and his team did a remarkable job balancing the risks while pursuing a resolution to Stellan's problems in a very small and difficult anatomical landscape. Because of his size and the proximity of the problem area to important functional features in Stellan's heart, they used a less aggressive approach, freezing the area instead of of using a radio wave "zap." As a result, there is less certainty that the problem pathway (or alternate pacing source - I'm not sure which) has truly met its demise. For that to be be revealed takes time.

We were told more about options in the future, a boolean chain of if-this, then-that. But those are then and this is now. Morning, THIS morning, has broken to the sight and sounds of a happy baby boy. And a very grateful grandpa.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Time Warp

Just under 86 days until the Glacier Park ride. Right now, right this very minute, I'm thinking it might as well be 86 years. Stellan has been in surgery for a couple of hours now. And THAT seems like 86 years.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lost in Boston

Several years ago, while on a business trip here in Boston, I overhead a man talking about his driving experiences as he was returning his rental car at the airport. He summed it up thusly: "I could always see where I wanted to go, but I could never get there!"

It hasn't been such a problem for me. Of course by walking, I don't have to worry about one way streets and I'm not going so fast as to get too far off course before I realize it. Trust me on this one. It is, according to MapQuest, 2.39 miles from my hotel to the hospital and I've walked it four times now. And even if I do get a little lost, I'll be OK. There is a Dunkin' Donuts in just about every block. How good is that!?*

You know I came to Boston this time because I know Stellan is here. And now, a lot of other people know it too. Look what showed up at Fenway Park at the end of the seventh inning of Friday night's game:

And how good is that!?* Go Sox (the red ones) - at least until you meet up with the Braves.

The famous Big Run is taking place tomorrow in this city of the infamous Big Dig. And even though their slogan is America Runs on Dunkin', I don't think I've had enough Dunkin' Donuts coffee to make a go of it. Unless... I could ride my bike. That idea came to me today as I watched the Sunday 5K race go by while making my way west along Boylston. There, at the end of the pack, were several cyclists, each wearing yellow jerseys declaring them to be race spotters, herding the runners like border collies. Now THAT's how you do a marathon!

Getting back to today's theme - finding your way in Boston... There were three people in the van I rode in from the airport, each here to run in the marathon. They did not know each other, although they had arrived on the same flight from Seattle, and were discussing how they might meet up on race day. If you think that wouldn't be a problem, consider that there are 25,000 runners registered for the race. However, one of the guys did come up with a method by which the others might locate him. He said, "I'll be behind the Kenyans," thereby narrowing down the group through which they'll need to search to about 24,990. Sounds like a plan to me.

* Answer to today's quiz questions: It's really good! You know, this really isn't such a bad place to be lost in.

Friday, April 17, 2009

On My Way

I can hear Stellan singing a Dave Loggins or, if you are younger*, Kenny Chesney, song...

Please come to Boston
For the springtime
I'm stayin' here with some friends
And they've got lots of room

OK Bud, I'm on my way.

* And most of you are

Update: Touched down at Logan at 7:15 p.m. EDT. See you Saturday morning!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Go, Stellan, Go!

Tracking Stellan using FlightAware.com

Breaking news - Stellan and Jennifer touched down at the airport in Bedford, MA and are currently (12:43 CDT) (2:00 pm CDT) in an ambulance on their way to at Children's Hospital Boston.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Crazy - Updated

Riding up that short but steep climb on Old Vineyard Road on Sunday afternoon, I met a couple walking down. The guy looked at me and said, "Crazy!" How did he know? It takes most people longer to figure it out. Then there was that lady I passed this evening while climbing OA, also steep and quite a bit longer than Old Vineyard. As I went by, she looked at me and said, "It's easier when you go downhill." Now why didn't I think of that? Crazy, I guess.

The trip to Boston is, what should I say? - on hold. Good news, I guess, but it's not so much that Stellan is doing a lot better, but that they REALLY, REALLY don't want to do the surgery on someone so young. But, talk is along the lines of having him in Boston in four weeks or so; even that extra time makes a big difference at his age. It's been more than three weeks since he was admitted to the hospital and uncertainty abounds. Crazy.

Update: More craziness: Stellan has been on a medical yo-yo and all involved have decided that it's time to get to Boston. He's likely going with his mom on Thursday. I'm heading out Friday afternoon. Surgery tentatively set for Tuesday, but I know they will work hard to put off the ablation if at all possible. Prayers are welcome and many thanks for those who have been praying so much during the last three weeks.

Monday, April 13, 2009

And How was YOUR Weekend?

Grandpa and Stellan in the PICU
He won the cute face contest by the way. Hands down. But I suppose you figured that out on your own.

In addition having this wonderful visit with Stellan (and his mom, of course), there were two rides totaling 76 miles with about 5,600 feet of climbing. I've decided to set a goal of climbing 125,000 feet before leaving for Montana and the Glacier Park ride in July and will start to post progress in the sidebar soon - anyone know of a clever progress bar app?

As I write this, the trip to Boston for Stellan's surgery is neither definitely on nor definitely off. He's doing better and no longer roams the halls of the PICU, but he's not completely free of the SVT's that have been dogging his little heart, either. If he does leave tomorrow, then I'll head out on Wednesday.

I did tell Stellan that, as much as I was looking forward to hanging out in Beantown for a few days, I'd be OK with canceling the trip. In fact, I could save the days for a few years and use them to take him on a long bike ride. OK, I'd do that anyway. Another goal.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

That's a Wrap

It has been seven months since I returned from Switzerland. Might it be time to wrap up the posting about the trip? Yep. That's what I thought you'd say. So, I guess this is it, the last report on the 2008 Swiss ride. When you are through cheering, you can read on...

Week of Sunday, September 7
Travel Home and Adjusting

Flights home (Zurich to Brussels, Brussels to Chicago and Chicago to La Crosse) were uneventful and, to my surprise and relief, not so uncomfortable as I had feared. Many thanks to the nice young lady who sat next to me on the long flight to Chicago as she helped during the meal service, opening packages of silverware and the assortment of food items wrapped in that nearly-impenetrable-in-the-best-of-circumstances packaging.

Eileen, as part of the conspiracy (remember, that's Bill's word), had gotten in touch with Paul, who met me at the airport in La Crosse. He was a welcome sight indeed. Not only did he deal with the luggage - my suitcase and the bike box arrived on the same flight that I did - he took me to the grocery store to shop for provisions and then treated me to dinner at TGI Friday's. Much appreciated. Very much appreciated. When I settled in, I found a message from Ron on the phone. He had a similar experience and called to offer support and advice regarding medical treatment. Now his experience was only similar in that we both had broken collar bones; beyond that, his injuries were considerably more serious. That did, however, lend a certain weight to his advice!

Bill wanted to check on my well being early in the week, so we went to the Bodega. As good a place as any for a medical consult. He offered assistance as needed. I appreciated this, of course, but wondered deep down if this wasn't more to make sure he didn't get into any more trouble with our wives over the accident and resulting conspiracy. And this could happen. While Bill has not had a really serious cycling injury himself, he is a known carrier.

Bob and Gordy stepped up and helped me keep the splint adjusted. You might recall that the nurse in Switzerland told me that it "might be a little uncomfortable," and that I was to come to the conclusion that this was one of the great understatements of all time. The new splint I got here was sooooo much better.

Jerry and Lois provided a meal. And company in enjoying it, making it that much more pleasant. Jerry also agreed to change the dressing on my shoulder a couple of times. Above and beyond... Andrea sent along a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies (AKA fruit and fiber delivery systems); Mike didn't eat any before he delivered them (I'm told) and he drove me home one morning to get a forgotten security badge. In fact, everyone expressed concern and provided kindnesses that made the week tolerable.

In general, the shoulder wasn't too painful; but, there were moments. Like the time something rolled off the kitchen counter and I instinctively reached out with my left hand to catch it. YIKES!!!! Also, getting in and out of bed resulted in distinctly unpleasant sensations so I "slept" in the recliner in the living room more than once. Not surprisingly, I was tired most of the time. I drove a bit, going to the clinic and store. It wasn't too bad, although I kept the shoulder belt UNDER my arm; you know, the thought of it cinching up against my broken clavicle...

Shirley did the cruise with her mom and they had a wonderful time. With a lot of help, I muddled through the week. By the time she got home, I was becoming functional in a minimalistic way, but it was certainly nice to have her back.

You already know the rest of the story. The clavicle officially declared a non-union in February; Lance jumping on the bandwagon; me riding again, an experiment to see if the non-union is going to be an OK state or if surgery might be in the offing. And, planning a real test with the Glacier National Park, Waterton ride in July. I'm in training for it. And I have a really long way to go. Now...

...bring me that horizon!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Glad to Help

It seems as if we have misplaced Nebraska. To a lot of you this may not seem much of a loss, but I've been there and it really isn't such a bad place. For all the excitement this news should have caused, it was relegated to a short statement on CNN.com:

At least they are looking.

Now this really shouldn't be too hard. First, head for Kansas. When you get there, go due north. You can't miss it. And let's learn from this experience. Next time it might be Rhode Island and it will be a lot harder to locate.