The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) Ride:
Our picture for this year shows Jody and me jumping for joy in the San Juan Mountains after successfully finishing our mountain bike trip on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). We’d recently completed our self-supported 1,000+ mile trip from Banff Canada to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and we are thrilled to be off the bikes. Off to the right, you’ll also see our friend Dan Read. He was also on the bike trip.
Let me introduce Dan. You may correctly perceive that Dan is trying desperately to maintain an aloof & reserved public image, though our antics did manage to get him to crack a smile. To his defense, he normally resides at sea level, and thus at >12,000 feet he is seriously oxygen deprived. In any case, my opinion is that he’s “uptight” and trying to mask that under a “reserved demeanor”. My opinion is based on the routine behaviors he displayed on the trip (i.e. cantankerous, irritable, grouchy) all to which I find my head nodding in the affirmative.
Nevertheless, it caused me a moment’s pause when, just before engaging in flogging him for the countless insults and discomforts that I experienced during our CDT ride, he sent Jody and I (what appeared on its face to be) a thoughtful and appreciative letter thanking us for inviting him on the trip. Not a tweet, not an email, but a real 20th century letter sent via US Post on bond paper. I’m a sucker for age old graces like this. Fortunately he threw down the gauntlet:
“Let's face it, you both have lots to give thanks, not the least of which is your great friend Dan Read who immeasurably enhanced the quality of your CDT ride this year. One has to wonder if the two of you would even have made it home safely without me.”
I’m pleased to respond to this insult in this forum since he’s unable to retaliate. :)
Let’s start with the beginning. Jody and I spent most of 2012 preparing & planning for our “Ride the Divide” adventure. Nearly a year ago, we’d invited Dan to come along, but despite that he didn’t have any schedule conflicts, he wouldn’t commit until a short sixty days before the ride. Along with his last minute declaration that he would like to join us, he admits to not having a lot of experience with long distance self-supported mountain bike travel. Who does? But in this case his inexperience is breathtaking. Let me put this in perspective. Our first recommendation to him is “Buy a bike.” Our second is “Learn to ride the bike.”
Imagine, if you will, a California city slicker clicking his heals and dropping magically into Canada to ride 1,000+ miles on a dirt path to Wyoming. Now realize that Dan didn’t have anything to start this trip. No bike. No tent. No sleeping bag. No outdoor clothing. Nada.
We had to explain to him that it was not wise to bring any of the “camping” things that he expected. Do NOT bring your: pistol, hiking boots, nor your cast iron Dutch oven. We’re planning to travel light, so he’s well behind the curve. Jody and I have lightweight gear that we’ve acquired over past years. Some loved & some unloved, but appropriate enough that we can’t defend leaving it behind and purchasing expensive new stuff. No such hurdle for Dan. He starts out by purchasing an absolutely gorgeous lightweight carbon fiber full suspension bike. He concludes a few weeks later with the purchase of a $15 titanium spork. Truly.
Seeing his list of brand new gear, I begin hoping that Dan will collapse on the trail, thereby granting me a complete 21st century gear upgrade at no expense. Unfortunately my hopes fade somewhat when he hires a fitness instructor to develop his training program. He dedicates himself and trains daily. A couple weeks before the start, he asks “When are you tapering?” We found this so funny that we nearly spilled the beer we were drinking.
Though we never “train” in the traditional sense for any of our trips, we do embrace the practice of “packing light.” We first encountered this movement 20 years ago when a lightweight packer asked if we could help him repair a rip in his pack. I did have a sewing kit to offer but (to give him a little grief) told him I only had heavyweight thread. He was alarmed and actually hesitated before performing the sewing repair. We now embrace the lightweight ethic (though not as zealously) knowing that packing light does introduce certain realities. When it gets cold outside…you’ll be chilly. Meals won’t be gourmet… rather rehydrating the food that you’re cooking. If you misplace something…it will be a critical loss. This leads us to the knife. What knife you ask? Let me explain.
Despite 20 years of faithful service, my well used camp knife disappears part way through our month long ride. Mourning the loss, I gratefully accept Dan’s offer to use his modern new knife. Imagine my horror when his knife also disappears suddenly after I borrow it. We’re packing light, so from this point, we have no knife. I’m using sticks and rocks to cut things. But then, on our final day of riding, what do I find in a pocket of my backpack? Dan’s knife, pretty as you please. Although my misery of having to replace his knife ends, in its place grows distrust & suspicion. Was the knife just hiding in my pack the entire time? Not a chance. On the other hand, could Dan have been so wicked as to have “retrieved and then returned” his knife in order to cause me this despair? Oh yes. After substantial thought, disturbingly likely. It seems that our travelling partner is both a thief and a sadist. I lay plans to set the rascal to task.
Stick with me here. Jody isn’t fond of bears. Actually, she’s terrified of them and especially the dangerous GRIZZLY bears you find up in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. On our first day riding, we pass a group travelling in the opposite direction that had just seen a massive male grizzly and counsel us to be very careful. We maintain vigilant attention on the surrounding woods and make lots of noise when approaching any blind turn. Jody’s continuous yell of “Hey Bear…Get Away Bear” rings in my ears until her vocal chords fail entirely. Jody has also prepared in advance by purchasing a canister of “bear mace”. According the canister directions, a quick response can be important and she has mounted the canister on her handlebars for easy reach. Nevertheless, the ranger in Banff said it’s mostly a placebo because who can aim straight when a 1,000 pound grizzly is bearing down on you???
About three days into the ride, Jody complains that there’s something wrong with her eyes & her breathing is restricted. Dan and I aren’t experiencing any such effects and imagine she’s just tired and voicing an excuse to rest. Typical males. After riding another fifteen minutes, Jody insists we stop. We investigate and immediately see that Jody’s bike headset has worn a hole through her canister of bear mace and the contents have completely emptied themselves into our tent mounted under her handlebars. We realize now that Jody has shown extraordinary resolve in riding directly into a fog of bear mace. Just for your information, Scoville Heat Units (SHU) rates the intensity of different products. A Jalapeno pepper is rated at 7,500 SHU. Pepper spray is 25,000 SHU. Bear mace is 2,000,000 SHU! Ouch!
As the noxious fluid starts to evaporate, I notice the bear mace can has a cautionary note stating, “Do not proactively apply bear pepper spray to clothing, tents, etc. as it then may become an attractant.” Great, I think. While sleeping in our pepper spray soaked tent, Jody and I are now going to smell like a nicely seasoned bear morsel. I don’t mention this to Jody. If we are going to be bear pizza, it is better she not know about it. I mount a stuffed surrogate Kitty Kat on Jody’s handle bar to give her a small sense of comfort. We continue our ride through bear country without any remaining weaponry. Still retaining hope for a gear upgrade, I slow down to grant Dan our lead rider position. I figure the rascal deserves it.
I think that the bear mace may have addled Jody’s brain a bit. Jody’s been planning backcountry trips like this for over 20 years. She planned this trip thoroughly. She has every map of the area, knows all the campsites, grocery stores & bike shops and is good with numbers. Over the first week, we’ve travelling at a luxurious pace with plenty of time to set up camp, skinny dip in mountain lakes, cook “gourmet” ramen noodles and cuddle in our sleeping bags through the night. The weather has been sunny and mild with light tail winds. The riding has been absolutely flawless. We’ve been averaging 25 miles per day.
I NEVER look at a map. Our rule is Jody plans…I pack the bags. However, in a weak moment, I take a peak. I know that we have to ride 1,000 miles in 25 days. As these numbers come into focus, I start to feel queasy. We should have been averaging…40 miles per day! At the rate we are going, we will end up 400 miles short of our destination. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, we now need to average 50 miles a day to make up for “Miss Calculation’s” error. Still, a spark of hope goes off in my cerebral cortex. I remember that Dan was adamant before the trip that there was NO WAY he would be able to average 50 miles per day. “Ah Ha” I think to myself, Jody’s miscalculation presents the perfect way by which I can acquire Dan’s shiny new bicycle and his titanium spork to boot! I approach Dan and tell him he should sit down. He takes the news in stride. Not a word. He just gets on his bike and starts pedaling.
The man is a thief, a sadist and, now come to find out, he is also a masochist. I suspect he even knew how to ride a bike before he came on this trip. I didn’t acquire a single piece of gear despite what I would have thought were pretty decent odds. We all arrive home triumphantly to Durango, but I’m disappointed. Given my moping, a friend recently told me I should evaluate why no one ever seems to want to go on a “second trip” with us. :)
I’ve embraced my inner child. Whereas some people take up dancing or painting, I’ve embraced “tagging”. It all started when I saw a stuffed rag doll on the hood of a car - an epiphany event for me. As a result, my inner child performed his first tagging job, mounting a Tasmanian Devil on the grill of our truck. The smiles I saw from passers-by fueled his antics. He surreptitiously started collecting stuffed animals…chosen for their suitability for tagging. He proceeded to tag the cars of the neighbors. Although satisfying, that wasn’t enough. His behavior has grown out of control though I’ll admit that the carpet cleaner’s van looked great with an Elmo doll and my doctor’s car was very fashionable with a fluffy Big Bird. I recently saw the Fed-ex delivery guy drop off some deliveries at a dead run. Most recently the trash truck refuses to stop at our house. All good things come to an end.
Fortunately, my inner child has found a substitute by decorating the 300’ long tall privacy fence surrounding the back yard. Until recently, the fence was very long and very boring. He started modestly, installing a few ‘metal suns’ found at the nursery store. This didn’t satisfy his ambitious impulse, so he painted an old window frame bright yellow, and mounted it. The audacious colors were much more gratifying. So he did it again…and again…in bright orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, red. With 30 colorful windows mounted there are only a few spots left. Jody caught the bug and declared that she intends to mount window planters on the windows and run a drip system. I’m in full support. We are past being “eclectic” and accept that neighbors nod in our direction and whisper that we are “one of those” kinds of people.
Thomas the Tom Kat (TTTK) is as spoiled as a cat can be. We have a bird feeder on our porch and there are often a dozen birds flocking around without any mind to their own safety. TTTK sits immediately below the flock, mouth chattering and tail a thwacking in anticipation. He doesn’t seem to understand that the birds aren’t going to land in his mouth. He sits for hours. We realize that he’s bird challenged, but don’t say anything since we like watching the birds. Jody investigated sending him to hunting school but we searched the net and no dice…
Thomas also doesn’t like drinking ‘stale’ water from a bowl, so Jody adopted the role of cat servant by holding her hand under a running faucet to “drink him”. This became quite a burden since TTTK would jump into every sink that she approached. She spent many hours standing at sinks quenching his thirst. Don’t laugh. It was getting serious. Thankfully she found a solution. Our guests find it unusual to see our cat sitting in the kitchen sink licking at the drip-spout water bottle hanging from our dish drying rack, but we shush them and ask that they act casual. We don’t want to have to take Thomas to a kitty psychologist to remedy a potential hamster complex!
I finally proclaim our Silverton cabin a “completed” effort. The cabin is now a quiet retreat, rather than a mountain of unfinished work. Our final project was constructing an outside shower platform with an instant-on hot water heater. There is something magical in standing buck-naked high in the mountains looking over Colorado’s grand San Juan range with hot water showering down on you.
CAREER: Jody was interested in spending this past winter as a ski bum, but it was not to be. She found a great opportunity consulting for Bank of America helping to correct the excesses of the mortgage meltdown. I continue working as a consulting employee for SAIC as needed helping them with proposal development & contract management. We both love the work, the people, and largely get to work from our home offices.
IN SUMMARY: We were camped just outside of Glacier National Park when for a brief few minutes we witnessed one of the prettiest alpenglow displays we’ve ever experienced. The mountains lit up like fire as the sun set. The river quietly rustled in passing. The wind blew softly through the trees. It is for days like this that we are thankful to be alive, healthy and happy. We know that one’s life can change in an instant and we feel immense satisfaction being in this place, in this world, surrounded by friends, family and beauty. If you live outside the region and find yourself in the Durango area, please be sure to give us a ring.
We’ve created a musical slideshows for for our Continental Divide Trail Ride. Enjoy!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Jody and Seth Furtney & Thomas the Tom Kat
11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301
Jody Phone: 970-385-5567 / Seth Phone: 970-385-5547
COLORADO TRAIL: The Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango is arguably the most demanding mountain bike route in the country involving over 500 miles of trail with 80,000 feet of elevation gain. This summer we rode the Colorado Trail. Jody calls it the “Best Trip Ever.” Of course, if you know anything about our past adventures, the “Best Trip Ever” must involve some challenges. Each rider needs to have a sturdy bike and a complete camping outfit including: foul weather clothing, tent, sleeping gear, cooking rig, spare parts, and other essentials. As you might imagine, the mountain bike is THE single most essential piece of equipment one needs for such an adventure. Three days before the trip, I break my bike frame. Oops!
After some frantic calls, I find a Durango based bike frame builder who agrees to perform a rush weld repair. He’s aware of the forthcoming ride and carefully avoids offering any warranty. I resolve never to look at the weld, embracing the mystical practice that “If I don’t look, it can’t crack.” Unfortunately, about halfway through the ride we cross paths with a fellow Colorado trail rider who sees the weld and innocently asks, “How’s that weld holding?” As you might expect, Murphy’s Law immediately applies to such invitations. I anxiously look closer…to discover a large crack flanking the weld repair.
With total frame failure imminent, we have no choice but to limp into the nearby town of Salida, CO to explore potential solutions. Jody is crushed and begins checking on bus schedules to slink back to Durango. I cast my lifeline to the team at Absolute Bike Shop. They direct me to a welder they’ve heard about that works on aluminum.
I gingerly ride over to Willy the Welder’s shop and, seeing nobody, shout “hello” into the darkness. After some minutes, Willy the Welder saunters out of the shadows. I display my broken bike frame and sheepishly voice my request, ”I need a repair that will hold this bike together long enough for me to ride into Durango. I don’t care how it looks.” He spits a slug of tobacco juice on the ground while tapping on the thin aluminum bike frame. He explains that he’s never worked on a bike before and is only familiar with welding on bigger stuff like…oil rigs. I implore him beseechingly “Willy the Welder. You’re my only hope.” He chaws a minute, pulls at his beard, scratches himself, hitches his pants up, and after some long minutes responds ‘Okey Dokey.”
I have no place to go so I sit against Willy’s shop wall listening to the sounds of him hammering, grinding & welding. Two hours later, he emerges. I look down to see that he has welded what appears to be two building I-beams to each side of the frame. The bike now resembles a crossbreed between Iron Man & Frankenstein. I can barely pedal for the extra weight, but Willy has delivered on my request. Jody and I can continue on our trip!
On our second to last day, we significantly misjudged the difficulty of the “Indian Ridge” section and arrive at our camping spot on Kennebec Pass well after dark. We’ve been surviving on instant potatoes and Ramen noodles for the last five days and after walking our bikes the past few miles, are too exhausted to cook up yet another such unappetizing meal. We decide to go to bed hungry but, while searching for a spot to pitch our tent, we unexpectedly come across a family in the midst of packing up their picnic. Though we try to act sensibly, we are unable to pass by. We spy vegetables, cheese, meat, and wine…a veritable cornucopia of tasty sustenance! We stand immobile five feet away, staring at their picnic, drooling uncontrollably.
Thankfully, the family intuits our craving and graciously invites us to the remnants of their bountiful feast. We try our best to remain civil, but instead attack their picnic scraps with savage zeal. We grab, grunt, and shovel voraciously. The family displays great courtesy in simply backing away to allow us to excavate the spread on their picnic blanket unmolested. We’re licking our fingers and burping when they tentatively ask if they can get their blanket back.
The next day, we meet our friend Ben for the final ride into Durango. Thankfully he brings us Jody’s spare bike which - unlike the bike she’s been riding for the past few days - has working brakes. Besides my broken frame, Jody’s brake failure, (oh and my lost rain jacket), our three week trip has progressed flawlessly. Remarkably, we haven’t gotten seriously lost and, for us, that is an accomplishment for the record books. Note to self: having Jody navigate with good maps does make a difference.
The trip into town is awesome. We complete the ride into Durango with no major injuries. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Baskin Robbins ‘super double fudge deluxe banana split’ is awaiting! The minor scars and unusual characters we met on the trip only serve to color the fantastic memories.
COMMUTING TO WORK: This day unfolds like a nightmare. Waking from a dead sleep, Jody and I race madly to catch the early morning 6 a.m. flight to Denver. We start the car at 5 a.m. after a quick bowl of cereal. We have barely an hour to drive twenty miles to the airport, park, pass through security, and board the plane. Though this timeframe would be completely unattainable for a larger airport, it is “possible” for the small Durango regional airport. Barely.
About a mile from our home, I reflexively check to ensure my smart phone is in its hip holster and, much to my dismay, discover it missing. Like many professionals today, I’ve come to depend on its power somewhat like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings. I’ve outsourced my memory of events, phone numbers & email addresses to the device. I evaluate the “possible” timeframe of catching the flight against the difficulty of working for a week without my smart phone …and decide I’m willing to push the threat level to “extremely risky” and race home to collect My Precious. I pull an illegal U-Turn and hightail it back.
I screech to a stop, frantically open the front door, and dive onto the dining table for my phone. But it isn’t there! I’m dumbstruck and begin stumbling around babbling possible explanations involving ghosts & UFOs. Jody starts crying. After a frantic but fruitless search, we jump back into the car for the twenty mile trip to the airport. We’ve lost ten crucial minutes in this unsuccessful recovery attempt.
As you might imagine, I’m no longer fully compliant with the speed limit. In fact, I’ve just opened the Nitrous Oxide Tank valve and pushed the “Go Baby Go” button. Fire is shooting out from our muffler. The front end of the truck has just touched ground when, in the pre-dawn darkness, I fly by the police cruiser parked on the side of the road. I briefly imagine outracing the police car to the airport and slipping into the plane before capture. My second fantasy is of Thelma & Louise diving off the bridge over the Animas River. Good sense prevails and I slow down to await my punishment. The consequences for taking up the ‘extremely risky’ plan is now clearly going to include an expensive speeding ticket & missing the airplane.
The next tense moment passes in slow motion. But miraculously nothing happens. No flashing lights. No siren. My adrenaline fades in a few minutes and with it the memory of the police car. Was there really a police car? Was I just having a nightmare vision? There is no spoon. I gradually edge the truck back up to Warp speed for the remainder of the drive and we screech to a halt in the airport parking lot. We have ten minutes to take-off. We run through the security line when the airline is calling for final boarding. We jump onto the plane just before they latch the door. We decline the coffee service on the flight as we’re already feeling a bit jittery.
The mystery of the missing phone troubles me all day. Jody sends a text message to our kitty sitter, Amelia, asking her to keep an eye out. Her reply solves the mystery, “I was wondering why you left the milk on the counter and your phone in the refrigerator.”
ITALY: This fall, we joined our friends, John and Kelly Parnigoni, on a road bike ride in Italy for two weeks through the Tuscany Valley. We biked from Florence to Rome. In a display of restraint, Jody did not take charge of planning this ride. But, she would like to make clear, we did get lost. Let me explain in some detail.
We’re riding our road bikes when the paved road becomes dirt. The road is uncomfortably bumpy, but the riding isn’t really too bad… until the incline grows to 15%. The gravel plus the steep grade now combine to make the ride exceedingly challenging, but the riding isn’t truly dreadful … until darkness falls. In complete darkness, the ride becomes essentially unfeasible. John, Kelly, and I silently take a vow not to “shake the baby” by vocalizing our collective worry within Jody’s range of hearing. Though we have no camping gear whatsoever, we scan the surrounding forest for sheltered spots in which we might safely hunker through the night. We ride “by brail” in the darkness on the weathered dirt road, holding the handlebars fiercely to avoid crashing when thumping over unseen potholes.
After hours of this punishment, we finally see city lights and enter a small town. It is near midnight and the town is completely asleep. At this moment Jody proclaims “This is the best trip ever.” We all look at her in astonishment! We’re tired. We’re hungry. We haven’t a place to stay. We don’t speak Italian. Then I have an epiphany. This is exactly how Jody likes it best. The bigger the challenge…the better the journey. It has taken me about 20 years to completely & fully reach this understanding.
WHITE RIM: We joined a group riding the White Rim Trail this October for a five day mountain bike ride in the Canyonlands of Utah. We’d ridden this trail about twenty years ago with some friends. I invite our friend Todd Langley to join us and he agreed immediately. I then ask him “Have you ever been on the White Rim before?” He looks at me oddly before replying “Yeah… I rode it with you.” I’ve been racking my memory to recollect if something took place during our previous trip to repress his memory. Then again maybe I am getting a bit more absent-minded. I’m committed to the former. :)
CABIN: This summer, Jody and I finished cutting and stacking the downed trees on our mining claim. We estimate 500 trees were scattered over about an acre of steep mountain hillside. Finishing the campaign against this daunting challenge became our summer obsession. We have both become accomplished ‘sawyers’ in the process. We would regularly depart Durango to drive to the cabin, wearing torn clothing with smelly chainsaws, fuel, and chaps in back. Mindless of how our appearance diverged from our mountain vision, we would wave to our neighbors, explaining that we’re en route to our “super uber cute” cabin. As a matter of fact, we now have a ‘coiffed’ wildflower filled meadow and an attractive entrance sign inviting you to the “Free Coinage Lode Mining Claim. We’re pretty proud of the whole affair.
We haven’t recently encountered the porcupine that was featured prominently in last year’s Christmas letter. We’re not disappointed, but we both feel a sense of unease. Perhaps he’s gathering friends for a replay of his stair eating extravaganza? Who knows?
CAREER: Our work lives have changed quite a bit. Traveling back and forth to work every week in Denver was very taxing and Jody decided to quit the company soon after the ‘misplaced phone’ incident above. This fall, I was released by SAIC as part of a company layoff. Jody and I are both consulting in our professional fields while we recalibrate our career paths.
IN SUMMARY: This year has felt like one of those priceless ‘endless summers’ from our youth. The glow may be visible to others, since when Jody told a new friend about her career status, the friend responded “Is your husband retired too?” :) Perhaps we are indeed young at heart. When preparing for my birthday party in July we splurged on a wide array of Spiderman house decorations & cake icing. The friendly cashier asked, “How old is the lucky birthday boy?” Jody gestured towards me while replying casually, “He’s just turning 46!”
We remain thankful for our friends, family, and health. If you ever have a hankering to visit the Durango area, please do give us a ring.
We’ve created slideshows set to music of our 2011 adventures. Turn on your speakers and enjoy!
Colorado Trail Mountain Bike Trip:
Silverton Cabin Before and After:
Fall Mountain Biking:
Yampa River Kayaking:
Mountain Biking With Canadiens:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Jody and Seth Furtney & Thomas the Tom Kat
11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301
Jody Phone: 970-385-5567 / Seth Phone: 970-385-5547
Jody and I often remark that many of the folks living in Silverton, Colorado are “just a bit odd”. That’s not too surprising for a town with a current population of 500 folks… a town which had a population of 500 folks two hundred years ago…and with cemetery records showing the primary cause of deaths are snow slides, accidents, and pneumonia. Even now our closest cabin neighbor lives without electricity or water. I last saw him riding his snowmobile through town trying to sell most of his household goods (a guitar, fly rod, and rifle) to buy propane to heat his place. Though Jody and I don’t think we’re quite as odd as the locals yet, we’re apparently showing some signs. I recently pointed out a neighbor’s cabin to my brother when driving up to our cabin this summer, stating that ‘that guy’ was a bit odd. Dave shot me a derisive glance as he held tenaciously to the grab bars.
I just might have a few characteristics that may classify me as one of the “odd” characters. For example, I do keep a few extra “safety items” in my truck. I carry chains for all four wheels, a 4’ tall truck jack, a hand operated 8 ton pulley, 50 feet of tow chain, 300 feet of cam straps, 3 pairs of heavy work gloves, 2 spare jackets, a crowbar, chainsaw, an axe, and about a thousand other items which I think it prudent to have when travelling. Admittedly, it’s a tad bit hard to fit in passengers, but with the handy crowbar I can usually get them inside. Though I believe my outfitting is reasonable, I admittedly looked enviously at what I term a “monster jeep” this summer, dreaming just how cool I’d look driving this beast, wearing mirrored sunglasses and smoking a cigar. Jody must also have the same itch since, after seeing me drooling, she prettily put forward that if we owned such a capable vehicle she’d be willing to dress the part by wearing bright lipstick and sport a ‘big-hair’ style.
Another potentially damning story about ‘going odd’ in Silverton involves the staircase at our cabin, which has been slowly disappearing. Our stairs are a single solid piece of wood cut from a huge tree trunk, but there is an unstoppable force making progress against this immovable object…bite by bite. After calling in professional investigative support from the neighbors, Forest Service, Police, FBI, MI-6, NSA, I’ve since learned that the culprit is a porcupine. Apparently when porcupines find a taste for something… they just keep eating until it’s finished. Entire cars have disappeared this way. Like Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton, porcupines have an adamantium stomach and don’t concern themselves with whether their meal is edible. I laid plans to bring the hoodlum to account.
Now imagine midnight on the mountain. No streetlights and complete silence. You awake to the sound of munching…more exactly to the sound of a porcupine enjoying a meal of his favorite staircase. I’ve been waiting for this moment and have come prepared. I creep out of bed to un-holster the trusty 22 caliber pistol I’ve had since I was a boy scout. I’m armed and like a good professional athlete have repeatedly visualized this scene in preparation for the real thing.
But the reality varies somewhat from my imagination. I pictured myself looking tough in boots and a worn leather coat. Instead I’m prancing carefully on bare feet and naked but for a pair of white skivvies. I pictured opening the cabin door to confront a surprised ruffian. Instead an exceptionally chubby porcupine looks up at me with a relaxed expression and a mouthful of wood chips sticking to his chin. In my best Clint Eastwood imitation, I declare “Make my day - Punk” and pull the trigger. I wince in advance, anticipating the loud crack of gunfire….but hear only a tiny click. My trusty old pistol has failed to fire. I begin searching frantically for a flashlight….hoping that in the light I will somehow be able to fix whatever’s wrong.
After having watched this entire sequence, and finally reaching the decision that the staff attending at his favorite dining establishment appear to be unusually incompetent this evening, the porcupine begins to waddle away. In a frustrated effort to reclaim my self-esteem, I step outside to somehow stop the creature, just as his portly rear end begins disappearing into the darkness. As I step out the door, a hidden porcupine quill pierces my foot.
It is then my situation comes clear to me. I’m naked, barefoot, and a veteran terrorist has laid sharp spikes in the darkness around me. I throw the jammed pistol in the direction of the retiring porcupine…knowing that I’ve been beaten. I pathetically crawl back into the cabin, crying out to Jody asking for help to extract the porcupine quill from my foot.
I’ve unfortunately told this story to our neighbor, Erin, a biology professor at Fort Lewis College. She explains academically that my behavior is a rather embarrassing example of how Hunter-Gatherer Societies attempted to tame their environment….though this supposedly ended several million years ago. She’s enjoyed retelling the story so many times to her students that she gifted me a stuffed porcupine on my birthday. Since I don’t have another, this stuffed porcupine is now proudly mounted on the wall in the cabin.
Another potential “oddity” in my behavior presented itself this summer when we invited our close friends, Karl & Kim Leuger to our cabin for a picnic. After sitting down for some tea, I let slip that there were piles of slash and branches that had gathered during the summer that we wanted to clear before winter hit. This slash had gathered as a result of Jody and my compulsive attraction to working with chain saws. We have come to believe that, since our jobs are intellectually demanding, there is a cosmic karma balance to doing hard physical work. No thought beyond ensuring good footing, taking a firm grip, and having the tree to fall the other way.
To our great joy, Kim was interested in helping clear the slash. She also has a demanding intellectual job and appears, like us, to have been drawn cosmically to doing some first-rate physical work. What she didn’t know yet is that, whenever you’re clearing brush with the Furtneys, a chainsaw will magically appear. And so it happened again this time. A chainsaw appeared out of nowhere. I tested the chain for sharpness, topped off the gas and oil, and fired-it up. With the roar of the two cylinder engine, I was filled with a sense of peace and contentment.
I noticed their nine year old son Nicholas standing nearby, and being the thoughtful and sensitive sort that I am, invited him to try his hand at chain sawing… never looking at Karl or Kim to get their approval. I just gave Nicholas a few pointers and stood back. To my great satisfaction, he squared his feet, hoisted the chain saw, and without hesitation, made a perfect cut. Thankfully the falling tree did no damage to my truck. I then spared a glance back at Karl & Kim expecting to see proud smiles. Their expressions weren’t quite what I’d expected. Though Nicholas was now eager for more, I realized that it was high time to reclaim the saw. I figure a few decades from now Nicholas will be sitting in his office… feeling a strange attraction to being a sawyer.
It’s a cold start to December with temperatures in Durango near zero degrees and a foot of snow. In all honesty, it’s beautiful and looks just like a Christmas card. According to Jody however, this winter doesn’t measure up to last year, which I spent mostly in my company’s offices in Virginia. Meanwhile, Jody shoveled several tons of snow from our sidewalks, driveway… and after the snow depth exceeded six feet…our roof. Ever since then she’s on a first name basis with her chiropractor. Despite this annual effort, we still can’t understand anyone using a snow-blower. We think being attracted to snow-blowing is simply odd.
In a break from last winter’s merciless cold and snow, we escaped for few days of glorious weather in San Diego. We received curious stares as we roller-bladed down the beach boardwalk…wearing our down coats…but we didn’t have anything else to wear. With modern airline restrictions, we “pack light” and simply hadn’t packed anything for winter in California.
God help us, Jody and I have decorated our house past all sensibility. We dub it ‘Uber Cute’, though other folks might see it in a different light. Not many people decorate both their interior walls AND their exterior walls. We recently saw a wall hanging we liked and tried to imagine a place where we could put it. We thought and thought and finally realized that there wasn’t a space available. No blank walls. No blank gaps. For goodness sakes, we are contemplating how we might be able to decorate the ceilings. This ‘Uber Cuteness’ extends beyond the home to our landscaping. Each year Jody invites (or is that commands?) Darrin, the county agricultural agent, to review our landscaping and gardens to provide advice on how to best care for her precious plants. This is the same guy who normally advises crusty old farmers how to grow more wheat on their 1,000 acres. He nevertheless humors us by returning each spring to review our small urban lot.
An issue that particularly troubles Jody is the grape plant that we planted 8 years ago. Bear with me while I call the plant a “he” since that’s how Jody imagines him. He still hasn’t yet produced a single grape, shattering our vision of homemade wine and munching on grapes fresh off the vine. We’ve trimmed him. We’ve fertilized him. We’ve covered him with a blanket during the winter. Jody talks to him every morning to make sure he knows how much we appreciate him, and look forward to big things from him when he grows up. But he simply won’t grape. In exasperation, Jody asked Darrin what she should do to get grapes. He thought it over for several long minutes, shook his head, and stated plainly that she would do best to get grapes at the grocery store. He continued explaining that, at our altitude of 7,000 feet, grapes are essentially just ornamental plants. Luckily, this conversation took place outside of the plant’s hearing so Jody’s confident that we didn’t cause the grape plant any psychological damage. Jody now has me researching how to build a greenhouse to see if we can possibly get this grape….to grape!
Our work lives are great and very demanding. Earlier this year, after nearly 8 years telecommuting for the company, One West Bank terminated the right for staff to telecommute. Jody was forced to look elsewhere and fortunately found an excellent position with Mortgage Cadence, a technology company that sells lending software, as their Director of the Project Management Office. In order to quickly establish herself in her new role, Jody works from the company’s Denver offices during the week and stays at a company apartment on the 20th floor overlooking the Performing Arts center. When not working, Jody has been enjoying the “city” life with friends and has seen a bunch of different artistic performances. In the meantime, she’s replaced her professional wardrobe, and looks great in her chic new clothing. I was recently startled while waiting to pick her up at the airport, when an attractive woman kissed me. I hadn’t recognized her in her new trappings. As she gets more comfortable in her position, she intends to telecommute more from home.
I continue to work for SAIC as a proposal specialist and am responsible for preparing cost proposals on major pursuits. I find the work very interesting and expect to remain in this role for the foreseeable future.
Sometimes, with both of us traveling, ‘Thomas the Tom Kat’ is the only one holding down the fort. Luckily, we have found the perfect sitter, Amelia, a college student who loves Thomas and doesn’t mind that he walks on the countertops, sits in the sink, and likes to dip his paw into your water glass while your brushing your teeth. I suppose he’s a bit ‘odd’ too. I guess we are all one big happy family!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Jody and Seth Furtney
11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301
Seth Phone: 970-385-5547
Jody Phone: 970-385-5567
Seth Email: email@example.com
Jody Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Seasons Greetings from Seth –n- Jode!
Memories from 2009
Just a short drive to Moab…
We planned this bike trip right. A full night’s sleep, a pleasant morning breakfast, fresh cups of coffee in our travelling mugs, and a casual three hour drive to Moab. We’re well rested. The weather is clear. The car is running smoothly. Everything is going perfectly ….until we hit the deer.
Imagine the situation. We’re climbing out of a gully with steep inclines to both sides of the two lane highway. One car is fast approaching in the oncoming lane. A second car is directly behind us. And “EGADS”, from out of sight, a deer jumps down the slope to land in front of us. Jody handles the situation perfectly – which is to say “sayonara deer.”
One second we’re looking forward to the days bike ride and the next second we’re barely able to see over the trucks smashed front end and hood. Just one year ago I was “the deer” and can tell you confidently that I am far happier to be in the car rather than in front of it.
We pull over to the edge of the road, and it takes us but a few minutes to decide that waiting in the middle of the Utah desert for assistance isn’t likely to amount to much. We’re 60 miles from anywhere and neither of us is mechanical enough to try anything fancy. We secure the hood as best we can and keep driving (slowly & with crossed fingers) towards Moab. We must have some good karma in the bank as we make it to the edge of town before every light and gauge on our dash start going crazy (trust me there are more lights on your dash than you realize) and the engine says “NO MORE”. We stop immediately.
Thankfully we’ve just arrived in Moab which is a premier town for 4-Wheel Drive enthusiasts and fifty feet ahead, we spot a mechanic shop. We try to open the hood but it doesn’t budge and now appears to be completely stuck. So, acting nonchalant, I walk confidently to the shop…point back to the abused truck…and (after lowering my voice a few octaves) self-assuredly ask the mechanic for a crow-bar to pry open the hood. The mechanic hands me a crow bar and politely walks with me back to the truck.
I’ve just inserted the business end of the crowbar under the hood and am beginning to apply some serious leverage when the mechanic casually asks “Have you tried releasing the hood latch?” I stop dead because I haven’t actually tried that yet. Nonetheless I’m CERTAIN that the hood latch couldn’t possibly be working given the new origami shape of the hood. I carelessly reach under the dash to pull the hood release. The audible “POP” sound that results is both encouraging on one hand…and entirely humiliating on the other. Any suggestion that I’ve tried to convey about my supposed familiarity with crumpled vehicles, evaporates in that instant. I thus cease any pretended suggestion of swagger and meekly ask if he can help.
That’s when magic happens. The mechanic lifts the hood, examines the smashed radiator, destroyed battery, other crumpled stuff. After mumbling to himself for a few seconds, he says with complete confidence that he can rig a fix that will get us back to Durango. I arise from my knees and give thanks. He directs us to purchase a new battery and three gallons of radiator fluid while he gets to work.
In the ½ hour it takes us to return, he’s putting away his electric drill, has plugged rubber tubing into unknown places I didn’t know you could or should plug tubes, and begins to pour in the new fluid. In but a few more minutes, he’s installed the new battery and we’re back in the truck. It starts smoothly and all the warning lights have stopped flashing.
We’re amazed and thrilled but now are completely at his mercy and we know it. What is the “idiot surcharge” anyway? We haven’t yet seen the demand for payment and start sweating as soon as he begins to write up the ticket. Several anxious minutes later he steps out to present us the invoice. Gulp. With a sense of dread, we look at the bill of charge. The total bill is $12.53 for services rendered. I break a fingernail and nearly fall on the floor trying to frantically get at my wallet. I now and forever consider Moab to be one of my favorite places.
4th of July “party” at our Cabin
We’ve invited 20 folks up to the cabin in Silverton to enjoy the weekend with us…just bring a chainsaw. We have something like 300 dead trees on the property that need to be cut, and we’re hoping to make a bit of progress. Nevertheless the cabin is 60 miles from Durango and another 2.5 miles up a steep and rocky 4WD road and lies at 11,000 feet. We’ve arranged events before, but nothing this demanding, and expect a 50% turnout at best. Jody and I are awestruck when everyone we invited shows up well outfitted with sturdy clothing, boots & gloves, safety glasses, ear protection…and chainsaws..lots of chainsaws J
We expected to take advantage of a few brave souls, but this turnout is overwhelming. We’re just beginning to gather our wits when the chainsaws start growling and the hydraulic wood splitter begins barking. We frantically look around to help put some organization into the flurry of potentially dangerous activity…and instead see a precision ballet.
Teams have magically formed to cut, move, split and stack. While we’ve been worrying how to organize and direct, everyone has found their natural strength and started working. It’s entirely obvious to me that I’m not critical to managing the exercise. I float around looking for my niche and soon find the perfect job. I comfortably settle into the very important duty of water boy.
The Cabin Continued
I simply don’t understand how this could have happened. We measured twice and once more again to prevent exactly this from occurring. Nevertheless it’s become clear that the custom bench we ordered, built in Mexico, delivered across the border 3 days ago, and that we just hauled laboriously up to the cabin, is 3” longer than the gap into which it was designed to fit. We can analyze how this happened as long as we’d like, but the problem 3” remains.
We’re seriously evaluating whether the bench can be trimmed (nope) or cut apart and rebuilt (nope) and then in a “Eureka!” moment, Jody exclaims that we simply need to make the cabin 3” wider. It takes me a minute to follow her thought, but soon realize that the log cabin is constructed with 20” logs and shaving 3” isn’t necessarily impossible. It can be done and why the hell not. It is our cabin. Our cabin which previously measured 16’ wide is now 16’ 3” with a beautiful custom bench in place. I don’t expect any surprise when I report that it fits perfectly.
What does the Cabin have to do with the Garden?
There is one more advantage that the cabin offered us – the “extras” that came with the purchase. And though these “extras” were somewhat of a burden, (why don’t you try to bring a 300 pound Claw-foot Cast Iron Bath Tub off a mountain) one item did indeed serve a useful purpose.
It all starts with Jody wanting to plant her garden seeds early so that the plants will have a longer growing cycle. Only real live sunshine will suit her expectations, so we have a need to plant seeds in an area exposed to sun. However, she wants to plant the seeds a full month before we are past the risk of a late spring frost. This means that daily we must transport seedling trays to our porch during the day and back inside for the evening.
This is where the “extra” Land Tamer Remote Access Vehicle (imagine a vehicle blending features of HUMV and a boat) comes in handy. We’ve had this monstrosity in our garage for several months while we advertise it for sale, and find ourselves trying to sneak around this outrageous 4-axle 16 wheeled vehicle. There’s not much room left in our 2 car garage with the behemoth parked.
Jody in yet another “Eureka” moment proudly introduces an idea. She marches out to the garage with our dozen trays of seedlings and lays them across the back deck to the RAV. Thereafter it’s a simple matter to back the vehicle out of the garage during the day and pull it forward into the garage at night.
If you are a garden lover, I need not try to defend this practice in any way. For the rest of you, I don’t have anything to say beyond “Jody is a garden lover” and I’m married to her for better or for worse. Let’s leave it at that.
We’re on the first day…nay the first hour of our weeklong 200 mile mountain bike journey - which follows a horde of dirt roads and trails from Telluride to Moab - when things start to break down. We’re initially just trying to successfully ride from our truck to the coffee shop two blocks away. This takes about one hour. The breakdown occurs on our very first intersection. Four people turn right, two ride straight, and there are two coffee shops in Telluride. I need not explain further.
The importance of this event becomes apparent when everyone finally assembles and everyone asks everyone, “who has the maps for this ride?” Apparently everyone thought that everyone else had printed the maps. The silence is deafening. Thankfully Jody and I have been to the first hut before and know the way.
That would work out just fine if we were the fastest riders in the group. We’re not. We do all manage to locate the first hut before dark…with the timely assistance of a saintly Forest Ranger who magically appears to offer guidance.
From then forward we somehow manage to make progress in the right direction by stopping at every intersection and making prayers. We choose direction by the flip of a coin or by the wind or by the threat of a storm. We mostly guess right. Mostly. Eventually we cross paths with another set of riders who have the trail maps and painfully transcribe everything onto our only available writing tablet - a roll of toilet paper. I won’t answer how we wipe ourselves thereafter.
I’m nearly 100% and the aches remaining are just a reminder to “be careful out there.” There was one stainless steel brace in my right tibia/fibia that irritated whenever I walked which I asked the doctor to remove. She agreed but explained that if she broke any of the eight screws holding it in, she’d just leave the broken screws in place. Given that I have 20 other screws in other places, I agreed without hesitation.
The challenge was introduced by Jody. She remembered that the last time I was in surgery (to bolt me together in the first place), that I didn’t wake up for an entire week and couldn’t talk for two weeks after I woke up. She didn’t want to face that scare again and therefore would not agree to the use of any general anesthesia during the operation. I was planning to have the doctor remove an 8” steel brace from my leg that is held on with 8 screws…big screws that go entirely through the leg bone. Not allowing for general anesthesia complicates things a bit. Surprisingly the anesthesiologist agreed, stating he could do a nerve block on the leg. So far so good…I thought.
In the pre-op room the anesthesiologist starts fiddling with a huge syringe with 4” needle and wires leading to something that looks like a car battery charger. He says to relax. Right. I won’t get into the details, but the next five minutes are relatively uncomfortable. After that, I can’t feel my leg.
They roll me into the operating room and by now I’m a bit anxious. Call it nervous energy, but I can’t shut up and ask a lot of questions. At the end of the day, they bill be as the “chattiest” surgery patient they’ve ever had. The nurse putting a tourniquet to my leg answers “to minimize bleeding”. It’s very cold in there “to minimize bleeding.” I gab with anyone who will listen, including the doctor doing the work on my leg. The procedure sounds much like a typical day in wood shop – with the addition of scalpel and blood. Drill, hammer, ratchet, screwdriver. I ask if she’s joking when she asks for the heavier mallet. Until I feel the impact of the chisel. My bone has apparently grown around the metal brace and it needs some encouragement to break loose.
Two hours later I’m free to go home. Eight new holes in my leg bones will take a couple months to heal up, but the relief from the removal of the brace is well worth it. The rest of the steel and titanium stay where they lay. I remain amazed that when travelling through an airport I don’t trigger alarms. But I’m not complaining.
We both want to again extend a sincere “Thank You” to all our friends, family and co-workers who gave us tremendous support during our recovery. Your love, prayers, thoughts and deeds helped us immeasurably. Your support showed us what is most important in life and we can’t thank you enough.
Two cats – minus one :(
A month ago Tigger the Tiger Queen of Sheba (aka Kitty) went missing. We hoped for the best but feared for the worst. Two other cats have also disappeared from the neighborhood recently. It seems likely that we have a predator preying on the local cat population. We miss her and hope she’s climbing trees in kitty heaven.
Thomas, who she always scorned as “the new kid on the block”, has been adopting some of her skills. He now climbs trees halfway (and then looks over to see if you’re watching), drinks out of your hand, and has taken over the previously reserved top bunk of the Cat Condominium and Scratchy Pad.
We’re thinking that he needs a baby sister (kitty not human!) to keep him on his toes.
Jobs and Work
Jody and I are both happily employed. Jody remains a business process / system design expert with IndyMac Bank / Indymac Federal Bank / One West Bank after surviving a harrowing series of company turnovers and staff cuts to the tune of ~7,500 people. I have returned again to be an employee of Science Applications International Corporation as a proposal support specialist.
Well that seems to be a good summary of the past year. Please feel free to call or write us at any time.
Jody has created a Year at a Glance Photo Album for you set to music! Enjoy!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Jody and Seth Furtney
11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301
Seth Phone: 970-385-5547
Jody Phone: 970-385-5567
Seth Email: email@example.com
Jody Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays for 2008
Log Cabin above Silverton, CO
It took our realtor friend a bit of cajoling to convince us to visit a property that was for sale. The details matter quite a bit. The property is an unfinished log cabin located on a mining claim on Kendall Mountain. It is located at tree line up a steep 4 Wheel Drive road (a climb of 2,000 feet to ~11,000 feet) for 2.5 miles. And, perhaps most importantly, this is May. So what, you say? It was a heavy winter in Colorado. The road is currently buried under several feet of snow. There isn’t any way to get there except to cross county ski to the cabin. As you may expect, he was persistent. I suspect he knew we were probably the only people on earth that would give the idea any thought whatsoever.
After he casually hinted that the seller was “motivated”, we were hooked. The hike took three hours. We’ve talked about owning a mountain cabin for years, but have been dreaming about it for so long that it has become more a fuzzy fantasy than a distinct reality. After the exhausting climb, we came around the final corner. There it is. We see a small cabin with a footprint measuring about 16’ X 20’. The snow is still deep and the cabin is nestled into the mountainside comfortably with snow banks reaching up to the roofline. No heat. No lights. No water. The view of the surrounding San Juan peaks is astounding. I hear Jody draw in her breath and know a decision is already being made. It is perfect!
Some weeks later, we are riding our scooter into town to finalize the purchase. The weather is springy and warm as we scoot into town. We have all heard the phrase “If you don’t like the weather in Colorado, wait 5 minutes.” In this case, the weather gods bested their time. In a few short minutes, it starts to hail explosively. I’m unfortunately wearing a jean jacket and open face helmet. In the next few minutes, I become Frosty the Snowman. When we enter the realtor’s office, the receptionist drops her pen in surprise. After a moment she has the presence of mind to suggest that “perhaps we’d like something hot to drink.” She is even considerate enough to assume the proper answer. That’s good because I can’t yet talk because of the snow still in my mouth.
The receptionist leaves to the kitchen area to giggle quietly and pour cups of hot coffee. We slurp well into our second cups before we are thawed enough to begin the process of signing the purchase documents. As water drips into my underwear, Jody explains how the weather gods were blessing our decision. She bubbles on that there isn’t anything better than an unexpected spring snowstorm to commemorate our purchase of a mountain cabin. I’m still digging snow out of my ears so she has to explain this to me twice. She was huddling behind me so she hasn’t experienced the full impact of the storm. After 15 years of marriage, I’ve learned that my best response is to mumble encouraging sounds and otherwise remain silent.
By the time the paperwork is complete, the sun is shining and it is spring again.
Spring Kayaking on the Piedra River
We’re not idiots. But its April now and the rivers are flowing. In Colorado you can’t count upon water for long. Durango is now experiencing the hopeful blush of an early spring so we eagerly pack our boating gear and begin the two hour drive to the put-in. As we drive up into the mountains, we encounter deep snow and start doubting the sensibility of this venture. But we aren’t about to turn tail without at least making a decent fight. When we reach the put-in, the wind starts to blow. The temperature outside, which appeared mild while sitting in the heated car, isn’t so mild anymore. We each begin to reevaluate the sanity of this venture, but nobody is willing to be the first to admit defeat. We huddle around the vehicles chatting aimlessly and waiting hopefully for someone to admit that this idea is just a bit crazy. Somebody might be wise enough to even float the idea that the bowling alley isn’t very far away.
But nobody is prepared to initiate such an intelligent discussion. The conversation dies and we advance our preparations. We start by putting on every single stitch of whitewater clothing that we own. That’s a lot. For me, this is three layers of fleece underwear, fleece hat and socks, waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, latex bathing cap, neoprene hand-pogies, neoprene booties, and a laundry basket of other fuzzy or rubbery stuff that I squeeze over body parts and fit into any gaps.
Finally, we waddle down to the river. The first boat breaks the ice off the edge of the river and it floats on ahead. The rest of us cautiously follow the ice flow as it bobs down the river. As snow falls from the branches of the trees, we speculate whether our combined intelligence adds to much. That’s when we come upon the icefall that reaches down 60’ from the top of the canyon rim to the shoreline. Melting water courses down, around, in-between the frozen ice to finally crash into the river. We’re so charmed by the spectacle that we forfeit whatever sensibility we have and intentionally paddle under the ice-cold waterfall. The waterfall splashes and crashes upon us, but we’re swaddled in layers of impermeable insulation and can barely feel the ice cold water.
We smile at one another when we realize that this is really fun. We’re still uncertain how this trip will end but you don’t have this kind of chance just every day. Encountering elemental beauty and experiencing such challenges is why we do these things.
Jody’s Anniversary Present
According to some tradition somewhere, you are apparently supposed to gift your spouse a present made of ‘crystal’ for your 15th wedding anniversary. I tried. Really I tried. Apparently the countless opportunities that present themselves to one living in a place like New York City don’t present themselves to one who lives in Durango. Despite looking everywhere in town, I can’t find a “traditional” gift made of crystal. Nothing. Nada. I looked for a “modern” gift alternative made of glass. Nope.
I’ll admit that I’ve ignored the traditional gift suggestions for some years now. Heck does anyone really want a gift made of aluminum for your 10th anniversary? I have even tried my hand at convincing Jody that paper (an anniversary card) was really truly the proper gift selection for the past 10 years. I’m sure this is consistent with some tradition somewhere. This time however, I was committed to delivering the goods. Then I experience a bolt of genius :) - maybe.
I packaged my chosen gift and bring it to Jody with a big smile on my face. She unfolds the package carefully and with great anticipation. The final wrappings fall. The gift shines a crystalline blue. It fits her hand perfectly. My smile widens…then she rolled her eyes in exasperation. My sense of joy and contentment abandon me. Her eyes tell me that …a new bottle of Windex glass cleaner just doesn’t satisfy.
Before you think me a heel, please note that I also presented her with a beautiful card. A hail Mary pass that, but ultimately weak and pitiful.
Continuing Saga of the $67 Dollar Tomato
We recently received a visit from an agent wearing a black suit and sunglasses who handed us his card listing initials from an unspecified space agency. He informed us that the earth has apparently recalibrated its axis to adjust for some astonishing new mass that his agency has calculated to be located exactly at our address. He started with possible explanations involving alien influence on earth. I stopped him cold and pointed to our back yard. Our latest project - call it “Project Tomato” - involved depositing 60 tons of rock. This is in addition to our previous landscaping ventures which have put down over 200 tons of stone.
Even now I’m somewhat uncertain why I relented to Jody’s request to build some “undulations” to replace our back lawn. Most people would call our construction “raised bed planters” but I’ve given up arguing the point. Jody likes to call them “undulations” and I’m not going to win her over. I guess we can compromise in that our four raised bed planters undulate over the landscape. And in fact “undulations” more accurately identifies some of the corollary experiences resulting from the effort. Since the last stone was laid, I have experienced various sorts of “undulating” pain, “undulating” misery, and “undulating” despair. I’m hoping it will end soon.
We have long since blown through the $67 tomato figure into numbers unknown. But then I recall memories of the tomatoes. Red ones, yellow ones, big ones, small ones. Tasty and sumptuous and plentiful. Lots and lots of tomatoes. We completely overwhelmed our considerable personal threshold of tomato consumption and we were forced to give away bags and boxes of tomatoes to most everyone we knew. We may have gone beyond good form when we stacked boxes of tomatoes at our front door and forced unsuspecting visitors to take a box before we would allow them to leave. The growing season is now over. Thank goodness. Yet in some secret corner of our brains, we look forward to another bumper crop.
The simple fact remains that we must change our accounting system. The dollars per tomato calculation is at this point ludicrous. We have thus decided to measure our tomato productivity in terms of tomato pounds per ton of landscaping. By this measure, we are producing nearly two tomatoes per ton. We quite prefer this to .006983 tomatoes per dollar. Since this is a nonstandard measuring system with no baseline for comparison, we’ve convinced ourselves that the figure is quite astounding.
I’m quite glad that I don’t remember anything about being hit by the Jeep Wagoneer while riding my mountain bike in mid June. Some of the details like 50 MPH collision and 4,500 lbs vehicle weight don’t invite fond memories. It is pretty clear to me why one’s memory gets flaky after a major accident. You just don’t really need (or want) to remember what just happened. Jody later told me what she saw when she rode up. My body was bloody and crumpled lying in the middle of the road. The EMTs turned me over and legs just aren’t designed to move in those directions. It makes me queasy still.
Jody now regularly says to me “thank you for living.” I considered this to be an overly dramatic statement and it took me a few repeats to realize that she’s completely serious. For the first week after the accident I was sleeping soundly and no one, not even doctors with years of training, could predict when, or if, I would wake up. Jody had to hold onto hope in the face of the complete unknown. Often when I wake up in the mornings, I find her just looking at me. She says that she loves to see me open my eyes, smile back, and … be alive. After three months of hospitalization in Denver, my recovery is progressing smoothly. We returned home to Durango in September and love every minute of it.
Jody kept a beautiful daily blog in which she documented my hospital care and her own intense journey as well. The blog follows this entry in reverse chronological order. Jody is very proud to report to anyone who will listen that I made my first goal for “THE PLAN” which was to snowshoe up to a 10th Mountain Hut on Thanksgiving 2008. The picture above is me mountain biking in Moab in May of 2009. Finally back on the bike! This past summer, Jody tirelessly indoctrinated every doctor, nurse, and therapist that touched me on THE PLAN. According to THE PLAN I will be skiing, biking, hiking, and kayaking by 2009. I intend to deliver.
I have a considerable amount of titanium holding together my hip and leg bones (the marvel of the medical age we live in), but I am feeling great and hope to be 100% by next summer. Summer 2009 is also important because until then I am obliged to abide by several health restrictions for one full year following the accident. First and most important among these admonitions is, “Don’t hit your head.” Simple enough statement but Jody nearly fainted when I bumped my head on an open cabinet door. I’ve tried to convince her that such minor bumps aren’t what was intended. The more difficult part of honoring this restriction is that I promised to avoid any “speed” or “gravity” or “impact” sports for a year. That means no skiing, mountain biking, cliff diving, and the like. I find it hard to wave good-bye to my friends without a sense of jealousy when they are heading off for another epic powder day.
Most importantly we both want to extend a sincere and heartfelt “Thank You” to all our friends, family and co-workers who showed tremendous support during my recovery. Your love, prayers, thoughts and deeds helped us immeasurably on this journey. Your support showed us what is most important in life. We have both discovered that our world is truly an ocean of love.
Jobs and Work
Jody’s employer Indy Mac Bank is one of those banks that dabbled in the “new economy” of risky home loans and discovered that prudence is the better part of valor. They were taken over by the FDIC as one of the fall-outs from the mortgage crisis and are now Indy Mac Federal Bank. Jody was lucky in that she kept her job (thanks to her boss) while unfortunately over 3,400 people were let go. The FDIC is now looking for a private firm to acquire the company. The FDIC solicited bids from potential buyers and is evaluating proposals right now. We are hoping that the acquiring company will want to retain key staff and that she will be able to find a position with the new company.
I have applied for a position with Science Applications International Corporation serving in a role similar to that I’ve provided to them for years as a consultant. We are hopeful that they will select me to return to the company as an employee. I also do a bit of Contract Management consulting for some other firms.
Newest Addition to our Household
Most of us have experienced the sock monster. His source of food & entertainment is obvious to all when you find a sock is missing while folding your laundry. In our home he has at least a dozen sock victims to his credit. Maddeningly he only attacks expensive wool socks, leaving cotton tube socks entirely untouched.
But, how many of you have actually seen him? We have! He lives in our house. He’s slippery as a snake, strong and stringy at 4 lbs, orange, sharp claws on his four feet, and pointy teeth along his powerful jaws. He’s devious and exasperating and…adorable. He sleeps on our bed emitting a creaky purr.
If we had known that Thomas the Tom Cat was THE sock monster, we might have thought twice before picking him up at the pound. He punch boxes endlessly with Tigger (despite her obvious distaste for such behavior) and interprets her cranky responses as encouragement. I find their wild behavior charming until I find myself shooing Thomas off the bed grumpily after he pounces on me just one too many times. But now he’s part of the family. He’s training us to be very careful with our socks!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
If you ever find yourself in this next of the woods, look us up. You may find us strolling the neighborhood, working the garden, petting the kitty cats or just generally enjoying each day.
Jody and Seth Furtney
11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301
Seth Phone: 970-385-5547
Jody Phone: 970-385-5567
Seth Email: email@example.com
Jody Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Erinn organized a suprise welcome home party for Seth and I last night. (I knew about it but Seth did not.) She had assembled 60 or so of our friends and when Seth walked into the outdoor patio of Carvers, he was stunned! It was such a great moment to see all the happy faces around us! Erinn had decorated the patio with prayer flags and spiderman table cloths. It was quite appropriate! Thanks so much to Carvers for hosting the gala affair and providing food and drink, Michael and Birgitte for providing the choice homemade dessert, and to Erinn for organizing the awesome party. Thanks to all who came to the party as well. Our hearts were truly uplifted by seeing and feeling such joy with our return. Durango is truly a paradise not only for the mountains and rivers but for the deep friendships we have here. Thank you!
Photo courtesy of Brett Butterstein.
In closing, the poem I wrote and which I read last night.
A Flame of Hope
In the face of a terrible tragedy, a flicker of life.
Angels were on hand to tend you.
A vortex of prayers, thoughts and vibes came quickening.
We sailed past the point where most doctors murmured “Beyond this place, there be dragons.”
And in the land of the dragons, I saw darkness and things worse than death. I also saw hope, light and beauty.
I chose hope.
A small flame of hope kindled, though fragile.
I asked all to provide a windbreak.
To let the flame whisper as you healed.
It started with you opening your eyes and I saw you fighting for both of us.
I saw recognition.
I saw a power so forceful that it took my breath away.
And so I tended the flame as it strengthened.
And it has become a firestorm of proportions that only you could attain.
You’ve always told me that life is not a dress rehearsal. I believe that.
I’ve often told you a phrase I picked up somewhere…”That life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body. But rather…to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming….Wow!!! What a ride!” I believe this too.
But at this pace, the anthropologists in a million years will dig up your bones interlaced with adamantium and wonder what in the heck happened that could cause a man such grief over his lifetime in the 21st century!
Let’s climb mountains in the future! But no more 8,000 meter peaks like we climbed this summer!
I know we have just summitted. We are home.
But we still have to get back to the safety of base camp…the next leg of our journey.
And I’ll walk that walk with you.
I’ll walk with you forever to tend this flame….my flame of hope.
And so we move to the next phase of our healing. Journey well our family and friends. Thanks to all of you who have provided such immense encouragement and support for us during the past three months.
This is my final blog posting. Seth will pick up the story from here in his Christmas letter.