Punching Thru Goliath


Three days (actually two-and-a-half since I started Day 1 after 4PM … actually one-and-two-halves since Day 3 started at Noon) into the Drive 2.0, and we have gone through 1372.4 miles.

How is it going?  Well, far from perfect to be honest.

For starters, I did something to my back while packing up the car.  It’s one of those things where you don’t feel the pain until the next day or something.  Then it becomes like an annoying neighbor kid, perfectly harmless most the time, nags you when you want to be left alone, and cripples you when you least expect it.  Sometimes sitting in the car seat is fine, sometimes it’s excruciating.  Sometimes standing helps.  Sometimes its at its worst when standing.  Last night, the hotel with all it’s cushy soft mattresses were like daggers – leading me to spend most the night lying flat back on the hard carpeted floor.  I stretch when I can, but you know how long that lasts.

That being said, this trip could have been loads worse.  About a week ago, I started tracking a weather pattern that was heading east.  Most of you know which one I am talking about, because it’s either hit you, is hitting you, or going to hit you.  It’s all tied into a system that was called Winter Storm Goliath!  Goliath is the jerk that dumped two feet of snow onto New Mexico and Oklahoma; ravaged the Dallas area with Tornadoes, caused flooding across the Mississippi & Ohio valleys, and now is dumping the white stuff onto the upper Midwest.  Over the days to come, it is going to run along the Northern states out east leading to the first measurable snows in New England.  For those of you hit by this, be careful and stay safe.

For me – I have been adjusting my travel for days to deal with Goliath.  It’s no easy task, mind you.  While you can pull up a map right now and see how the whole of the country is getting hit – weather forecasts, for the most part, are local.  I can see the forecast for towns like White Plains, Cincinnati, Memphis, Amarillo would for given points of time.  But there is nowhere that shows the changing forecasts along a 3500 mile route – let alone the tens of possible routes to take.  So, I had to keep making educated guesses and adjusting as needed.  Basically that meant, start south then head west.

Goliath, though, blocked my path.  He reached from the Mexican boarder well up into Canada.  No matter what route I took, sooner or later, we were going to cross paths.  My goal was to be somewhere safe, preferably in a hotel, when that time came.  What became clear over last night, I wasn’t going to be allowed that luxury.  Goliath was encircling the pup and I, and sooner or later, I had to be ready for him

As the weather developed this morning, I started to consider just punching through.  He was fast moving, and the line was getting thinner and thinner at the Southern point.  When I left Cincinnati this morning, it started to appear that I was going to hit him on I-65 somewhere south of Louisville before the Tennessee boarder.  In some of the maps, the heavy storms he was bringing were going to take up to an hour to pass.  I looked for options – places with canopied parking, so car windows can be cracked for the pup without leaving the rain to flow in; or longer term layover places like movie theaters so I can sit out the weather watching that hot new Jedi girl.

I was a half hour north of Bowling Green, KY when I made my last weather check.  Goliath was breathing down my neck, the rain was coming in spits and gushes inconsistently.  The radar was turning from reds to yellows.  I thought I could make Bowling Green, and the radar agreed.

Ten miles out, the skys had ominous dark clouds that twirled.  My GPS was squaking that weather was on the road ahead.  But I could see the other side, and the thinning clouds beyond.  It showered hard for about a mile, at no time flooding the road but enough that we all slowed under the speed limit.  Then as that cloud burst ended, the wind picked up heavy blowing hard to the west.  I thought that was odd, because I assumed Goliath was still to the west – and wind usually blows away from the storm.  I arrived at Bowling Green, pulled into the mall parking lot, and checked the weather once more.

It turned out that storm WAS Goliath.  I punched through that jerk in just about 5 minutes.  One toad choker of a wash and we were on the west side of it.

That meant, and I am not coming close to exaggerating this, from here on out the weather will be clear and beautiful all the way to California.  It could get cool, and we could have to work through what Goliath left behind, but weather will no longer be a factor on this drive.

I was embracing that whole concept just a half hour down the road, where we crested a hill and Downtown Nashville came into view lit up by the setting sun.  It was a beautiful sight, broad and wonderful; like a reward for the hardships of the first thousand miles.  And reminding me why I so love road trips, where those moments can just catch your eye as you look out on the ever changing world.

Tomorrow, we begin gunning west.  I-40 straight on through as far as it takes us.  More than half the journey is still ahead, but hopefully, like Goliath, the worst is behind us.



The Drive 2.0


Happy Boxing Day    Of course, not being British or Canadian, I have no reason to celebrate Boxing Day — but I do … kinda.  Boxing Day is the start of the great transition of me wasting my time watching loads of football to wasting my time watching loads of soccer … that is until Hockey dominates my attention.  Seriously, nearly eight hours of English Premier League soccer on their biggest regular season day of the year.  So of course I will be doing nothing but watching soccer.

Yep, nothing at all.

Oh, except for getting ready to drive 3500 miles in a week.

Y’all remember when I drove out to California earlier this year for work?  Remember how that seemed like a once in a lifetime thing?  Guess what.

Yep, I am heading out to for a long-term stint in California again.  A different situation, and it doesn’t has as open as an end day as the last go around.  I am calling it ‘shifting my base of operation’, meaning I won’t be locked down at a plant non-stop; but will be making a plant a priority while supporting a few other ones in the area.  Plus I’ll be traveling to different regions, just flying from California not Boston.  I expect this will run until early April – just in time for the snow to melt out East.

I’ve been planning this trip for about a month, but hadn’t locked into anything because … well … there was some things in the air.  For one, I had to get a bunch of things done here in town, and some of those had their own ideas about schedules.  Though the big variable is weather – Do you know how hard it is to get a five day window of good weather forecasts covering some 3500 miles?

As for a plan, it’s only generally set.  Heading out tomorrow afternoon (Dec 26th), the plan is to get to the Northwest of NYC (about 3-1/2 hours).  From there, it’s a run to Cincinnati where I will spend Monday morning visiting a plant before making a short run that afternoon to … well … that’s where things get more up in the air.  There’s predicted weather Monday afternoon & Tuesday in the midwest, and the choice will be to see if there is a shortcut through it, or to drop south and below it.  By the time Wednesday rolls around, the roads should be great on any predicted route — all with the plan on spending New Years Eve in California.

The pup, of course, will be riding along with – that’s the whole point of driving out, to take him with.

Xmas Letter 2015


(Annually, I send out a Christmas Letter with the Christmas Cards.  If you are on that mailing list … it’s coming, I promise.  If not, consider this the open letter for the year.)

Happy Holidays Everyone,

It’s that time of year when the air gets colder, the ground begins to turn from brown to white, and we forget where the shorts are hidden so we can wear the thickest and ugliest of sweaters.  Also, it’s that time of year to share holiday wishes and catch everyone up on all things Mitch.  So many times, writing this letter is the challenge of fitting all the interesting things on a standard 8-½ by 11; this year that wasn’t so hard.  In fact, I’m already one paragraph in and stalling for time.

After the major changes in 2014, I maintained a bit of consistency you could say.  Auggie the Doggie & I still live in Dorchester, MA – a neighborhood on the South Side of Boston (if you ever watched Black Mass, Departed, or anything staring the Wahlbergs; that’s Dorchester).   I continue to work for Bodycote Thermal Processing as the North American Quality Manager, which has me overseeing Quality at 22 plants in 9 states & Mexico.  Of course, I’ve had jobs that have me traveling a lot, but that was nothing compared to what 2015 was like.  I stayed in hotels for 226 nights in 2015, which is nearly 2 out of 3 nights in the year.  This includes a run of nearly 4 months based in Southern California.  Needless to say, I didn’t spend much time ‘living’ in Dorchester – but at least I had a lot of hotel waffles.

A majority of that travel was by car; mostly visiting plants in the New England area.  Which did lead to some nice day trips to places like Mt Washington.  The highlight, though, was the aforementioned Southern California stay, and a massive road trip to get there and get back.  Heading out, time was tight, so the pup and I (I did most the driving) did it over two weekends.  Coming back, it was nearly six days of wandering through the countryside, including an incredible day through Utah, reliving the dream of Shenandoah NP, and seeing for the first time the Grand Canyon (#bucketlist).  I’ve always been a sucker for the ‘Great American Road Trip’, and that life of riding the open road watching the land pass by you.  It surprised me that with such a major drive (3058 miles going out, 4330 miles on the prolonged return trip); that I covered so much road on it I had already covered.  In fact, on the way out there was a strip of rood on US 54 from Liberal, KS through the Oklahoma & Texas Panhandles to where it intersects with I-40 in New Mexico – that 100 mile section was the only portion of my drive out that I hadn’t driven before.  If that’s just doesn’t spit in that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ motto; I get to make that same drive starting next week.

A real highlight came this summer – a real celebration!  My parents celebrated the Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary.  To celebrate, they planned everything – garden party, live music, and open invitation to anyone who was within spitting distance.  It was the first opportunity in years/decades that so much of my immediate family were together (and I was there for once); so we spent hours catching up – and for the cousins it was hours of us learning what it means to be grown up (usually involving beer).  Of course, all of my parent’s friends, people I haven’t seen for years, stopped by – as well as longtime friends I talk to only through Facebook.   Ironically, the people I talked to the least were my parents, wrapped in their own great catching up.  In a way, that was what they wanted; this party to bring all these people together to enjoy the day – but together we celebrated them, and the great achievement of their 50-year happiness.

There was one change that couldn’t be missed.  On November 20th I had mini gastric bypass surgery; a procedure intended to make permanent changes to improve my life.   It’s only been a month, but if you ignore the weird digestive problems, it’s so far so good.

Of course, there is always more to cover.  I had a long weekend drum corps in Indianapolis.  Saw more of Connecticut than I thought I would see.  Drank my share of wine with friends in Temecula Valley.  And spent most of November writing for the National Novel Writing Month, winning for the first time (which just means I wrote 50,000 words … I didn’t win anything, and am far from finished).

The year wasn’t without it’s trouble, in fact, it seemed I spent more of it trying to work myself out of the problems in my world.  Part of it was the ongoing homesickness for that way too short of time I spent in Alaska.  I chat and talk to all those old friends and look at pictures constantly, hoping a time will come and a reason will come that will lead me back to the last frontier.

But as the year was coming to an end, I was struck by a lyric to a song by the group Passenger that put all those bad things into perspective:

Don’t Cry for the Lost; Smile for the Living

It’s the time of year to remember just that – that we are lucky, that we have much to be thankful for.  So it’s better we approach the new year with hope and reason to change that holds us back.  Don’t cry for what life isn’t – love what it is.


From Auggie & Mitch

Merry Christmas &
Happy New Year

A New Hope Awakens


(This is a spoiler free post)

A long time ago, in a movie theater far, far away, a movie captured my imagination in a way that captured the imagination of hundreds of millions of people.  I was six years old when the original Star Wars hit the theaters – and while I just am not sure if this is true, I’d like to think I first saw it in the old Prairie du Chien downtown theater as one of the first movies I saw there (though my memory suggests I went to see Jaws first .. but that would have meant I was 4 when it came out).  Over the next few years, I was able to get my hands on picture books, board games, reduced audio records (the whole ‘Luke I am your Father’ scene still sounds weird to me because they shortened it for vinyl, and I played the hell out of that), and of course we had a vast collection of action figures – none of which stayed in the box.  I still remember the way we wrote and re-wrote storylines stacking up our LEGOs into different ships and bases.  The only regret of those days was the utter shock we had when we found out Luke & Leia were siblings … because that definitely wasn’t consistently with how we played them.  I definitely was in the theater when Empire came out when I was 9.  Return of the Jedi came out when I was 11, and stood in my mind as completely different than any movies or any story that I had ever seen.  It was a storyline that hooked me, kept hooking me, and brought me back to that mystery of a galaxy.  As I grew older, I would watch those old films with greater appreciation.

When the prequels came back to our world, I was 27 years old.  I remember rushing home from work to finally get a seat a week after Phantom Menace.  That showing sticks in my head for two things (and no, neither are the horrid acting and thin script).  They both happened within seconds of each other.

It starts with that moment, and everyone who has seen a Star Wars movie knows it.  You are sitting there … waiting … anticipating.  They put up the distributer names, the Lucasfilms thingy, and then black screen with the words:  “Long ago, in a galaxy far far away”

There is silence.

Then …


That One Note!  That One Big Note!  The fanfare that follows is as iconic as icons can be in world in the last 40 years.

That One Big Note is the first thing.

The next one was in the words that followed.  For nearly 20 years I was reading words that scrolled over the screen right after that big note.  For the first time since the early 80’s I was reading words I had never read before.  That’s when it started to sink in. Going through my head wasn’t a single one of the words, only the thought “Holy S**t, I am watching a new Star Wars”

Sure, I was let down by the Prequel.  Attack of the Clones was almost a throw-away episode, and I wanted so much more out of Revenge of the Sith.  Yet it was still Star Wars, and it was still those first moments that brought me back.  In a couple years I, like most of the Star Wars fandom, accepted the fact that this was it.  There would be no Episode 7  8 or 9.

Of course – we will be blessed by all 9.  I won’t lie to you, Star Wars plays a small part in getting healthy again — you can’t watch a movie when you are dead.  Seriously, I sometimes hear about tragedies and think ‘poor them, they will never finish the Star Wars saga’.  I knew better than to try to watch Episode 7 on the release night, but that didn’t stop me.

Tonight – I sat in a theater in Braintree.  Sitting next to me was a boy no older than I probably was back when the first Star Wars came out.  He was chatty, more interested in the recliner buttons than the dialog, and went to the bathroom at least three times (once during the big moment, the poor kid).  Yet we were both there for that first moment.

When the first big note hit, my fists lifted holding short of going all the way into the air.  A quick look to the side, and the kid was doing the same thing.

It maybe just a movie, but it’s also a story of a lifetime.  It is a story of the fight for good, the power of belief, and the fight for the light to win over the dark side.  Such simple ideas, but hope is the greatest of gifts to give to a moviegoer.   There are more names for my generation then there are years in it.  I don’t know what you would call it, but nothing defines the time in which I lived like what will be 9 little movies and the magic Star Wars continues to create.

Now someone please tell me the next one comes out in January … I don’t think I can wait much longer for another.


What is Hungry


Today marks 4 weeks since my mini gastric bypass surgery.  You could call it a milestone, but really it’s just another date in that process.  Since that time, life’s thrown some unexpected, un-surgery related curveballs at me which made the “healing” process more difficult to say the least.  For instance, I had requested that during the month following the surgery I not travel for work – either by air, or by car.  I had planned to huddle into a hotel in Worcester, MA and support a plant during a run.  Instead, I ended up striking out on a decent priced, dog-friendly hotel and have been commuting 100 miles round trip every day.  That is except for the two days I spent flying down to Dallas and back for a meeting … and the weekend I had to make an emergency visit to Los Angeles.

The real challenge of the last two weeks is just trying to feel good consistently.   I’m not saying that from a standpoint that this new digestive tract is making me sick, but realizing that it is what I do to that tract that makes me sick.

Two weeks ago, my diet was allowed to change.  Previously it was strictly: broths, yogurt, crackers, and sports drinks.  Now, softer foods can start coming into play, like mashed potatoes, eggs, cheese, beans, etc.  Sure that opens up for variety, but there will be things that will not go down well.  So everything I eat becomes an experiment – but not that fun kind of experiment where you taste something and say ‘eww’.  When I eat something that doesn’t agree with me, I don’t get that feedback until later – sometimes a couple minutes, sometimes a half hour later.  Then again, it may be short lived, it may be hours.  What’s worse is that it comes in different disguises … nausea, gas, stomach cramps, or in the worst (yet all to common) cases – “speedy and fluid departure from Exit #2”.

What I realized this week was that half my problems had as much to do with when I ate it.

One of the big challenges with people like me who fought obesity most our lives is that we struggle with the whole concept of hunger.   Studies have shown all of eat for four conditions: Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, Tired.  Like the rest of you, those of us that struggle eat when we are hungry, but that just doesn’t happen that often. We are way more likely to eat for the other reasons — and in some cases it overcomes negativity like any other addictive trait.   So when I got ‘Hungry’ it was strange, and in some cases really scary.

These days, I am not sure what it feels like to be hungry.  That is to say — Hungry now doesn’t feel like Hungry before.  Stomach feels empty, but there is no metal trigger that pushes me to eat.

So what’s the problem with that?  Well …  If I don’t eat when I am hungry, I get gassy & get acid reflux.  So when I do eat, thinks taste metallic or acidic; which keeps me from eating at all … which makes the gassy acidic feelings worse.

Of course, if I eat BEFORE I am hungry, it leads to stomach cramps, hiccups, sometimes spit ups, and … the dreaded quick exit #2.

That’s what makes this ‘hunger’ thing a big challenge.  Not that I have to just eat when I am hungry and not eat when I am not hungry.  But I have to figure out what all of that feels like.  Getting it wrong makes me feel worse, and getting it right makes me feel … well … normal enough that I don’t notice I got it right.

But if you are wondering – it is working.  I feel physically better every day.  I had a day or two recently when I felt more energetic than I had in months/years (then life through me another f-ing curve ball and I huddled up into bed for a hours).    And in my weekly weigh-in I just came in at a hair above 40lbs lost since the surgery (officially at 39.7lbs).  I hadn’t  started an exercise routine yet, but that’s what New Years Resolutions are for, right?

That’s the update for now.  Hopefully, next few posts will be a little more non-surgery stuff.