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Summer, and an unexpected twist

Well, here again, finally, is another attempt to hammer out a few exciting details of our summer. It seems like it came early this year, and stayed long, but is gone with a flash. Such is life, I suppose.

Currently, as in right this minute, I am writing this from Recklinghausen, Germany, while seated at the small but efficient desk in my hotel room. It has been a trip about twenty years in the making, but we'll get to that later.

First, a little update on the summer. I took our oldest to Kansas in the early days of summer, a few weeks before wheat harvest, so that he could get a little hands on experience working in a greenhouse/farmers market environment for his uncle & aunt. He had a great time, made some new friends and memories, and was a big help to his aunt as she was also expecting a third child very soon.

A few shots from the midwest!

Then he made his first ever solo flight home, and his siblings were eagerly awaiting his return. Of course, now being a very grown up 13 year old, he couldn't show any excitement upon his arrival and acted as though this kind of thing was an everyday happening.

Then, over the Labor Day weekend, we decided to venture north to the Grand Canyon and see it in person again for the second time since we moved to Arizona, 8 years ago. This time, instead of taking the train from Williams, we opted to drive so that we had a little more control over where, and when, we went to explore. Since the driver in the Land Cruiser had a numb foot and a fair amount of discomfort, I didn't venture too far down the trails at the various look-out points we stopped in at, with one notable exception.

This spot proved to be too engaging to pass up, so together with the boys, I carefully negotiated the trail around this stone point and managed to drag myself to the top. I am standing in the photo with my eldest son looking down at the Colorado River. We noticed a tiny little speck in the center of a broad, smooth part of the river, and we were wondering if it was a rock or a river boat. A little later, we were able to confirm that it was a boat, as we checked its location against where it was previously and noticed a wide difference in position. Small victory, but still engaging for the boys.

I was able to climb up despite the numb foot, but my wife was pretty sure I was gonna die. Rather than just waste away, I figured hey, everyone's gonna go some time...

Actually, it was pretty safe, and despite of her concerns, I didn't take any extra risks. I did tell the boys to stay down, since i wasn't in any condition to be hauling them back alone if anything happened.

It is easy to forget how large the canyon really is. After a while, I think your brain kinda says to itself, "Yeah, it's big, but really, how big can it be??", and then you see the boat in the river and can't decide if it is a boat or a very large rock, and then the ol' brain gets a jolt of reality again. It really is that big, after all.

Pizza straight out of the oven.

And for no apparent reason other than I like 'em, food and beverage glamour shots.

I mean, what summer is complete without a wood fired pizza and an iced espresso, right?!

And then, of course, the real reason I'm typing (although I don't really type, it's more like search & destroy than hunt & peck) from a hotel room in Germany. To keep it short and sweet, about 20 years ago, while jumping a BMX bike one hot and steamy summer day in Kansas, I apparently ruptured a disc in my lumbar spine. Of course, being younger and rather less careful, I tried to manage the pain myself and also went to a chiropractor, thinking it was just something small. It was weeks before I could walk and work without pain again, and then began a years long battle. Injury followed injury & pain followed pain, and then in 2014, I was granted a reprieve by getting a small portion of the ruptured disc removed by a spine surgeon in Flagstaff.

The doctor told me that about half of the patients treated like this have a re-occurrence, since the disc cannot be sewn or glued shut to prevent another herniation. It was really nice to not have the pain & discomfort, and I was even able to resume mountain biking with my boys, which I thought was probably over for me.

Then, about a year ago, while doing squats one fine summer morning on the back patio, something decided that it had enough, and I suddenly did, too. It's funny how exercise sessions come to a screeching halt when your back decides to take its toys and go home.

Thus began another round of injuries, pain, and frustration. When a person is fairly motivated, and grew up doing hard physical work for a living (drywallers, I'm looking at you) it is tough to accept that the things you were doing just a few days ago now are presenting you a choice. Do I force through the pain and do this, or accept that I should not and deal with the feelings of defeat?

So, after being unwilling to accept the course of action offered by the local surgeons since the outcome looked like a repeat of the former situation, I began to explore other options. Which lead me to contact a liaison in two countries, namely Canada & Australia, and explore the option of disc replacement surgery outside of the US. After much research, and talking to other that have done the same trip for the same reasons, I started the process to come to Germany and have what I believe will be a better solution than I can get at home.

Taking the train to Düsseldorf was an experience. 160 miles per hour, and super smooth & quiet

And that is how it came to be that I'm here together with my wife. It's the first time either of us have travelled outside the continental US, and so far, it's been doable. It's interesting to see the differences, but more interesting are the similarities. And really, people are people everywhere you go. Some good, some not as much, some trying to be better.

Today we slept in as much as possible (for me that meant waking about 5:30 am local time) had a leisurely breakfast here at the hotel, and then decided to see what we could do after. Much of the town is closed on Sunday, se we ended up walking a ways to a park with a museum of sorts.

This was taken from east side, after we toured through the museum. It was built about the mid 1100's from what we could discern, and before that there seems to have been a castle of sorts here. I would really like to know how the builders were able to design a wall system that allows the basement to be under the level of the water in moat, and yet have no seepage into the structure.

They currently have a little info about the building, the family that may have built it, as well as information about the power struggles between the classes, serfs vs the wealthy landholders. There were bits of information about the food they ate, pottery of the age, a suit of armor, and a huge, two handed sword that was suppose to have been more ceremonial than for day to day use, but it sure looked like it had seen very real use...

The main floor also was home to an art installation, and the second floor had more on day to day life in the 17-1900's. The basement was the most interesting to me, with the low groin vault ceilings, and the historic equipment for metalworking, farming, textile production and more. Even rodent traps that relied on the deadfall system, bringing a new insight on the term "building a better mousetrap".

Here are a few of the different sights from in the basement and other parts of the museum:

Said mouse and rat traps above.

The smithy.

A grinding mill of some sort. I wasn't able to determine what they ground on it, all I could get was gristmill.

Looms look extremely complex to me, probably because I've never seen one in use...

This chap was kinda rigid and standoffish. Seems like he could lighten up a bit.

Tennis elbow got you down?? Try two-handed sword elbow! This thing was over 5' long!!

Cider press! Interesting how a good design just doesn't need much improvement through the ages.

Imagine the arm power needed to crank this sucker back, even with the mechanical crank. The bowstring was about ½" thick. I wonder how well that armour would hold up to one of those bolts fired from this!

Meet George. George is huge! From the tip of the right hand side antler to the center of the nose was almost 6'. But he probably didn't have any self conscience feelings about his ears sticking out too far.

I find groin vault ceilings fascinating, since they are such a complex looking design. Plus they make a neat photo opportunity, with the different shadows and lighting surfaces.

And last but not least, the entry to the place. I would not recommend wearing high heeled shoes of any kind, those cobblestone streets are intense, and a sprained ankle could happen in a hurry.

So, that's what I have for now. Tomorrow is check in at the hospital, and Tuesday is scheduled for surgery. Stay tuned for more info as I am able to post.

And the final, parting shot, filled with irony. Lunch after the museum, at a Greek restaurant in Germany, while American rock music is playing on a German speaking radio station....and the food was great!

#Germany #backsurgery #dining #Düsseldorf