Posts Tagged ‘Omaha’

The blizzard to home

March 1, 2017

There’s the net, and we know what we know,

But if something’s uncertain, it’s snow

Is it foolish or bold,                                       

To make a trip in such cold?

Or just plan on making it slow?

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I went back to adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system I can get along with. Assignments in Nome, Alaska, rural Iowa, and suburban Pennsylvania stretched into fall 2015. Since last winter I’ve worked in Alaska and western Nebraska, and taken time to deal with my wife’s (benign) brain tumor. After a moose hunt in Canada, and short jobs in western Iowa and Alaska, I am working in Clarinda, Iowa. Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission.

I kept an eye on the internet weather predictions on Thursday preparatory to the drive back to Sioux City, and I could see snow predicted for the evening, but the really hard snow wouldn’t start till after midnight. Bethany and I talked about the trip over lunch.  We decided to try to get as far as we could, and, if necessary, stay the night in a motel in Onawa, about 50 miles from home.  We left in light rain mixed with sleet.  Our neighbors called before we reached Omaha.  The blizzard had engulfed our destination.

We talked it over some more. We decided that even if we could get to Onawa, a closed Interstate at that point would mean full motels.

If we’re going to get stuck, we said, we’d rather get stuck in a town with a variety of good restaurants and an overabundance of rooms.

We dined at the Jaipur, and while we tried a couple of dishes we’d never had before, the snow-covered the car to a depth of 3 inches.

We crept down icy streets to a nearby motel.

We hadn’t even brought a change of clothes, but the front desk had toothbrushes with tiny tubes of toothpaste.

We slept hard and deep and awakened rested to find, after breakfast, the car encrusted with ice and coated with heavy, wet snow. The trunk, frozen shut, required a good deal of coaxing to open.

As I pulled onto the Interstate in Omaha, a car intending to take the same ramp from the other direction spun out while I watched.

Between the two of us, my driving talent lies with traffic, and Bethany’s with snow and mountains. I got us out of Omaha and headed north on I-29.  At the first rest area we changed drivers.

On the way to Sioux City we saw two more spin outs and a half-dozen cars off the road, one on its roof.

The drive took twice as long as usual. But we arrived, safe and grateful.

It snowed and it blew but the cold didn’t approach the negative double digits we’d planned on in Fairbanks. Still it’s all part of the adventure.




I estimate my exercise output and my caloric intake badly

August 27, 2015

How much was it I ate?
I don’t know, but I can estimate
I know that I guessed
And it wasn’t the best
But there’s no denying the weight.

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record System (EMR) I can get along with. I spent the winter in Nome, Alaska, followed by assignments in rural Iowa and suburban Pennsylvania. After my brother-in-law’s funeral, a bicycle tour of northern Michigan, and cherry picking in Sioux City, I’m travelling back and forth between home and Pennsylvania. Any patient information has been included with permission.

Most Americans struggle with their weight because human beings are lousy estimators. We badly estimate how much exercise we got and we badly estimate how many calories we have in front of us, and our waist lines slowly expand.
Working Urgent Care, I can eat a decent breakfast before work. I don’t take a formal lunch or dinner break. Sometimes I get lunch, and sometimes I don’t. I will, as instructed, eat enough to keep making good decisions, which generally means stepping into the break room in the midafternoon and wolfing down some provided snacks (I prefer Goldfish and peanuts).I try not to eat supper, because, like the majority of Americans, I struggle with my weight. Mostly, I fail, and I end up eating something when I get back to the hotel. I try to keep it light. I don’t always succeed.
When I used to work 12 and 14 hour days in private practice, I could exercise after work because my day started at 5:15AM, but the 8:00 to 8:00 schedule precludes exercise late or early without significant loss of sleep.
Wednesday, when my work week finished, I ate supper, and next morning ate an enormous breakfast. The trip home met with delays and cancellations, and the airline provided us with meal vouchers. Bethany prefers to travel hungry, but with 6 extra hours at Chicago O’Hare, I used all $24 to buy a mushroom torta, chips, and guacamole. I ate with guilt, aware I’d missed a lot of gym sessions and I hadn’t missed enough meals. Which didn’t keep me from snacking on chocolate almonds while the next plane boarded late.
One of our friends drove down from Sioux City to Omaha to pick us up. We drove back in the dark, arriving home to face two weeks of mail, neatly laid out on our kitchen table.
The next morning I gritted my teeth before I got onto the scale.
To my surprise, I’d lost 4 pounds in the two weeks we’d been away.
I didn’t snack as much as I thought. But I also have to figure that I got more exercise in the course of a day’s work than I’d realized. A pedometer would give solid numbers.
If you estimate well, you can generally find work, well, as an estimator. My track record on estimation, poor at best, keeps me out of that line of work. Which means I’m a lousy estimator.
Like most human beings.

Taking the bump: think it through

October 5, 2013

We had seats on an overbooked flight.

Would we take a bump?  Well, we might.

It depends on the price.

But the agent was nice,

And we got home just before night.

SYNOPSIS:  I’m a family physician from Sioux City, Iowa.  In 2010, I danced back from the brink of burnout, and, honoring a 1-year non-compete clause, worked in out-of-the-way places from New Zealand to Barrow, Alaska.  Now I work part-time at a Community Health Center, meaning that I average 54 hours a week.  I just got back from a two-week working vacation in Petersburg, Alaska, and an educational convention in San Diego.

I recently took a non-credit course in Game Theory; it had major overlaps with chaos theory and economics, and a few in physics.  If I can summarize 18 hours of lectures in a one sentence: think things through.

On our way back from San Diego, the airline announced an overbooking situation and offered to pay people to rebook their flights at a later time.  Usually I don’t have that kind of flexibility, but on this occasion we had arranged travel on a Saturday, and I didn’t have clinical duties till Monday.  For the first time, ever, I could afford to take the bump.

And I could apply my new-found game theory skills.

Most other offers of cash-for-getting-bumped have come while travelling on a Sunday and have gone begging at $400 a head.  In this case,.  I decided that probably a lot of other people had flexibility and would be more willing to take the money, so that the chance of getting a large sum would go down

I hit the ticket counter before anyone else, and offered up my seat in the spirit of cooperation and greed, to the tune of $200 a head, paltry in comparison to past offers.

While I stood there, another pair of passengers came to vie for the prize.

The agent booked us on a later flight going through Phoenix rather than Houston, avoiding some bad weather, cutting the total flight time by an hour, shaving another hour off a layover, thus getting us into Omaha 2 hours ahead of schedule.

I declared, to the agent, the classic win-win situation.

Yet we still boarded the plane with disappointment in our hearts that our original itinerary would be followed.

Five minutes before scheduled take-off the flight attendant had us leave the plane; something to do with a loose seat bolt elsewhere.  We strode across the airport to a different airline’s gate, and in a few hours touched down in Omaha, richer and sooner than expected.

Just one more example of being pleased to not get our first choice.

When is a trip home like a spider? When it has eight legs.

June 17, 2011

A limerick isn’t a poem

A blog sure isn’t a tome

     This thing they call jet lag

     Comes out to big drag

But happiness is being back home.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. I took a sabbatical to dance back from the brink of burnout.  While my one-year non-compete clause ticked away, I worked in Alaska, Iowa, Nebraska, and Alaska.  I had a lot of adventures working in out-of-the-way places.  Now I’m back home, getting ready to start my new job.

When is a trip home like a spider?  When it has eight legs. 

Our trip home lasted thirty-eight hours and left us with the worst jet lag we’ve ever had.  We slept badly even before boarding the plane in Dunedin.  From Dunedin to Christchurch to Wellington to Auckland (thirteen hours) we might have napped on the plane, but we didn’t get restorative sleep. 

Turbulence, related to the recent Chilean volcanoes, dominated the twelve hours spent flying to Los Angeles.  I ignored the bucking airplane and watched three movies, and didn’t sleep. 

By the time we deplaned in Phoenix’s late afternoon the temperature exceeded anything we’d experienced in New Zealand. 

Omaha at midnight had darkness and thick, sweet summer air.  Long detours necessitated by the Missouri River flooding added an extra forty-five minutes to the drive home.  By the time we actually walked into the house the clock came close to 3:00 AM.  Our trip had lasted thirty-eight hours, if you don’t count the travel from Bluff to Dunedin. 

Jet lag hit us hard in LA and didn’t get better as we progressed.  Both aware that neither of us could process information well, we showed immense patience with each other; I doubt either of us could have negotiated the trip home alone.

We suffer not just from the time difference but also from the abrupt change of season.  We departed for New Zealand near the equinox, when day and night all over the planet approached twelve hours, but we returned home just before the solstice.  Dunedin’s shortest day would coincide with Sioux City’s shortest night a mere eight days after we landed.

Our body clocks have been thrown into chaos.  I have been on the ground for three days and only now am I starting to write again.  I awaken at about 4:00AM and crash hard at one in the afternoon.

Of course I went to my new work place less than twenty-four hours after I arrived; I needed to discuss my upcoming schedule.

Unlike a lot of the family practitioners these days I enjoy hospital work, rubbing elbows with the specialists and providing continuity of care.  My new routine will start with hospital rounds for the group Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  If things go according to plan, after lunch those days I’ll do clinic, and I’ll have an evening clinic on Mondays.   Those twenty-eight hours, combined with my share of a one-in-eight call rotation, add up to 45.7 average hours per week, which, for a doctor, means part-time work.

I’ve changed a lot more than Interstate 80

September 27, 2010

The traffic has sped up and slowed

I’ve changed my travelling mode

    This is Nebraska,

    It’s not like Alaska.

We’ve got the I-80 road.

I travelled Interstate 80 the first time at the start of the summer of 1968, going east from Denver on my first road trip.  I drove my friend’s new Chevelle directly away from my high school graduation.  Bitter about the previous seven years at home and at school, I determined to never return. 

At age 18 I had much to learn.

At that time I-80S existed only in segments, and wouldn’t be named I-76 until the Bicentennial.  I pulled off the two-lane in Julesburg, and while the attendant pumped my gas and washed my windshield I listened to the wind in the telephone wires and thought I’d heard the loneliest sound in the world.

The speed limit signs at that time changed from 70 to 80 with the daylight.

I drove to meet up with my music buddies in Illinois, sure we’d change the world with our music.

The summer didn’t go according to plan.  We came back to Denver in the middle of July when the pianist’s mother died.  The pianist and I didn’t find day jobs and we didn’t find much in the way of music jobs, either. 

I travelled west on I-80 that winter for Xmas break; I had yet to learn to travel light, yet to learn that school books brought on vacation never add to knowledge but diminish the vacation’s quality.  Again the three musicians rode in the pianist’s Chevelle, and got stuck in a snow drift outside of Cozad.

For the next four years I-80 served as my hitchhiking corridor to and from college.  When I went to medical school I traveled the same highway, catching rides or thumbing.

Bit by bit I-76 reached completion and the four-lane finished skirting Omaha.   

We moved to Iowa in 1985.  At that time the speed limit was 55 and we had three small children.  The twelve-hour drive to visit my parents thus dilated to eighteen hours until we learned to drive at night.

In May of 1989 I received a call as the sun was going down.  My stepfather had a stroke; my mother told me not to come.  Bethany brewed me a Thermos of real coffee and I left immediately.   He died four days later, and I drove back with the radio off, alone with my thoughts.

My mother got sick in 1991 and died in 1993.  During that interval I made the trip many times by air and by car.  I learned how dead-end and bitterness define each other, and sap the joy from life.

We made the pilgrimage every summer to visit my father till the kids grew up and my father died.  I travel I-80 less often now than I used to.

I have taken to making the trip in two stages; I have stopped tonight at a motel in Big Springs, now that I have a level of affluence that I didn’t have the years that I travelled all night or camped briefly in Grand Island or slept a few hours in a rest area.  Quieter, safer cars speed back and forth.   Speed limits have gone down and then up.  Gas mileage keeps improving.   Nebraska highway maintenance remains a model of functionality. 

I am on my way to an educational conference in Denver through the American Academy of Family Practice.

In the last forty years I’ve changed more than the road has.

This trip is the first time I haven’t been in a hurry going or coming.  I’m enjoying it a lot more.