John Tenney

Professional and Personal Blog of John Will Tenney

“Jepp” Charts

To help me stay current as a pilot, I subscribe to a newsletter put out by the University of North Dakota (UND) Aviation School. It is called “BoldMethod” and always includes a quiz with 5 to 7 questions. They have helped me a lot. I forward most of them to my select list of students and fellow aviation enthusiasts. Today one came out about Jeppesen (Jepp) approach charts. Things have changed in the digital age, so I felt a need to explain what Jepp Charts used to mean to pro pilots.

The Story of Jeppesen and The Quiz

Before you try this quiz, a couple of things:

1. You should be well in to your instrument rating training, as this is all about approach charts. They are not applicable to VFR, private pilots.

2. About Jeppesen. “Back in the day” the FAA published approach chart books, for each Air Route Traffic Control Center area, ARTCC or just plain “Center”. Later they changed it to each state, and combined some. Since the approaches change quite often, this usually meant buying a new book every time you went somewhere.

Jeppesen had the idea of a subscription, where you bought one, loose leaf book, for say – the East Coast of the US – and then periodically you would receive new copies of the charts (single pages) that you would update.

It was cheaper than buying books (especially for airlines, who got quantity discounts), but it took a lot of time in the pilot lounge to do updates. In fact you could “suck up” to a chief pilot by doing his updates, which had been stacking in little manila envelopes in a corner of his office. You had to do them in order, and do ALL of them, and log it in the front of the loose leaf binder.

It was a lot of work and no, we didn’t get paid to do it. It was non-paying, non-flight time. I have many memories of sitting around the crew lounge, doing updates with other pilots, and whining about as well.

Jeppesen Approach Charts came in a big, leather, loose leaf binder

Today, it’s all digital, as it seems every pilot has a tablet of some sort with some sort of chart app on it. Most of them are FAA but the Jeppesen option is available for a fee. Jeppesen added a lot of detail to charts, to justify the extra cost. They are not required. Some pilots think they are superior charts, and they probably are but the “superiority” is not necessary to safety of flight. Nonetheless you may still find yourself in a position where you have to read Jeppesen (or Jepp for short) charts, so it’s a good idea to know the “extra” symbology they have added.

If you’re up to it, take the quiz. If you are not going through instrument training right now, this quiz will be intimidating nonsense to you, so please don’t be discouraged.

The Bold Method Quiz

The $300 Hamburger

Back when I was flight instructing for a living, I would often fly somewhere in a small plane with a student, colleague, friend, business associate or even a date to enjoy what we called the “Hundred Dollar Hamburger.”

Times have changed. Rental prices have risen as well as fuel prices. A gallon of 100LL used to go for about $2, now it’s between $5 and $9.

Hence my new search, “The Three Hundred Dollar Hamburger”.

Here is a page where I will post links to my airport reviews: $300 Burger

“Fresh” Instrument Pilot

I am going to be posting some articles related to aviation safety. With over 8500 hours total time, I have had some “close calls” now and then. Hopefully others can learn from my experiences. Can’t remember which magazines they were but the features were called “Never Again” and “I Learned About Flying From That.” I never submitted articles but maybe I should have …


About My Instructor

I was a member of the CAP Flying Club in Orlando, FL. My instructor was Lt Col. Glendon W. Perkins, retired USAF. He was shot down in Vietnam July 20, 1966 Released: February 12, 1973. If you witnessed the return of the POWs, he was the first one to walk off the Sabreliner when it landed at Camp David in 1973. He had been imprisoned for 6 years, 6 months and 6 days. I was a little wary of him at first because his license plate was GWP-666 (!). But it made sense after he explained his story.

Capt. Glendon W. Perkins, USAF, prisoner of war in North Vietnam. (Photo by Lee Lockwood/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Glen had drilled me in IFR procedures, we had fortunately got a lot of “actual IFR” time (not all hood time) so I was feeling comfortable about flying IFR. He was an excellent instructor, probably the best I ever worked with.

First Exposure to “Hard IFR”

It was late fall 1989. The ink was still drying on my Instrument pilot certificate. I was currently employed as a keyboard / bass / sax player for a touring show band called “Clutch”. We toured several southeast states, going as far west as New Orleans and as far north as Pittsburgh. I decided to build my time by flying to and from some of the gigs. It was expensive of course, but I had saved some money from my days at Martin-Marietta.

At one of my first gigs with Clutch. L to R, Moe, Me, Clark Barrios

On this particular Thursday afternoon, I was headed for Muscle Shoals, AL – our “home city.” We were due to play at the Holiday Inn Friday and Saturday nights. I had a rehearsal to get to at 11am Friday morning (by the way that is early for musicians.)

I decided to fly up Thursday, to rest for the evening, but also to visit a girl I knew in town. Naturally.

I filed an IFR flight plan for my favorite club plane at that time, a Cessna 177RG Cardinal, N7628V. This plane was very slick, good aerodynamics and 200HP, so it could cruise at 130-135 kts burning only slightly more fuel than a 172 (about 9 gph). I’d been flying it a lot although this was my first out of state flight with it.

As I passed Tallahassee I raised a friend of mine, Willis Foreman, on his Unicom frequency. He had a small grass strip in his back yard which I had never managed to land at, and wasn’t about to now. Still, I always talked to him every time I flew by. Really nice guy, and very helpful in being one of my “side instructors.” Flying safe is about learning from everyone you can, at all times.

“John you have some weather between here and MSL, you feel all right about this?” Willis told me. “Why what do you see?” I asked. “FSS just reported an unforecast line of embedded thunderstorms building up and crossing the state of Alabama, W to E. You may want to rethink this.” I replied, “It’s OK, I’m instrument rated now.” He told me to be careful, don’t take any chances and shortly I was out of range of his handheld.

Lesson 1: Weather doesn’t care what rating is on your certificate.

After some thought I decided to head north and try to go around it. I checked in with ATC and they agreed to my reroute. As I crossed in to Alabama it was dusk but I could see the line to the NW.

It looked remarkably like this to the NW of me – right where I wanted to go.

Atlanta Center

JAX finally handed me off to ATL and the first thing they told me was “line of embedded thunderstorms to your NW extending over 120 miles. Say intentions.”

“I have them in sight. I’d like to maintain a northerly heading and try to get around on that side.”

“Roger navigate your discretion, advise of any major changes in heading, maintain 6000 ft”

The next 45 minutes were what I now call “pickin’ and grinnin'” – basically picking my way along a wall and looking for a hole to get through. I still had 3 hours of fuel and MSL was less than an hour away, direct flight.

Lesson 2: Weather doesn’t care about direct flight distances.

The further north I got, the more solid it looked. It was also now getting quite dark. I asked for some PIREPS. Center told me at one point, “28V, a king air just went through to the west just about abeam of where you are now. He was at FL 180 and reported smooth air. Would you like to follow his path?”

I said “OK let’s give it a try.” I headed west along the vector he gave me. I remember feeling quite a bit of trepidation as I “pierced the wall.”

Lesson 3: PIREPS from larger aircraft may not apply.

Immediately I was uncomfortable. It got bumpy, it was raining hard. Rain was getting in to the cockpit through the door seal. The strobe lights were freaking me out, making the prop seeming to stop in front of me. So I turned them off. Same with the beacon. I left the nav lights on. It was a lousy ride. After one huge jolt I called ATL:

“Center this is no good. Get me out of here. Get me to the nearest ILS airport. I will set it down and wait it out.”

“Chattanooga is a up to your right”

I said, “No no – I want east. Get me out.”

“Nearest airport is Hartsfield.”

I said “OK let’s go there.”

Hartsfield International

Hartsfield, KATL, is one of the largest and busiest airports in the country, indeed in the world. It was forecast to be 800 OC. They vectored me on to a final for 9R, which was one of the middle runways. 8L&R, 9L are north, and 10 is to the south. I flew the approach, got the outer marker and was ready to configure for descent when approach asked me to “keep my speed up.” I had a Boeing 757 10 miles in trail doing 165 kts. I was barely doing 110. Certainly too fast to put the gear and flaps in. I said “I can give you 110 for a bit” – “Approved.”

At 1000′ AGL I started to break out of the clouds and saw the runway ahead. “Runway in sight” “Roger contact tower”

I started to slow down and configure. Flaps 10, gear down … Uh oh, no green light. Crap. “Tower I don’t have a green light on the gear, request a fly by?” “Approved.” And of course he said exactly what you expect. “All three appear to be down and locked.” Always.

I recycled the gear and this time got a light. He let me do a right down wind, and I landed about 2 minutes behind the 757. The ceiling was up to 1000′ at this point and seemed to be clearing slightly.

I felt like this Cape Air pilot probably did, surrounded by “heavies”

The taxi on KATL was very interesting. I was behind one 757 and in front of two more. They must have wondered what the hell I was doing. They told me to turn left at “Dixie”. The ICAO alphabet mnemonics used to be changed at KATL, because you can’t say “Delta” and not get confused. (Now, with the ridiculous “woke-ism” ruining this country, they got rid of Dixie and changed it back. Ugh.)

I parked it at Hangar One and ordered some fuel. The ramp guy came over with the truck and said “What is this? a 210?” Obviously they didn’t see many small aircraft there. Of course, I verified it was AvGas. He told me the AVGas truck usually just sits there. 99% of their fuel sales was Jet-A.

The Trip to MSL and FSS

As soon as I got inside, “drained the sumps”, and settled down a bit I made a couple of calls. The first was to Wendy, who was waiting to pick me up at KMSL. I told her what was going on. She said she would wait.

Lesson 4: Don’t tell people to wait at the airport. Call them when you land.

Next call was to MSL FSS. (1-800 WX-BRIEF always got you to the nearest Flight Service Station in those days.) I reported I was waiting out the storm here in ATL, when would it be over? “What storm?” “Whaddya mean what storm? I was just getting bounced around in embedded thunderstorms.” “Those have dissipated. Nothing left but some light rain.” No way. It changed that fast? I’d been in it only 40 minutes earlier.

“OK then, here’s my flight plan from KATL to KMSL” and off I went.

Clearance gave me a Standard Instrument Departure, which I had never done except in training. I started to read it back and paused. The controllers there are very understanding. He said “You can expect vectors to follow the SID.” (Thank you! By the way, today they only give SIDs to turbojet and some turboprops.)

I got up to 6000′ and there it was. The wall. I went in and guess what. Same thing. Bumpy, rainy, turning lights off so the prop doesn’t looked stopped in front of me. OK maybe I just need to ride it out.

Wait what was that? I thought I saw stars above me for a second.

“Center, can I request 7000 ft? I think I may be on top there.” “Well it’s the wrong altitude for your direction of flight but you’re the only one out there so go ahead.”

At 7000′ I was clear on top. A beautiful moon, many stars and I wish I had taken a picture.

Lesson 5: A change in altitude can really help.

The ILS in to runway 30 was almost to minimums, but I saw the rabbit, continued, saw the runway and landed. It was now almost midnight. So much for my night out.

This is an old picture, but that’s what the terminal looked like in 1989

Wendy and her mom were waiting for me in the terminal and neither was happy. They had been sitting there for hours. Needless to say, my night was “uneventful.” The couch was fairly comfortable though …


Lesson 1: Weather doesn’t care what’s written on your certificate.
Really, how did I not realize this. Just because I was an instrument pilot didn’t mean I could go through a line of embedded thunderstorms. Now, in my “later years” I won’t even try it. I’ll land and wait it out. As one of my flying mentors, Paul Allen told me; “There’s no future in flying in thunderstorms.”

Lesson 2: Weather doesn’t care about direct flight distances.
It was a good thing I had topped off the plane instead of “filling to the tabs” like we usually did. When I landed in Atlanta, I had about an hour of fuel left. That would not have been enough to get to MSL, fly a missed approach, go to the alternate and hold for 45 minutes.

Lesson 3: PIREPs from larger aircraft may not apply.
Well duh really. For me to think I would have the same experience as a King Air was foolish.

Lesson 4: Don’t tell people to wait at the airport.
“If you have time to spare, go by air.” The axiom is often proven true. This time was no exception. Knowing that people are waiting has been the cause for many errors in pilot judgment. Don’t be stupid.

Lesson 5: A change in altitude can really help.
I can’t tell you how many times in the airlines a 2000 ft change smoothed up a rough ride. It was a lesson I kept with me all these years.

Bonus lesson: Slow Down.
You will make up the extra time you spend doing a thorough preflight and weather planning, and if you don’t? It’s not worth the trade off!

Remember: “Superior pilots uses their superior judgment to avoid needing superior skills”

Misconceptions of Success

I‘ve listed seven and a half of what I see are the most common misconceptions of “success.”

(Edit on Aug 29, 2020: I have been blessed with opportunity in my life and willfully prepared myself to be in a position to explore more opportunities. This will probably lead to another article, but the main reason is that I learned in my 30s that getting G.O.O.D. (Get Out Of Debt) is a key part of being prepared. If you are overcome with debt, you will have a tough time taking on a new opportunity.)

1: Success means having a lot of money.
While it is certainly better to have money than have not, there are more important things than money. The most important thing to any person is health. Ask any person who is unhealthy how much they would pay for good health, if you are wondering. Ask someone in a wheel chair what they would pay to have their legs back, for example. Health comes first, then money.

2: Success comes from working hard.
A lot of people work hard their whole lives and end up broke, destitute and in poor health. Success does not rely on hard work although it may be necessary from time to time. Success comes from working smart. Pay attention to what is going on around you and work on the right thing at the right time. Don’t forget that successful people take time off to recharge their batteries as well.

3: Successful people were born rich.
Yes there are some inherited fortunes out there but most research shows that unless the ancestors took careful time and consideration in building and protecting the fortune, the heirs were quite capable of squandering it, and in a hurry. For every inherited millionaire (or lottery winner for that matter) there are a million scammers with “get rich quick” schemes that will take away that fortune, and quickly.

4: Success comes from luck.
There is no such thing as luck. There is only being prepared when opportunity presents itself, and recognizing that opportunity. When opportunity and preparation collide, you “get lucky.”

5: Go to college, get a good job and you will be successful.
While a college education may be a good thing, it does not guarantee success. It certainly does not guarantee a “good job” if such a thing exists. Most jobs are not guaranteed and do not offer lifetime security. Those that do (government jobs for example) are being closely scrutinized and there is a trend to take those hefty pensions away. Formerly, you could get a government job right out of school (with a local government even) work it for 20 years, retire with a full pension, and even go get another government job and end up with 2 guaranteed pensions. With the recent backlash at the rising cost of government, this option (and others) may not be there for much longer. Also, every job involves someone else controlling your destiny, which is not ever a good thing.

6: Be persistent, stay focused on one path and you will be successful.
Oddly enough, most successful people today have changed their paths many times in their lives. For them, success is more of a mindset than an ability. Along with happiness, success to them depends on their state of health, and state of mind.

7: Successful people make their vacation their vocation.
Changing your favorite hobby to your business may sound like a good idea, but then what are you going to do to relax? It’s important to keep some activity separate from your professional or career life that you can use to enjoy your existence. You don’t have to make money at what you do.

7 and a half: Successful people take more than they give.
Not true. Truly successful (happy) people are always giving back, and not just for tax deductions. They give back in a multitude of ways. Here are just some of the activities that give back: Mentoring, coaching, volunteering, contributing, tithing, performing, speaking, teaching, etc.

Here is a suggested exercise to determine what “success” means to you. Write down your answers to the following questions and read them over carefully:

Today is ___ _____ 20__ and I am ___ years old.

Ten years ago my situation was:

The things I am most proud of over the last ten years are:

The things I wish I did differently over the last ten years are:

Ten years from now I will be:

The most proud of:

Happy I did:

Sorry I didn’t do:

Back Story: My Success Interviews
In the mid 90s I was working as a corporate pilot. I spent a lot of time at General Aviation (what the public calls “private”) airports, waiting for clients to go do their business and return to be flown home. I decided to take advantage of that down time.

I would wait for a flashy corporate jet to arrive, or maybe even a fancy turboprop (a King-Air for example) and greet the people when they walked in with a question: “Do you own that plane?” When I was directed to the owner I would then ask, “Do you mind if I ask you a question? How did you get to where you are now, that you can afford a beautiful plane like that?”

I must have asked that question to at least 150 wealthy people. I wish I kept better notes. Here is what I remember.

  • All of them took time to talk to me. They all enjoyed talking about their success.
  • Almost all were business owners. NONE worked for a government organization. Some owned charities though.
  • Very few of the business owners had bought the business. They had sold many businesses but rarely bought one.
  • All of the business owners offered me encouragement. They were impressed that I would ask that question. Most gave me their address (this was before email) and asked me to stay in touch. (I still do with some of them.)
  • All of them treated me with deference, as if I were an equal. That impresses me more today.
  • All of them discussed failed businesses or ventures and what they had learned from them.
  • Most of them had developed a repeatable system, easily duplicated with proper training.

I was surprised at how few of them actually talked about setting goals. They were mostly what you and I would call “deal makers” or negotiators. They were prepared rather than planned. No one gave me a “way to plan success.” The impression I got was that always being prepared when an opportunity presented itself often led to a win. Many also suggested I “learn from other’s mistakes.” I’ve remembered that one.

I often wonder if the stories would be the same today. I don’t spend as much time sitting around airports as I used to. Time to change that I guess!


Making Family Memories in North Georgia

We are finishing up a trip to Dahlonega, GA and it has definitely been about making family memories. My primary purpose in coming up here was a cycling challenge which you can read about here, but since my family was along, we had some great memories.

First of all, we drove up together, with 4 days worth of stuff. For me and three girls, you can imagine, that was a lot of stuff.


No trip to North Georgia is complete without stopping at Exit 18 off of I-75, to eat at one of the last remaining Fazoli’s in the south. This has been a tradition of ours since 2012. We discovered it was there from a cycling racing friend of mine, Jason Guillen, who sadly has retired from Florida Cyclocross. Hope he comes back some time!

If you aren’t familiar, Fazoli’s is the fast food version of Italian cuisine, and for fast food, it’s not bad at all. I had a delicious Penne pasta with meat sauce, and the girls had similar meals.

Atlanta Traffic

It seems that no matter when we leave, we always run in to rush hour traffic around Atlanta. This time was no exception but it did always move a little, and only delayed us 20 minutes or so. Kathleen was very adept at using the Google app on her phone to pick the better routes.

Dinner in Dahlonega During the “Times of COVID”

Even though Georgia is “open” there are some restrictions on dining out, such as reduced capacity, distance requirements and for some reason, closing early. We managed to find an Irish Pub that stayed open until 9, and let us stay at our table until roughly 9:30. Grace remembers ordering “The Best Bangers in Town” and enjoying her Irish Sausage.

After our dinner we retired to the Holiday Inn Express on Chestatee St. That’s a Cherokee word, meaning “Land of Pine Torches.”

It was open, but had some COVID restrictions which were really nonsensical and inconsistent, like closing the workout center but not the pool, serving coffee and juice, but no juice machine, “grab and go” food but no seating in the lobby, so everyone sat outside on one bench. Hopefully this all ends the day after election day.

20200725 Johnny B'2 for Wings and a BeerSaturday night we ate at a wings and beer place called “Johnny B’s” which although rustic, served excellent food and beer.

This was a particularly enjoyable meal for me, as I had completed my cycling challenge in spite of many obstacles and failures during the day.

Sunday we ordered Pizza Hut delivered to the room, because we were tired and didn’t feel like going out.

Unique Memories

Both Grace and Sophie were impressed and maybe a little scared by the driving in the North Georgia mountains. The winding roads going steeply up, and down, coupled with someone tailgating us because we are “slow tourists” can be a little intimidating.

On Saturday night after dinner, we parked in the back lot because the front lot of the HI Express was full. Turned out to be a blessing as we saw a field full of fireflies. Kathleen has been telling the girls about fireflies for years and they finally got to see them. We spent a good half hour standing there watching them, even with the doggie bags from dinner in our hands.

On Sunday we headed out towards Helen. We stopped at Turner’s Corners, a famous cycling stop, to have lunch and thank the people for all they do to support cycling. I had stopped there the day before and not bought anything, expecting to be there more than once. I had to go back and at least have lunch there or else feel terribly guilty.

Following that we visited the town of Helen. (Yes we went to Helen back.) We had no idea it would be such a busy place. Packed with tourists, street vendors, tour rides, carriages, etc. Not at all the quaint little Germanic town I was led to believe. On the good side we found an indoor arcade (because it started raining) and the girls enjoyed Air Hockey, Spider Stomp, Jurassic Park Dino Hunt and even a game of 8 ball on a slightly tilted pool table. My girls had never played pool before(!)

On the way back we stopped at Smith Falls and walked a trail that we thought would lead us to the falls. It didn’t. But it was great fun and quite a challenge for me to walk up and down the hills so soon after the grueling bike ride from the day before.

During dinner in the hotel room we had a “Family Meeting” to discuss our favorite parts on the weekend. It is always good to rehash these things, and inspired me to write this article. We like Dahlonega but there are other places to visit, so this may be our last trip here. Hopefully the memories last a very long time.

20200725 Woody Gap

Thank God for Elevation Correct

I was done. Had failed to get 10,000 feet of climbing on my bicycle. Missed by about half.

I’m not sure why I clicked on the Strava Correct Elevation link. I normally don’t. Laid down for a nap.

Shortly thereafter, I received a PM from my riding buddy Monica saying “Shame you can’t go out and get 2200 more feet. You are so close.”


I went back and looked at the corrected elevation. Sure enough, I now had 7797 feet.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the beginning.

10K Challenge

I dragged the family up to Dahlonega, GA for a “weekend getaway” but really, my agenda was to complete a challenge from one of my cycling clubs. Nearly every year the Eastside club challenges its members to ride 5,000 miles, climb 10,000 feet in one day, and participate in 20 club rides. Also there is an additional challenge to participate in a charity event (remember this. RT#1. There are several “remember this” moments in this article.)

We decided to drive up on Friday, July 24th and return Monday July 27th, in the wonderful election year of 2020. Not getting in to the whole political thing but we expected everything to be open in Georgia. Almost everything was (remember this #2).

The drive up went quite smoothly. Only the usual rush hour slow down between Macon and South Atlanta. Once we got on to 685, everything was moving along well.

For the first time ever, we actually stayed in a hotel in Dahlonega. This is because every other visit was over Six Gap weekend, when hotels are booked years in advance. The HI Express seemed nice enough but the mattresses are very firm. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep at all. Still I got up early to get some coffee and breakfast. RT#2 kicked in here as the complimentary breakfast was limited to “grab and go” stuff which was mostly crap. I grabbed a plain bagel and a banana with my coffee. Had to sit outside on a bench to eat it, with all the other people grabbing an early breakfast. Went up to the room and started to get dressed.

The Ride

The first thing I realized was that I forgot my HR strap. Oh well, I’ve got a power meter. Turned out not to be a big thing.

I rode from the hotel on Chestatee Street (Cherokee word meaning “pine torch place”) straight through town and out to Lumpkin County High School, where I did a run down and up the driveway, to simulate starting the Six Gap route. The Garmin and the Stages dash showed between 50-75′ of climb just doing that (RT #3).

I headed out the normal Six Gap route to Turner’s Corner. The weather was partly cloudy, temperature in the high 60s. I was actually cold. Getting used to Florida weather I guess. The forecast was favorable until early afternoon, when isolated showers were predicted (RT #4).

I noticed some slight difficulties shifting and wondered if my derailleur hanger got bent in the car on the way up (RT #5).

I was also noticing that the Stages Dash was showing more feet of climb than the Garmin, and it’s usually the other way. I wasn’t sure what was happening at this point (RT #6).

Turner’s Corner

20200725 Turner's CornerIt’s been 10 years since I stopped at Turner’s on a Saturday. It’s normally very quiet (except on Six Gap Sunday of course, when it is a mad house as SAG #1). Not this morning. Several cyclists and hikers were stopped there. There was a line for the only bathroom. Here’s more RT #2: COVID procedures were in place and for some reason that means closing down the other bathroom (I think it was made “employees only” but it said “supply room” on the door.) I wasted 20 minutes waiting for the bathroom and was in such a hurry I forgot to buy anything. I planned on being back there a few times anyway (RT #7), as I was planning on doing a “double 3 gap” route rather than go up Hog Pen Gap (which I don’t like at all.)

Neel’s Gap

Anyway, I headed out and up Neel’s Gap. There was lots more traffic than I have ever seen on that road. Sports car clubs, motorcycle groups, delivery trucks and even a bunch of punks driving lowered pickup trucks that screamed obnoxious things as they rode by, way too close.

Neel’s is normally not that hard for me. It’s a long, steady climb that averages around 4% incline. The traffic stressed me out, is my best guess, because I arrived at the top feeling pretty lousy. I was shaking and breathing rather hard.

I sat on a bench reserved for those hiking the Appalachian Trail, but nobody bothered me. Georgia doesn’t have a mask mandate so I was surprised at how many people were hiking with masks on. I’m not in favor of this because lots of fresh air is good for your health no matter what. I can see wearing a mask inside in tight quarters, but out in the woods???

I didn’t take a picture but I happened to look up and notice several hundred pairs of sneakers and hiking shoes that had been hung from limbs in the trees next to the trail. Does it mean these people “retired” their shoes here? It means something very different in Florida.

I left the bench and began the descent down Neel’s towards Wolfpen Gap. The new disc brake TCR performed very well and I felt more comfortable on this descent than I had in years. The traffic had lightened some, as I only had to pull over and let cars go by a few times.

Neel’s Gap Descent from my GoPro

Wolfpen Gap

The first thing I noticed when I turned on to GA 180 to go up Wolfpen Gap were the huge “SHARE THE ROAD” signs. It was so much quieter. Yes there were a few cars on the road, but they patiently waited for a proper place to pass and were all tremendously respectful. It’s a pleasant, if somewhat difficult climb. The reduction in stress from Neel’s was a huge plus.

Note: CYCLIST TECHIE NERD WARNING for the next paragraph.
The second thing I noticed was my gears making noise. I have the TCR set up with 52×34 in the front and the cassette in the rear is 11×32 (sorry about the cyclist techie talk. That’s the number of teeth on the gears.) I figured the 34 pulling the 32 would be a suitable “granny gear” for Wolfpen. So RT #6 kicks in: Well I looked down and I wasn’t in the 32 in the back. I was in the 2nd gear which I believe is a 30. If I held the shift lever all the way over the noise stopped but it wouldn’t go up to the 32. I figured it was probably a minor adjustment on the thumbscrew so I pulled over and tried to adjust it. That thing would not move! What’s worse, is that after playing with it a bit, it would go higher than the third gear at all. So now I was pedaling a 34 over a 27, on the steepest climb I would have all day. It was doable although a lot more work and power was required.

I decided to stop messing with it before I made it worse, and continued to the top without event. I stopped briefly but there was nothing up there really, no photo op. It’s rather a boring summit really. The descent after is short but exciting, with many double 90 turns and a few blind switchbacks.

Wolfpen Gap Descent from my GoPro

Living Off The Road

I have done this ride a few times before when not part of Six Gap Sunday. I had some plans to stop for supplies. There is a convenient store at the stop sign where 180 joins another route (route 9D I think?) RT #2: “NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS”. I know there were restrooms available last time I stopped there.

There were several motorcycles in line for gas. They were out in force today. I bought a 10 oz Coke and a Gatorade. I sat outside, drank a few sips of the Coke, put it in my back pocket, drank some of the Gatorade and poured the rest in to a water bottle, and then continued on to the top of Woody Gap, still limited to 3rd gear.

Woody Gap

20200725 Woody GapWoody is a very short climb. Only about a mile. However, it’s no fun when stuck in third gear.

Upon reaching the top though, it has the most scenic overlook that would be featured along my route, so I stopped to take a picture. It also has a public “dry” restroom. I used it and realized things were not going well for me down there. I was hurting pretty bad at this point and this indicated to me I needed to consider shortening the ride. I was only at 5000′ on the Garmin as well (remember RT #6 for later) and I had pretty much given up on the 10K at this point.

Also, storm clouds were appearing in the distance. I could hear thunder rumbling on occasion.

I had a brain storm and while stopped at Woody, I picked up the bike and cycled through all the downhill gears. Hah, whaddya know. This opened up ALL the gears to me again. Must be some gunk in the derailleur or something.

Woody Gap descent from my GoPro

Stone Pile Decision

There is a big pile of Stone at a place known as “Four Corners”, at the bottom of the Woody descent. It now has a roundabout! Makes sense really, as it is a place where decisions are made. I had a decision to make. Do I turn left and go back to Turner’s for a late lunch, (it was now about 1:30) or do I turn right to R Ranch and go back to Dahlonega? RT#4: While stopped there a big bolt of lightning landed less than a mile away from me. I know that because I heard the thunder almost immediately. That made my mind up. I decided to forgo lunch at Turner’s (RT #7 wasn’t going to happen at all) and head back home.

I managed to beat most of the rain. It was behind me. On nearly every climb though (where I now had use of all my gears) it would almost catch me and I would get sprinkled on. On the descents I would out run it, for a while.

Of course, I had to turn in to the high school and do one down and back just to complete Three Gap route. (We’ll come back to RT #3 in a bit).

Rednecks in Dahlonega

As I made the turn through the square in Dahlonega there was a dark blue Ford F-150 behind me, tag 347-AHJ I think? It may have been AHI. The reason I am posting that info is because the kids in it were absolute jerks. As they passed me they did a diesel smoke trick, where they gunned up the engine and did something to create a huge cloud of black smoke. Of course I screamed at them. They went a few thousand feet down the road and did it again. I almost caught them at the Chestatee light but the driver got scared, and made an illegal left turn, nearly getting in to a wreck. I had planned on having a “come to Jesus” meeting with him if I had caught him. I am famous for these meetings on the Kyle’s Thursday Night Ride in Orlando.

Back at the Hotel, and RT #3

My daughter Grace was in the Hotel, as mom and Sophie were off shopping for antiques. Grace commented, “Oh you are done already? Are you OK?” I wasn’t, really. I inhaled a Gatorade and a couple bottles of water. Had a little “me time” in the bathroom. Uploaded the Garmin file to Strava and messaged the folks that had promised to donate $1 for each 100′ I climbed that I didn’t make it to 10,000 (This was RT #1 wasn’t it?). The Garmin said 5900 ish.

I’m not sure why I clicked on the Correct Elevation link. I normally don’t. Laid down for a nap.

Shortly thereafter, Mom came back with a Dairy Queen Blizzard which I thoroughly enjoyed. I think it was a major part of my recovery. While eating it I received a PM from my riding buddy Monica saying “Shame you can’t go out and get 2200 more feet. You are so close.”


I went back and looked at the corrected elevation. Sure enough, I now had 7797 feet. How did that happen? Also, the weather had mostly cleared. There were some isolated storm clouds off in the distance.

What should I do now? I surely didn’t want to get back in that kit (which was soaking in the sink anyway) and ride any more. I hemmed and hawed, stalled, dawdled, and finally just put my shoes on, carried the bike down to the parking lot and rode in my gym shorts up and down between here and the Best Western next door, which seemed to be about 20 feet lower. I did 4 laps I think, for about .97 miles

37 feet, said the Garmin, after about 1 mile. Pff that isn’t going to work. I went back upstairs. Clicked the elevation correction link again. 216 feet. Wow. That’s a big difference.

OK I had to do this now.

High School Madness

Kathleen drove me over to the High School where I knew I could get 50-75 feet just riding from the entrance to the school and back. “Come back in two hours” I said. “I need to get a little more than 20 miles.”

A couple of laps at the high school from my GoPro

I think I completed 35 laps. It rained a little during the 25 miles I rode (again in my gym shorts and t-shirt) but I didn’t care. I had to finish this. They picked me up at 7pm, which the Garmin showing 1550 feet. I needed 1998 to make it to exactly 10,000 for the day.

20200725 Johnny B'2 for Wings and a BeerBack to the hotel, uploaded it, pushed the Correct Elevation link and waited. We were either going out to eat, or I was going back to the parking lot for more “feet”.

It was only a few minutes but it seemed longer. “2355 feet!” I exclaimed. I am very proud that my wife and both my daughters cheered withe me.

“We did it! Let’s go eat and I’m having a beer!” We jumped in to the car and headed over to Johnny B’s for chicken wings and I had a nice Angry Orchard IPA, which I felt was well deserved.

“Memba Dis?”

Let’s review the “Remember This” items.

RT#1: Charity ride. About two weeks ago I announced on Facebook that I would donate $1 for every 100 feet I climbed, and would anyone match me? It took a while but I finally got 4 friends to pledge. I will be donating my portion to JP Russo, who was hit by a car earlier this year while setting up a race course. He has some really big medical bills. One friend is going to donate to a homeless shelter.

RT#2: COVID. Georgia is “open” but there are still some silly and inconsistent “rules” being made here, just like Florida.

RT#3: It was a good thing I dove in to the High School parking and realized how many feet were to be gained on each lap!

RT#4: The weather was a factor. Lightning in the mountains is no laughing matter. Also, descending these mountains on wet roads? Not something I want to do.

RT#5: I will have to ask my mechanic (Bryce, the Bearded Bike Doc) why my derailleur chose such an inopportune time to misbehave.

RT#6: The Garmin altitude error. My latest theory is that my Garmin 520 screen is cracked (I dropped it recently) and this affects the integrity of the internal barometer. It used to be fairly accurate.

RT#7: I owe Turner’s a sale. I feel it is impolite to use a bathroom in a convenient store and not buy something.


I think I’m done with this 10,000 foot challenge. It’s not worth the stress. If I go crazy and decide to do it again, I will go to Fort Mountain. It’s a much easier climb than the Dahlonega climbs, and not so much traffic.

2018 to 2019 Review and Goals

This is personal. It’s a note to me for next year at this time. Still here? OK you asked for it …

You’ve been warned. This is about me and my family. It is not intended specifically for public consumption but if you want to follow along … welcome to the story.

I hope this becomes an annual thing and I hope my girls do it too. That’s my daughter Grace on the left after she won her first CX race.

What Were My Goals?
I have copied last years post and let’s see how I did.


Running goals:

I had NONE. Just run when I felt like it.

2018: I entered no organized runs but did do some walk/run stuff with my wife. Perfect!

For 2019: Next year? Same. No goals. I’m retired from distance running


I have to break this in to several parts: Road, Time Trial, Mountain Bike, Cyclocross and Track.


My 2018 goals: I considered entering some road races, as well as crossing Florida for a fifth time. If there is a 5-10-20 contest I will do it again. Our own club did a 5-5-25 version, 5,000 miles, 5,000 feet in a single ride, and 25 club events, rides, races or volunteerism.

2018: Did not enter any road races, missed XFL due to illness, but did complete the #KBS5525 challenge.

For 2019: I want to do XFL one more time. I haven’t done a century in over a year so I need to get on it. Repeat 5-5-25.

Time Trial

My 2018 Goals: Win my age group in the CFL TT series.

2018: Won the 60+ age group, but did it by being in the most races. I was not fast.

For 2019: Not really any goals as far as performance. Just show up, enjoy the races, maybe put on the Airport TT again if we can get permission.

Mountain Bike

My 2018 Goals: Defend the WAR MTB title, maybe enter a few MTB races, and buy a new bike.

2018: Bob Reineke took my title. He decided to enter all of them. I did finish 2nd (whoo pee). On Dec 28th, ordered a new bike (finally!)

For 2019: Well I will have a new bike. Not sure if I have any performance goals. I just want to go out and have fun.


I came in to the year as the defending FLCX points series champion. Many said that I don’t deserve that status, that I am slow, that I am clearly not the best cyclocross racer in Florida. I can understand why they say this but is was a points series and you get points for showing up. I beat 100% of the riders who stayed home on the couch. I also won the WAR overall series, again by showing up more.

I issued a challenge to those who scoffed: “If you don’t like me on this podium then come knock me off. Stop whining and start showing up for races.”

My 2018 goals: Repeat as champion and get faster. Wanted to lose weight to get more speed.

2018: First of all, I didn’t lose the weight. The lowest I got was 238, and that’s not good enough. However, I won the WAR series again. When I went to the podium, Josh Thornton announced “Well he issued you all a challenge and nobody took him up on it. Therefore, the repeat WAR Champion – John Tenney!”

I am currently leading the FLCX series by 34 pts with 3 races to go. Derek Birch is in second. He could conceivably go to all three races, win them all and beat me, so I need to finish at least two races. Shouldn’t be a problem. (Cross season ends in late January by the way.)

For 2019: Hey I like winning these jerseys, so once again I issue the challenge. I’ll be on top of the podium again in 2019, unless you start coming out to more races. So – repeat win for WAR and FLCX. Also – the weight. I am just over 250 lbs right now. Get to 235! DO IT!

Even more important, my daughter Grace is starting to enjoy CX races. I want to support her in all her efforts!


As is told elsewhere in this blog in 2017 I had a unique opportunity to buy a track bike and set a state record, which I did.

To this day, no one had beaten this record.

In 2017 I used this bike to win two Time Trial divisions. In 2018 I used it for my age class.

Wayne Keller got this great picture of me setting a PR on the Airport TT course of 18:27. Best ever on this particular course, and on a fixed gear track bike (Giant Omnium)

2018: My goals were to go to some track races, or at least some track time trials.

2018: I didn’t make it back to the track this year. Still working on a project to get a track here in CFL.

2019: Get that track project going! Go to some track events.


2018 goals: Wanted to see 6-8 franchises, and double our payroll handled again.

2018: We did not add any franchises, although we greatly expanded our agent network. We doubled the payroll, just barely.

For 2019: We need at least 3 more franchises. We need to expand our agency network. We need to double payroll again. The new relationship with Viking Underwriters shows great promise.

Oct 14 WAR#1 MTB Podium

WAR at Burke’s Park – Deja Vu

Decided to bring the family to Dade City this weekend to experience Wicked Awesome Racing (WAR) Cyclocross.

This year the series started at John S Burke Memorial Park, which is my favorite venue of the series. Josh and Kaleigh Thornton have been putting on races for years. I’m used to going to great places like Stanley Park, Brooksville Quarry, and even a couple of neat places in Ocala, but I still like Burke’s Park the best. It’s dusty and sandy but never muddy, which sits just right for me. It features a lot of off camber turns, which I find very challenging.


On Saturday it was very hot and sunny. We arrived in time to get ready for the P1/2 race, but way after the “beginner” course, which does an easier lap. Hence, my girls decided not to try the course, and saved it for Sunday morning.

I had a rough moment in the P1/2 race. After the uphill run up on lap 4, I started feeling really bad. I looked at my computer and saw my heart rate was up to 187. This is not good. My normal HR in zone 5 might go up to 170 for a second but usually stays in the low 160s. I stopped and waited for nearly a minute for it to go back down. I finished the race but I still felt unwell. It was probably due to dehydration but seeing big numbers like that can scare a guy. I took it easy from there on. Since there were only 4 of us, I got to stand next to the podium, no medal, but 4th place

4th out of 4 in the P1/2 race. Scared myself with the high HR but still finished, and picked up 13 series points

In the MTB race later, I felt much better but still the heat was a factor. Although I improved my lap times by nearly a minute, I still felt very hot.

Here’s a comparison of my laps on Saturday. I’m almost a minute faster on the MTB

There were 5 mountain bikers, which is pretty rare. Last year I was the only one. I’m really glad the series is coming back. WAR is the only series that has a mountain bike division. I’ve won the points jersey every year they’ve had it too, so I am defending my title. Even though I was faster than the earlier race, so was everyone else, so I finished last again.

5th out of 5, and Bob Reineke got 2nd. He will be my main challenge this year to repeat as champion

So the day’s racing was over, and we headed to the Ramada in Zephyr Hills. Surprisingly very nice, clean and well equipped. A quick shower and touch up and we headed out to the Truly Mediterranean Grill to have dinner with Kelly and Mari Edwards. Wayne Keller joined us a little later. Definitely one of our favorite places to stop in Dade City.

L to R, Grace, Kathleen, Sophia, (Empty seat for Wayne), Kelly and Mari Edwards.


We got up early to enjoy the generous free breakfast at the Ramada. I love those waffle makers! The girls were thinking about giving the “beginner” race a shot. Kathleen and Grace went out to try a practice lap. Kathleen didn’t even make it to the grass. “It’s on the side of a hill!” she yelled at me. “Well of course it is, this is the Dan Sullivan Memorial Off Camber Jammer after all.” Didn’t go over well.

Grace gave it a try. She finished half a lap and thought it was the whole thing. I registered her for the race and got her lined up. She got to the half lap point and dropped out. “I didn’t know it kept going” she said, “and I don’t like comparing myself to other people”. Geez if I worried about that I never would enter a race. (Later on she did complete an entire lap, “just to show she could.” Daddy’s girl after all, huh.)

So then we waited for the P1/2 race – another three hours away. Teenage girls get bored in a tent without WiFi rather quickly.

They decided to go out for lunch, bring me something back for after the P1/2, and then abandon me. Good plan.

I was much more careful on Sunday with the race. I didn’t want to blow up again, and although there was a breeze and some scattered clouds, it was even hotter. I concentrated on riding smoothly and coasting when I could on the downhills. I knew I was going to be last, and still 5th place, so I conserved my energy. Oddly enough, I had my fastest lap on the cross bike in that race.


5th out of 6 in P1/2, but didn’t have a heart rate episode! Also, this puts me in the points lead in the division with 24 points.

I finished, ate part of a sub that my wife brought me and said good bye to the girls. They headed for Orlando and I rested under the tent, waiting for the MTB race.

The Deja Vu Part

In 2014, I came to Burke Park for the first time, in what was that year WAR #2. I wasn’t any faster then, and expected to finish near the back once more. I passed John LaManna in the Saturday race, as he had a mechanical, and said “Huh, well at least I won’t be last”. (I didn’t know that there were 2 very new riders behind me as well.) Later in the race I caught up to Mark Schwab and passed him. Well well. I finished the race and had a beer with John, Mark and Michael Ploch, who was waiting for the podium, as he won the race. I was shocked when they called my name. I didn’t know it, but by passing Mark I had moved up to third place. First podium for me in a bike race!

First Cycling Podium

My first cycling podium ever. I don’t recall the name of the 2nd place finisher, but Michael Ploch is on the top step.

I had a little celebration that night with my gang.

So the next day, I was looking forward to the MTB race again. Funny though, as the day wore on, I saw more and more vehicles leaving the park with Mountain Bikes on the rack. It was hot, people were tired, and many decided not to hang around for a race that “doesn’t count.”

At the start it was me, Mark and his wife Connie, who at the last minute decided to give it a shot.

Connie Schwab MTB

Mark’s wife Connie entered the final race, giving us three riders, so the podium would be full anyway.

Mark took off fast, like he did the day before. I was wondering if I would catch him again. Well guess what, there he was, slowing down a bit out in front of me. I resisted the urge to speed up and catch him. It was early in the race any way. I kept going at my pace and was right on his tail at the end of the second lap. On the long climb on the front loop he finally faded and I passed him. I got the the finish line before the SS leader leader lapped me, completed four laps to Mark’s three and won my first ever cycling only race (I’d won a multi-sport in the 80s).

Oct 2014 WAR MTB Podium

Kaleigh Thornton gives me my first ever winning medal for a cycling race.

Back to Present Day

So here we are, 2018, I come out to the line and there are four mountain bikers. “Crap” I said to myself, “another 4th and no medal.”

The reader can probably guess what happened next. I started off at the back of the field. I’ve never been one to race for the “hole shot.” I like to start out easy and then fizzle out altogether.


Here I am doing my ceremonial last place wave as I head for the hole shot. I still don’t see how they all rush off so fast right away. Thank you Kevin Brown for the photo.

As the reader is probably expecting, I noticed a mountain biker trailing off the back of the field. “Huh. Deja Vu. Same course, same event.” Well history repeated itself. I didn’t get too excited. Held my pace, coasted down the hills, and concentrated on smooth turns. Several times I got right up behind him but he would pull away. I wasn’t ready to pass him yet anyway. I waited until the third lap, when I saw Kelly Edwards, the SS leader, coming up behind us. I had to time this right. If I passed him and Kelly didn’t lap us, I would have to hold him off for another lap. I wasn’t looking forward to that. Fortunately, just before Kelly caught up, I squeezed by Sam (Sam Sawdusky – a new guy but real glad he came) and took the lead. Kelly caught me on the finishing stretch and I manged to snag 3rd place.


My only medal of the weekend – and I worked hard for it

I was working so hard on getting the last medal place that I didn’t even stop for a hot dog.

I believe Jonathan actually threw the hot dog at me.
I couldn’t stop because as you see, Sam is right in front of me


What an interesting weekend. I learned I can overcook myself. I learned I can pace myself, concentrate on riding smooth, and go faster while expending less energy. I learned that FLCX is BACK. We had a great turnout, probably the most I’ve ever seen at this course. I expect Spooky er .. “Spookier” Cross will be even bigger in two weeks.

I had a great time at WAR#1, and I am glad we honored the memory of Dan Sullivan with such a great event.

Lap time comparisons of all four races. As you can see I was faster the 2nd day, without pushing as hard.

Ethical Sales

This article is reprinted by permission of PEO Sales Training.

Can Sales be Ethical?

We at PEO Sales Training believe that all sales must abide by certain rules of ethics. We teach Ethical Selling. PEO business, like many others, requires long term thinking. The best clients are those that stay with you for many, many years. Some reports indicate that the cost of the sale for a typical client is not recuperated until the client is with the PEO for at least a year.

First let’s start with some guidelines. In an ethical sales transaction there is:

  • Transparency
  • Integrity
  • Accuracy
  • Reliability
  • Accountability
  • Open Communication
  • Full Disclosure

What’s not in an ethical sale:

  • Deception
  • Hidden Charges
  • Hidden Defects
  • Unnecessary Up-Selling
  • Denigrating the Competition
  • Pressure Tactics
  • Traps, Baits or Hooks

Two Way Street

Of course, the ethics need to be followed on both sides. One training system teaches as rule 1: “All Prospects Lie, All The Time.” Well they can’t be blamed for that. They believe if they tell the truth it will be used against them by an unethical sales person.

Therefore, the goal is to develop an open, trusting relationship as soon as possible. If the prospect believes you are really interested in the problem, and not just trying to make a sale, they will begin to open up to you and tell you the real story.

Sales Travel Agent. “I’ve always believed I’m more of a travel agent than a salesman. I help people go from point A to point B. Which do you think they have the most trouble describing? Not point B. Most people know, and have no trouble sharing, where they want to be. It’s only after trust is developed that they share where they really are, and what problems they really have.” Sales Trainer John Will Tenney

Tips To Avoid Ethical Traps

You Can’t Handle 100% of the Market

If you suddenly got 100% of your market, what would you do with it? Would you have the capabilities to handle it? Do you know anyone who could answer “yes” to that question?

You won’t get them all. Accept that now and also realize that you are not the best match for everyone either. In a sales meeting both sides should be qualifying the other, and disqualifying as well. It is perfectly acceptable to tell a prospect: “What I’m hearing is that we are not a good fit for you. May I suggest you contact (put in alternate source here.)”

Don’t “Bad Mouth” the Competition

While it’s true there are companies in our (indeed every) field that don’t do a good job, aren’t completely honest, or are very risky to work with. It’s not your job to tell people that. You are tasked with finding out if you are a match. Of course, you can ask questions. When presented with a low ball quote from one of those companies, for example, you might ask: “That’s a great quote. There must be some reason you haven’t taken it. May I ask your thinking on that?”

Failure is an Option

As previously stated, you will not win them all. However even the worst failure can be an educational experience. There are four acceptable outcomes to a sales meeting: Yes, No, Clear Future, and Lesson Learned. More is learned from failures than successes. Do not be afraid to fail.

Avoid Commission Breath

Few things make a prospect more uncomfortable than a hungry salesperson. It helps to remember that in this industry, closing a bad one has no long term gain. If it isn’t the right fit, the client will leave and the commission ends. Even worse, the reputation of the firm is in jeopardy, for taking the wrong client. Sure, they might leave in a friendly manner but are the chances of a good reference better, or worse?

Under Promise and Over Deliver

How often do you see the opposite? Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It will hurt you in the long run, and sometimes in the short run. So many firms have bad reputations in the industry for breaking this rule. Don’t be part of that.


Pick up the phone. Write the email. Let the prospect or client know what is going on. Encourage the same from them. Lack of communication leads to lack of understanding, which can lead to all kinds of ugly situations.

Don’t Upsell Products They Don’t Need

Remember that as a PEO salesperson your job is to build a long term, profitable relationship on both sides. Selling products or services they don’t need is not going to help. There is always a lot of pressure to do this, but think of the ramifications of overloading a client with extra expenses for unused products or services. It can lead to loss of the residual income, which is why you got in this business in the first place.

Keeping It All Together

It’s important to audit yourself now and then and make sure you are following your own set of ethics. It helps to have it written down. Most CRM systems allow you to make notes on each client. Journal it. Score yourself on a scale of some sort, even if it’s 1 to 10. How ethical are you? Do the prospects and clients trust you? Are they comfortable referring you? Have you asked them?

Reactive Arthritis

This story was painful to write, as the memory of the pain I experienced fighting this condition was unpleasant. It’s only because several others currently fighting RA have asked me to write my story that it is here. I hope it helps and inspires those of you.

“You will probably never run again, at least not any distance.”

Harsh words from Dr. Richter, then my rheumatologist, as I sat in his Utica, NY office with my crutches in the spring of 1986

About 4 months earlier I had contracted Reactive Arthritis (or RA, formerly known as Reiter’s Syndrome. If you want to know why do a quick search. Not going in to that here.)

In the late fall of 1985, I was an engineer at GE Utica, active athletically, musically and of course socially. I noticed a burning sensation when urinating. I went to the doctor, figuring I had caught something. He and his staff could find nothing.

All tests came up negative. “Non-Specific Urethritis” he called it. “Take these for a week, it will clear up” and handed me a prescription for anti-biotics. It cleared up as predicted, but about a week later I was in my office and my eyes felt really dry. “You don’t look so good” my office mate told me. “Your eyes are all pink, like you’ve been exposed to some bad smoke or something.” I decided to go home and heal. Turned out to be a bad night. About 11pm my right big toe started hurting very bad, like it was broken. I hadn’t stubbed it though. The rest of the night was me getting up every five minutes and crawling, not walking, to the bathroom. I had to pee over and over, and not a little. It was obvious my body was trying to flush something.

At 6am I was panicked and had enough. I called my dad to come get me and take me to the hospital. I was sure my toe was broken and going to fall off. The pain was incredible. However, the ER doctor told me not to be surprised if the xray came back negative, and it did. He said “You are too young to have all these things going wrong at once. It has to be a single cause. I’m guessing it’s Reiter’s Syndrome.” He was right. Nothing on the xrays, and tests for things like gout also came back negative.

They gave me a prescription for a drug which was really bad for me – Indocin, a trade name for indomethacin, a very strong anti-inflammatory, which although reduced the inflammation and the pain, absolutely ruined my stomach. Spicy foods are no longer in my diet and never will be again. I began to realize that doctors don’t know everything about the drugs they prescribe. I am still suffering with gastro-esophagal challenges today.

The next few months were a low point in my life. I had asymmetrical arthritis, which means it was all over the place. As mentioned before my right toe, my left ankle, my right knee. At one time both legs began filling up with fluid, and swelled up below the knee. It looked like elephantitis from the scary Nat Geo videos they used to show in high school.

There are no pictures of me from that era, I avoided cameras, but this is basically what I looked like

And always the pain. I wasn’t “stiff” – it hurt. I had crutches to walk. I had a handicapped parking sticker and I began to appreciate those parking spaces in a way I never had before. It still infuriates me to see someone who is obviously not handicapped to be parking in one, or using a sticker that is clearly not theirs. That’s for another story later.

So sitting in Richter’s office, he told me: “10-15% of the time this happens once and goes away for good. 10-15% of the time it never goes away. The remaining 70-80% inflicted will have relapses throughout their life but each time it will be lower intensity, until they are old, when it will hit harder. You’ve had it for almost 6 months now so I would surmise you are in the ‘never goes away’ group.” Well he was wrong about that …

He also said, ” I advise staying off your feet and here is a prescription for Ibuprofen for pain. The Indocin was a mistake. Medical authorities are no longer recommending that drug because of the negative effects it has on the stomach lining.” Gee I wish that ER doctor had known that.

I couldn’t accept the rest of his diagnosis though. I didn’t want to be a “cripple” for life. I began researching the disease of arthritis. This was before the internet so I was in the local libraries a lot. It turns out that nobody knew much about it. Still much the same today in fact. We know why the body inflames joints but not why it keeps doing it after the foreign substance has been dealt with. We know people with a certain gene (HLA B27) are more susceptible to reactive arthritis.

One thing for sure, while there are a lot of symptomatic treatments, there is no medical cure. There is not really any research going on to find a cure either, as the treatments are very lucrative for pharma companies (Naproxen, Celebrex, etc, you’ve seen the ads) but there is no money in curing it. That’s for still another story later …

I got rid of it. Well at least changed my diagnosis. I am in the 70% now. It comes back once in a while and in lesser intensity. I also know how to get rid of it then as well. Want to hear how?

How I Beat RA

Barely moving at the finish of my first half marathon. However, just by finishing I beat the odds

• Exercise and Stretching
While I was researching I noticed one comment in a medical journal: “although painful, several patients noticed a reduction in inflammation after being forced to move and exercise the joints repeatedly.” I asked Richter about it: “Will exercise hurt me? If I go run a mile, will it damage anything?” He replied: “No but you will be in a lot of pain. That may increase inflammation.” I asked: “Is that damaging?” He said: “No, you have inflammation already. Increasing it will just cause more pain. I don’t see why you would want that but no, you won’t damage anything as fas as I can tell.”

So I went running. The first mile was hell. Every step hurt. A lot. I mean like on fire a lot. The second mile was better. By the third mile I felt very little pain. The knee and the ankle felt warm but not painful. I did a long stretching session afterwards as well. After the cooldown was another story. As I cooled down the pain returned and the next morning was really an eye opener. It was very painful just to get out of bed. Stretching helped in the morning. I’ve also found that doing some mild stretching before bed helps me sleep better as well. However, I was still in pain and taking Ibuprofen the second day.

I decided to keep my experiment going. This time the pain was gone after one mile. Miles two and three were smooth. It took a little longer after the stretching and cool down for the pain to return. I was hopeful. Even though it was still really bad in the morning it wasn’t just quite as bad.

I continued this for five days. By day five there was very little pain upon waking up and only minor shooting pains throughout the day after the run. Really, it was gone. The next few months were essentially pain free. I had another flare up in the next winter which brings me to point 2:

• Warm, Humid Climate
Now I know why old people move to Florida. It does wonders for arthritis. Cold, dry weather in NY was terrible. I was 30 when I moved south and looking back I don’t know why I waited so long. Warmer temperatures means better circulation and that may be a critical thing. Keeping the blood flowing through a joint has to be a good thing.

• Hydrate
“A dry joint is not a happy joint” – not me, some chiropractor’s book I read, but it’s true. Drink water. Lots of it. Reduce the alcohol as well. I rarely have a second beer on social occasions and most days go without it at all. It is “anti hydration”. The positives of staying hydrated are published in many other places.

• Drugs Don’t Cure, They Just Treat Symptoms
While I will still take a couple of Alleve now and then to deal with joint pain, I know that it is just masking the pain and not curing the cause. Go exercise, drink water and stay warm.

How Am I Doing Now?

At age 60, still running and riding. Wearing the Florida Cyclocross points champion jersey for 2017 here.

I still get flareups. Often in my lower back, but that may be due to all the running and high impact bicycling I do. Stretching works well there. Recently I had a flare up in my right heel. I stretched it frequently and it went away after a couple of weeks. It was minor, really.

As you recall, I was told I would not be an athlete in my life. If you refer to some of the other articles in this blog I think you will see that is not so. I’m enjoying a healthy, active life and I know in part it was due to overcoming the challenge of beating RA.

If you are fighting it, and want to talk, or if you have a success story of your own, please let me know using the contact form below.

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