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« Here We Go Again | Main | Perspective »

May 01, 2008



Thanks Sara! Spoke to Tim this morning and gave him your best (haha). It got a big "Awww!" from him. He's doing well and knows the bike world is thinking of him from Chile to China and everywhere in between!


There is no shame in sharing! The cycling world is a tight knit community with a lot of caring and generous people. thanks for letting us know!!


Susie…wow…so many questions in one post! So here goes…no, don’t know, no, sometimes, depends, depends, yes, yes, no, most assuredly. OK… I’m being a real smart-ass… (sorry)…here goes the REST of the story….(and I imagine it’s gonna be LONG!)

No, not watching the series…wish I could but my hotel only has 12 channels (reminiscent of the 1960’s…only 3 or 4 of them are clear picture, the rest make me feel like I should go adjust the foil on the rabbit ears…see: I don’t exactly stay at a 5-star on most of my travel, as I’m on per-diem, and I get to KEEP the diff…kind of a tax-free pay raise to make travel a little more amenable). I hear the series is good but again, haven’t seen any of it…hope they repeat it sometime.

Only the carriers have the diff colored shirts …that’s for the flight deck (it has been called “the most dangerous place to be in a peacetime world”). You need to know with a glance if the person you see should be there…hence the colored vests.
As to your assignments, you ‘sort of’ get to pick. You submit a “Dream Sheet” which goes to your “Detailer” in Washington DC…on it you have a few diff wishes for assignments….if he (or she) can put you in any ONE of them, then they have fulfilled your wish. But “Needs of the Navy” come first…and sometimes you don’t get much of a choice.

When you get home from a deployment, you can take your vacation if you have any (you get 30 days a year, but they include weekends and holidays as those days…so the 30 days can go quick or long depending on how you take it (take a few days here and there, finish up right before a long weekend, stuff like that…you don’t want to WASTE them on days you would have had off anyway).

Women on the ships (and squadrons, and subs, and everywhere else in the Navy)…about time! Women were really just starting to join up in larger numbers when I went in (79)…my rating happened to be a shore rate (I didn’t know that when I signed up..but the details were classified, and the ‘cover story’ was oceanography…I thought I was gonna be Jacque Cousteau’s bud…turns out I was hunting submarines (ASW). Anyway, my rating was the only advanced electronics rating in the Navy at the time that women could go to as they weren’t yet allowed on ships/subs/squadrons. So my commands were about 60 to 70 percent women.

Tension & Unhappiness? Well, I guess it went both ways…the ‘Old timers’ didn’t’ care for it one bit..(traditional Navy)…I guess a lot depends on how you were brought up (still does I bet). Equal Opportunity and all were a difficult thing to arrive at (are we there yet?) Whether it be race, religion, sex, sex-preference…SOMEBODY will NOT like it…so there’s always trouble somewhere.

Learning jobs: if you sign up for a “Guaranteed A School”, then out of boot-camp you go straight into your chosen field for school. If you come in without a school, then you leave boot-camp and go some kind of training...likely for basic seamanship, as you will most likely go to a ship after that. Once on your ship you do basic work (crappy jobs) and over time, you can see what jobs are out there and then “Strike” for one down the road. But a guaranteed school when you sign up is the way to go. Then there are more advanced schools (Class “C”), which you usually have to re-enlist to get..which gives you more detailed training, as you have proved your worth and that you are sticking around a while longer…so you get more/better training. I went right into 4 months of “A” and a year of full-time electronics “C” school before I finally went to a site. Then there is plain old “OJT” (on the job training).

Your ‘tour of duty’ (assignment) can end at any time…there are people flying all over the world catching ships in ports, and leaving ships for a new assignment…to do it any other way would be very difficult. Your tour is up, next port you pack up and head out (hopefully).

If you’re sick or hurt, carriers have a ‘sick bay’ that rivals any major city hospital. Smaller ships have smaller sick-bays. The ships I sailed (total crew of 24 typically) had a tiny sick-bay and a ‘Doc’ who is medical trained but not even a doctor. So anything he can’t handle and you get ‘medivac’ed’…which can involve an actual helicopter if far enough at sea, but if not a life or death emergency involves heading into port…or meeting another ship for a transfer..I saw all those in my years at sea.

Doesn’t surprise me at all the Navy gave the OK for the series…they need people to sign up to staff the billets all over the world…remember the movie Top Gun? The Navy did quite well for YEARS after that came out. Every movie/show that shows the Navy in a positive light gets more kids to sign up. (I don’t regret a moment of my 16 years…got me out of home, TONS of school, a carreer, and lots of lifetime friends all over the country/world).

As to what they are leaving out, I have to imagine most of the “crappy” jobs and times…there are LOTS of horrid details on jobs that need to be done..and somebody’s gott’a do em. I won’t go into details here, but just imagine jobs around the house/business you wouldn’t want to do…the Navy is full of them also. But just in general terms: think of cleaning (pretty much everything), laundry, cooking, dishes (LOTS of dishes!), garbage (LOTS of garbage), painting (the old saying I still remember: “if it moves, salute it. If it doesn’t, paint it”)…you get the basic picture. And I don’t think they can totally show the all the ‘good’ stuff either…being at sea can be very awesome and also and very scary....sometimes at the same time! My ships were SMALL, and big weather could be rather tense. Imagine your office space (and home) taking rolls up to 30 degrees side to side, and prob 15 degrees fore and aft…NOTHING stays where you put it unless you have it tied, bungee-corded, velcro’d, glued, or bolted down. Giant waves, the ship creaking and groaning as the metal flexes (all built by the lowest cost bidder who won the cotract, you have to keep reminding yourself). But calm seas, sunny days, dolphins jumping/swimming, the night sky so FULL of stars… it’s the milky way from one side of your view to the other…things like that are addicting and stuff you remember for life. As are all the friends you make…extended family in many cases. And also, keep in mind that I 'got out' in some of this might be a 'teensy bit' outdated.

So…wow, this got rather long…and has absolutely NOTHING To do with cycling (hence it’s inanity). AND I’m not going home quite yet…extended thru the weekend. So…happy Friday to all!


Matt -
I'm not sure on others but you can keep writing on that anytime! That was great and personal "stories" on stuff like that are my favorites to listen to - I mean read - so keep it coming!


Matt, thanks! Did you feel like you were in prison???? And these guys have "Liberty" in the Middle East where if they leave the hotel grounds, they will most likely get in trouble!
One guy picked the Navy because he didn't want to carry a gun. This series is from a 2005 "cruise". And how much sleep do these poor people get with jets coming and going at all times?? The whole deployment they didn't drop any bombs, just took pictures, which totally bummed the pilots.


Thanks Matt!!! I will have to send this on to my son as he wanted to go into the Navy (Seals, yeah right) when he was 17. Two of his friends were going into the armed forces (Army and Marines) and they were all into paintball and the other one that has smaller pellets. Lot's of HooYah. I didnt' say anything for a long time, but finally told him, "you know I am not going to voluntarily SIGN YOU UP for this?" That kinda put a damper on things with the recruiter, who had a deadline to meet. By the time he turned 18 he had moved on and didn't want to go anymore. His two friends? They joined and were out within a year for various reasons. It was a bad choice for them fer shure. I think my son would have stuck it out, it would have changed him, but I don't know if it all would have been good. Never will I guess.

thanks for the great story. You and susie need a blog to share!


Thanks for the info on Masiguy -- that was *quite* a spill. Keep us updated Kathleen and send him our best wishes for a SPEEDY recovery!!

Loved your stories and explanations of "sea life", Matt. I watched just a bit of that series, Susie, and was curious about some of those things myself. I was also wondering how they ever get sleep, T. I just can't imagine being so isolated for such a long period of time like that. Wow...

Between torrential rain showers, I actually got my first ride in after getting my bike tuned up. Only got in @ 8 miles before work, but it sure was great to get outside and ride! VERY glad that I didn't have to pull the trailer on my first ride of the year, though. I REALLY would have been puffing up those hills then ;)

susie b

THANKS MATT! I loved reading EVERYthing you wrote! And you MUST watch the series. It actually just ended last night, so it was 10 hours total. You will surely get a kick out of it. Did you think about staying in the Navy for your whole career?

I have even MORE questions, but 1st - do *I* remember 'TOP GUN'? You're teasing, right? Tom Cruise, "You've Lost that Lovin Feelin", "Danger Zone", "Take My Breath Away", Goose's tragic death, half-naked beach volleyball scene starring hunky men. Like I would forget! I saw the movie about 4 times in the theatre & have the soundtrack. I was in my mid 20s then & I don't know ANY women of my age who DON'T remember that movie. :) :) :)

I've always been fascinated with what life is like on those ships & have thought that if I HAD to be in the military, I'd pick the Navy. Partly because as a kid in MD, I always went on a trip to the Naval Academy every May or June & thought it was great.

Anyway, here's more questions! Once you get home from deployment, how long are you there before your next deployment? What type of job do you do while on land til the next cruise? Would YOU have wanted to serve on a carrier? Is it more prestigious to be on certain ships (i.e. is there a pecking order?) Once you've trained for a certain job, how difficult is it to change? What's a "rating"? You said your's was a "shore rate" & I'm not sure what that means. Did you miss the sea terribly at 1st when you retired?

And the reason I asked about women is that even now you could tell there were some enlisted AND officers that didn't have a high opinion of women being able to do a certain job. PLUS, there's that whole problem that you've got 5000 mostly young men & women cooped up on a ship at sea for 6 months & well, FRATERNIZATION is bound to happen & that's a big no-no! :) I don't care if you threaten them with 40 lashes, there's no way you'd be able to completely stop the illicit entanglements. Something that the OLD military didn't have to worry about quite so much. ;) And since you were in the service right when the women started to appear on ships, I thought the tensions would have been highest then.

And again, thank-you, thank-you for answering all my pesky questions! The only big ship I've ever been on was a 7 day Carribean cruise 16 years ago & I LOVED being on the ocean. We had perfect weather though & it was so smooth you could barely tell the ship was moving!

And don't forget people, Sunday is 4 HOURS of cycling on Versus. TdG at 2:00 for 2 hours & then Tour of Romandie right after.

And can SOMEone please explain to me why Vino only got a ONE year suspension for BLOOD DOPING? And how is Basso joing a PRO TOUR team at the end of THIS year?


I know a lot of the IAers read Fat Cyclist... very scary, potentially devastating news on his blog today... and the comments are up near 300 - what a following he's created there. Prayers for Susan.


MORE questions! Wow..I should write a book! :) Theresa, no, it didn’t feel like I was in prison (as far as I know…never been in prison…yet). And as for getting in trouble: young Navy Lads (and Ladies) can get into trouble most anywhere…doesn’t have to be a foreign port! (Teenagers? Trouble? It can happen!) They just HAPPEN to be in the Navy, away from home for maybe the first time...going a little wild even. You can figure that a high portion of ALL Military personnel CAN’T legally even have a beer in the US! (as in they are under 21). In MY day, they used to let you have beer in the base clubs no matter the states drinking age or your age…to KEEP you on base (sounds fair if you ask me!)…but now that most states (all?) went to 21, and the Military has been pressured by the Feds…that no longer exists. SO the kids go OFF base where they WILL find booze (and trouble)…then it’s no longer contained on the base. I just don’t get the thought process there. A kid old enough to join the military CAN’T friggin have a BEER? That is just plain stupid. Enough on that.

One of the guys I am working with here in Sunnyvale was ON the Nimitz when they filmed this series…(he’s the one been talking about it, as I hadn’t heard of it before). He said they didn’t do their usual mission as Theresa already mentioned (ie: drop bombs and such)…but said it was still a gas to be involved knowing they were filming life on the ship…(he was a ‘white shirt’ on the flight deck btw).

Cat, you don’t “Join” the Seals…you first join the Navy and have a regular ‘day job’ (rating). THEN, if you are truly one of the FEW who can even GET ACCEPTED to SEAL school…you get a shot….however the majority DON’T make it thru, as it’s prob the hardest thing anyone will do. Some mighty strong, fit, seemingly supermen type guys don’t make it, yet some scrawny-skinny runt does. A LOT is mental…(I had many Seal friends…played a lot of volleyball back in Virginia and Hawaii with them…they are seemingly ALL pretty dang at it too…being FIT is part of their job description). My neighbor back in Virginia for a few years was a Seal…you’d never know it…quiet, nice…not at all the stereotype. Military isn’t for everybody though…but for those who decide it is, I can’t say bad about it…you really grow up, and being as you are on your own for possibly the first time in your life (making your own decisions, AND being held ACCOUNTABLE for them…which seems to be missing in our society anymore).

Jaanan, you get used to the noise (or wear ear plugs, or both). A lot depends on where your ‘bunk’ is. My stateroom (yes, I had my OWN room…not quite like regular Navy…open bay berthing and all)…was still QUITE noisy. It’s a steel box. Pipes, ventilation, plumbing, etc running all over the place. Engines (big ones…Cat diesel generators) running just down the passageway behind a door 24x7)…you get used to constant noise (or most people do anywhere). However a carrier is a bit diff…catapults and arrestors ( the cables that catch the plane and stop it QUICK) make LOTS of noise…and if your space is anywhere near that equipment…good luck. Such is life. You’ll sleep when you are tired enough. How did soldiers sleep in combat? (ie: WWII?) Also glad to hear you got in your FIRST Ride of the year! Something special about that…no matter how short it is.

Susie, after deployment, the ships next business is dependent on a lot of things…but stuff is usually scripted out far in advance (deployment schedules). You get back to ‘home port’, there’s tons of stuff to do…ship maintenance, shipyards every so many years (that can be a few weeks or many months, even up to a year for big ships..depends on how big a ship and what ll athe yard period will entail). A ship can be back in port many months, or just days…there are exercises (where ships go play ‘games’ with each other, subs, planes, foreign Navies…you name it…we play it). It’s all practice so you are on your ‘A’ game when the time comes for real (hopefully NEVER). I was a sub hunter…so we did that. Worked with other ships (typically destroyers, frigates, occasionally a cruiser..all sub-hunting capable ships), airplanes (P3’s), helicopters (dipping sonar from fleet ships)…every ship has a part to play, where they will be, what their responsibilities are, etc. Can be quite exciting (as well as very tiring). My ships were NOT among the bad ass units (they were civilian ships…USNS)…the ‘Fleet’ ….as in: Navy warships, they are truly BAD-ASS…glad they’re on OUR side! When your ship is in port, you still work everyday…nothing changes on the ship just by being in port…almost all of the jobs still go on round the clock. The ship “never sleeps”. In many cases, there is MORE work to be done in port than at sea…(my ships that was especially true). Re-outfitting for the next mission was a 3 week ass-busting event for us…Missions lasted 3 months typically. I don’t know if I would have wanted to be on a carrier or not…I think would have preferred a smaller ship…though each class has it’s plusses and minuses. Bigger ships: more stuff to do on your offtime. Smaller ships: tighter more family like crew. You’d never know even a small part of the total crew on a carrier…but a Fast Frigate or Sub, you prob know everybody (good or bad…you decide).

Changing jobs: possible but not easy. The Navy would spend a good amount of time and $$ getting you trained in your area…but sometimes certain ‘ratings’ needed people more than others that were overcrowded (ie: your 'rating' is your job classification/description…such as: a secretary type job is a ‘Yeoman’….Enlisted medical people are Corpman, General seamanship type job is Bosun Mate, Police/security are ‘Master at Arms’, Sonar tech is self rating was a branch off of Sonar Tech that very few people IN the Navy even knew existed as we were a small rating…less than 250 of us Techs navy wide). There are MANY ratings covering most any job type. Typically the worst job categories (based on amount of time at sea, the actual job duties, stuff like that) had the highest turnover of people, so they were always needing MORE people than other ratings. MY job in the Navy was wonderful…it was almost totally shore based (island based anyway). I didn’t do a DAY on a ship until I retired..then I went on civilian ships for 7 years…did some good catching up i that time though! Spend a LOT of it AT sea. And I guess there is some ‘prestige’ depending on which ship you are on. Oilers don’t typically get a lot of accolades though they are VITAL. Every watch the old B&W movie Mr. Roberts? (a CLASSIC!) His ship was of very low prestige…as it wasn’t a warship and he wanted ‘ in the action’. As for missing ‘the sea’, I still do (at times)…but I DON’T miss being gone 9 or more months a year! I think it would be cool to have a large sailboat and spend some time on that…but you have to be GOOD…as the sea doesn’t fool around. You screw up, and bad things happen. The Coast Guard is very busy trying to rescue people who bit off more than they can chew (see the Kevin Costner movie “The Guardian” about CG Rescue swimmers)? GOOD MOVIE! Hopefully it brought some new recruits to them…as they don’t get much ‘glory’ in the media typically.

And finally…I think Vino got only a 1 year suspension because he DIDN’T fight back…same w/ Basso. Doesn’t matter if they did or not 'do the crime', it’s that they didn’t make a fuss and accepted their punishment.

OK, I’m tired now, and have a LONG day at work tomorrow (Sat). Get out there and RIDE! (and remember to keep the rubber side DOWN!)


Barbara, thank you for letting us know about Elden and Susan. I hadn't checked the blog since early Thursday Morning, and didn't get back til I read your note. I have to admit, For the last few months I have opened his blog with a little dread, fearing it would be the day he said she was gone. Silly me, I know it doesn't happen that way. This is the reality. This is how it goes. Small pieces are tapped away, then bigger pieces. Dying takes a long time.

I'm sitting here wondering why someone I've never met can cause such tears. Why I feel such pain and loss and empathy. Perhaps it is because when someone eloquently shares observations and insights into their own life, it cannot help but touch you. I believe it opens parts of yourself you can't always reach alone. Elden is very adept at that. He is eloquent, funny and generous. He has shared intimate feelings and pain and fear, the courage of his wife and even the bravery of his children. We have been given the honor to bear witness to their experience. What a gift.

Often people talk about miracles at times like this. Miracles for remission, cure, absence from pain. I think the miracle is that we don't merely survive life, but transcend it. The miracle is the love and care and vast ability to place others needs before ours. To accept the fact that it hurts to live and not turn away from what ever it gives us. Susan and Elden are a miracle.

susie b

Right after I posted all my questions to Matt here yesterday, I went over to Fatty's & was stunned. I had worried about this at the beginning when Elden announced the recurrence but things had been going so well lately that I thought Susan was going to beat it again.

I literally felt like someone punched me in the gut. I tried to write a comment & DID write one but it would not post! I tried to submit it again & up flashed a box that said I was trying to post a "duplicate". I thought maybe there were so many people trying to comment that there was a "backlog" which caused some sort of delay. It's still not there & I tried a test comment to an old post of his & it won't go through either. I won't be able to ask any of our PC Help people here as we're not really supposed to be commenting on blogs anyway. ;) Don't know why just that one blog seems off limits now. Any ideas?

Anyway, Cat, what you wrote above is beautiful, so searing. You should write it over at Fatty's. It's funny, but I read what you did write over there today & part is IDENTICAL to what I tried to post yesterday! I too said it is a "privilege" to be part of his & his family's lives. If only through the blogosphere.

With all those other comments, it's not like I'd write anything that would be unique or helpful, but I feel even worse that I can't pass on my thoughts & prayers. Anyway, several months ago when I 1st heard about a possible tax rebate thing, I had planned to give half to the LAF. However, since it now seems the gdamn federal government apparently thinks I make too much money (HAH!), I won't be getting one of those nifty checks. I'm still going to donate to the LAF in honor of Susan Nelson anyway & thought maybe some of the IAers would like to too. And maybe in this way, such monetary "dandelion seeds" will help lead to a GOOD thing one day - the eradication of this disease.


Oh, Barbara, thanks for pointing me over there. I haven't visited Fatty's blog for a few weeks and had been thinking things were going so well after the good news that they had gotten this year.

Susie is right, Cat. You put that so eloquently. Its amazing how much their story has touched me....
Reading his words just knocked the breath right out of me and thinking about that conversation they had to have with the children left me completely drained. It is truly inspiring to read the comments on his blog and I hope that they bring him and his family a bit of comfort during their ordeal. I can't even begin to imagine...

Great idea about the LAF Susie.

Sara Best

Barbara, thanks for making the post about the news over at the Fat Cyclist site. I had read it earlier in the day and I literally sat in front of my computer and cried.

Such sadness plaguing such good people. It's so wrong.

I was going to do a post about it but I was honestly too shaken up to put my thougths into words.

Thanks to you guys for doing it for me.

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