Kali Journal

Michigan Firefighter: I have the best job in the world

My name is Josh Dettwiler, I am 44 years old and I was born and raised in Traverse City, Michigan. In 1997, I moved to Grand Rapids and now I currently live in Comstock Park, MI with my wife Amy and 2 kids. I am a Lieutenant for Cascade Township Fire Department. Cascade Fire is a full-time department with 12 fire suppression personnel, 3 Lieutenants, 3 Captains, Fire Marshal, Fire Inspector and Chief. We cover 35 sq miles and run approximately 2,300 calls for emergency service a year out of two stations. We have 3 shifts (A, B, C) that work in 24 hour shifts and I am the Lieutenant for the C shift.  Every little person wants to be a policeman or a firefighter or an astronaut. Did you always want to be a firefighter?  No, I didn’t but, I feel incredibly fortunate to have this as my career. Being a firefighter is the best job in the world. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. As a child I always thought I would grow up to be a supercross star! As I got older I knew I wanted to work with my hands and be active. I was a carpenter for many years until the economy took a turn forcing me to rethink my career path. I became an EMT-B and worked for a local ambulance company before turning to fire. I went through the fire academy and became a paid on call firefighter. With a lot of hard work and persistence I landed a full- me fire job with Cascade Township.  Do you have any advice for the kids out there who are dreaming of being a firefighter when they grow up?  Absolutely, never give up! Some departments have a cadet program for high schoolers which will allow you to spend time at the department and attend training. Volunteer as a paid on call firefighter when you turn 18. It always helps to have a medical license as well. This too, can be done while in high school. The most important advice I can give is to never quit learning. This profession is one that you have to be on top of your game both physically and mentally and everyday presents a new challenge. What does a day at work normally look like for you?  Our first priority is to take care of our community by responding to any call for emergency service. Every call is unique with its own challenges. There is no fire, car accident or medical call that is the same. To be at our best for our township we train on every shift. My shift starts at 0745am and ends at 0800am the next day (24.25 hrs). Typically, at 0800 we do our vehicle checks, including checking all air packs, testing the lights and sirens, pumping water and inspecting the tools. Around 1000 we will have a shift training that involves using the engines or some of the tools off the engine. Some days are medical training or technical rescue training. We take an hour lunch. In the afternoon we will work out with weights or do cardio. We are required to work out 1 hour a day while on shift to stay in shape. The afternoon will always involve cleaning the stations. We mow the lawn, snow plow and do maintenance. We also have online training that will be done in the afternoons. At 1730 we had me down. I use this to catch up on emails and other projects I have from the Chief. The rest of the evening is our me. We eat dinner together and relax.  How has your work day changed due to the current state of Covid-19?  Covid-19 has definitely changed the fire service like it has for many businesses. We get new protocols daily from the County Emergency Management team. We can no longer have full department training, where the whole department would get together to train at night. We do a lot of public events that are currently suspended. Even the way we run calls has changed. We now wear surgical masks on every call along with safety glasses, gloves and gowns. After a suspected Covid call we sanitize our vehicles, take showers and wash our clothes. All departments now have to have a process that shows their employees are healthy to work their shift. We take our temp, and vitals before every shift to assure we don’t have a fever. We also limit the number of responders going into houses for medical calls. My biggest fear is bringing something home to my family.  What style of riding do you do and what do you like about it?  I ride mostly singletrack, but I do enjoy riding at the skills park as well. I enjoy single track because of how peaceful the woods can be. Being a career firefighter definitely comes with a down side. Not every call is a call that you easily forget or move on from. Riding my bike is a way to destress after a difficult call or shift. I also enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to become faster and smoother on every ride. I also ride a fat bike in the winter as well for the same reasons. I am fortunate to live in West Michigan where there are numerous options of different trails to ride.  What got you into riding the bike, when did this begin, and what does the bike add to your life?  I have always had a bike of some sort from the time I was old enough to ride one. Bicycles turned into motocross in my teens and then back to bikes after I got married. Mountain biking was a way to connect with friends in my early 20’s. I took a little break after my second child and then decided to race BMX at age 40 with my 6 yr old. At 44 I’m back into mountain biking and enjoying the occasional race and riding with my family and friends. Mountain biking adds quality to me with my family. It adds a challenge to become faster, jump higher and farther. It connects me with friends that enjoy the same challenges and can push me to become one. Most importantly, it gives me a way to decompress from a stressful job and clear my mind so that I can be the best firefighter I can be.  Can you tell us what bike you ride, if you’ve tricked it out and what one bike bit you are wishing you had?  During the summer months I ride a Rocky Mountain Pipeline full suspension bike and during the winter months I ride a full suspension Salsa Bucksaw. I have upgraded the drivetrain on the Pipeline, otherwise everything is stock. I would love to have carbon rims to drop a couple pounds if I was going to upgrade.  Where is the one place you dream of riding when all of the travel restrictions are lifted and you can ride one off your bucket list?  I have started to really enjoy riding bike parks and would head to Whistler for the true downhill experience.   
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ER Nurse uses Bike for Emotion Release

Ashley Shingleton is a Travel Nurse, which means she goes where the work is and at the moment the work is in the Emergency Room at Yreka in Northern California. Ashley enjoys working in the ER  and loves the fact her day-to-day work life is so unpredictable. She never knows what interesting thing she is going to be presented with when she walks into work.  She also admits these are indeed scary times.  She taking every precaution to stay safe and when she can she sneaks out on her mountain bike to find some relief from the stresses of her job and to be reminded to focus on the important things.     Can you tell the Kali Krew a little bit about your job? What does a day in your life look like? I am in a critical access hospital in a rural area. Meaning one minute we could be slammed with traumas, heart attacks and other life threatening emergencies we will stabilize and medevac to the nearest acute care hospital. And the next, well, having time to clean up from that mess and prepare for the next. I love that I get to interact with so many people throughout my 12-hour night. Hearing their stories and being there for them at their scariest of moments. Offering them a smile and a kind heart. Others may need a stern educational voice of reason on how to make changes in their lives, so that they don't have to see me again. All of which I love, wearing different hats at different times. How has your work day changed due to the current state of Covid-19?   My work days lately have been more anxiety filled. I never used to fear what may come in the door. Normally a call from an ambulance coming in with a patient in respiratory distress wouldn't even phase me. These days it can stop me in my tracks. "Do I have the protective equipment and resources I need?" The answer as of late has been no. The current state of medicine and politics leaves me with a pit in my stomach as I wait for the ambulance asking myself...."Is THIS the day I get exposed? Is this a Covid patient? Am I prepared? Am I covered? Is my hospital following proper protocol, what even is protocol these days, due to its constant changing. I won't lie it is a scary time, and I don't scare easy. I have to leave early for work as all employees are screened for symptoms, at the door. When I leave work, I strip in my car, placing all of my items in a plastic bag. Changing into new clothes, wiping myself and my car down as much as possible, so as to not expose my family. You ride the mountain bike as your choice of exercise. When did this begin and what does the bike add to your life? I began mountain biking much more seriously after my divorce a few years ago. I have many hobbies, but mountain biking for me was such an amazing way to escape it all. It silenced my mind and allowed me to focus on what was real and important, my breathing, and the earth. It was cathartic, giving me an energetic and positive emotional release. I have found that is what it always adds to my life, especially during these times. A reminder to focus on the important things, and that I can enjoy myself while doing it. Can you tell us what bike you ride, if you've tricked it out and what one bike bit you are lusting after at the moment.  I ride a Specialized Ruze 6Fattie and I love it. I wouldn't say I have tricked it out. I have put stickier pedals on to help with pedal slip, some better and way cooler color handlebar grips, again to keep myself better attached to the bike. My teenage boys generally end up with all the cool parts. I wold love the full suspension version of the 6Fattie for sure. I think maybe new smaller handle bars would be in my future, but maybe I'll just save up for the full suspension. Oooor the Specialized Levo electric, so I can keep up with their long legs on the uphill. Haha!!! Do you have any advice for the kids out there who have the goal of necoming a nurse when they grow up?  One piece of advice I have for anyone wanting to be a nurse is "do it," you won't regret it. Nursing has brought so much to my life, so much more than expected. It's a long process to get there, but so worth the wait. Put your head down, do the work and there is light at the end pf the tunnel. Nursing gives you the freedom to travel anywhere in the world to work, and the time off to do it, as well. Where is one place you dream of riding when all the travel restrictions are lifted and you can ride one off your bucket list? If I could ride anywhere after all this is over it would be a toss up between Whistler BC and Arizona. I would have to narrow it down to Whistler though, so much room for activities. I know my boys and we would have a blast with so much diversity in riding terrain and trails. I think my boys have had me watch enough videos from there I already have the trail map memorized.  Do you have one piece of advice for the Kali Krew during these difficult times? The best piece of advise I can give the Kali Krew right now is to remember in all of this, when we have seemingly had so much taken away from us, that there is so much we still do have. So much we can still do. Try to retain some sense of normalcy, but embrace the change, and move forward. This too shall pass. 
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Autism Doesn't Slow Down Turtle Boss

Austin Johnston's love for mountain biking started when one of his favorite teachers, Tim Keith, introduced the sport in P.E. class a few years ago and he has been hooked ever since. Mountain biking has meant the world to Austin and his parents and it is just what they have been looking for since Austin was diagnosed with Autism, Severe Anxiety, ADHD, OCD and Sensory Processing Disorder at the age of 4. “The doctors told my parents that my life would be very different than they probably dreamed. My parents refused to give up, spending a lot of time taking me to therapy, changing medications, finding the right doctors, finding the perfect school and ultimately advocating for my rights. They never gave up.” "There is not a day that goes by that I don't relive the conversations in my head that took place on the date we got Austin's diagnosis," said Lisa Johnston. "I remember every word the doctor said, the look on his face and the non-stop tears that flowed from my eyes. I'm so thankful that I haven't blocked that day or all the other hard days that have happened in his life, because I can see how far he has come in his life. As parents, we spend each day advocating, teaching others of his differences, and more importantly helping Austin navigate the every changing world.  Being a teenager is hard, and even more so for Austin who doesn't naturally approach the world as we do." Lisa and Austin's dad, Chuck, did everything they could to find a sport that he could connect with without much success, but then the mountain bike came into the picture at the perfect time and changed everything. Earlier that year, Austin says he was made fun of for having Autism by one of his own teachers in front of all his classmates.  "I was told to not talk about how I was “different," said Austin. "Just as I started to embrace who I was, this moment with this adult, changed me. It was hard. But with my parents help and an amazing Coach, who still supports me today, I’ve been able to realize what a blessing it is to have my life. I believe that biking is a great equalizer. It doesn’t matter your gender, race, social status or ability/disability. It’s just great humans on bikes having fun and riding for various reasons.” "For everyone that meets Austin, they see a happy child who has a huge heart," said Lisa. "What many don't see is all the things he struggles with, such as sensory issues, social cluelessness, anxiety, OCD, emotional dysregulation and difficulty with transitions and changes.  These are things that Austin will never "outgrow", but instead we work on ways to manage through life with them and have fun with his "quirks".  We've worked hard to ensure that Austin never uses his disability has an excuse or crutch.  But to instead embrace his differences and always be a good human." In 2008 Austin took a Drew Brother’s Ride Series Clinics, continuing to improve his skills, and sponsorships started to roll in.  “After four years of racing, I set the goal for 2019 to finally be the year that I stood on the podium," said Austin. "We traveled to two of the Southern Enduro Tour races and I took podium at both races. I also had podium finishes in all of the Arkansas Enduro Series races, which had been a goal of mine for a long time.” With his 2019 success and growing online presence, Austin has started creating a following, although people may know him better by his catchy Instagram handle, “Turtle Boss,” Austin shared there isn’t much of a story behind the nickname. He simply loves turtles and wears turtle socks at every race. Austin has found his place, not only in the mountain biking community, but in the Kali Krew Family as well.  “What I love most is the Mountain biking community," said Austin. "Every time I ride, I meet someone new. I often help people navigate the amazing trails in Northwest Arkansas. By doing this I have formed some great friendships with people all over the US.  It’s hard for me to have conversations with people or even order food at a restaurant due to my anxiety, but talking to a fellow cyclist comes naturally.” Austin has many dreams and goals, including going to MIT for Engineering and becoming the first professional mountain biker with Autism, but being a good human is his greatest goal.  "Those words, followed by I love you, are what my Mom says to me each morning before school or every time she drops me off to ride the trails," said Austin. "You see being a good human is the ultimate goal in life." For Austin autism is not a disability, it’s just a different kind of ability.     
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Grant Parker: Firefighter, Educator and Two-Wheeled Advocate

Being on two wheels is a big part of staying mentally healthy for Firefighter Grant Parker. He has made this realization and now when he races he brings awareness to firefighter mental health at every race he attends. 

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Pedaling Portland Boldly into the Future

Portland Oregon is an interesting, dare we say "weird" place, it has both some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation and some of the highest numbers of residents using bicycles as their main source of transportation. Like so many of you, we have been spending a fair amount of time communicating on Facebook, Instagram and Skype, plus the almost-daily, ubiquitous Zoom meeting. It was during one such meeting we were reminded of our friend Marne, who has been trumpeting the bicycle as a means of transportation in the "Keep It Weird" city for quite some time. Marne has always been a "beat of your own drummer" type of person and it was great to reach out to her and hear about her adventure in transportation.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the work you do? I work for the Portland regions’ elected government called Metro (original, I know). We are the country’s only elected regional government, and besides acting as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), we also manage regional parks and venues, our (awesome) Urban Growth Boundary, and our garbage and recycling system. I work in the Regional Travel Options program, within Planning and Development Department. We are funded Federally to work with partners to implement programs that make it easier to walk, bike, take transit, carpool and vanpool in our region. We counter the motto “if they build it they will come”, knowing that many people who have travel options right outside their front door continue to drive alone for all of their trips. Additionally, there are many people in our region who, out of need or choice, use other travel options and we work to make it easier, more convenient and comfortable. We do this through educational programs, outreach and incentives.   From the outside Portland seems like perfect bicycle city, to what extent is this true? When I moved to Portland from Nashville, Tennessee and queued up to cross an intersection with 20 other bike riders at 7:30am, I admit I cried a little. But seven years in, I often say Portland is a bike city in spite of itself. Coming from 97% of the country,  don’t get me wrong, Portland is amazing, both in the number of riders and the infrastructure. On closer inspection, and getting out of my commute, there is definitely a different side of the coin. Like most cities, Portland struggles with the balance of building infrastructure where it’s most needed (often lower income, traditionally underserved communities) or where it will be used the most, and make biggest dent in mode shift. When I work with partners out of city center, things go downhill quick. Most bikeways there are unprotected on major arterials (there are a few brand new ones that are protected). I can’t believe cities still build unprotected bike lanes on busy roads. These are 5 lane mini-highways with folks going 40+ mph. Bike riders (and pedestrians for that matter) don’t stand a chance when the inevitable “accident” happens. I could go on for pages on how Portland needs to be bold, but really it comes down to this – if we are really serious about biking for everyone – close our bike greenways to car traffic and build only physically protected bikeways on major streets.   There seems to be a bicycle boom going on around the country and in other parts of the world, as bike shops have been named essential business. Are you seeing this where you are? Yes. The percentage of folks who don’t have cars is high in Portland. And with Car2Go and other carshare options leaving town, many people just have their bikes, including me. My disc brakes are acting squirrely, and I’m grateful to have (bicycle) shops open.   There seems to be three semi-distinct groups of riders: people using them for transportation, those for recreation and those for fitness. How do you balance these in your decision making? Our program is really only for transportation, we do not fund recreational riding as our goal is reducing SOV trips.   Some leading bicycle brands are heralding this as a turning point for the bicycle. An opportunity to push the two-wheeled agenda and to grow the use of the bicycle to new levels. Do you agree with this and can this so called "boom" continue after the virus is under control? Yes, folks will stop taking transit for a long time and it’s gonna be terrible. The only way we can accommodate folks coming to work is bike trips and maybe carpooling. Take away traffic and parking lanes, turn them into protected (not by paint!) bikeways. Get incentive programs for e-bikes (similar to electric cars), and get e-bikes to be a part of bike share programs (added benefit, this will allow them to expand their coverage areas).   Oakland has closed 74 miles of roads for walking and biking, how can we collectively make this more the norm than the exception? I’d like to national organizations like NACTO, and pushed by regional and local groups, set up standards on how to quickly assess where street closures can be most effective – give cities a starting point. Portland is playing it safe on street closures. One area that might be over looked by advocates is parking policy. Can folks change parking in local neighborhoods to be one-side of the street only, freeing up space on the other for walking? Portland already has an extensive bike greenway network that could easily be a template for walk/bike streets. If they changed just the parking structure for those streets we have a network ready to go.   What are the benefits of bicycle culture that most people in their automobiles are not aware of? I am not generally a “bike culture” kinda person. I have to question any club that would have me as a member. I guess a benefit of bike culture is you don’t have to be a member. In Portland, you can jump in for Pedalpalooza, and jump back out. My bike is just how I get around. I love it, like how some folks love and adore their car, but my culture is more my circle of friends I’ve made through biking and working in transportation. And having them not think I’m crazy when I say let’s go somewhere by bike when it’s January.   Any other advice you would like to share with bicycle riders? I was really intimated when I moved to Portland. It’s a whole nother beast to ride in bike traffic and navigate busy streets. I definitely had a year when I felt like I was doing it wrong. My advice is just find what works for you. It’s fine to see what others are doing, but if you don’t want to ride in the winter – don’t. If you don’t like bike lanes and prefer residential streets – do that. And don’t let anyone try and make you feel like you are doing it wrong. I had a few folks tell me I was “cheating” when I bought my ebike, and I had some choice words for them. It works for me, it helps me love to ride and that’s all that matters.
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Dave Scocca: Firefighter, First Responder and Friend

"He’s super easy going, chill and he’s a monster on the climbs," said Brad Waldron about his firefighting ride partner Dave Scocca. 
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