The Monsters In My Head…

The monsters I create in my head are always more foreboding than the ones I actually meet — should I meet them at all.

A friend had a family emergency this week and had to leave town with little notice. She asked if I would keep her two small dogs for the week. Without hesitation I agreed. I know the dogs well, love them both, and they brighten up the house when they’re here.

Sadly though, among my first thoughts when I agreed to take them, was questioning whether my daily riding would be impacted. Two additional critters, along the current critter inventory, and an elderly woman with dementia might make getting on the road each day more difficult. 

The more I thought about it, the worse my concerns grew. I began imagining scenarios where, if I were on my bike, my mom would accidentally let the dogs out — never to be seen again, drop chocolate which might harm them if ingested, or get one caught between her legs, subsequently falling and breaking her hip. And that was just scratching the surface of my wretched imagination.

Not wanting any harm come to the pups, and increasingly believing that leaving them alone with my mom would set up for disaster, I made the decision to take a week off of cycling. I haven’t taken a week off since 2015. The decision was bittersweet, but it was the right thing.

Me being me though, it wasn’t long — minutes actually, before I was twitching, nervous, and bitchy. I began thinking of ways to safely secure the pups while I got out and rode for a couple of hours. 

I made the decision to leave the dogs crated in my fitness studio, close the door leading into the house, and put a chair in front of the door. They would be okay crated for a couple of hours, and in an emergency, my mom would be able to move the chair. I felt selfish and a bit guilty for this decision, but not so much that it kept me from riding yesterday.

Once the dogs were crated, I put a thin sheet over the crate to darken their environment, closed the door, and taped a note above the chair reading…

Please don’t open the door — Jesus is watching you

Old people get scared when bring Jesus into any scenario as leverage. 

Moments later I was on a bike, trying hard to let go of all the scenarios in which my mom would poison, step on, or lose the pups. That’s when I started thinking about the possibility of a house-fire. Shit. 

Notwithstanding to any of this, is that I’ve ridden a bike every day for the last six years and left my mother alone with a dog, a cat, occasionally a neighbor dog, and there have been no incidents in which the critters got harmed — and the house has yet to burn down in my absence.  

Still, I imagined every possible negative scenario as I rode. I pushed my legs harder than usual, stopped only briefly to take a couple of pictures, and cut my route a little short to get back sooner. All the while looking upward and ahead on the road, half expecting to see my friend’s dogs running toward me — 15 miles from home.

When I arrived home, I entered the house quickly, moved to the chair away from the room where the dogs were crated, let them out to go potty, and took a deep breath. All had been just as I left it, and mom was on the sofa doing a crossword puzzle.

Breathe

Breathe

Breathe 

All was good with the world…

Once again, I had created monsters in my head which, with my eyes open and walking toward them, were nowhere to be seen. This, by the way, is the epitome of being raised Jewish.

I’ll go out and ride later today, feeling a little more confident that the dogs will be safe in my absence. I don’t know, perhaps I should let the dogs have the run of the house, and keep my mom crated 🤷🏼‍♂️.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 187

Climbing: 8,100’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 10,500

Seat Time: 12 hours 31 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from The Staple Singers. Enjoy…!

Earth Day After…

I saw a lot of nods to Earth Day this week, on social media and beyond. Climate change is on my mind daily, though I know I could do more to lessen my impact on the planet. 

I saw many of the usual suggestions for Earth Day…

– Eat less meat

– Recycle more

– Use less water

– Conserve household energy

– Drive less, and do so in more efficient vehicles

– Travel less

– Use less paper

– Eliminate single-use plastics

– Vote for politicians who champion fighting the climate crisis

These are all important individual steps, and if we all practiced them, it might benefit climate change over time. I’m not sure we have that kind of time. 

I have my own thoughts on what might make the most immediate impact on climate change, but these are large-scale group efforts which, to be impactful, need to begin immediately…

First, no reasonable conversation about climate change should exclude the idea of nuclear energy, if only as a 100-year (or so) bridge until the use of sustainable renewable energy is mastered and maximized. 

Two, is to accept that we can live without most printed materials. This would include business and legal documents, books, newspapers, magazines, compact discs, pamphlets, correspondence — virtually anything that is now printed but can be otherwise created and distributed digitally. It’s been suggested by some climate scientists, including Sir John Houghton, that replacing printed materials with digital copies of the same could, in itself, create a measurable slowing of CO2 levels within a couple of decades. 

But none of this really matters. Because the most important thing we can do to combat climate change is something we are increasingly unwilling to do — to prioritize bridging the gaps between political, cultural, and social divisions. 

No significant steps in addressing climate change can be initiated from a divided populous and the divided leadership selected by that populous. At the most grassroots level, we need to grow up, quit pointing fingers, quit name-calling, and listen, even if we don’t like what we’re listening to or who’s speaking it. We also need to elect people willing to do the same.

We understand the changing ecology and climate through science. So too, do we understand cultural and political polarization — through science. Scientists study the impact of name calling, arguing, and refusal to participate in discourse, in the same way they study CO2 levels.

It’s been proven mathematically that when we insult somebody — when we call someone a name, shut them out of the conversation, or refuse to listen to them, it widens and reinforces the gaps which divide us. 

Or to frame it this way…

There’s no moral difference between throwing a plastic bag into the ocean or disparaging somebody we disagree with. One-off, it’s no big deal. However, when everyone is doing it, the oceans soon become clogged, and the waters of discourse are unnavigable.

It’s not a joke. 

There’s no need to recycle, conserve energy, or cut back on meat consumption if, when we interact with those of opposing values, we choose to give them the middle finger over an ear or acknowledgement.

There’s a science to understanding social and political polarization. If we’re willing to embrace climate science, we should also pay attention to the science of getting along. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 193

Climbing: 8,600’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 11,000

Seat Time: 12 hours 52 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Matthew Sweet. Enjoy…!

Bang Bang Bang…

Our love of guns began when the first Indian fell backwards, as we worked our way west to exploit every possible resource and take possession of all lands. And if those resources or those lands became threatened, we depended on guns to assure our possession of them — because we valued the resources and lands more than the humanity which was already a part of them. 

And in the decades and centuries to follow, as we asserted our providence over all which lay before us, we became culturally inseparable from our guns and the idea that killing is an acceptable aspect of progress. 

Guns became costars in the American story. First in books, then radio, movies, television, and subsequently in every aspect of popular culture. No American story is complete without guns and killing, even if we have to peel back the layers to find them. Behind every innocent story there’s a gun or a killing waiting to break through and be seen. 

Guns are in our dreams, our toys, our games, and and even in our fantasies. Killing, as a way out of an unwanted circumstance, is part of our cultural DNA. Don’t like where something is headed…? Kill whatever’s in the way. We even use guns against our own bad days — 52% of suicides come with bullet holes.

This isn’t going to end anytime soon because we accept it with open arms. As soon as were done complaining and sending thoughts and prayers, we binge watch the next violent television series, with liberty in killing for all. We do far too little — almost nothing to discourage our children from the enjoyment of killing and guns as a form of entertainment. 

As long as our mass shootings remain in the single digits, double digits, and triple digits, we’re going to be cool with it. Want to get America to pay attention to our acceptance of killing culture…? It’ll take thousands of people going down in just a few seconds. Even then, the so-called conservatives in Congress would defend every aspect of gun and killing culture. Forgetting, of course, that the word conservative comes from conserve — to use sparingly, to act sparingly, to allow sparingly. 

I’m certainly not the first person to point any of this out. This is the first time though, I’ve been willing to share my deepest feelings on what’s going on. 

Gun culture and killing will be part of the American story so long as we, the authors, keep writing it. We cling to guns and killing, above all, because they were the midwife to our birth.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Post Script: 

I’ve been sitting with these thoughts for a while — keeping them to myself for fear of offending friends and associates. 

In December 1993, my wife, my three-year-old daughter, and I had lunch at a Chuck E. Cheese in Aurora Colorado. The following evening a man entered the building and shot four people, all employees. Though the killings took place was after hours, I had been in that room with my three-year-old the day before.

Six years later I was in San Diego, looking to purchase a house. My wife and then nine-year-old daughter stayed behind in Littleton Colorado — home of Columbine High School, to pack up and sell our home there. I was driving down Interstate-8 in San Diego when the announcer on NPR broke the story of the Columbine shooting. I was shaking and crying so uncontrollably, I had to pull off to the side of the road and gather my emotions before calling home.

Last month in Boulder Colorado, in the King Soopers grocery store where 10 people were shot and killed, I knew people who were in there that day. That was my community once upon a time. 

I’ve trained with guns for military and law enforcement purposes. I grew up with BB guns, learned to shoot .22s in Boy Scouts, and qualified on several pieces during my time in the military.

My statement above is more about the fact that, in popular culture, historic and contemporary, guns, killing, and entertainment are intertwined. The influence of guns and killing in popular culture has contributed to the increase of mass shootings, beyond any doubt, and has been studied and documented for decades.

I don’t see guns as being evil. I would like to see gun use and safety taught at the high school level, and students given PE credit for the class. Put a real gun in the hands of a 14-year-old, and he or she is far more likely to respect its power than somebody who’s 23 and holding one for the very first time.

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 186

Climbing: 8,400’

Mph Avg: 15.4

Calories: 10,620

Seat Time: 12 hours 13 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Jeff Beck And The Big Town Playboys. Enjoy…!

Prime Directive Vs The Golden Rule…

I stopped the other day to take a picture of some wild grasses. They extended over the iron rail of an old wooden footbridge. To frame the shot correctly, I broke some of the grasses off at their stems. The photo turned out to be a dud — too much glare from the sun. As I rode away though, I felt a sense of guilt for killing the some grasses in order to better frame the photo. 

I began thinking of the Prime Directive. Although killing the grasses wasn’t an interruption in the development of an alien civilization, I did disturb what nature had put before me, and did so without any real need. I disrupted the evolution of a system I wasn’t a part of, and in some way changed its destiny.

I soon connected the Prime Directive to the Golden Rule. For the next 15-miles I compared the two and contemplated the fundamental differences between them — which has more value, and if I had to choose only one to live by, which would it be. 

The Prime Directive, if you’re not familiar, prohibits Starfleet personnel and spacecraft from interfering in the normal development of any society, and mandates that any Starfleet vessel or crew member is expendable to prevent violation of this rule. 

The Golden Rule, if you’re not familiar, suggests that we treat others as we wish to be treated. Its earliest iteration was practiced by Zoroastrians in the form of a negative — that we should not do to others what we would not want them to do to us.

I began to see the difference between the Prime Directive and the Golden Rule in the same way I view the differences between eastern and western philosophies. 

The Prime Directive suggests that societies, alien or domestic, are more important than the individuals which comprise them. It’s very Confucian in nature inasmuch as our moral responsibilities should be directed to society first, and then to the individual.

The Golden Rule is about individuality. We correlate it with others, but only as a backdrop for what’s in it for the individual. We want to be treated well, so we treat others well. The Golden Rule is inherently selfish.

Of course there’s value in the Prime Directive and the Golden Rule. Rabbi Hillel argued thousands of years ago that the Golden Rule is the whole Torah and everything else is just commentary. Had Starfleet been around in his day, the rabbi would have felt the same about the Prime Directive, relative to other Starfleet doctrine.

I put societies ahead of individuals. Individual liberty means nothing within a society which is broken and corroded. What breaks and corrodes societies, far more than anything else, is the pursuit of liberty at the expense of the society. I believe this to my core.

It’s hard to look around these days, for me anyway, and not see all the damages imposed on our guiding structures — churches, schools, Government institutions, relationships, and even our hallowed corporate structures, which are the direct result of people putting their individual liberties before the needs of our society.

For societies to succeed, people must put societies first. For individuals to succeed, people must still put societies first. I just don’t see it happening as much as it should.  

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 164

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 9,3333

Seat Time: 10 hours 57 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from REM . Enjoy…!

Sidekick…

It feels a little more selfish each day. He’s nearly 18-years old now. He spends most days within 20-feet of me. That I willingly leave him for two hours, to go ride a bike, says a lot about my selfishness. It gets harder, but I still do it. 

I should have named him, Sidekick. In hindsight, that seems so obvious. Our relationship resembles two guys in a ‘buddy’ movie. I’m De Niro and he’s Charles Groton. I’m Felix and he’s Oscar. I’m Bill and he’s Ted. We just play off each other like that.

Our relationship might seem adversarial to outsiders, and at times it is. With no warning, he’ll jump from the sofa, run to the refrigerator, stand fixed looking back at me. His eyes say…

“I want ham and I want it now…“

Our relationship is largely based on animal protein.

I respond by reminding him he just ate two hours ago, he’ll eat again in two more hours, and he’s not getting any ham…!

His gaze gets more intense. It only takes a minute before I cave. 

I’ll begrudgingly stomp to the refrigerator muttering expletives under my breath. I reluctantly tear a few small pieces from a slice of ham and leave it on the empty plate beside his water dish. Despite the expletives and my poor attitude, he knows I love him more than anything. 

He’s walked off-leash since the beginning. He stays within 10-feet of me, even when we have the park to ourselves. I can tell when a scent has him by the nose — he wants to run, but he won’t. I can almost feel the smell pulling him away from me, and equally feel his determination to stay by my side.

Go, I tell him, go…!

As soon as I say it, he runs toward the hole where the scent draws him. It’s always a gopher hole. Excited, he guards the hole and waits for me to catch up. I tell him he did a good job and complement his professionalism. With no gopher to be found though, I tell him there’s another scent up ahead and it’s his job to find it. As we walk, I thank him for not being one of those undisciplined leash dogs.

Back in the car and preparing to head home, I see a little schmutz on his face…

How many times I gotta tell you, I say, NO SCHMUTZ…!

He looks unapologetic, but slightly nervous. I remove the schmutz with one of many Jack-In-The-Box napkins on the floor of my car. Every time this happens, he snaps at me. The good news is, he doesn’t have any teeth. Once he’s schmutz-free, he forgives me by kissing me on the nose.

On the way back from the park, he rides on my lap with this front paws on the door and his face looking out the window. We listen to NPR and discuss whatever Lakshmi Singh is talking about. He’s particularly concerned about voting laws these days. Don’t laugh, some things you just know.

Like all dogs, he has magnetic tips on the ends of his ears and on all four paws. These enable him to find the geographic center of the bed each night. He can only sleep if he’s lined up evenly between the four corners. As I bend my way around him in a loose attempt to sleep comfortably myself, I call him a chucklehead and an ingrate. He gives me the dreaded look of whoa, and refuses to budge.

I thank him for another day, ask God to bless him and keep him through the night, and I turn off the light. He snaps at me one more time as I pet him on the head — to remind me who the alpha dog is. No teeth, just gums. Just gums. 

Later today I’ll leave him again for another two hours while I ride a stupid bike. He’ll be in good hands, but knowing we’re on borrowed time, it gets harder each day. No matter what, I will always believe he deserves better than me. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 200

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 15.4

Calories: 11,500

Seat Time: 13 hours 02 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Blackfoot . Enjoy…!

My Time Machine And The Sloppy Mosaic In My Head…

This is my 116th post since I began this page in December 2018. Twenty-eight months in, I still ride a bike every day, spend most of my seat time thinking about everything from my childhood to the day after tomorrow, and each evening, I still sit down and write about those thoughts.

Riding a bike is like being on a time machine. Each day I get to revisit different periods from my life and relive conversations and experiences from as far back as I can remember. Along the way, I reconnect with a variety of accomplices and have another view to landscapes and backdrops from my past. 

The time machine goes forward too, just not as often. I imagine what my life might be like the day after tomorrow, the week after next, or in 2062 — should I make it into triple-digits. I contemplate things that might consume me well into my future. It’s chasing memories though, where my time machine does its best work.

The pattern in which those memories show up is completely random. The whole process sets up like a mosaic of memories, sloppily crafted by the drunkards in my head. I get to steer the bike, but memories drive the time machine, and they each steer a course of their own. 

And it’s not just memories and thoughts of the future that consume me when I ride. Thoughts of the moment weave their way in-between all the other thoughts as they flicker in flash. All the usual suspects show up — politics, social issues, religion, existential doom, business concerns, financial matters, family issues, etc.

As chaotic as that might seem, all that thinking is therapeutic. It’s a big part of why I ride each day. When I sit down each evening though, to write about my thoughts from the ride, it becomes noisy — sometimes painfully so. Perhaps this is because I’m trying  to recall so many things at once, or because I’m trying to create structure from thoughts that have no real order. I dunno, but it hurts when I write.

I’ll never get sick of riding, I find value in all the thinking, but I’m beginning to get a little sick of my own voice each night as I attempt to sort things out and form them into something to be shared. I confess, it often wears me down.

I’m not tapping out and have no intention of shutting this page down. This just something I’ve been thinking about lately, on and off the bike — and this seems like the best place to share that.  

Anyway, this is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 195

Climbing: 8,100’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 11,044

Seat Time: 12 hours 57 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from The Waterboys . Enjoy…!

Lunch Lady Man…

Some thoughts enter my head and exit without leaving a mark. A thought may come and go so quickly, I only know it was there, but never really know what it was. 

Others thoughts grasp my attention for a moment, but exit before I can make sense of them. I might recognize them as something of interest, but it’s a straight shot in one ear and out the other. Gone before I can even make out their form. 

Then, there are those thoughts which stick around for a while, sometimes for days, weeks, or longer. Those are the thoughts that show up most when I’m riding. They may appear and disappear as I ride, depending on the volume of other thoughts on a given day, but they identify themselves clearly and I dwell on them. More that that in a minute…

At least part of my riding time is about planning the most immediate things I need to take care of once I get off my bike. Chief among those needs, is making sure my mom gets a prompt and healthy dinner. Well, prompt anyway.

Mom doesn’t have a big appetite these days. Because of that, I don’t really cook. I prepare simple meals for her or heat up already prepared foods I buy at the market. Most evenings, regardless of what I serve, she eats roughly 30% of what I feed her. Her tastebuds are fading. Salt and pepper are often more important than what’s beneath them.

Among the most common meals I feed her are, not necessarily in order…

– Grilled cheese sandwich

– Hotdog

– Pizza

– Chicken noodle soup

– Cheese on toast

– Tomato soup

– Quesadilla

– Peanut butter on crackers

Okay, so those wouldn’t be headliners on the menu of your local organic restaurant. Hell, any one of them could be the ‘early bird’ special at Coco’s. I make sure though, each of those entrées is accompanied by a side-dish of mixed vegetables, canned or fresh fruit, and a single square of Hershey’s chocolate for dessert. 

Speaking to Trudy the other night, I mentioned that mom‘s dinner that evening would be a grilled cheese sandwich — with peas in butter on the side. The night before, I explained, was chicken noodle soup with mashed potatoes. She paused for a second and said…

“My God, Roy, you feed her lunch lady food…“

We laughed. I guess deep down I’ve known that for a while, but hearing Trudy frame it that way, well, that’s one of those thoughts that’s going to stick with me for a while — Roy “Lunch Lady” Cohen. 

I had no defense for her comment because it’s was true as it was funny. The only things missing from my kitchen life are the hairnet, plastic gloves, flabby arms, and the wart on my left cheek. 

I’ve spent most of my adult life teaching healthy exercise and proper eating habits to people of all ages. I ask every client, prior to each session, what their last meal was and what they had for dinner the night before. Not as a form of judgment, but it promotes dialogue about healthy eating in support of their exercise. My own mother though…?  She gets lunch lady food. 

By the way, Wednesdays are mac & cheese days here at the Contemplative Fitness kitchen for seniors — mixed vegetables on the side, and the canned peaches are to die for.p

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 166

Climbing: 6,800’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 9,400

Seat Time: 11 hours 05 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Mason Jennings . Enjoy…!

About The View…

It was a spectacular week of riding in San Diego’s North County. Back-to-back pacific storms passed through last week in typical spring fashion. The broken skies that came with these storms highlighted the beauty of the area in ways a solo blue sky just can’t. I rode six out of seven days last week, with rain making just one day too prohibitive to ride.

I was reminded last week of a travel tenet that’s proven true my entire life. As I age, and as I look for more meaning from simpler things, I’m coming to appreciate that this rule of travel is just as relevant even when I’m not far from home…

The best and most enduring moments, when I reflect back on any of my travels, have been just taking in the view.

As I rolled past acres of freshly turned soil waiting for tomatoes to be planted, as I saw snow covered mountains with citrus orchards and avocado groves in the foreground, and as I saw skies of blue highlighted by clouds of black, gray, and white, I thought about my late client and friend, Otis. 

Otis was as well traveled a man as I’ve known. He had lived in South America early in his life, set foot on every continent except Antarctica, and could discuss the history, politics, and geography of any region in the world, with locals and travelers alike. Sometime around 2012, Otis took a 3-week cruise through some of Pacific islands. When he returned, I asked him what he enjoyed most about his trip. His response took me by surprise…

“The fact that I never left the ship…”

Wait, what…? A three-week Polynesian cruise and he never left the boat…?

Otis explained that he spent his sea days reading, occasionally looking up at horizon and taking in the magnificence of the ocean. When his ship was in port, rather go ashore and do touristy excursions — that were generally crowded and exhausting, he stayed behind to sit on the veranda of his cabin, still reading and intermittently looking up at the magnificence of the surrounding landscape — and all the people scurrying on the streets below.

“Each port of call was like a different television channel…“ he told me, “or like a painting of a different landscape…“

Hearing Otis describe his enjoyment of just sitting, taking in the view, and being entertained by the activities below, got me thinking about my own travels. 

Just a few weeks after that conversation with Otis, I found myself on a ferry from Athens to the island of Mykonos — a 5 hour journey, stopping at a half-dozen lesser islands along the way. That remains one of the best days of my life, though I never left the boat. I just sat on the deck of the ferry, all day long, with my feet dangling over the side, taking in the view. The beauty of the Aegean sea and the aesthetics of the many islands we passed along the way were all the entertainment I would need. I was in Greece for three weeks, visited many of the more popular archaeological sites, and a handful of the lesser ones, yet what I remember most are the views from the ferry that day.

I’m not a globetrotter, but I’ve had the privilege of visiting all 50 states, some very pretty places, and a few foreign lands. When I think about any of my travels though, the moments which stand out to me most aren’t the things I’ve done — the buildings I’ve visited (ancient or modern), the foods I’ve eaten, or the even people I’ve met along the way. 

When I think back on any of my travels, my fondest and most enduring memories are the many views I’ve been blessed to enjoy. Views of lakes, hills, rivers, deserts, coast lines, and so-on, remain as memory shots, etched in my mind forever. Pick a vehicle — train, jet, ship, car, or bus, and I’ll be perfectly content just staring out the window. There may be something waiting for me at the destination, but I’ll remember the view the most.

Of course travel is all about experiencing different cultures, languages, foods and entertainment, and I’ve certainly done all of that. However, the view from the hotel room, from the restaurant patio, or from the ridge overlooking the canyon or the horizon, is what has captivated me most, often stopping me in my tracks and sending chills down my spine.

And from this rolling perch I get to ride each day, I get exercise, mental clarity, and even burn some calories. The best part though — the best part of riding a bike is the view. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And my own front porch…? That view ain’t too bad either.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 161

Climbing: 7’300’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 9,200

Seat Time: 10 hours 45 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Dave Graney ‘n’ The Coral Snakes. Enjoy…!

The Needle And The Damage Done…

As a precautionary measure, after receiving my second dose of the Moderna vaccine on Friday, I chose not to ride that evening. The instances of people experiencing flu-like symptoms within hours of their second shot has been high enough that didn’t want to take a chance. 

Spending two-hours with an accelerated heart-rate might have brought on any would-be side effects even sooner. Notwithstanding, I wanted to be available for my mom, who received her second dose when I did, should she experience any side effects.

Other than being a little tired at the end of the day and not sleeping well, I woke up Saturday with no fever, no chills, and no headache. Because I’d made it through the night and 15-hours had passed without any symptoms or side effects, I decided to ride early yesterday. I had already missed two days last week, and I haven’t missed three days of riding in one week since 2018.

It was chilly when I left the driveway — 45° or so. I dressed in layers because I expected it to be in mid-60s by the time I returned. Grateful that I dodged the bullet on vaccine side effects, I chose a fast route that began with a six mile downhill stretch from Fallbrook into Bonsall.

Despite wearing three longsleeve shirts, one of them thermal, about three miles in I felt unusually chilly. After another few miles, I adjusted my helmet because it felt too tight — putting excess pressure on the front of my head. Shortly after that, I began sweating. That’s when I realized the chills, headache, and sweat were side effects from the vaccine. I considered turning around, but none of it seemed too severe.

After riding 8-miles on Highway 76, I was past the point of no return for my chosen route. That’s when I began shaking. I sipped some water in hopes that hydration would minimize the symptoms. It did not.  

At the turnaround point I got off my bike to take a picture, eat a banana, and drink more water. My knees were weak and I felt bodyaches from head to toe. I got back on my bike and just charged home. The headache got so bad on my return, that I took my helmet off and strapped to my shoulder bag. Through ignorant determination, I completed the 6-mile climb back into Fallbrook, but my breathing was shallow and my stamina was noticeably lessened by the other side effects.

Once home and while I still had some strength, I made my mother a lunch of peanut butter on saltine crackers, a couple of Girl Scout cookies, and a Coke. I spent the remainder of the day on the sofa, underneath 2 blankets, sleeping on and off, and mumbling incoherently as though it were my last day on earth — which I believed it was. I hadn’t felt flu-like symptoms this severe since having the H1N1 virus in 2010.

Just after 8pm last evening, the fever broke and the chills stopped. With nothing planned to write for the week, I thought I’d share this story with you — about a man so committed to riding a bike each day, that he was willing to risk his health to do it. And in a little while, I’m going to do it again. Wish me luck.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 140 

Climbing: 5,600’

Mph Avg: 15.8

Calories: 8,00’

Seat Time: 8 hours 49 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Mick Ronson. Enjoy…!

Expose And Observe…

In addition to this blog, I write a daily column on Facebook under the same name, The Spoke And Word. The premise is the same — I write short anecdotes and stories which take place on the road each day, and also about the absurdities of life I contemplate while I ride. The only difference between those columns and these essays is that my Facebook posts are written each evening in 20-minutes or less.

I was recently called out by a reader claiming that I’m prone to exaggeration, hyperbole, and writing all-out falsehoods with those daily posts. This came on the heels of a post I wrote last week after getting bit by a wolf — well, a wolf-husky hybrid. And as extraordinary as that sounds, it actually happened.

That assertion that I’m prone to lying and exaggeration was made by the same reader who called me out three years ago when I wrote about the carload of stoned teenagers who threw a whole watermelon at me as they slowly drove by laughing. They missed. And, it was the same guy who didn’t believe me a year or so later when I wrote about stopping at a red light and using my helmet to head-butt the driver’s side window of a guy who pretended to run me off the road a few minutes prior. 

See the pattern here…? Not one of me embellishing or making up stories, but the pattern of this man reading my stories consistently for a few years now — even if he believes them to be works of fiction. 

On the opposite end of things are the people who suggest I’m a magnet for drama. They believe what I write, but suggest I set myself up for that drama, hunt for it, or that I might even manufacture it. Although I admit I’m a magnet for drama, I never hunt for it, and certainly don’t manufacture it. 

I spend roughly 13-hours each week riding a bicycle between the rural (and quirky) communities of Fallbrook, Rainbow, Pala, Bonsall, and Oceanside. That’s the amount of time many people dedicate to a part-time job. Only the part-time job, in my instance, is to expose myself to experiences beyond my sofa, to observe what I see, and to share them with anyone interested.

I expose myself to fast-moving cars, roadside hazards, and the risks which are inherent to riding a bike in those surroundings. And I observe the landscape, the structures, the people, and the behaviors of those people who transcend and occupy that landscape.

And from all of this, I fulfill my need for a creative outlet by reporting to anyone who’ll read and appreciate those experiences and observations — even if they think they’re works of low fiction. 

I’ve written many times that living in Fallbrook is like living in a David Lynch movie — where everyone knows a secret I haven’t figured out yet, where the laws physics don’t really apply, and where eccentricity is an actual form of currency. Spend 700-hours a year riding a bike in an environment like that, and strange things are going to happen — like getting bit by a wolf, having a watermelon thrown at you, and seeing the occasional small aircraft land in an empty field. Believe it, or not.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 179

Climbing: 7,300’

Mph Avg: 15.5

Calories: 10,300

Seat Time: 11 hours 32 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Timmy Thomas. Enjoy…!

One Thought At A Time, But Not For Long…

A client, who also reads this each week, called me out recently on my frequent use of the term, my chaotic mind. She suggested the term is an exaggeration and that I come across as anything but chaotic. Uhm, nope. I just hide it well. 

It’s hard to explain the way thoughts crowd my head. I can be thinking about a half-dozen things simultaneously — each thought separate and distinct from the others. One thought though, has to take priority at a given moment, but the others still make noise and use their sense of urgency to push the thought I’m most focused on out of the way. 

As soon as a new thought reaches the front of my mind, the others posture to take its place too, and so it goes, all day long. So whenever I talk about my chaotic mind, that’s what I’m referring to. It’s just a bunch of thoughts, on a crowded stage, each wanting to be the center of attention, but with just one podium.

If the thoughts battling for centerstage are good thoughts, then it’s chaotic, but not necessarily overwhelming. These could be thoughts of business, recreation, family or friends, good memories, or my even day-to-day responsibilities. Chaos, in those instances, isn’t intimidating nor does it lessen my mood. In fact, juggling between a number of positive thoughts can be mood enhancing, even if chaotic. 

However, if the thoughts I’m juggling are born of regret, guilt, selfishness or any combination of those, my mind is not only chaotic, but it’s also sad and depressing. These might be thought of divorce, financial concerns, lack of sleep, sick or dying friends, and on-and-on. 

It’s rare for all of my thoughts to be purely positive or purely depressing at any moment. Most of the time it’s an evenly divided field. I might be looking forward to a bicycle ride later in the day, but I might also be thinking about mistakes I’ve made as a father, husband, or businessman. In that sense, my highs and lows can often be momentary. Going from pure joy to sadness and back again isn’t a fun way to go through a day — or life. 

Each day when I ride, the lesser thoughts seem to fall away. My mind stays crowded, but the thoughts are mostly positive, even if they’re fighting for a just one position in front. If I ride long enough, every good thought gets its turn at the head of the line, if only for a while. 

Within an hour or so, after I’m done riding, the lesser thoughts return to the stage and their posturing for attention resumes — and the highs and lows of everyday life return, and I do my best to hide it. So yes, Virginia, there is a chaotic mind. A smiling face and a good attitude are my best forms of cover.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 191

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 15.6

Calories: 11,000

Seat Time: 12 hours 12 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Don Walker of Cold Chisel. Enjoy…!

Feed It With Colors And Good Intentions…

If you’re reading this then you’re a part of the only generation of human beings who will ever live to have experienced life before and after the advent of social media. That’s not just a unique position the history of mankind, it’s also a unique responsibility. 

The ability to interact and communicate with so many people, so quickly, and over such a distances is a miraculous technology — on par with the invention of the wheel and the domestication of fire. I’m awed by that, every day of my life. We live in an amazing age. 

It’s only in how we use this technology though, that will define its place in our species’ history. We, the first generation to use what will be used by every generation subsequent to ours, must set the tone. I’ve argued for as long as I’ve been a participant, that most people who use social media could be using it better and should be using it for higher purposes.

The use I see of social media is often tantamount to imbeciles playing with matches. Inevitably most everyone burns their fingers. And all too often, someone burns down the house or even their community. It should go without saying that if one doesn’t play with matches, they won’t get burned nor start an unwanted fire.

Negativity only breeds more negativity, and escalation of negativity on social media is a spark to a handful of straw.

I know many people reading this who claim they don’t use social media — and actually believe that. Blogging is a form of social media. Whether you’re the writer or the reader of a blog, you’re a participant in social media. If one checks or makes reviews on Yelp, hunts for bargains on eBay or Craigslist, uses apps like NextDoor, WhatsApp, or even participates in email or texting groups, then they also use a form social media. Sharing photos via a smartphone with friends or family in distant places is a form of social media. 

I’m a fan of the technology, but not always of how it’s used. Of course I say the same about religion, government, and capitalism. I do my best to use it with good intentions. I’ve never been much of a leader, but I wish more people would follow my lead on this one.

We must use the technology of social media better.

In all of this, I’ve included some smartphone pictures I took last week. I’ll take more again next week and share them here. And I’ll probably include another opinion about one thing or another, and hope I’ve done it with the best of intentions.

Lastly, I’ll remind anyone reading this that what makes one a good craftsman, a good statesman, or a good human is understanding the possibilities, the risks, and the limits of one’s tools and technologies.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 192

Climbing: 7,100’

Mph Avg: 16.0

Calories: 11,100

Seat Time: 12 hours 05 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Tom Jones. Enjoy…!

Mom’s Gap Year…

On Thursday I took my shortest scheduled ride in nearly 2-years yesterday — just 24-miles. I had just a 2-hour gap between my last client session and an appointment for my mother to get her first COVID-19 vaccination. Obtaining a vaccination appointment here in Fallbrook was a big deal and I didn’t want her to miss it.

I got mom to her appointment on time. The nurse offered me a dose also, since I’m mom’s exclusive caregiver. I gladly accepted. We’ll return in 30-days for our second round of the Moderna vaccine — and we’ll be one small step closer to a reconfigured normal. Through most of my ride though, prior to our vaccinations, I reflected quite a bit on mom’s year of confinement. 

I got a lump in my throat thinking about the old woman who, just one year ago, stepped into a pandemic. I got a few lumps more, thinking about the much older woman who will now attempt to step beyond it. Mom, 90, has lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the polio epidemic, and now this. Hard to imagine, but COVID is the one which has impacted her most, despite that she’s been kept in isolation — or perhaps because of that.

Mom’s had a safe year. If nothing else, her life has been comfortable during the pandemic. If she lost anything, it was her schedule of regular activities — which was also her conduit to all human connections. Prior to the pandemic, mom had reasons to leave the house every day, reasons to speak, and reasons to listen.

Two days a week she took exercise classes at the local community center. She also participated with a meditation group at our library. She and I ate lunch out several times a week, and were often invited over to the homes of my clients for lunch or dinner. We regularly walked at Oceanside Harbor, after feeding the seagulls our leftover fish ‘n’ chips. All of those activities were good for her. Then one day, they just disappeared.

Also prior to the pandemic, I took her to one of the local markets every day, put a shopping a car in her hands, and gave her an hour to walk up and down the isles, just to look at things and say hello to the people she saw along the way. It wasn’t exactly step aerobics, but it was daily exercise and socialization — which I had no way to duplicate once the stay-at-home protocol began.

Mom’s loss during the pandemic has been the cognitive and physical stimulation all those activities provided her. Though there’s no way to measure those losses, it’s clear that she’s a different person than she was a year ago. Of course she would have continued to age without COVID, but I suspect her decline wouldn’t have been as steep.

In a month mom will get her second dose of the vaccine, and following proper protocols, I’ll begin taking her to restaurants and markets again, but on a limited basis. I’ll be taking somebody though, who can’t walk as far, who can’t process as well, who can’t remember as much, and who won’t recognize anyone she sees. 

My mother will be living with collateral damage from the virus. Her life may have been spared during the pandemic, but her physical and cognitive health have been compromised forever. And everywhere around us, whether we see them or not, there are tens of thousands more just like her. Please keep your eyes and hearts open to them. They’ll need our patience. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 191

Climbing: 8,400’

Mph Avg: 15.7

Calories: 11,000

Seat Time: 12 hours 07 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Ozomatli. Enjoy…!

Groundhog Night…

Groundhog Night…

Yesterday was Groundhog Day. Most of us learn about that in early elementary school. From there, we advance to the adult world, spending most of our lives unable to remember if we get an early spring or longer winter if the groundhog sees his shadow. Fortunately, there’s always somebody the water-cooler to set us straight.

Today though, Groundhog Day is most associated with the movie by the same name, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Groundhog Day, the movie, is about being trapped in time, and reliving the same day over and over again. On a visceral level, most of us feel that way each day of our lives, myself included. Here we go again.

These days, at the end of all my Groundhog Days, I also get to live Groundhog Nights — as I attempt to write these musings.

Somewhere around 8:15 each evening, I suggest to my mom that she prepare for bed. As she does, I settle into the sofa and begin grasping for fragments of thoughts from my rolling meditations, to turn into stories. That’s when Groundhog Night sets in.

My mom gets up, takes two soft peppermints from the candy dish, and retires to her bedroom.

A few minutes later she returns to say goodnight to me and the dog, takes a couple more peppermints, and heads to her bedroom once again.

Shortly after that, she returns — to hand me her Life Alert pendant, says goodnight to me and the dog, takes a couple more peppermints, and goes back to her room.

Maybe 15 or 20 minutes later, she emerges to check the kitchen appliances — to make sure they’re unplugged. She takes a couple more peppermints, says goodnight to me and the dog, and returns to her room.

As I survive these interruptions and develop a rhythm to my writing, I hear her bedroom door crack open yet again.

Shit.

She steps out, lets me know that there are no lights on at the house next door and that I shouldn’t go outside. She thinks they may be up to no good. She takes two more peppermints, says goodnight to me and the dog, and goes back to bed.

God, strike me with lightning if I’m exaggerating…

Well past an hour from the first time she retired to her bedroom, she returns once again — this time to go to the bathroom. From there, she takes a couple peppermints, says goodnight to me and the dog, reminds me that it’s “dark as pitch“ at the neighbor’s house and not to go outside. She goes back to bed.

Somehow I manage to find my way back into a writing rhythm, when I hear her door crack open again.

‘Motherfucker’, I mutter to myself.

She proceeds to the kitchen where she takes a Little Debbie Zebra Cake from a box in the cabinet, grabs two more peppermints, says goodnight to me and the dog, tells me she’s going to turn the light out, and returns to her room.

Some combination of these things takes place each night for a duration no less than 60 to 90 minutes from the first time she says goodnight. All the while, I attempt to attach my mind to a memory from the day’s ride and turn it into a story worth sharing.

After the Zebra Cake, I tuck her in, turn out her light, and close her door. If the gods are with me, I can return to writing uninterrupted — nearly 2 hours after she began going to bed.

If you’re counting, that’s approximately 14 soft peppermints. The good news is, at almost 91 years old, we consider those a vegetable.

This is what I think about when it ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Eleventeen Cupcake
28 miles
1,300’ climbing
16.0 mph avg
1,700 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Pulling Mussels, by Squeeze

A Bridge Not Too Far…

It happens infrequently enough that it always shocks me. That said, it never really surprises me. I don’t think that’s a contradiction. More on that in a bit.

A regular stopping point during my rides is The Old Bonsall Bridge, just west of the community of Bonsall. The bridge was formerly a section of State Highway 76, and spans roughly 200 yards across the San Luis Rey River, 90 feet below. 

The bridge was completed in 1925. It majestically served the state of California for 65 years until it was decommissioned in 1990. In 1992 the bridge was designated as a National Historic Site. In addition to its historic status, it’s also the designated bike lane for westbound Highway 76, diverting cyclists off the new Bonsall bridge, roughly a 2,000 yards to the east.

I cross the old bridge twice on most rides — once on my way out, and again on my way home. On my return crossing, I usually stop at the midpoint of the bridge for some water and a small snack. I allow myself a few minutes to take it all in — to stand in splendid isolation on this antique structure, surrounded by native plants, trees, and occasionally some local critters and birds. For a moment in time, I’m separated from the rest of my species. 

The bridge is a little bit ancient Rome, a little bit midcentury Americana, and a whole lot of aesthetic wonder. In the five years I’ve been riding across it, I’ve stopped midpoint nearly 1,500 times. The only time I don’t stop is when I look up and see them

Them is the photographers, their assistants, and the woman or women in bikinis or perhaps a little bit less, being photographed on the bridge. 

There’s often a sports car or motorcycle involved, but sometimes other props are used — swords, guns, and even animal skin rugs. I recently witnessed a bikini-clad woman posing with a fishing pole. Some of these photo shoots are for commercial purposes, while I’m certain others are just for fun. 

No judgment from me — not at all. 

I just feel a little uncomfortable stopping on the bridge when one of these photo shoots is taking place. I don’t want to be seen as a creeper. A few weeks back though, an epic sunset was taking shape that I didn’t want to miss. 

At the the midpoint of the bridge was a black BMW, a photographer, his assistant, and a girl covered with tattoos wearing a bikini. As she Tawny Kitaen’d herself about the hood of the Beamer, one man adjusted a light reflector and the other took photographs. I stopped about 30 yards short of their shoot. 

I tried hard to not look their way. I just did my own thing and pretended I normally stop there. That’s when I remembered I do normally stop there — to drink water, eat a snack, and take a picture or two of my own. 

That evening I took a few pretty pictures, got back on my bike, and got out of there without once turning my head toward the photographer and his model. I purposefully looked down as I rode past them. 

I’ve witnessed a dozen or more of these shoots in the last five years. The women I’ve seen are usually on the younger side, some I’m guessing, a little too young. And as I exit the bridge onto Old River Road, I always remember two things…

1. Thats somebody’s daughter. 

2. Girls may be cute, but old bridges are beautiful. 

It’s a bit of a novelty to see these photo shoots, but I prefer having the bridge to myself. Probably not what 15-year-old Roy would have thought. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 141 

Climbing: 6,100’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 8,050

Seat Time: 9 hours 26 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from The Sugarcubes. Enjoy…!

Swimming In Systems, Part II…

I have great reverence and respect for systems — generally more than I do for people. Systems, after billions of years of honing and refining themselves, are what gave us people. Systems, I’ll suggest, are the only true force in nature and are responsible for the direction of all things. That said, I tend to accept what system deliver more than what people expect from them.

When Donald Trump was elected president, I accepted it. 

For 4-years I’ve kept my mouth shut. I’ve done my job. I’ve taken care of my business, my family, and remained an active participant in my community. I’ve bitten my tongue, I haven’t lashed out, and I’ve managed to say please and thank you as I looked into the eyes of people whose values are different than my own. I’ve shown everyone the respect I think they deserve, even when I’ve disagreed with their politics. 

I know this is a bit of a stretch, but I hope that people who didn’t vote for Joe Biden can and will accept his presidency in the same way I accepted Donald Trump‘s. I know many will. I also know many won’t. Push.

And just as much, I hope that the people who supported Joe Biden and voted him into office, can walk across the end zone quietly. Don’t spike the ball. Don’t do the dance. Don’t get in anyone else’s face. Use your inside voice. Gloating is unbecoming.

Regardless of who anyone voted for, let’s just do the work now. Let’s bite our tongues. Let’s prioritize community, family, and the individual — and in that order. Let’s say please and thank you to everything that moves, especially when our pride tells us not to. 

We are just tiny constituents who spend our entire lives swimming within the many systems that led to us — most never realizing this…

Food Systems, medical systems, religious systems, education systems, family systems, transportation systems, economic systems, weather systems, ecosystems, information systems, social systems, communication systems, and on-and-on.

Political systems. 

When I think of systems, I think of David Foster Wallace’s brilliant commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005. Wallace spoke of the old fish passing the two younger fish and asking them…

“How’s the water, boys…?“

And the two younger fish replied…

“What’s water…?“

The water, I would come to understand, is all the systems that surround us, drive us, feed us, inspire us, enrage us, protect us, move us, and so much more. And most of the time, we have no idea we are surrounded by these systems, and have even less awareness of how influential they are in driving every aspect of our lives.

We may have free will within our own skin, and perhaps a little influence within our smallest circles. Within the systems though, that drive everything beyond our thoughts and emotions, we’re just tiny constituents in a loosely packed Borg.  

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 191

Climbing: 8,900’

Mph Avg: 14.6 ☹️

Calories: 10,600

Seat Time: 13 hours 01 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from John Lennon. Enjoy…!

Three-Minute Scripture…

At least half of my thoughts while riding center around music — song lyrics in particular. Most often, lyrics show up in fragments. Though the whole of the song is always present, it’s those well-turned phrases that capture my thoughts and guide my moral sensibilities. A good lyric can remind me who I should aspire to be. It might also, by comparison, remind me who I don’t want to be, and which roads to avoid.

Lou Reed famously referred to a well-crafted song as the “three-minute novel”. Indeed. I’d extend that though, to suggest a well-crafted song lyric can be three-minute scripture.

When I was 16, I walked into the bathroom of a recreation center where I’d been exercising. On the gray concrete wall, just above the paper towel dispenser and written in crayon, were these words…

“And the men who hold high places

Must be the ones to start

To mold a new reality

Closer to the heart…”

It’s a verse from the song Closer To The Heart, by the Canadian band Rush. I’d heard the song dozens of times, and the album had actually been on my turntable the day prior. There was something about reading those words that day, that changed the way I think about lyrics.

That’s when I began regularly reading song lyrics from the album liner notes, to better understand them, as I listened to the corresponding songs simultaneously. It was also the day I realized lyrics offered me more than the Torah ever had. 

There have been dozens — maybe hundreds of formative moments in my life, just like that one, which have resulted from reading and re-reading lyrics while listening to music. On or off my bike, I don’t go more than 15-minutes without a formative lyric showing up in my head, usually getting my full attention. 

I often tell the story of sitting on a seawall in Oceanside California in the months after my divorce. With earbuds in and facing the spit blowing of the tops of waves, I listened to music by the band The Call, while simultaneously reading the printed lyrics of their songs. Those were religious services to me, every bit as much as listening to Rabbi Krantzler was on Friday nights in the 1970s. Listening to those songs, reading those lyrics, and staring into the sea humbled me and helped me come to terms with some bad choices in my life. 

Another lyric that stays with me daily is from the band Social Distortion. Reading the lyric regularly, while listening to the song Ball And Chain, has given me strength, over and over again, to stay away from alcohol — when nothing else I tried ever could.

And those formative lyrics — those fragments of moral philosophy which come and go in my head all day long, every one has been as impactful on me as any religious scripture ever has. In a very real sense, song lyrics have been the religious scripture that’s most shaped me. 

I know people will make the argument that there’s some pretty bad lyrics out there too. Pick any page though, in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or the Qur’an, and you’ll find some pretty bad lyrics there as well.

In my life, good lyrics have been the fingerprints of God. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 201

Climbing: 8,750’

Mph Avg: 15.7

Calories: 11,481

Seat Time: 12 hours 43 minutes

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from The Call Enjoy…

Crib Death, Redux…

Every so often I’ll be pedaling down the road and look up to see a mid-70s Chevrolet Vega. It’s a treat, since there aren’t too many out there. When I saw one the other day I began thinking about Crib Death. Honestly, there’s hardly a week go by that I don’t think about Crib Death. Crib Death brings back so many memories — wonderful memories of my restless adolescence. The Crib Death I speak of though, is the name of a car, not the unexplained medical condition that occurs with human infants.

In February of 1979 I was 17-years-old. I worked full-time as a sandwich maker at The Bagel Delicatessen in Denver. After the sudden passing of my ‘67 Ford Falcon, I needed another car to get me to and from work. I had a budget of $400 — cash I had saved in a hollowed out copy of Treasure Island. 

Scanning the classifieds in the Rocky Mountain News, one of the first cars I saw was a 1974 Chevy Vega panel wagon — for $400. Bingo. I knew Vegas had a reputation as oil burners because they had aluminum engine blocks, but the $400 price tag made it the perfect car for me. I had a friend drive me across town to take a look at it. 

A panel wagon is a compact station wagon, but with no seats in back, just a flat bed. The rear/side windows were covered over with aluminum panels. It was essentially a small truck with an enclosed bed — the type of vehicle a plumber, carpenter, or electrician might use.

I lifted the hood, opened the doors, and sat in the driver’s seat where I was captivated by the underdash Pioneer stereo. Four corresponding speakers were mounted throughout the car. That stereo was all I needed to confirm my decision. Without even bargaining, I agreed to buy the car. I taught myself to drive the 4-speed stick shift on my way home. Drab green in color, and with two bucket seats upfront, this would be my car for the next four years. 

So where did the name Crib Death come from…? My friend Jeff, who took me to look at the car that day, remarked that it looked like a hearse for little kids. I can’t remember which one of us came up with Crib Death, probably Jeff, but it stuck. And from day one, that car was known as Crib Death, by friends and family alike.

The Vega’s reputation as oil burners was well deserved. From the beginning I kept a one-gallon container of motor oil in the back of the car at all times. About every 500 to 600 miles or when the smoke from the tail pipe got blue enough, I’d stop and put in a quart of that oil.

Crib Death was a road trip warrior for my friends and I. Having no seats in back, but just the flat bed, it was  like a tiny motorhome. If I got too tired to drive, I’d just pull off at a rest stop and crash in the back. If I was driving with friends, we’d rotate taking turns napping in back while the other drove. 

In its time with me, Crib Death made trips into Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kanas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada, and Arizona. All, without a major repair needed — just a lot of motor oil.

I wasn’t big on maintenance beyond the tires, brakes, and the engine. In four years, I might have washed that car just two or three times. When the windshield wiper motor went out in 1982, rather than replace it, I cut a piece of wood to the length of a wiper blade, wrapped it in plastic, and glued a squeegee strip along the bottom. If it rained, I’d open the driver’s side window and every few seconds sweep the water away with my handmade windshield wiper. When I drove my girlfriend home from college for the first time, and it began snowing as we ascended Vail Pass, she was mortified to learn this is how I kept my windshield clear during snow storms. It was a cold ride home. 

During a midnight run to Taco Bell one evening with a group of friends, as we loitered in the parking lot telling jokes and stuffing Enchiritos down our throats, somebody used taco sauce packets to write Crib Death on one of the green side panels. Since I never washed my car, the acid in the taco sauce ate through the paint over time and my car had been permanently branded with the words Crib Death.

When I reflect on all the cars I’ve owned, Crib Death wasn’t the best — not the fastest, the prettiest, or even the most dependable. To this day though, it remains my favorite car. Every so often I look online to see if I can find a ‘74 Vega Panel Wagon. They are few and far between, and I have yet to see one for sale in Southern California. If I ever find one though, and it’s proximate enough to be feasible, I’ll buy it in an instant.