The Last Goal…

When I began this endeavor six years ago, I had a simple goal — to ride my bike seven days per week, taking just one day off per month. In the beginning my rides were short, just 10-miles each. Within a few weeks though, that wasn’t enough so I began riding further, 15-miles and gradually more. 

The riding app I used at that time, Map My Ride, provided a field to enter a weekly goal. Without much thought one day, I entered 100-miles as my goal. I was already doing it, so it felt like an easy mark to meet — and I’ve always believed in setting achievable goals.

Before long I was riding 125 per week, then 150, and eventually riding 175-200 miles each week. As my average weekly mileage increased though, I never amended the goal in my riding app upward. I simply exceeded my goal week after week and month after month. And that’s the thing about setting achievable goals…

…that no matter how my life might unfold in the course of a week — the good, the bad, and the ugly at all, I’d find satisfaction and maybe even some confidence in knowing that at least I accomplished one thing I set out to do. 

For six years that 100-mile per week goal has been challenging at times, but always achievable. In fact, it’s only been in jeopardy when I’ve been otherwise incapacitated due to the bike itself — finding myself in urgent care, emergency rooms, and laid up in bed nursing the occasional broken clavicle, sprained ankle, or fractured wrist. And even in those instances, I’ve somehow managed to get 100-miles in each week. 

And this is something I’ve never shared before…

…at some point along the way, and I don’t remember when, I upped the stakes for my goal. I didn’t increase my weekly mileage, but I made the commitment to myself that I’d meet the 100-mile mark every week for the rest of my life, come rain, shine, or tonsillitis, and I meant it. 

Now it may be hard to envision a 95-year-old man riding a bicycle 100-miles per week. If I’m being honest though, I’ve never seen myself becoming a 95-year-old man. If I hit my mid-70s I will have exceeded all expectations — from God, most everyone on my friends list, and even myself. So for the last few years, I’ve been riding with the belief that I’ll ride 100-miles every week for the rest of my life.

This past week was the first time that 100-mile goal was truly in jeopardy. Due to a COVID scare set in motion buy a selfish client, I lost a couple of days. When yesterday’s workday came to an end I was at 99.27 miles for the week. I was also physically exhausted, mentally drained, and dozing off in between bites of my 3pm lunch. But I couldn’t let the streak go.

At 3:30pm, and feeling as lifeless as a 30-pound cat on muscle relaxants, I dragged myself off the sofa, prepped a bike, and hit the road — utterly and completely exhausted. And the streak lives on. 

I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to meet that 100-mile goal each week for the rest of my life, but I’m sure gonna try. The situation with my mother might prohibit it, and of course that would be okay. I might get the opportunity to travel someday — and that travel might not include a bicycle. I’ll address that when and if it presents itself. I might also be stricken with a disease or find myself in hospital emergency room yet again. I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️

Sometimes meeting a goal though, is simply the coming together of an achievable goal and a reasonable commitment to meet it. As I sit here this morning, those things are in place. Maybe the weirdest thing about setting a goal like this is that I’m fortunate enough to achieve it, I won’t be around to celebrate it. Weird, huh…?

This is what I think about when I ride…  Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4

Miles: 123

Climbing: 5,200’

Mph Avg: 16.6

Calories: 7,100

Seat Time: 07 hours 25 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 Sleeping At Last. Enjoy…

What Can You Say to a Terminally Ill Person…

This week’s piece comes from my friend, Peter Rosky. Pete wrote this  8-years ago and shares it annually. It’s much better and much more important than anything I could’ve shared with you today. I thank you in advance for taking the time… rc

I had a friend. His name was Dave. We worked together. The year was 1992. I had just started dating someone, and we both agreed that getting tested for Aids was important before having sex. I was telling Dave that I got my results back, and whew, they were negative. Dave smiled, nodded, and told me he was HIV positive. Had been for a number of years. I was shocked to hear this. It was a death sentence. I thanked him for sharing something so personal, but didn’t really know what else to say.

A month or so later, Dave quit. He told me he had to get out of Oregon. I wished him well, and we promised to keep in touch, but didn’t. To be honest, I didn’t think about him that much, until a year later, when he called me to tell me he had moved back home, with his mom and step-dad. When I asked him what prompted the move, he told me that he was no longer HIV positive, but now had full blown AIDS.

I didn’t know what to say. Who does in this situation? I can’t even tell you what we talked about next. I can tell you that I drove to his mom’s house that night, and we drank beers and talked. And talked, and talked. At first it was small talk. We talked about his travels. He asked about my life, and I told him about my job change, and the status of my relationship. I asked him about Christine. Christine was the person who introduced me to Dave. She got him the job at the call centre where we all worked together. I had left there about 6 months prior, so I asked how she was. Dave said he didn’t know. He said they didn’t talk anymore. This surprised me, as they were best friends, who had gone to school together, worked together, and when you met them, you would swear they were brother and sister, they were so close.

Dave then proceeded to tell me that Christine stopped talking to him not long after he told her that he had full blown Aids. See, it was 1993. People were scared of Aids. It was incurable. It had only been around a little over 10 years, and people didn’t trust the science that told them you couldn’t get it just from being around someone who had it. She had panicked and shunned her best friend. When he probably needed her most. She wasn’t the only one. Dave told me that almost everyone he knew was the same. They were afraid of getting sick. They were young, they wanted to party, they didn’t understand. They had a million excuses, most of them bullshit. The reality was, Dave’s friends, both gay and straight, abandoned him.

And Dave was getting sicker. Have you seen the movie Philadelphia? Remember when Tom Hanks character got the skin blotches and went blind? This was Dave’s future. This was what he was facing. Mostly alone.

I decided that night, that I wouldn’t abandon Dave. I would be his friend. I would visit him. I would talk to him. I would be there if he needed me. Please understand, I’m no saint, and this story is not about me. I split up with my wife when my son was 2 years old, and missed seeing him grow up. I’ve done a lot of shit I’m not proud of.

As I drove home that night, I started thinking about what conversations would be like when I talked with Dave. What do I know about being terminally ill? What could I offer? Would I say the wrong thing?

I went back to Dave’s house a few days later. He was sick at this point, but not bed ridden. We sat on the veranda, and got stoned. And we talked. And we talked. Not about dying. Not about living. Not about anything really. We just talked. We laughed. We did normal shit.

As I drove home that night (yes, I drove stoned, sorry), I thought about how easy it was to just talk with Dave. There was no expectation on his part. I sensed he was just happy to have someone besides his parents to talk with.

For the next 11 months, this became routine. I would go to Dave’s house, we would talk, sometimes get stoned, sometimes not, and I would go home. He would ask about my day. I would ask about his. He would tell me of his medical appointments. He would tell me stories about his past. I would share stories of my past with him. To be honest, when this started, Dave was more of an acquaintance, but we became friends. In hindsight, I wonder if I would choose to become friends with someone who was dying? I’m not sure I had thought this through. I just felt he had reached out to me, and I felt I couldn’t say no.

I remember early in the piece, we had the conversation about dying. I asked him if he wanted to go through the pain he knew was coming, or if he’d rather just leave this world without all that pain. He said he didn’t want to go through it. If he was going to die, he just wanted to die peacefully. We didn’t talk about suicide directly, but we both agreed that if it came down to it, it would be better to kill ourselves, than to endure the pain that was sure to come with Aids.

I watched Dave as he got sicker. It was sad. It was horrible. It was soul destroying at times to watch someone I had grown to care for get so sick. He lost so much weight he couldn’t walk. He got the skin blotches. He went blind.

As he got sicker, visits got tougher. It was obvious Dave was dying. One night, about 6 months later, we re-visited the ‘would you go through the pain scenario’. The answer was completely different. Dave no longer cared about the pain. He wanted to stay with his family. He wanted to enjoy every minute of his life. No matter how painful.

I would show up at Dave’s house, and be greeted by his mother, or his step father, who would give me the run down on his condition. They looked so sad. So worn out. If you didn’t know better, you’d think they were the ones who needed medical attention. Hell, they probably did.

Dave’s mother was a wonderful woman. Dave told me she knew he was gay, long before he came out to her. She was totally accepting and supportive. His step father on the other hand, had a hard time with Dave’s sexuality. He had been in Dave’s life since Dave was 8 years old. He was a truck driver. A man’s man. He didn’t know how to deal with Dave and his lifestyle. Dave told me this was part of the reason he moved away.

I got to know his mother and step father during this time. Not well. More superficially. They were nice people, and they were dealing with a terrible situation. They were watching their child die before they did. As a parent, I can’t even fathom the pain this must cause.

I got a call from Dave’s step father on a Tuesday morning to tell me that Dave had died the night before. I was devastated. I had been there on Sunday night, and Dave was really sick. He had that death rattle in his chest. It was the first time I’d experienced that. Sadly, not the last. He was in and out of consciousness. Still, hearing the words, he’s gone, was a shock to my system. I think I thanked his dad for calling, and then I cried for a long time.

A week later, I was back at Dave’s house. I was there to celebrate Dave’s life with his family and friends. Mostly family. His mother had made a poster that had all of Dave’s school pictures from K-12. I met his sisters. I met aunts and uncles. I don’t know who else. It was a blur. It seemed unreal. It was so sad. His sisters, whom I hadn’t met before, thanked me for coming, and one of them said that Dave had told her nice things about me. A few family members got up and spoke about Dave, some stories were shared, and there was smiling and crying and sadness and laughter. As a non-family member, I felt a bit awkward at best, but wanted to be there to honour Dave.

When it was time to go, I said goodbye to everyone and started to leave. Dave’s step father walked with me down the side of the house. As we walked he thanked me for being there for Dave. He told me how much he appreciated it. And how much Dave appreciated it. I told him that I was just doing what was right, and that he was the one who was there for Dave. That Dave knew how hard it was for him to deal with everything. And that Dave had told me he loved him. Dave’s stepfather, the most stoic man I have ever met, burst into tears. He hugged me hard for a long time, while he cried. Neither of us said a word. Then he thanked me, and I thanked him, and I left.

I never went back to Dave’s house. Sure, it might be a better story if I became friends with his family, and we started a foundation, and gave away scholarships, but that isn’t reality. Reality is, our link was Dave. And he was gone.

I was so worried about what to say to him when I found out he was dying. But, that was never a problem. Never. Sometimes we forget how social we are. How much we need others to be there to interact with us. Especially in an awkward situation. Like when someone is dying. We don’t think we know what to say. We don’t want to mess up and say the wrong thing. So, we say nothing. We do nothing. We walk away. I hope if you get anything out of this story, it’s the message that there is no wrong thing to say. The truth is, we need each other. We need to feel that human connection. We need people to listen to us. So, smile at your fellow human. Talk with people. Sure, it’s hard. You might fuck up. But, walking away is even worse.

Peter Rosky is an American expatriate, currently residing in Brisbane, Queensland.

 This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 122

Climbing: 5,100’

Mph Avg: 17.7

Calories: 7,000

Seat Time: 07 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 Lo Moon. Enjoy…

And Now What…

Several days ago I made the decision to give up riding. It’s not that I’ve fallen out of love with it — I’ve never enjoyed cycling more. However, the time away from my mother and the thought that her safety might be compromised by my absence, got the better of me. I purchased a stair-stepper to act as a surrogate in fulfilling my (physical and psychological) need for cardiovascular exercise. Long before the bicycle became my shtick, I was a devotee of the stair-stepper. 

After my first session on the stair-stepper and off the bike, I began to rethink things.

It turns out that my relationship with cycling has evolved over the last six years, becoming stronger and more complex. Cycling is more than cardiovascular exercise for me, it’s an escape, a medicine, and a therapy, and in ways indoor cardio can’t approach. Corny as it sounds, daily cycling has become a part of me.

So now what…?

The internal dialogue to figure all of this out has been going on for months. It’s been difficult and draining. And the truth is, I haven’t come to any resolution yet, despite that I thought I had. My mother’s safety and well-being can’t be compromised. Yet the benefits of cycling have helped steer my life into a place of stability, calmness, and presence I wasn’t capable of six years ago.

There’s also the aspect of this blog as well as my daily Spoke And Word page on Facebook. To quote Seth Godin…

“The most important blog is the one you write…“

The combination of my daily cycling and the subsequent reflection of my thoughts while pedaling have become who I am. To think that, on a dime, I could quit being the guy that I’ve become in the last six years, doesn’t seem so realistic — not from the vantage point of my sofa on this cold morning. 

So what does this mean…?.

It may mean shorter rides or perhaps riding early in the morning while my mother is still asleep. Maybe every-other-day, with opposing days on the stair-stepper. I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️

I understand that at some point I won’t be able to leave my mother for too long, and at some point after that, I won’t be able to leave her at all. I’m just not sure we’re there yet, and God I hope that’s not the worst rationalization of my life.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far I thank you. And I don’t do it often, but I welcome your thoughts and opinion on how or if I should continue riding.

 This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 145

Climbing: 6,600’

Mph Avg: 15.6

Calories: 8,300

Seat Time: 09 hours 18 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 Glenn Frey. Enjoy…

The Spoke In Review Part II: 2021 In Summary…

With 2021 closing out, I want express my gratitude to everyone who takes time to read this. 

Many people are glad 2021 is almost over — as though 2022 comes with an antidote for all which we’ll leave behind. Probably not. People speak of 2021 in terms of profound negativity — polarization, COVID, and the general tenor of our nation. I’d be lying if I said those don’t impact me also, but they don’t represent my year. 

This was another above average year for me, and one of my best years of the last 20. I’m grateful for the richness it provided, as well as the opportunities, blessings, and so many positive human interactions. When I count my blessings at the end of each day, and I do count them, the lists in 2021 were always long. 

Of course not everything went my way in 2021. I cried a lot, felt rage more than I care to admit, and I endured my share of despair. Sometimes I experienced all of those simultaneously. And to be honest, there were days I didn’t want to go on. Some of my darks days were at the will of circumstances beyond my control, while others were due to my own poor choices. When I quantify the past year though — using the proverbial list of pros and cons, 2021 has been net-positive. 

I remain surrounded by more of everything than I will ever want or need. I live in a charming house. I’m located in a beautiful community. I have easy access to services, sustenance, and safety. Through the eyes of most of the world, I live like a king. 

I earn a good living, I have more friends than I deserve, I have loving of animals around constantly, and I get to spend valued time with my mother daily.  I also get to spend time outdoors about as often as I wish. When the clock strikes midnight this Saturday, I will have been on my bike 345 times in 2021. 

For a guy who can honestly refer to the 8th grade as my senior year, I couldn’t ask for more — so I don’t. If anything, I have so much I should be actively be pursuing less. I guess I do pursue a little less with each passing year.

At a time when people are busy typing into their phones, posting memes, and being mean and hyper-critical of other people who are also typing into their phones being mean and hyper-critical of others still, I enjoy and appreciate the technology that connects me with people from northern England, Germany, Australia, upstate New York, and even Poughkeepsie. I don’t get drawn into much online negativity because I learned long ago to peek through the window before I open the door. I choose peaceful windows.

I know there will be tears, rage, heartache, and sadness for me in 2022. I also know that as I experience them, I’ll always feel like I’m at rock bottom. But goodness, I remind myself daily, enters my life through larger and more frequent doors than the badness. And that goodness, tends to linger longer than the bad stuff. 

I hope that 2022 brings you peace, joy, laughter, and love. And I’ll remind you that if you’re not looking for it, you may not find it — but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. 

I’ll close out my 2021 blogging experience as I do every year, with the most formative line from any movie I’ve ever seen. And I recite this to myself daily…

“And in the end, I realized that I took more than I gave, that I was trusted more than I trusted, and that I was loved more than I loved. And in the end, I realized that what I was looking for was not to be found, but to be created…”

John Hughes, from She’s Having A Baby…

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

2021 By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 17

Flat Tires: 34

Seat time : 591 hours 45 minutes 

Climbing: 397,600’

Average Speed: 15.1

Calories Burned: 517,050

Total Miles: 9,050

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 Brenton Wood. Enjoy…

The Spoke In Review Part I: Favorite Photos Of 2021..

As the year comes to a close, I’m going to divide my annual reflection in two — this week are some of my favorite smartphone pictures from the past year. Next week will be a review of some highlights and lowlights, both on and off the bike.

These are in no particular order and open to interpretation.

Some came from my daily rides, others for my daily walks, and a few more from hanging around the house.

Feel free to share in the comments below, which ones you like and why.

Rather than note or caption them, i’ll leave that up to you.

Okay, there’s a few that I manipulated out of an of excess creativity or boredom, not sure.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time.

I am reminded of a quote from author and naturalist, James Prosek…

“If you’re not looking for it, you probably won’t see it…“

I actually own a very nice camera. I haven’t touched it since 2015. Honestly, I’m not even sure where it is. Smartphone photography suits me.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4

Miles: 125

Climbing: 5,500’

Mph Avg: 16,0

Calories: 7,900

Seat Time: 09 hours 35 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 Wooden Shjips. Enjoy…

Us Too…

This isn’t Vermont, New Hampshire, or Northern Michigan. It’s not Aspen, Park City, or Pagosa Springs. It’s San Diego — land of palm trees, birds of paradise, and plumeria, but we get autumn too. I’ve been thinking about that lately — about how lovely our autumn foliage can be, and currently is. 

The foliage here is sparse — there aren’t hillsides packed with color and loaded with vibrance as there are in New England, nor is there a tourist industry built around it that tramples towns like Aspen, Nederland, and Pagosa Springs. Our foliage is modest and doesn’t boast, but has a beauty and a contrast unique to our region. 

Our fall colors are intermingled among the growth on our semi-arid hills — pockets of color in the chaparral, separate and distinct from what surrounds them. Our trees grow best in low-lying areas — where the water runs, when it runs.

It’s not the kind of foliage that would make for a destination or trip. I can’t imagine anyone boarding a plane to tour the poplar trees of North County. That said, and perhaps because we don’t get as much as other parts of the country, we appreciate it more. I know I do. 

Taking it all in, at bicycle speed, feeling the breezes that make the leaves shimmer, and to see the warm colors backlit by the low autumn sun, and all the while able to smell fresh air pushed east from the coast — that’s the best way I know to see it.

I was born and spent my early years in New England, where autumn foliage is an industry. I grew up in Colorado, were the most decadent town in the country, Aspen, is named for the trees that first brought the masses there in the late 1960s. I’ve been in San Diego’s North County for 22-years now. I enjoy autumn here more than New England or Colorado. 

And if we’re lucky, and if the leaves survive the Santa Ana winds, the pacific storms, and the fires of autumn, the foliage of San Diego can last for months. And if you think I’m a fool to compare autumn in San Diego with autumn in Vermont or Northern Michigan, our autumn begins in November and usually lasts through February. Take that, Kenosha Pass. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 152

Climbing: 6,600’

Mph Avg: 15.8

Calories: 8,700 

Seat Time: 09 hours 35 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 Savoy Brown. Enjoy…

Three Weeks Later…

Another lunch at the airpark yesterday. The usual Saturday cast of characters were there — a gray haired lady in a white SUV with her two dingo-looking dogs. There was an older couple in a Ford Escape sharing a hamburger and critiquing the landings. And of course, a few cars with tinted windows — teenagers smoking their boredom away.

There was a car I hadn’t seen previously though — a sporty black sedan. A skinny teenager with greasy hair sat in the passenger side staring at his phone while the driver, presumably his father, sat at the picnic table next to the car eating a burrito. He was a stocky man with a few tattoos. He looked like he worked out, but that he also ate a lot of burritos and knew his way around the beer aisle.

He was friendly as mom and I walked by, asking me where I worked out — musta been my sleeveless t-shirt. I explained that my home gym and that was is my domicile for making meat these days

“Yeah, me too…“ he said.

He looked to be my age. We made small talk about how the heavy toll iron takes on aging bones. He wished mom and I a good day and went back to his burrito. He seemed like a nice guy and I enjoyed talking with him. That’s when I recognize his car…

Several weeks ago, while riding out of town, I had an unprovoked altercation with a motorist. Below is my journal entry from that day…

About a mile out of town yesterday, a black Cadillac CTX passed me. The driver honked his horn several times as he cut in toward the bike lane. I caught up to him at a red light and looked in the open passenger side window. I never said a word. I was just curious who honked at me — if I knew the person. 

Before light turned green, the man left his car and ran toward me yelling obscenities. Startled, I stayed on my bike but prepared for an altercation. He stood a couple feet from me, and even at that distance I could smell alcohol — lots of it. He continued to scream. The passenger, apparently his teenage son, exited the car and caught the man from behind, putting him in a headlock. Without hesitation I took off on my bike. As I rode away, I heard the young man yelling…

“Get back in the car dad…!“

Moments later, I heard the same car honking behind me once again. He followed me at my speed, roughly 20 mph. I didn’t think he’d do anything other than drive away pissed when suddenly he drove into the bike lane ahead of me. I don’t think he wanted to hit me, just scare me. As this happened, a couple men in a Pathfinder wedged their vehicle between me and the Cadillac, shielding me at my speed. They signaled if I wanted them to call the police. I nodded yes.

They stayed with me as a shield, while the man in the Cadillac stayed behind them honking continually. At that point there were probably 20 cars behind the Cadillac — all wondering what the hell was going on, as was I. I’d never seen this man in my life, and don’t believe I did anything to offend him or start an altercation. It was as though he selected me at random as his target for a different rage.  

The passenger in the Pathfinder signaled that the 911 dispatcher wanted to speak with me if possible. With some hesitation, I stopped and the two men in the Pathfinder stopped along side me. The passenger handed me the phone through the window as the man in the Cadillac pulled over in front of them and exited his car — again. Again, he ran toward me. This time I prepared to leave my bike, aware that I not only wore a helmet, but wore gloves with armor protection over the fingers. The man’s son exited the car and convinced his dad to get back in the car before the cops arrived. He headed the kid’s advice and took off at a high rate of speed. 

The emergency dispatcher asked that I wait until a police unit arrived. I thanked the two men who shielded me and they went on their way. I waited for roughly 15-minutes for the police before I decided to continue my ride. I’d given my own phone number to the emergency dispatcher and figured the police would call at some point if they wanted to investigate the incident. I’ll follow up with the police later today.

(end of entry)

Once I realized the man I’d been enjoying smalltalk with at the airpark was the same man from the incident a few weeks earlier, I got cautious, though I was sure he didn’t recognize me. Mom and I continued to walk laps of the parking lot, and each time we passed by him, he’d smile and comment about the weather or how pretty mom‘s hat was.

This was a completely different man.  

He man was clear-eyed, present, and genuinely nice. I overheard him having a conversation with his son in the car beside him. They laughed and joked. As we passed him for the final time, I wished him well for the balance of his weekend… 

“You too, bro…“ he said. 

As I drove mom home, I tried to reconcile all of this — that this was the drunk who tried to run me off the road weeks earlier. Yesterday though, I considered inviting him to see my workout studio. Like the pregnant woman I saw smoking a few weeks ago, I know nothing about this man. I can only hope he spends more time as the man I saw yesterday — joking with his son and telling my mom she had a pretty hat. And I’ll hope his days of drinking, driving, and picking fights on the road are in the past — but I’ll keep my eyes open just the same.  

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 175

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 15.7

Calories: 10,000

Seat Time: 11 hours 06 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 Sundial. Enjoy…

A Holiday For All…?

We celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States last week. Like most holidays, it has evolved over generations to be something different from it’s original intentions. The Thanksgiving we celebrate today is different than the one past presidents and legislative bodies have advanced, canceled, and tweaked at their whim.

Scroll social media on Thanksgiving morning and you’ll see memes, cartoons, and outright proclamations declaring that, like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving was born from exploiting natives, setting them up for internment, slavery, and genocide. And certainly there’s truth to that at the roots. Yet I know of nobody who gathered around the table this past Thursday, held hands, and thanked the Lord Almighty for making the Indians such easy prey. Most I know were just glad to spend time with friends and family, and as is often the case, just as glad to hit the road as soon as the last bite of pie went down or the Cowboys lost — whichever came first. 

And don’t get me started on Christmas or Easter. Nothing is stagnant and everything changes, holidays included. Christmas, Independence Day, Passover, even Memorial Day are all different now than at their inception. Like religions, holidays evolve and mutate based on the ever-changing facts on the ground. And as a result, every holiday from Halloween to Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently today than it was just a few generations ago. And as holidays have evolved, they’re bound to draw more people in as they push others away, reinforcing divisions in culture. 

I’ve long believed we should drop one more holiday into the mix though, and probably the only one we need — because we could all use it. No, not Peace Day, Kindness Day, or even Hugs Day, but Decorum Day. Decorum Day would be secular, celebrated as a national holiday, and provide an opportunity for everyone to just be civil to one another for 24-hours. Who could argue with that…? A day of respect, right speech, and biting one’s tongue.

Of course Decorum Day would never work — not in the United States. It would have its detractors from the beginning. Decorum Day would limit free speech. Religious institutions would complain of its godlessness. It would have to be administered by the government — good luck there. And eventually, Hallmark, Lexus, and CNN would brand it and monetize it. 

But the real reason Decorum Day wouldn’t work, isn’t because of the reasons I just mentioned. Decorum Day wouldn’t work because most people wouldn’t be capable of adhering to it’s simple doctrine — to conduct themselves with dignity, act with decency, speak sparingly, and deescalate when in the path of verbal confrontation. We’re just not capable of it — or are we…? I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️.

At the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that holidays are a lot like Frankenstein — they are created by man, grow to have a life of their own, and eventually become monsters that we can’t control. Why should Decorum Day be any different…?

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 152

Climbing: 6,600’

Mph Avg: 16.0

Calories: 8,800

Seat Time: 09 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 Taj Mahal. Enjoy…

I’m Her Mrs. Horsley Now…

During my grade school years, my mother worked at a nearby nursing home, The Aspen Siesta. Mom was one of two RNs that worked the swing-shift, along with several medical assistants, and the kitchen staff. Mom was often the person in charge during her shifts.  

The Aspen Siesta was s small, but high-end facility. The owner, Ruthann Horsley, insisted on being called Mrs. Horsley — by everyone including the staff, the residents, and even her husband, Dr. Horsley, who was the co-administrator. 

Because the Aspen Siesta was close to  our home, I often spent my after school hours there. My brother, four years older, was usually involved in extracurricular activities or with friends, and mom didn’t want me home alone. So long as I wasn’t disruptive or a distraction to my mom, Mrs. Horsley allowed me to be there.  

I’d sit at a table in the corner of the dining room and pretend to do homework while I daydreamed about flying fighter jets, being the next Terry Bradshaw, or robbing banks — one of which was a more natural fit than the others. Each day at 4pm, a crowd of canes and wheelchairs would gather around the console television in the commons area to watch the Merv Griffin show.

Every so often, Mrs. Horsley would stop by my table to check on me. If I was lucky, she’d lay down a square of Pepperidge Farms coconut cake. Even as a kid I recognized the kindness in that gesture and always thanked her. Despite that kindness, Mrs. Horsley commanded the room whenever she entered it. Staff and residents alike listened to her every word and nobody dared talk back.

One afternoon while doing my homework, a female resident approached the table where I was seated. She quietly picked up a potted plant from the center of the table — and began taking bites from it. I was petrified. It was the first time I became aware of the vulnerability and lack of mental acuity in the elderly. Mrs. Horsley saw the woman and used her commanding voice to stop her, subsequently taking the plant from her hand. I was grateful she intervened, but her loud voice scared me just as much. 

After that incident, I found myself paying more attention to the behaviors of the residents. I noticed their trembling hands, food falling from their mouths, their clumsy feet, and their faint voices. I developed an aversion to the elderly — something that would stay with me for years.

I  asked my mom about it once — about how she could stand being around old people. They were so gross, I thought. She told me it was her job and taking care of them mattered to her more than the things she found offensive. She also encouraged me to see beyond it — to consider they were all children once, just like me. 

I’ve been thinking about all of this lately — reflecting on my time at the Aspen Siesta.

My mother is no longer the nurse in charge — she’s now the resident. I frequently wipe food from her mouth as she eats. Her voice, especially late in the day, is often too weak to understand. She hasn’t attempted to eat a floral centerpiece yet, but she recently had a conversation with a flashlight as though it were her friend of 20-years. In helping her get in and out of bed, I occasionally see her backside. I’ve even assisted her in the bathroom a time or two. And through all of this, it’s never been gross. I see beyond it, as mom encouraged me to do 50-years ago.

And in those moments when it becomes necessary to assert my authority or gain her trust, I leverage those visceral memories by taking her back in time with me. I say things like…

Think of me as your Mrs. Horsley now…

This is your own private Aspen Siesta...

What would nurse Willie do…?

Fifty-years ago — while sitting at a table in a nursing home adding fractions in a workbook as the Merv Griffin show played in the background, and with Mrs. Horsley barking commands at the staff and residents alike, I had no idea I was in a training program for the life that I now live. I’m honestly not sure though, if I’d handle the responsibilities of caregiving in the same way had I not spent those afternoons learning what elder care is all about — the good, bad, and ugly of it all.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 146

Climbing: 6,500’

Mph Avg: 15.8

Calories: 8,300

Seat Time: 09 hours 11 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 Fury In The Slaughterhouse. Enjoy…

No Rush To Judge…

As we do most days before I ride, mom and I headed to the local airpark the other day for lunch and a walk. Lunch is usually fast food from a local drive-thru. I do my best to order the healthiest options, but she gets more of a pass than I do.

The long narrow parking lot at the airpark parallels the 2,200-foot runway. There’s a half-dozen picnic tables where families, business people, and even teens can enjoy lunch while watching small planes in action. Most days there’s a handful of cars aimed directly west watching the planes takeoff and land from north to south. 

Children leave their parents to climb the short chain-link fence and get a better view, while their moms scurry to setup lunch at the picnic tables. There might be one or two aviation buffs in pickup trucks listening to scanners as they judge the quality of each landing. The cars with tinted windows, peeling Sublime stickers on the rear bumper, and smell like burning weed carry teenagers who’ve released themselves on their own recognizance from the high school a half-mile away. 

The airport sits on a plateau a couple hundred feet above town, so the onshore wind is strong. Mom and I prefer to stay in the car and eat while we listen to The World on public radio. After mom’s food settles, we get out and walk the length of the parking lot a couple of times. It’s her daily workout.

One day last week, toward the end of our first lap, I saw a woman with a long brown ponytail, maybe in her 30s, sitting on a picnic table smoking a cigarette. She was all alone. I said hello as we passed, and she nodded without speaking. I didn’t think much of it. My only thought was that she looked old enough to know the dangers of cigarettes. When mom and I returned for our second lap, the woman on the table stood up and began walking toward a well-worn Jeep Cherokee. It was then I noticed she was pregnant. 

I probably rushed to ten different judgments in just a few seconds, not the least of which was that I labeled her a bad person — I didn’t want to, but I did. She turned back as she opened the Jeep door and I could see in her face that she could see me judging her. It was a poignant moment.

When I rode my bike past the airpark later that day, I relived that moment of poignancy. She looked ashamed to be seen smoking while pregnant, and I felt sinful for judging her without knowing the whole story. And I’m certain there was a story far behind that moment.

Maybe it was just one cigarette. Maybe she’s had a healthy pregnancy, but had a stressful day and decided to have just one. Maybe she smokes 12 a day — maybe 20. Maybe she’s in an abusive relationship and smoking is a momentary refuge. Maybe she’s so stricken by the addiction of smoking that she can’t quit no matter how hard she’s tried. Maybe she has no support system — for the smoking or for the pregnancy. I’ll never know any of that. 

The only thing I know for certain is that I was quick to judge and I shouldn’t have been. I’ve never walked a single step in her shoes. But then, I’ve never walked a single step in anyone’s but mine. My lesson from the thought-chew that afternoon was to stay in my own lane — both on the road and in life. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 174

Climbing: 7,700’

Mph Avg: 15.6

Calories: 9,900

Seat Time: 11 hours 03 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 Public Image Limited. Enjoy…

Keeping My Head…

Like most everyone else, my head has been spinning these last few years. Noise coming from every direction, voices getting louder, and the sense of urgency increasing with new crisis. And there’s a new crisis nearly every hour, each one with a little more gravity than the previous. And the crowd breaks as cleanly as two saltine crackers — between us and them, and the crumbs from the middle fall to the ground.

My political compass fluctuates just a few percent on either side of center. In matters of culture and social orientations, I lean a little bit to the left. In matters of fiscal accountability and defense (defense being defined as protecting our interests within our own borders), I lean a little bit to the right. In matters of conducting myself with decency and decorum, I lean straight in. 

If I’ve been disappointed with anything these last few years, aside from the behaviors of our elected officials and media pundits who illuminate them, it’s with the way my fellow citizens have conducted themselves in conversations with one another. We are a nation of middle-schoolers. 

I’m proud of a lot of things these days…

I’m proud that since January, I’ve taken just 12 days off riding. I’m proud that in that time I’ve hit my weekly goal of 100-miles — usually by Wednesday. I’m proud that I haven’t once looked out the window and thought it was too rainy, too windy, too hot, or too cold to ride. Okay, once. I’m proud that in the three years since I began this blog, I’ve missed only one Sunday.

Away from my bike, I’m proud of other things…

I’m proud that I’ve gotten my mom out of the house for a short walk or drive, all but a handful of days in four years — even during the pandemic. Same goes for my dog. I’m proud that I show up for work every day, even after my many sleepless nights. I’m proud that I treat each client as if they’re my only one. 

I’m proud that I never let my daughter’s calls go to voicemail, that I pay my bills on time, and that I spend time in contemplative prayer every morning of my life — even when I’m running late. I’m proud that I take time each day to listen to three songs I’ve never heard before.

I’m sure that all seems a lofty, but I’m proud of those things.

The thing I’m most proud of though, through these last few years, is that I haven’t lost my head — not once. I haven’t called anyone a name. I haven’t belittled anyone. I haven’t allowed my behaviors to get ugly in public or private. I’ve conducted myself with decency and decorum. 

I’ve remembered the one value my father instilled in me growing up, that mattered to him more than any other. In the words of Kipling, paraphrased, dad reminded me regularly…

“Son, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then you are a man…” 

I’ve certainly had my opinions in these last few years, and I’ve definitely run the gambit of emotions. I’ve wanted to throw my television set through the window. I’ve wanted to push some people down tall flights of stairs. I’ve wanted to set fire to some buildings, turn over some cars, and I’ve even wanted to drive through a crowd or two — but I’ve kept my head, because that’s what adults do.

Again, if this too sounds lofty, I get it — I’m lofty. But whatever the opposite of lofty is, I don’t want to be that — ever. There are far too many people filling that role as it is.

This is what I think about when I ride…. Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 125

Climbing: 5,500’

Mph Avg: 16.0

Calories: 8,000

Seat Time: 07 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 Blaze Foley. Enjoy…

Identity Crisis…

In a few weeks, it’ll be the 3rd anniversary of his blog. It began with a simple notion — that I have a love of cycling, smartphone photography, and writing. Since I practice each of those daily, it appealed to me to combine the three in a creative outlet.

The idea was that after each ride, I’d jot down a few thoughts I chewed on while riding, combine them with a picture or two I took along the road, and post it the following morning to the Spoke And Word page I created on Facebook. What actually happened though, is that each night for three years I’ve written a complete essay instead of a few passing thoughts. And for people who aren’t on Facebook, I created this platform so on Sundays I can select my favorite essay from the previous week and share it.

I often tell people that I write these in 20-minutes or less. That was true once, and still is occasionally, but usually these days I spend an hour or so working on them, reworking them, and getting them to flow and fit properly. Sometimes I do this before bed, but most often before the sun comes up — before my day job.

There’s also the time I spend cropping and editing photographs. I don’t edit pictures a great deal. I crop them according to proportion and symmetry, and I might adjust the light and contrast a little bit, but I rarely adjust the color or tint. That said, it still takes a few minutes to complete each photograph. 

Between writing and editing photographs, I probably spend 75 to 90 minutes on this each day. That, combined with roughly 2-hours on my bike, and that’s 3+ hours dedicated to this creative hobby — every single day. It can all be a little exhausting, considering I work full-time and am also a full-time caregiver.

The initial goal was to do this for one year. 

I had so much fun with it, and with my creative juices flowing, I continued into a second year. The second year came and went, and I noticed I had an extremely small but dedicated following. The whole thing started to become my identity. I’ve never had an identity before, other than being the eccentric old guy in the neighborhood that kids are told to avoid. I’ve enjoyed having this identity, even if I’m the only one that sees it. 

As I wind down my third year, catering to and preserving that identity has caused me to press a little more. I feel I have to get my rides in each day. I have to get a few good photographs each day. I have to think of something at least a little interesting or clever to write about. There’s almost a sense of obligation to that identity. 

The thought of beginning a fourth year next month is a little intimidating. I have this thing in me though, that if I start something, I have to see it through. If I go even one day into a fourth year, then I’ll need to complete it. I worry that all that pressing might actually be changing that identity — diluting it, weakening it, or causing it to veer off course. I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️.

Riding, writing, and taking photographs — an identity I enjoy, but one I don’t want to do out of obligation or have come off the rails. Lots to think about in the coming weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

This is what I think about when it ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 154

Climbing: 6,700’

Mph Avg: 16.0

Calories: 8,900

Seat Time: 09 hours 42 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 Spooky Tooth. Enjoy…

The Influence Of Three…

When I was 12-years old I received the book Pumping Iron — a gift from my mom. Being reading challenged, and knowing I was already interested in bodybuilding, she thought it might pull me in to read more.

I’d keep that book within reach for the next five or six years — often looking through it daily. The photographs where my primary motivation to get into the weight room each night. By the age of 18 though, I still hadn’t read the book — not from beginning to end. I read the captions under the photographs, but that was it. 

When I was preparing to take my GED, and knew I needed to improve my reading comprehension, Pumping Iron was my starting point. I figured that reading about my primary interest would serve me better than picking up a book on physics or game theory. So I opened Pumping Iron and read it from beginning to end.

The book highlighted the the offbeat world of competitive bodybuilding, focusing on several local and international bodybuilding competitions in the early 70s. The true subject of the book though, was a compelling figure named Arnold Schwarzenegger and his preparation for the 1973 Mr. Olympia competition. 

I wouldn’t know it as a 12-year-old or even as an 18-year-old, but that book would influence me throughout my life, and for different reasons during different decades. Pumping Iron ultimately lead me far beyond the rusty iron plates and torn vinyl benches of the weight room. It was a three-tiered influence that helped forge the creative me. 

The first influence was that I wanted to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m still waiting for that to pan out, but don’t hold your breath. I skipped my workout last night to write this, and dinner was a half-dozen egg rolls soaked in sweet-and-sour sauce — but I did take my creatine. 

As a creative outlet, bodybuilding became front and center to my life. It’s fair to say I’ve built my entire life around the weight room. I may not have become the next Arnold, but bodybuilding has been my primary form of expression for 48-years. 

The second influence of Pumping Iron was writing. When I opened the book to actually read it, something changed in me. Charles Gaines is an artist with words. Every page include at least one phrase or sentence that was so clever that I wanted to keep reading until the next page — and the next page always led me to another. I wouldn’t realize it for a few more years, but Charles Gaines made me want to be a writer — every bit as much as Arnold inspired me to be a bodybuilder. To this day, a primary objective is to include at least one well-turned phrase in each essay. 

If Pumping Iron had a secret weapon though, it was the black-and-white photography of George Butler. For the photographs in the book, Butler used a vintage Leica camera and Tri-X film which he developed himself. There are only two (non-historic) photographs in the book not taken by Butler, both taken by Annie Liebowitz. Leibowitz, after the book’s publication, sent Butler a note apologizing for dumbing down the quality of the photography. Imagine that. 

When I started my business in Fallbrook in 2001, I built my own website, created my own marketing materials, and used only my own photography. Being true to Butler’s influence, I took only black-and-white photographs in my weight room, and only in natural light. To this day, whenever I take or edit a black-and-white photograph, I think of George Butler. 

I never created anything close to the physique of Arnold. I’m proud of my writing, but it’s amateurish at best. And my photography…? I’ve taken a few gems, but nothing worthy of any awards. That’s cool. 

George Butler passed away last week. When I was riding after learning of this, I got to thinking about the influence that he and his friend Charles Gaines, and the object of their creativity, Arnold Schwarzenegger have had on my life. And in truth, the influence Gaines, Butler, and Schwarzenegger have had on popular culture is far greater than one might see on the surface.

In reflection, I remind myself that creativity is like a message in a bottle — you throw it out there, but you never really know who’s going to open it and how it’s going to influence them. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 180

Climbing: 7,900’

Mph Avg: 15.3

Calories: 10,300

Seat Time: 11 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 Coleman Williams. Enjoy…

Brief Thoughts From The Road…

It’s been a busy few weeks in my Spoke And World. Still, I’ve managed to get on the road every day. Below are a handful of my shorter thought-chews from the last seven rides. I put these blurbs up on Facebook each Monday through Saturday mornings. If you enjoy them, please follow me there for daily updates. Trust me, it’s the best thing on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/SpokeAndWordJhciacb/ 

Daylight Dying Time: 

I’ve been obsessing on some remarkable statistics that I only recently learned. That each year, on the Monday after the spring time change, when we lose one hour of sleep, emergency room heart attacks increase by 24%. Conversely, on the Monday after each autumn time change, when we gain an hour of sleep, there’s a 21% decline in emergency room heart attacks. In the two states that don’t observe Daylight Savings Time, Arizona and Hawaii, emergency room heart attacks don’t spike in either direction. 

I have nothing to add to that. I just find it remarkable that we know this and do nothing about it. 

Gosh Yang It:

I just completed Andrew Yang‘s most recent book, Forward. Whatever your feelings might be for Yang, he sees the future in more realistic terms than any American politician — in my opinion. He recognizes that the world has changed more in the last 10-years than in the last 40-years combined. It’s time the rest of us acknowledge that too.

Yang understands that the bread and butter issues which have driven conversations, campaigns, and subsequently policy for decades are being overtaken today by issues which many politicians don’t even acknowledge — or are afraid to. Job loss due to automation, climate change, and expanding income inequity are among his top priorities. But that’s not what I want to talk about. 

The mid-chapters in Yang‘s book explore and tie together the impacts of social media, changes in journalism, technology manipulation such as deep fakes, bots, algorithms, and the impact that the mining and the sale of data and personal information all have on political campaigns — and he does it in a way that would be beneficial for everyone to read. I don’t care what your political slant is or what your values are, everyone can learn something from this book.

The Responsibility Of Curtness:

A few months back I released a client. She was good in the weight room — strong, generally focused, and capable. She was also passive-aggressive and a bit mouthy — often to a fault. When she entered my studio for what would be her final session, among the first thing she said to me that day was…

“I know I can be curt. So you have to tell me — you need to let me know when I overstep any professional boundaries…”

So far as I’ve ever been taught, that’s not how bad behavior works, and certainly not in a business environment. She had literally just put the onus of her own bad behavior on me. After the session I sent her a note letting her know I wouldn’t be renewing her sessions which had expired that day.

I’m normally able to let go of things like that, but this one’s still lingering. Anyway, it showed up a couple of times riding this week. 

Clear The Land — And The People: 

Transformed by years of drought, what was once the San Luis Rey River, is more or less the San Luis Rey Woodlands these days. The river still runs when it rains, and if there’s enough rain, it’ll run all winter, but only through a small swath of the once wide river bed. Through the last decade or so, each year a young forest springs up through the sands beneath the river that is no more. And the channel people once kayaked and canoed in, is now home to hundreds of homeless. 

This is the time of year when the county, in preparation for a possible rainy season, begins clearing that growth in the riverbed with bulldozers and heavy equipment. All of this, to allow the river to flow freely and minimize risk from flooding. However, in clearing the growth, they level dozens of shelters, tents, and barriers which protect the hundreds who call the riverbed home. 

This is a seasonal event, so I’m certain nobody was taken by surprise. And there’s still enough growth in the periphery of the riverbed that people can find shelter, put up tents, and be protected. It’s just my annual reminder of how fragile it is to be homeless. I wish them all well in their forced relocations. 

The Breezes Are Heaven:

Las Brisas is a Mexican restaurant I pass on my homestretch. It’s an institution in Fallbrook. I don’t eat there often due to limited vegan and vegetarian options, but I’ll say this…

Las Brisas is the best smelling restaurant on the planet. It sits between a BBQ restaurant and an Italian restaurant. Despite this, and as I ride past, all I can smell is Las Brisas. If heaven smells like steamed corn tortillas, I might have to straighten up my act — that I get in and get a good seat.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 180

Climbing: 7,300’

Mph Avg: 15.2

Calories: 10,200

Seat Time: 11 hours 49 minutes