Complaint Filters…

It’s hard for me to complain about too much of anything, not that I don’t want to. I could, I suppose. Certainly the desire to complain is there, on and off throughout the day. My life isn’t exactly perfect. I know sorrow, frustration, depression, and anxiety — nearly every day of my life. I don’t talk too much about any of it though, with too many people. What’s the point…?

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I don’t want to blow my toxic impurities into somebody else’s mind. I’ve always seen complaining to others as equivalent aiming an exhaust pipe of a car directly into somebody else’s state of being.

I’m always surprised how many people don’t see it that way — that they don’t realize or don’t care that they’re spewing gases into the psyches of others. Complaining must feel pretty good to them — I mean, if they are willing to do it so frequently and so nonchalantly. Few people, it seems, take time to consider that the person they are complaining to might be having a good day. Or on the flipside, that they might be having a horrible day. And that’s the thing about complaining, it can make someone else’s good day bad, or a bad day worse.

I’d rather hold my gripes in and release them elsewhere, without ever saying a word to, and negatively impacting another. Framed that way, complaints are the greenhouse gasses of culture.

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I get to spend time each day walking in nature and observing small things. I get sit quietly each evening, on my porch with my dog and watch the coastal breezes push my palm trees slightly to the right. I get to ride my bikes and experience the thrill of rolling downhill at speeds up to 40 mph. I get to lift weights to let of steam.

In truth, I don’t get to do any of these. I choose to do them. These are my complaint filters — they minimize my cultural carbon footprint.

Anyone of those, by the way, might be considered an addiction — just for the fact that I move heaven and earth to make sure they each happen every day. However, those addictive behaviors have a value beyond helping me, they help society because participating in any of them helps keep me from dumping my would-be complaints onto others.

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Anything I might have complained about before riding my bikes, before walking in the woods, before sitting still on my porch, or before lifting my aggressions away, disappears as quickly as I’m engaged in any of them. By the time I’m through with them, I have nothing left to complain about. My gases have been filtered out.

I think this is a good way to be.

Sure, we all need somebody to talk to, but do we really need to poison them…?

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5
193 miles
7,200’ climbing
15.4 mph avg
11,000 calories

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 is this from The Spinanes. Enjoy…

Not One Minute More….

I’ll start by confessing I didn’t ride my bike yesterday. That would make the 3rd day this summer that I failed to ride at least 25 miles, and the 7th day without riding in 2019.

I had every intention of riding yesterday. I knew ahead of time though, that I would spend the entire day yesterday at a leadership symposium in downtown San Diego. Between my time at the conference and the commuting time from my home, I knew my only chance to ride would be late, we’ll after dark, and even conflict with my normal bedtime.

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If you read this regularly or if you know me at all, you know I actually enjoy riding in the dark. You might also know my favorite cure for a long day is a long ride. So the idea of riding after dark at the end of a long day shouldn’t have been daunting to me at all. Hell, that’s a recipe for me to have a great ride — especially in these cool autumn evenings.

So why then, did I get out of my car after a 50-mile drive from San Diego, walk into my house, kick off my shoes, and sit on my recliner — knowing full-well I wasn’t going to ride…?

Shoes.

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Anyone who knows me, also knows well that I spend my days in bare feet. Workdays, off days, indoors, outdoors — the only time I wear shoes is walking my dog in our local nature preserves, in restaurants and in shops, and on my bikes. Otherwise, I’m grounded.

Shoes are stupid. They are confining, painful, and clumsy.  Shoes are awkward  little prisons for my feet.

So at the end of my long day — a day when I truly needed to ride, and on a cool evening with conditions that were just right for an epic ride, I walked into my house and couldn’t get my shoes off fast enough. There was no way they were going back on again. My desire to provide freedom to my piggies was far greater than my desire to suit up a bike and head back out again.

Shoes are stupid.

Honestly, the people I respect the most in this world aren’t first responders, school teachers, social workers, scientists, philanthropists, or even volunteers doing hard work on behalf of the less fortunate. The people I respect the most are people who can tolerate wearing shoes all day long — day after day, year after year. I just can’t do it. Yesterday I wore shoes for nearly 10 consecutive hours. I’m not sure I’ve done that in the last 5 years, perhaps not in the last 10.

There are many reasons why I choose to go barefoot as often as possible. Primary to those are 20 years of trail hiking and 30+ years of dropping weights on my feet each week. I have experienced many broken metatarsal bones. My first few steps out of bed each day look as though I’m walking across a field of broken glass and carpet tacks. By the time I step into the shower though, the pain eases and the warm water is my first form of healing — a daily rebirth of Jhciacb’s piggies.

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My feet just feel and do better out of shoes. Perhaps in retirement, I’ll develop a bicycle pedal for bare feet. Maybe. Last night I chose not to ride because my feet hurt from being in shoes all day long. I guess I should’ve been a Flintstone.

This is what I think about one ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4
167 miles
16.1 mph avg
5,400’ climbing
9,600 calories

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 is this from the Screaming Blue Messiahs. Enjoy…

Me, Myselves, And I…

Each day, I spend 90-120 minutes on a bike. From the moment start pedaling, I am thinking. What I think about isn’t as central to this story as how I go about thinking — the process and the protocol of my internal discourse.

What I refer to as thinking, is really a discussion between myselves. Yes, there are two of me, at least. These aren’t just thoughts, but actual words that form from the center of my mind, projected outward, and are received by my ears, though no sound is ever made.

The thinking me — the guy who does most of the talking, is the superior me. He’s both the brave leader and idea man. He’s a cross between an executive at the head of the boardroom table, an attentive general, and a flippant rockstar. The thinking me does little wrong.

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The listening me — the guy who is hearing the stories, having things explained to him, and who’s actively listening, is the subservient me. He’s malleable, definitely a pleaser, and is a great sounding board. He’s not afraid to speak truth to power, but when he does, he sure doesn’t enjoy it.

The talking me and the listening me are a complementary team, and though together they may not save world, each day they try their hardest to save my soul. I would be so lost without them.

The first thing you should know about the thinking me and the listening me, is that they truly have audible voices in my mind. These are voices I hear when the conversations are taking place. And as odd as it seems, the voice that I normally hear between my ears when I speak to other people, is never present.

The thinking me is a big fan of the movie, Raising Arizona. His favorite character in the movie, is HI McDonough, played by Nicolas Cage. HI is a character that has a gift for expression and always choosing the right words, but has a lackadaisical — vaguely country voice.

The listening me is partial to the late comedian Mitch Hedberg. Another intelligent and lackadaisical southern voice, but with unusual inflection, often contrary to those which might be taught in an English diction class.

HI and Mitch talk about many things between my ears. They discuss politics, religion, philosophy, current events, and sports. More than anything else though, they talk about music — the earworms that provide the soundtrack to my daily rides. HI likes to discuss his favorite songs, albums, and artists. He goes into detail about the meaning of songs, how or why they were written, and what might have inspired them. He talks about the inspiration that he gets from the song and maybe some trivia about its recording. He loves to talk about the recording process. HI is a big Steely Dan fan.

Mitch, always curious, usually asks HI a question or two about anything he might be discussing — he wants to show Mitch that he’s truly interested. But he never asks questions about music, he just listens — he doesn’t want to sound stupid or insult HI. To his credit, Mitch never asks a dumb question, and HI always has answers, though he can be a little bit wordy.

HI and Mitch rarely disagree. If a point of contention does arise, Mitch will back off and immediately change the subject. They talk over each other — all the time. Hearing both of their voices simultaneously might be the greatest distraction I face when I ride — it’s chaotic.

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Despite that these conversations take place, that the two are contained within the conscious me, and that they are each clearly the product of the me that is writing this, my lips never move when they talk. All the discourse is silent to everyone but me. Safe cycling requires concentration, and to allow either of them to speak through my mouth might make me more dangerous on the road. It might also be cause for a curious cop to pull me over.

When I’m walking though, it’s a different story. In addition to my cycling, I spend an hour or so each day walking in the woods with my dog. HI and Mitch are with me there also, and have basically the same conversations. However, from the time I begin walking and they begin talking, my lips begin to move a little. Not much at first, and their voices are very soft. As I continue though, their voices get a little bit louder, especially HI’s, and my lips move more freely.

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As I saunter through the woods, I’m just an individual man, talking in two distinct and different voices, and other people in the nature preserve begin to take notice. To a passerby, they might question my mental health or stability. I might frighten them some. They might think I’m a schizophrenic. But I’m not a schizophrenic, I’m a man — a man with two voices emanating from one mouth. I’m having conversations with myselves about music, politics, and religion, and I do this in the voices of HI Mcdonough and Mitch Hedberg, but I’m not a schizophrenic — really, I’m not  schizophrenic…!

Myselves: Yes we are…!

Me: No we’re not…!

Myselves: Yes we are…!

Me: No we’re not…!  No you guys leave me alone, I’m trying to write!

And so it goes.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 7
163 miles
6,200’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
9,300 calories

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 is this from Chuck Berry and Keith Richards. Enjoy…

 

Message In A Bottle…

Ari Goldman was the religious editor for the New York Times for nearly 20-years. Though he’s now a professor of journalism at Columbia university, he once interviewed me for the Sunday New York Jewish news about a social media experiment I was conducting. During the course of that interview I mentioned that I had read his book, The Search For God At Harvard — a short book about his time getting a graduate degree in Religious Studies at that institution. He chuckled and then said…

“Really…? You and three other people read that book…“

I reciprocated with a laugh of my own. He went on to say…

“That’s the thing you should remember about writing, Roy. When you throw it out there, it’s like tossing a message in a bottle into the churning tide. You never know who’s going to find it, read it, and how it’s going to impact them, but it will surely impact more than you realize.…”

Whether it’s on this blog or the corresponding Spoke And Word Facebook page, every time I post a musing or an essay, I think of Professor Goldman’s words.

Since beginning this blog just under a year ago, I have posted 270 times — either complete essays here on this platform, or short musings on my corresponding Facebook page about my ride of the day. Or more specifically, what goes on in my mind as I ride each day.

Every so often, somebody will reach out to me and let me know that my words, my pictures, or both have inspired them to get back on their bikes. Others have asked my help in purchasing a bike for the very first time.

Maryse is a French Canadian woman that I connected with a couple years ago as part of a music sharing collaborative on Facebook. I was both surprised and humbled this morning when I saw that she had posted the following on her own Facebook page (since it was posted in French, a couple of words might have been twisted in translation)

🚴 ♀️ I’ve always loved the bike… but not the race bike, the mountain bike. That said, I’m talking about the type of bike, not the type of track. For the slopes, I like everything; bike paths, trails in the woods, residential areas, everything but downtown Montreal. The bike has always been my means of transportation in abitibi and Montreal, until I move to laval. I had my first car at 33 years old. I miss the bike and I have been much less fit since my current job that I love so much, but that takes so much time. My inspiration to start riding a bike on a daily basis, it’s him, Roy Jhciacb Cohen. We’ve been part of a group of music discussions on Facebook for almost 10 years. He created his blog (The Spoke And Word) in connection with his bike hikes and his thoughts. Every single one of his posts inspires me. His photos make dream (it’s California, it’s not laval 😂), his texts make think (I’m going to focus on the bike), his stats are goals I would love to achieve, and his ear worms are A Natural addition to the stats.

Thanks Roy for being such an inspiration.

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Maryse’s bike, Abitibi….

Hiking 22 September
Bike: Abitibi
Laval, rosemère, boisbriand
17 KM
14 km / h of average speed
364 calories
Temperature: 27 c
Ear Worm: blood fire death by bathory
Photo: River of the thousand islands, Ste-Rose, laval

I was left humbled and teary-eyed by Maryse’s words.

So I will close with the following 2-sided question…

If you own a bike, why don’t you ride it…? And if you don’t ride it, why do you own a bike…?

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Last Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 4
193 miles
6,300’ climbing
16.1 mph avg
12,000 calories

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 is this from Jerry Jeff Walker. Enjoy…

Stay Put….

September 10 was World Suicide Awareness Day. People in great numbers posted and shared the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800.273.8255 on their social media platforms. The Internet was flooded with pictures of Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Junior Seau, and a handful of celebrities who ended their lives too soon. Very often these deaths were the result of depression. They are the popular faces of suicide.

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On one hand, I get it. Relating suicide to famous people who struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and idiopathic sadness is a good reminder to all non-celebrities that those ailments don’t discriminate. A person can be worth millions of dollars, have fame and freedom, and still not want to finish the lives they are so fortunate to have. Also, the value of celebrity recognition helps spread the idea of World Suicide Awareness Day further and faster.

On the flip-side though, many people who will read this have friends, associates, and family members who have taken their own lives. That in itself is a heavy thought. What’s a heavier thought though, is that other people reading this will have friends, associates, and family members who will someday take their own lives, but who haven’t yet — and who may be internalizing their reasons for doing so.

With that in mind, it’s my opinion that the face of suicide awareness shouldn’t be celebrities so much, as they should be everyone that we make eye contact with in a day’s time. Again, that’s just my opinion.

 

It’s also my opinion that everyone who experiences suicidal feelings, whether they are rare, occasional, or frequent, should consider becoming be more vocal with them — to discuss them with friends and/or mental health professionals.  If friends or professionals so trustworthy can’t be found, they can turn to The Suicide Awareness Lifeline at 800.273.8255. If friends are so gracious as to listen, I would encourage them to do so without judgment. Everyone should be willing to listen without judgment.

Many people live with suicidal thoughts — probably many more than someone reading this might realize. Again, some people experience suicidal thoughts on rare occasions, while others may experience them occasionally, and with others still, they might be frequent. Some, like me, live with them daily.

Those who do experience these feelings, too often hold them in. We hold them in for fear of being judged, cast out, or worse. Some, myself included, fear that being too vocal about such feelings might influence our ability to earn a living. I accept that some people who read this and also do business with me, may choose not to going forward. As I write this, I feel it’s more important to speak what’s on my mind tonight, regardless of how people might judge me or whether they choose to do business with me tomorrow.

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I have battled suicidal thoughts for most of my life. They have been completely intertwined with the depression, anxiety, and sadness that I have also battled. This surfaced with me first when I was in the 3rd grade. Think about that — I began entertaining and subsequently working through the symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts as a 9-year old.

To see me on the surface, most people who know me socially or professionally, have no idea this takes place within my daily thoughts.

I know I’m not alone.

I am now in my late 50s. I can look back at my life, in part, as a series of successful and ongoing negotiations with myself on the importance and of staying put — if not for myself, then for anyone who finds value in my life, especially on the days when I can’t. I’m proud of that — proud of my success in 50 years of self-negotiations, and I’m still going strong.

Although I’ve written about this some in the past, I’ve done so apprehensively and have been guarded about it. I’m sharing these feelings today though, for two reasons:

1) So that anyone reading this who might experience similar feelings, will know they’re not alone — that roughly 4% of the adult population in this country has experienced suicidal thoughts in the past year. That’s 12-million people.

2) That those who don’t or haven’t experienced such feelings, might be more  aware of the 12-million or so people who do.   And to keep in mind we often look like anyone else on the surface.

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As for World Suicide Awareness Day, perhaps in the future we might rebrand it, making it less about celebrities and more about the people next-door or the people down the hall. We could call it…

The World Day Of Staying Put

The World Day Of Staying Put seems at least a little bit more casual, if not optimistic.

In addition to being about spreading suicide awareness, it could also be observed as a day of worldwide confession — a day to share one’s feelings without fear of judgment or any kind of reciprocity. It could be a day to celebrate those, like myself, who have successfully self-negotiated, time and time again, on behalf of staying put.

As any of us look around today in a room full of people, whether it’s a restaurant, an ice rink, or our living rooms, let the faces of suicide awareness not be those of celebrities. Let the faces of suicide awareness be everyone we make eye contact with.

Let’s each remember today as we move about our circles, that behind every pair of eyes is a heart, a soul, and a life’s worth of experiences we know little about, and often those experiences include turmoil, depression, sadness, and anxiety — even if the face and the demeanor are perky.

When we discuss and promote suicide awareness, let’s also strive to take into consideration those right beside us, and let’s make sure they feel they can discuss their feelings without fear of judgment or reciprocity — that may be just what they need in order to stay put.

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If you experience suicidal thoughts and don’t have anyone to speak with, please contact 800.273.8255. There are people there willing to listen, and without judgment.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
168 miles
6,100’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
9,500 calories

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 is this from Big Country — Stuart Adamson was beautiful. Enjoy…

On Finding Simple Love…

When I feel love, I feel no pain. Perhaps that’s why I’m reaching for more these days, and finding it in places where I once didn’t — or never even thought to look for it.  And maybe it also has to do with life dishing out a little more pain these days.

I’m not talking about romantic love — that’s just novocaine for the mind. I’m talking about finding love in situations, in behaviors, and in aesthetics. I’m finding love these days in doings, in happenings, in observations, and existences. Oh, and in nature — there’s always love in nature.

Any of those are where quality love can be found — and that’s the key, quality love.  Identifying and feeling quality love these days, is one of the few things that makes me proud to be a human being.

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I’d be holding back if I didn’t confess that the weight of the world is draining me more lately. Yup, the same nonsense and bullshit that’s draining you is draining me. As we are forced to adapt to this increasing social complexity — the increasing complexity in all things human, positive and negative, I feel as though my spiritual senses are drying up.

My soul is drying…
My heart is drying…
My mind is drying…
My enthusiasm is drying…
My energy is drying…
My belief is drying…
My hope is drying…

Love though, can feed any of those, if not fill them.

So where do I find this kind of love…? Well, it has a smaller profile and is harder to locate than the hate and ignorance that stands so tall to dominate our social landscape, so I have to work at finding it.

Of course, love is in the eyes of my dog — it’s in the eyes of all dogs. But I find it just as much these days, in the eyes of a rabbit hiding nervously under the sagebrush when I walk in the mornings. In find love in the eyes of the neighbor’s cat, who stands on my car and looks my way when I bend down to grab the newspaper each morning from my driveway.  I find love in making eye contact with nearly any animal.

This might strike you as odd, but I find love in social media. Not in the nonsense and the bullshit that people exchange for the sake of simple amusement. But in those times when I am witness to human connections — when I see friends supporting friends or even acquaintances they scarcely know, and offer support during difficult times — I find that touching. What is touching if not a form of love…?

I can’t begin to tell you the love I feel when I see my mother’s expression as she sifts through pictures of her youth, of her grandchildren, and of all the places she’s been and things she’s done. I find love when I see my mother’s hands covered with age spots and I reflect on how many babies she helped deliver with those hands through the years.

Each week during my Rotary meeting, when a small golden can is passed around the room, and donations are placed in the can in support of local student enterprises that we sponsor, and as everyone drops a 5, a 10, or a 20 dollar bill into the can and makes a statement about why they’re doing so, that’s the kind of love that feeds me these days.

I might read a story or watch a documentary about a group of men who met as teens, formed a band, and shared big dreams together. And perhaps they found those dreams, but along the way they also found the agony and struggles that come with money and fame. They found fighting, addictions, breakups, and the jealousies that break friendships apart. And when I see those band members who met as children, now standing on stage looking regal under their gray hair,  putting their differences behind them, hugging, and making eye contact with one-another just before they strike a chord or beat a drum, I see the love of survival and of commitment.

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Last week, I held the wheelchair of a weakened friend as his wife helped him get in the passenger seat of their car. He is in the advanced stages of cancer and has declined further treatments. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more love than when I shook his hand as he put his seatbelt on before I closed his car door. I wondered, as I walked away, if there wasn’t a metaphor in me closing that door, because I may never see him again.

Those are the kinds of love that nourish me these days — they are the kind of love that my soul needs most in these chaotic times

As social complexity increases, and all its cascading consequences drain the humanity from me in the day-to-day, it’s the love that I witness in little things that nourishes me just enough to keep going and to keep growing.

This is what I think about when I ride. No shit, it really is… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes ridden: 4
202 miles
8,400’ climbing
15.9 mph avg
12,000 calories

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 is this from That Petrol Emotion. Enjoy…

Left For Dead…

Vasudeva, my Specialized Allez Compact Elite, is my lightest and fastest bike. It’s also the bike with the most miles on it, which right now stands at roughly 12,000.

The only maintenance I have ever done to this bike is to keep the drivetrain (the gears and the chain) clean. I’ve never even washed it. It keeps on going.

Over the last year though, as I have added more bikes into the fold, I began riding it less and less. A few months ago, I actually began to cannibalize it in order to feed other bikes. The cassette (the rear gears) went to one bike. The wheel set (the rims) went to another. I even stole the saddle (the seat) for a different bike yet.

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Eventually, Vasudeva became just a frame with some cables and spiderwebs hanging off of it — in equal portion, and resting on my back patio. Once upon a time though, this was my soulmate bike. It had become a cast off and an afterthought.

A couple of days ago, I was watching one of those horrible Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials — you know, the ones that make you cry because you’re looking at a Chihuahua shivering in a cage or a pit-bull with ribs so exposed that it looks like a xylophone changed to a mailbox. Yeah, one of those commercials.

Shortly after I watched that commercial, I stepped out to my bicycle work-stand on my back patio to grab a screwdriver. I looked down to see Vasudeva in the same light that I saw the shivering Chihuahua and the emaciated pit-bull.

My heart broke for my once great, but more recently neglected bike.

I made the commitment then and there to rebuild it and get it on the road within a few days. I already had a compatible cassette, a compatible saddle, and I stole the wheel-set back from the bike I assigned it to.

If you’re wondering why this bike is special to me, it’s because years ago when I decided to leave the depths that only alcohol can lead one to, this was the bike I used to ride into the next phase of my life.

Yesterday I rode Vasudeva for the first time in two months. I went out early so the conditions were good — no wind, moderate fog, and with the air temperature in the mid 60s.

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I was apprehensive as I begin pedaling, because I was taking it on a fairly long ride and had not road tested it at all. Within a few miles though, I remembered why I love this bike so much — it’s fast. I spent a majority of my time on westbound Hwy 76 hovering just above the 20 mph marker, only to let that average drop slightly on a couple of hills.

When I got to Oceanside Harbor, my turnaround point, I had averaged 19+ mph. I had never done that before.  It seems that this pit-bull with the exposed ribs, had been sweetly nursed back to life.

As I always as I do at the harbor, I stopped, ate half a vegan cookie, took a pretty picture or two of my bike, and prepared for the turnaround ride. I was a little tired from the fast ride west, but my legs loosened up quickly when I began to head home.

Within a couple of miles after my turnaround, I realized I was still riding lights-out. The weather conditions hadn’t changed. When I arrived back at my starting point, Daniel’s Market in Bonsall, I took my phone out of my pouch as quickly as I could and clicked off my riding app.

I’ve been riding this route intermittently for over a decade, and I have never ridden it faster — on a bike that was in a scrapheap and left for dead just a few days earlier.

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I could live to be 1,000 years old and ride another 1,000,000 more miles, and I will never have a ride as exhilarating or memorable as yesterday’s.

But how I will truly remember this epic ride, won’t be for how fast I was or how sweet I felt when I clicked off my app. I will remember this ride for its association with all the pit-bulls chained to mailboxes and all the Chihuahuas shivering in cages, and my great ride will be an indelible reminder of the potential of rescuing the wretched.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…
Bike: Vasudeva
32 miles
1,000’ climbing
18.1 mph avg
2,000 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Ooh La La, by Ronnie Lane & Company

The UnFatted Calf…

Another week has past and it was another week that included another client arriving for her workout in tears because somebody had just casually commented about her body weight. It was clear to me immediately that her tears were born less of hurt and more of shame.

She was ashamed to have body fat.

And of course the punchline to the joke, which isn’t the least bit funny, is that she probably has less body fat than I do.  Soon we were both crying.

In case you’re not aware of this, having any noticeable body fat is something we should all be ashamed of. At least that’s how it seems.

If there’s one ideal I wish people could get beyond, it’s the idea that having any amount of body fat is a shameful thing.  At least I wish I could get beyond it. More so, that the idea of not having any body fat is a golden calf to be worshiped and danced around.

Most cultures, going back thousands of years, have done everything in their power to glorify those who possess low body fat. In doing so, that way of thinking has woven an unspoken disdain for even an average amount of body fat into our cultural DNA.  It’s not always unspoken though.

Whether we admit it or not, we dislike excess body fat — on everyone, our own selves included. Yet most everyone reading this, including the guy writing it, has more body fat than the Greek or Roman ideal. To have any more body fat than that, all these years later, is considered aesthetically unpleasing within our cultural norms.

Shame on every god damned one of us.

In my own case, I’ll confess that having visible excess fat on my belly, on my hips, and around my face, has presented me with the single biggest source of shame and anxiety I’ve ever known. Nothing has come close. I can’t remember a day in my life when I didn’t feel some amount of shame for how poorly I think I look in the eyes of others — due to my excess body fat. The only exception to this has been in those times when my focus has been on bodybuilding and my dieting was so strict and so severe that I was able to get to an aesthetically pleasing level of low body fat. Those times though never lasted, weren’t sustainable for the long-term, and getting there was the Siberia of eating.

Consider that — consider that I’m a guy who’s spent much of my adult life teaching exercise and the practice of making sound nutritional decisions. It’s my livelihood. Peripheral to that have been the countless hours I’ve spent in the weight room, running, trail hiking, and cycling.

I should be the leanest guy on earth, right…?

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But I’m not. I look okay in clothing, but I’ve declined a half-dozen invitations to pool parties this summer for a fear of taking my shirt off in front of others. I always joke when declining such invitations that I probably wouldn’t come close to people’s expectations of me in a swimsuit, and that it wouldn’t be a sight for kids.

Translation: I’m ashamed of my body, despite how hard I work at it. So ashamed, that I feel like a bad person just for my level of body fat.  So ashamed that it influences my social life.  So ashamed that it causes me anxiety.  So shamed that it causes me to hate myself.

So it’s never that far from my mind, that as a guy who bicycles between 170-190 miles every week, and who spends 6 hours or so in the weight room each week, who walks 2-miles every morning, and after all of that I hate what I look like. This keeps very cognizant of how others, who don’t work at it as hard as I do, might feel about their own bodies.

I often joke that the only people who wake up in the morning, run to the mirror scream….

Yeeeeeeeee Haw — look at me…!

are college football defensive backs and Navy pilots. The rest of us get to look in the mirror each day and wish we weren’t alive. Or at least that’s how I feel.

Some people might look at this and think I’m actually fishing for compliments. Others might admire that I’ve been so open about my inner feelings, while others still might call it brave. There might be a little truth in all of that. The main reason I’m sharing this though, is because I want most of the people reading it to know they are not alone.

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And the thing is, despite that I’ve thrown it all out there today and spilled my guts, I know I’ll still wake up tomorrow morning, look in the mirror, and hate what I see. And I will feel very bad for being that guy in the mirror.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 5
187 miles
7,200’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
11,000 calories

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 is this from The Cardigans. Enjoy…

Best. Job. Ever.

Early in my adult life, a mentor said to me…

“The best job you’ll ever have is the one you just left or the one you’re going to next. Never is it the one you’re in right now…“

I can’t overstate how many times that has been true for so many people I have known. For me though, the best job of my life will always be my first job — sandwich maker and deli clerk.

It was the first weekend after I turned 15 years old — the legal age to work in Colorado at the time. My father directed me to put on a nice shirt, a nice pair of pants, tuck in the shirt, and to ride my bike up to the Bagel Deli, roughly a 1-1/2 miles up the street. My bike, was actually hand-me-down from my brother — a green Columbia 5-speed touring bike.

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Paul Weiner, the Bagel’s owner, would be waiting for me, My dad explained. My father, having dined there earlier that morning, had prearranged the meeting with Mr. Weiner after seeing a Help Wanted sign in the window. I would be applying for a part-time dishwasher position.

The Bagel was a regional institution — a place were Rocky Mountain Jews regularly met to eat good food, speak fractured Yiddish, and play the game of suburban oneupsmanship over lox and creamed herring on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

After completing my application and turning it in to Mr. Weiner, he gave me 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes he didn’t ask me a single question.  I’m not sure I even spoke except to say things like, uh-huh.  Mr. Weiner simply told me what he expected of me and as importantly, what he didn’t want to see from me. My first official offer of employment would be Mr. Weiner telling me I would be starting the following Tuesday at 3 PM.

Scared shitless, I got on my bike and rode home — this time, with my shirt untucked.

For the next 3 weeks I was the apprentice dishwasher. Paul referred to me as “apprentice” as often as he could, to employees and customers alike. He smirked every time he said the word apprentice in his thick Austrian accent. I must have done a fair job too, because after 3 weeks I was promoted to sandwich maker and counter clerk.

I got to use the meat slicers.

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The other deli clerk‘s were much older than me. Rick Cornblatt, the deli manager, was in his mid-20s with a wife and a small child. Craig Walker was in his late 30s, and when he wasn’t slinging corned beef, he was a bassoon player for the Denver Symphony Orchestra.

I was just 15 years old, and I got to use a meat slicer and hang out with these guys. Not only that, but Mr. Weiner had a very liberal employee benefits program — we could eat as much as we wanted to during our shifts, so long as nothing went home with us at night. Having already discovered the weight room at age 15, all the protein I could eat for 5 hours a night would surely be the down payment for my ever-growing guns.

The Bagel Deli was built around its regulars. Of course strangers and first-timers came in every day, but within a month of working there, I knew who all the regulars were, and they paid the rent. The regulars were like a continually visiting Board of Directors, checking in on me and the others, and making sure we were doing a good job. If  we weren’t doing a good job, they would tell us about it.

The most notable regular though, was legendary concert promoter Barry Fey. Fey, who I would go on to work for in a separate incarnation of my young adult life, rarely just walked in. He often called ahead requesting preferential treatment for the guests he’d bring. Fey often brought the managers of bands who were passing through town such as the Rolling Stones, the Jefferson Starship, and even Bob Dylan’s manager. On rare occasions Fey would bring musicians such as Ian McLagan, Craig Chacuico, and John Sebastian to name a few. I made sandwiches for all of them.

Another deli clerk and coworker was Paul Gordon, a washed-up talk radio host who was the first openly gay man I ever met. We called Paul Gordon “PG” so not to get confused with Paul the owner of the deli.

One evening, while working alongside PG and while slicing roast beef, I cut the tips off of the index and middle fingers of my right hand. I never felt a thing, but I quit slicing when I felt the blade grinding into the bones of those 2 fingers.

I hadn’t been using the finger guard.

PG packed my fingers in a cup of ice and drove me to the emergency room. Stopped at an intersection enroute to the hospital, and along side an older couple in a long Buick, I pulled my fingertips from the cup of ice and showed the couple in the Buick the flow of blood pouring pouring from my fingertips. I don’t think they were impressed. The emergency room doctor took a skin graft from the side of my hand, and the 2 fingertips were stitched and sealed closed. I returned to work within several days.

Working at the Bagel Deli was, hands-down, the best job of my life. There’s hardly been a day go by that I haven’t reflected on it with fond memories and wishes that I  still worked there. Rick Cornblatt, who was my first boss, never left. It’s the only job he ever had. Craig Walker, the other full-time clerk and bassoon player, continued to work there until he was in his 60s.

I have no negative memories of that job, none.

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Of my favorite memories at the Bagel, and the one I reflect on most, is of entering the walk-in refrigerator on hot summer days, cutting open 5-gallon buckets of dill pickles, and eating 3 or 4 of them at a time.  As the customers would say, delish…!

Of course the job I have now is amazing. I work in bare feet, my commute involves stepping over my dog on the way into my studio each day, and I get to enjoy conversations with interesting people all day long. If a genie showed up tomorrow though, and gave me a chance to start over again at age 15 and make a career of working at the deli, I’m sure I’d think twice about it.

I worked at the Bagel on and off for nearly 3 years. In the 40 years since I clocked out for the final time, I’m not sure a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about that job and wished I was still there.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 6
184 miles
7,800’ climbing
15.4 mph avg
11,000 calories

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 is this from Army Navy. Enjoy…

Pollyanna Crash…

Pollyanna Crash…

All is not lost, or so they say. More recently though, I’ve been feeling some of my values — those beliefs and character traits that define me, slipping away. Most notably, my sense of humor and my relentless optimism.

Despite what inner turmoil I have lived with, and there’s been a heap, I’ve always met it head on with humor and optimism. Combined, the two make great weapons when confronting adversity. I think I’ve been successful at this, if not masterful.

With all that’s been taking place in the world, as our national mood has soured, as society has bubbled at the surface with a greater intensity, and as the behaviors of many who I’ve believed in have disappointed me more with each passing meme, insult, or comment thread, I’m noticing my sense of humor and my optimism are fading.

I find it harder to incorporate humor into conversations these days, and less receptive to humor when it’s offered to me. It’s as though I now see humor as an illicit drug — intriguing, but it feels cheap I feel I’d be better off without it. It’s not gone completely, it’s just that I feel guilty laughing or attempting to make others laugh while our nation is hurting.

I often wonder if we joked less and laughed less, and if we took what ails us more seriously while making a greater effort toward resolving it, maybe we could earn our way out of all of this. I sincerely wonder if there’s some truth in that.

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I remember how stunned I was to hear George W Bush speaking, just days after 9/11…

“Go to Disney World. Go shopping…”

It’s my own opinion that President Bush should’ve suggested we take a few weeks and refrain from Disney World or shopping, and to look inside ourselves with honest self-appraisal, look at each other with candor and attempt to communicate and unify.

Imagine after the attack on Pearl Harbor, if President Roosevelt had said go to Disney World and go shopping…

With regard to my optimism, for many years I’ve held close to a belief system sponsored by public intellectuals such as George Ellis, Robert Wright, Steven Pinker, Francis Fukuyama, and a handful of others, who’ve demonstrated in their research and their writings that the world, over time, has become and continues to be a more cooperative and better place.

It’s easy to be optimistic when my optimism is rooted in the hundreds of data citations contained within dozens of books written by these men. My optimism though, like my humor, its beginning to fade.

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Our national soul is crying, and we’re binge-watching mindless crap on Netflix with one screen, while we simultaneously argue with friends, cut off relationships over glib comments, and insult people we’ve never met on another screen.

I have begun to wonder who I would become if my optimism and humor disappeared from me completely. I try not to wonder about that, but a part of honest self-appraisal is just that, examining one’s self being honest about what is found.

I don’t think I’d like the me who lacks humor and optimism. I just be another grumpy old man, selfish and not contributing to the whole society. The God I believe in doesn’t want me living off the grid and shaking my fist at passersby. He wants me to engage.

I guess in all of this, the best thing I can do is to keep trying. However, seeing friend vs friend and politician vs politician behaving like children in the scope of ugly verbal exchanges, knocks the wind out of my Pollyanna disposition, every single time.

Excuse me now, while I place a slice of bologna and each of my shoes and get ready to begin my day.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…
Bike: Tang
26 miles
1,200’ climbing
15.7 mph avg
1,400 calories

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 is this from Dale Watson. Enjoy…

People Are The Crack…

In the 1980s, crack-cocaine propagated faster and with more disastrous results than any drug in history. In addition to the damage it would do to the lives, the families, and the businesses it disrupted, it became most used metaphor for addiction ever.

Not a day goes by that I don’t read something about our addiction to smartphones — always followed by a comparison to crack. Every time I touch my phone these days I feel guilty, if not ashamed because smartphones have been compared to crack so often.

Not so fast…

This image we have of addicts like me, in zombie-like postures, walking into stop signs, stepping into potholes, and otherwise ignoring the person standing right next to them because they are staring into their 7-inch vortex of intellectual displacement, is not where the story ends — not for me anyway. It’s easy to pass that kind of judgment, but look a little harder.

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This zombie might be paying a bill with my phone. I might be transferring money to my daughter’s bank account so she could go out to eat with her partner later that evening. I might be involved in a serious discussion with a friend on the other side of the world. I might be consulting with a client, either verbally or with text. I might be FaceTiming a friend in Mexico. I might be submitting an application for a small business loan. I might be reading Steven Pinker’s latest book or a relevant essay by William Buckley. Of course there are infinite positive things I might be doing with my smartphone while I’m in that zombie-like posture. And yes, there are infinite ridiculous things I might also be doing.

According to critical thinkers in technology, we are less than two generations away from smartphones, in much smaller sizes, actually being embedded under our skin. For more on that, I’ll suggest reading Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari. Of course, when and if that happens, by definition we will no longer be Homo sapiens.

Back to zombies…

Even if I am a zombie and I stare at my phone for up to 8-hours a day — which I don’t, but for the sake of argument let’s imagine that I do, what keeps me coming back to it is what’s at the center of everyone’s smartphone experience — the people.

The people are the crack.

Whether it’s conversations, songs, videos, or classic books, the people are the crack.

I find it nothing less than miraculous that I can have a conversation about mindfulness with a friend in Australia, or a conversation about dogs with a friend in Virginia just moments apart. I’ve been helping another friend in Northern England, via my smartphone, with his fitness objectives for over a year now. And all of this I do from my zombie-like posture.

Back to crack…

Once you ingest a drug, you have to take the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all until it wears off. You smoke crack and you get high, but you also get the withdrawal and all the physical manifestations that come with it, none of which you can shed instantly.

But with smartphones, the people are the high, but we don’t have to take all the negative side effects that goes with it. We can scroll past them — we can put the phones down and be active, if only for a while. We don’t have to accept any of the negative consequences that come with looking down. Unlike the crack, we have the option of looking away or turning it off altogether.

Ultimately, smartphones are about interconnecting people in a way that is an outright miracle in our lifetime. It is relationships, above all things, that we are here for call me and this handheld technology can foster new relationships and enhance old ones.

I’m Not A Zombie…

I have little doubt that I check my phone as much as anyone this. I scroll as much, I post as much, read as much, and I hold on to this little electronic rectangle — scarcely larger than a bar of soap, as much as anyone I know. But I also know went to put it down, turn it off, walk away from it, or not bring it with me.

I am not a zombie.

I don’t use an app to track my screen time. I can’t tell you how many times per day I check notifications. My smartphone spends much of my day in my left hand, but it spends more time turned upside down on a table or otherwise out of reach.

When it is in my hand though, my phone is a lens, a mirror, and a reflector. It helps me see myself better and helps me see others more clearly — a good reminder of who I am and who I don’t wish to be.

Despite that my phone is often near me or in my left hand, I accomplish as much in the course of the day without using it has anyone I know. I ride my bike daily, I walk daily, I take my mother out daily, and I spend time with my dog and cat daily. I work in my yard, I volunteered my community, I spend time with friends, and I also work. Sometimes these things involve my smartphone and sometimes they don’t.

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There’s no guarantee of Monday, from a Sunday point of view. From the moment I get out of bed each morning until I put my head on my pillow at night, I attempted to live my life to the fullest. Whether my phone is beside me or not is irrelevant.

If I attempt to live my life to the fullest, in no way can I be classified as a zombie. Just a guy attempting to leave a digital record that I was here, that I mattered, and that those I’m connected with matter too.

Last night I went to dinner with my mother and a couple of friends.  At the end of the evening I commented that we were the only people in the restaurant that had never had our phones out. There’s a time and place for everything, or not.

I am not a zombie…!

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4
195 miles
9,200’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
11,100 calories
12 hours 45 minutes in the saddle

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 is this from The Billy Nayer Show (Corey McAbee). Enjoy…

We Can Do Better…

The repugnant nature of man is clearly visible on days when people express joy over the suicide of another, even if the other has committed unthinkable crimes.

I don’t care what transgressions were alleged or committed, and I don’t care how horrible someone might have been to the core, the celebration and rejoicing of a suicide in prison is an unsavory if not shameful act. As a species, we should carry ourselves better than that.

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I found it painful the other day, when an acquaintance boasted of a “spring” in his step and a “smile” on his face when learning of the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein. What made it painful was that this is someone who claims to be opposed to the death penalty, and actively posts about it.

Perhaps the death penalty should be allowed after all, but only when it’s self-imposed and self-administered. I dunno…

That was not an isolated case. Over the last few days I’ve seen a slew of posts and memes mocking the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, often with gratitude for the act. They have made my skin crawl.

I think we can do better than this. Even if we feel some sense of relief or even satisfaction when a criminal he takes his own life, how hard is it to just keep that kind of joy to one’s self…? I’m not really sure if my acquaintance’s words qualify as ignorance, contempt, or general dipshittery, but I do know the public celebration of anyone’s suicide is unnecessary.

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People are listening and watching, all the time and in greater numbers than ever, especially our children. Bad ideas spread fast, take root easily, and can have the ability to choke out goodness and decorum like crabgrass to a fine lawn.

Demonstrating decorum takes effort, but it’s a practice worth learning, even if it doesn’t draw too much attention to one’s self or satisfy one’s need for a cheap chuckle. Sometimes, not making a noise is the best way to be.

“Study to be quiet…” Isaak Walton

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Eleventeen Cupcake
27 miles
1,300’ climbing
15.0 mph avg
1,500 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: I’m Still Free, by Spain

 

My Absentee Presence…

My heads spins. It spins and spins and spins, all day long. Not on the outside — the structure of my neck and head are no different than yours, with roughly 180 degrees of movement to the left and to the right. Inside though, in that space between the ears, my thoughts swirl around like a storm on Jupiter. The reasons why my head spins aren’t important, and I’m not sure they could ever be truly known. I just know that at a given moment, I’m loosely focused on many things, and directly focused on none.

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When I should be focusing on what’s in front of me, I’m more likely thinking about what I just did, what comes next, what’s beside me, what’s above me, friends that I need to get back to you, work that still needs to be done, unfinished chores, the care of my pets and my mother, my next ride or workout, and in-between all of those thoughts, I’m constantly conjuring up memories from the past for no apparent reason other than to enjoy them, regret them, or come to terms with them.

How’s that for a run-on sentence…?

I guess if there’s a point to it, it’s that I have a hard time being present and in the moment. On the flipside, I’d make an excellent gibbon or a fantastic crow.

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Yesterday I had lunch with a friend. We hadn’t seen each other in a while so there was lots to catch up on. She wanted to know about my daughter, my mother, and my business. I wanted to know about her kids, her life, and her job search. I had so many questions for her, but I didn’t know which one to ask first. After each question I asked, I feared that I asked the wrong one. And as she answered each question, rather than listening to her answers, I kept finding myself thinking about the next question to ask in hopes it would be a better question than the previous one.

In the meantime, she was asking me questions and I was having to think about and come up with answers. I attempted to offer her well-thought answers, but with all that was going on in my head, I’m certain the answers I was giving to her questions were just as bad as the questions I was asking of her. Rarely did I just look her in the eye, listen, and attempt to understand exactly what she was asking or saying.

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All the while, people were coming in and out of the restaurant and I had to turn my head with each one to see who they were. I just had to. I also had to look out the window frequently to see which cars were driving by. Cars. Shiny shiny cars. At some point, from the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a C5A military transport preparing to land at Camp Pendleton just a few miles away. Airplanes are cool. It’s very stressful to maintain eye contact with a friend, while simultaneously checking out the great big airplane in the sky, but I did it.

When meeting up with friends, I’m very cognizant of keeping my phone turned face-down on the table or in my pocket so it’s not a distraction. Yesterday though, because I was concerned about my mother, I kept my phone face-up on the table. It was hard resisting all the texts and notifications which I could see lighting up my phone from my peripheral vision as I was talking to my friend. As hard as it was though, I didn’t touch my phone once. My only victory of the day.

My friend and I enjoyed lunch together, got as caught up as we could despite my distractions, parted with a nice hug and an agreement to get together again on the sooner side. However, as soon as I got in my car I felt as though I had failed in being a good friend due to my absentee presence.

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This lunch scene represents my state of being most of the time. Whether I am face-to-face with a client, at lunch with my mother or a friend, talking on the phone with my daughter, or participating in a community event, whenever I am anywhere, I am always somewhere else. And most often, I am in multiple somewhere elses. I call that place, The Elsewheriverse.

 

For all I have read, heard, and attempted to understand about the value of living in the moment, the only time I do this successfully is when my body is in motion and I am independent of other people. When I walk, when I strength train, when I write, and when I ride my bike — these are when time slows down for me and even stands still. When I am alone and in motion, I am in the moment.

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

This Week By The Numbers. Today’s ride not has not taken place yet, but the week should come out as follows…

Bikes Ridden: 5
190 miles
8,800’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
10,800 calories

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 is this from Matthew Sweet. Enjoy…

Real Democracies Have Curves…

I want to say from the onset, that a person’s value in society should be judged only by their intentions, their contributions to their families, their communities, and their workplace. That beyond those things, little else matters in assessing a person‘s character.

And nobody, nobody should be judged by their physical appearance, for any reason, ever.

Still, it’s kind of what we excel at — judging people based on what they look like. It’s our national hobby.

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For much of my adult life, I’ve made my living attempting to help people improve their physical appearance, as well as their physical abilities, and physical autonomy. The latter — physical abilities and autonomy are the things that interest me most now as I go about earning a living.

That said, there are still people who utilize my services, primarily as a means of improving their physical appearance. If I’m being honest, I dedicate a portion of each day of my life, as well as direct most of my eating behaviors toward having a socially acceptable physical appearance. How I look in shorts and a t-shirt though, has nothing to do with who I am.

I say often that the world has changed more in the last 5 years than in the previous 10. Of course I’ve been saying that for 30 years. What I mean by that, is that each passing year is increasingly complex. Social, economic, and technical advances are increasing at an exponential rate, the term exponential being literal in this case.

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New Bike: Eleventeen Cupcake…

Part of increasing complexity is accepting and hopefully adapting positively to the results and consequences of those social, economic, and technical advances. In a strange way, changing social trends which happen so rapidly, seem to occur gradually. They just sneak up on us. Obesity is a great example of this.

Several years ago I watched the movie Festival Express, a documentary about the Grateful Dead and other bands of the day, on a one week tour across northern Canada by train during the summer of 1970. In the course of the movie, there’s much footage focusing on the crowds at the concert stops. There were a lot of thin young people — the men often shirtless and looking like human xylophones with so many ribs exposed, and the women in sundresses with shoulder blades looking bony enough to cut a finger on.

After watching Festival Express that evening a few years back, I watched the concert DVD from Woodstock 1990. Among the mud and the mayhem, there were few examples of human xylophones and beveled shoulder blades. The attendees were noticeably heavier than the attendees of the Festival Express concerts.

That was the first time I had taken notice of the gradual yet rapid evolution of modern humans. It’s also the first time I remember asking myself if the increasing trend toward obesity would ever reverse.

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At the time, primary to my livelihood, was helping to guide people into better eating decisions in conjunction with the exercise that I facilitated on their behalf. On occasion I was successful in helping change eating habits, but most often I was not. That’s because despite my efforts to help people make better eating choices, the complexity of the food system, marketing system, and social eating norms were changing so rapidly yet so seamlessly, that most people didn’t realize what was happening to them or around them.

Marketing got more deceptive. Food composition changed — with a greater emphasis on highly refined carbohydrates, refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and obscene profit potential. Portion sizes, both in restaurants and at home blew up between 1970 and 2000. As this happened, social norms changed. And more to the point, it was a gradual enough process that most people couldn’t see it happening to them or around them. However, between 1970 and 2000 we gained roughly 20% in bodyweight as a nation. (See Greg Crister’s very important book, Fat Land, 2003.)

Through all those changes in dietary habits though, fitness culture increased also. New gyms and chains of gyms opened more frequently and were more accessible than ever. The 24-hour gym was born. Pilates and yoga studios increased in popularity. By 1990, the term cardio became a part of the popular vernacular, when it hadn’t even existed in 1980. And despite obesity levels rising, I put faith in my industry, that fitness would eventually gain traction and thwart the obesity epidemic.

Somehow though, that math never really added up. Despite being a more fitness conscious society, having better knowledge and greater resources to combat the epidemic, the evolution of the American body was more consistent with cheap and tasty foods than it was with yoga studios or a 24-hour gyms on every corner.

I’m not sure where I was or what I was doing the day that I gave up on the idea of obesity declining, but I have given up. I don’t know anybody, myself included, who doesn’t want to lose some weight, look a little better, and feel little bit better. And there are many who would like to lose a lot of weight, so they can feel and function better.

Through it all, if I’ve got anything right, it’s in honing my ability to see beyond the human form. A part of that, is my increasing belief that I will go on to live somewhere else beyond this life, and so too will everyone else.  Heaven perhaps, or possibly another universe, another dimension, or that we might come back as crawfish or woodchucks, but I don’t think the game ends here.

I confess that 20 years ago I was not that good at seeing beyond the human form. Today though, when I make eye contact with and interact with another person, it’s my highest priority to look beyond their shell — to see the essence of who they are  by observing their behaviors and listening to their words.

Yes, one can argue about health issues caused by obesity — that it’s a drain on the medical systems, insurance systems, the family, the workplace, and society in general, and I made that argument professionally for much of my adult life. I just don’t see it that way anymore. People are people, so let’s look ‘em in the eye and see them as we also hope to be seen. The complexities of society are going to take us where they’re going to take us, and thus far they’ve taken us to a more obese culture. In the process, we should simply try and be good people.

At the end of the day, if we can be good with weekly mass shootings, an overly racist president, and all people everywhere pointing fingers and calling names rather than seeking to understand, and if within all of that we can simply carry-on, then we can get good with the idea that real democracies have curves.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5
181 miles
8,200’ climbing
15.2 mph avg
10,200 calories

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 is this from The Mooney Suzuki. Enjoy…

Nobody Told Me…

It’s not always about chewing on philosophy, pondering my future, or taking pictures of breaking waves and lipstick sunsets. If I’m on a bicycle for 90-120 minutes per day, theres plenty of time to contemplate my regrets — those regretful actions, regretful moments, and regretful words that I have created and cast upon others. I don’t have many, but those I do have carry a great deal of weight.

I’ll just be pedaling along, in tune with the rhythm of the road, enjoying the freedom of the glide, and taking it all in when they just pop into my head — regrets from days gone down. Most of what I regret has to do with divorce, being a father, and being a son. I’ve made many mistakes beyond those, but when it comes to family, there’s a clear line between mistakes and regrets.

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Bike: Tobio Obsession

I make mistakes every day of my life, and honestly, I don’t beat myself up too much over them. I simply aim to not repeat them. Most of the mistakes I make daily are forgivable, if not excusable. I try hard though, to keep my regrets to a minimum, because they always seem to involve people I love, and their residue lingers for years.

I heard some advice the other day that I had never heard before and I’ve been chewing on it these last few days while riding. It cane from the philosopher, Jonathan Rowson, in an interview for the radio show, On Being. Rowson was reflecting on advice somebody gave him before the birth of his first child. It went something like this…

“If you want to be a good father, the best thing that you can do is become a better husband…”

Now as simple and straightforward as that sounds, I had never heard it before. I know I hadn’t heard it, because if that advice had been given to me as an expecting father, I’m certain it would have impacted me, whether I headed it or not.

Sadly, it never occurred to me that as a new father the best thing I could do would be to become a better husband. It makes so much sense in hindsight, but nobody told me.

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So as I pedaled my way through the hills last night, sped down the descents, and past vineyards attempting to run away from the day, sooth my soul, and to convert a half-dozen Reese’s peanut butter cups into movement, I contemplated a single regret — that I, as an expecting father, didn’t realize the most important thing I could do to be a good father would have been to become a better husband.

 

So if you’re reading this as an expecting father, as a recent father, or if you know anyone that falls into that category, please share this advice…

The best thing a man can do to become a good father is to become a better husband.

Hearing that in advance might truly shape the life of a child, the life of a father, and extend the life of a family.

Nobody told me.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…
Bike: Tang
26 miles
1,200’ climbing
15.0 mph avg
1,400 calories

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 is this from The Who Enjoy…

Ignition Sequence Start…

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Though it’s been on my mind recently due to all the media attention, it’s never been that far from my mind. When I think of the formative moments and events that have shaped and influenced my life, the moon landing has to be placed at the very top.

Below is a two-part essay —two separate writings from earlier this year on my daily Spoke And Word Facebook page. If you’re not already following that page, please take the time to do so. My daily Spoke And Word Facebook posts are brief and informal musings I write each morning, reflecting on my bike ride from the day before.

Apollo 11

Part I: One And Not Quite The Same…

I was roughly the same age on the day The Eagle landed on the moon as my brother was on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated earlier in the decade.

My brother is now in his early 60s, and I’m in my late 50s. We live roughly 1,000 miles apart, he in Colorado and me California. He is an attorney and I’m a fitness trainer.

Throughout our lives I have considered us to be close. We communicate regularly, see each other when we can, and we consider each other good friends.

My brother and I share a handful of similarities that are probably rooted halfway between our common genetics and the social influences we shared growing up — parental influences notwithstanding.

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We both enjoy drinking Diet Coke. We like to wear Oxford shirts even as casual attire. We love dogs. We find humor in dark places and at dark times. We both enjoy jumping off rural bridges into the rivers below. We both hate the Oakland Raiders with all the hate you can possibly hate something with.

We each see the world a little differently though.

With so much in common, I often wonder why I lean toward optimism in matters of social cooperation and the political landscape we currently live in, and why he leans more towards a negative outcome for mankind.

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I blame John F Kennedy, but not directly.

My brother was roughly 6-years old when President Kennedy was assassinated. Six years old — that’s a very formative time in most everyone’s life.

When Apollo 11 landed on the moon, I was only a little older than my brother was on the day Kennedy was killed. A formative time in my life as well.

When I think about those two world events, and that it’s fair to say they are two of the more significant events in American history, it makes me wonder how significant each of those events might have been in influencing the respective sensibilities of my brother and I.

As I rode my bike to the coast yesterday, after reading an article about the social influence of the Moonlanding compared to the social influence of the Kennedy assassination, and with my blood pumping hard, the serotonin exchange increasing my mental acuity, and as I was taking it all in, I wondered if those two events — the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Neil Armstrong taking “one small step for a man” might be the primary events that established our respective outlooks on life.

Viscerally, I know that many things have contributed to forming and shaping the sensibilities of my brother and I. On some level though, I think there’s something to this.

My brother has read nearly every book and probably invested more thought into the Kennedy assassination than anyone I know. And for my part, rarely a week goes by, especially in these seemingly divided times, when I don’t look back on a time when the world stood still, took a deep breath, and watched a manmade miracle unfold before our eyes.

I think we need another moon landing.

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Part II: Chasing Michael Collins…

As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were walking on the Moon, Michael Collins had become the most distant human being, proximate to the earth, ever. That record would later be ‘eclipsed’ by the crew of Apollo 13 during the lunar orbit they required to get back to earth — but at least they had each other.

I think about Michael Collins often though — all the time actually, for having done something no human being had ever done before and something most people have not given enough consideration to. For a moment in time, Michael Collins was the most isolated human being, ever.

God how I envy and even aspire to that some days — most days.

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In these days of lifeless discourse, relentless argument, and fruitless conversation continually wearing down my psyche and my spirit with so much caustic intention, I often long to be Michael Collins — the most distant person from earth.

As close as I will ever get though, to the glorious isolation Collins alone experienced, is being on my bikes. Perhaps I am on the ground and proximate to others, but as I am absorbed into the rhythm of my ride, as my breath draws deep, and as my legs turn repeatedly to get me the hell out of the moments that too often eat me alive, I am as far from this earth as I could possibly be, or at least from the people in it.

“I knew I was alone in a way that no earthling has ever been before“. Michael Collins

In that sense, Michael Collins took a risk even Armstrong and Aldrin did not have to face. For a moment in time, he was lonelier than God.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes ridden: 4
195 miles
7,200’ climbing
15.6 mph avg
11,200 calories

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 is this from Three Dog Night. Enjoy…

I Light Up My Life, Kind Of…

I can’t call myself minimalist anymore. Once upon a time I lived in the utility closet of my fitness studio. I didn’t own a car. I owned little clothing — a few shirts and a few pairs of shorts. I didn’t even have a kitchen — just a hot plate and a microwave oven. I owned a single plate, a bowl, a knife, fork, and a spoon.

Times were good and I felt like I wasn’t draining the world — I was taking less than I was giving.

Though I owned all the equipment in my fitness studio, that was my livelihood. When the day came to move both my studio and my residence to my current house, I needed a truck to move the fitness equipment, but my living possessions — those things I needed to get by from day-to-day, fit into a single box.

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The Transition…

Four years later not too much has changed. Still, I feel less like a minimalist today than I did when I made this transition. The vacuum created by living in a house versus a utility closet has called for me to own more. More on that later.

I qualify this by saying if not for the addition of hosting my mother, I would probably still live in that utility closet or in a small motorhome. However, elderly parents don’t usually do too well in motorhomes and even worse in utility closets. This was a compromise I made with myself on my mother’s behalf and I have no regrets.

Much of what fills the house we share belongs to her. For me, there has been little temptation to add more. Since my mother is currently in training to become a hoarder, and is doing quite well with that, she supplies our basics and beyond. As I feel guilty that I even live in a house rather than a closet, I don’t carry that guilt too far since mom is the one who has made a hobby out of collecting candlesticks, jewelry boxes, coffee mugs, shoulder bags, crappy oil paintings, and cheap statues from the local thrift shops.

The last time my mother threw anything away, other than a food rapper, was in 1968. I’m pretty sure that’s the opposite of minimalism. Still, we’re doing okay despite different values with regard to owning things.

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The Bedroom And The Bikes…

I now have a bedroom for the first time in years. That means  I also have a closet for my clothes. With such an expense in my storage options, I have purchased a few extra pairs of shorts and a few extra shirts, though I generally wear the same things from day to day.

Wanting to keep my connection to minimalism real, rather than move into that bedroom, I use the closet only.  For the last few years I’ve continued to sleep on an air mattress at night on the floor of my fitness studio, just as I did  when my home was a storage closet. Each morning, before my workday begins, I deflate the air mattress and tuck it away where it can’t be seen — in my shower behind the curtain.

With all that unused space in my bedroom, and with me only using the closet, I found it to be a great place to store my bikes. And that’s where the breakdown in my minimalism has mostly manifest — that I now have a bedroom full of bikes. Let’s be honest, it’s not a bedroom, it’s a bike room.

I guess I somehow I’ve rationalize that owning 6 or 8 bicycles is acceptable since I don’t own much of anything else. When I think about it though, I probably don’t need more than 2 or 3 bikes. Well, maybe 4.  Okay 5, but nobody needs to own more than 5 bicycles, of that I’m certain. I mean, unless they all get used. If they all get used then you probably need all of them. Eight bikes max, but that’s it. Okay, the 9th one might be on its way, but please don’t tell my ex-wife.

The Car…

I did purchase a car after mom moved in with me. It’s the first car I’ve owned since I gave away my Jeep in 2006. I purchased the car, a used Prius, so I can get mom around — to get groceries, to medical appointments, to thrift stores, and so-on. I vowed when I purchased the car that I would use it only for my mother and to transport my dog back-and-forth for our daily walks at a local nature preserve. Aside from those tasks, I would remain a bicycle commuter.

Since the local grocery store and hardware store are each less than a couple thousand yards from my front door, I had planned to always walk or ride one of my bikes when I needed to purchase something. In the nearly 4 years I have lived here, I have not once walked or ridden for local errands — not once.

That needs to change…!

I can dedicate at least one bike and equip it with racks to haul anything I might need from any of the local shops. This will happen before the week is over.

The Tools…

Since I have more of a yard and then I did living in the utility closet, and because I enjoy gardening, I have begun to purchase yard tools. Nothing fancy and nothing with engines or motors, just a standard rake, shovel, hoe, hedge clippers, etc. I’ve even had to carve out space to store the yard tools.

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The Other Tools…

For most of my adult life, I have owned a small socket-set that fits in my hand, a hammer, and a reversible Phillips-head/flat-head screwdriver. That has been my entire collection of tools. Take away my man-card if you must, but that’s all I’ve ever needed. I think I owned a drill once, but can’t remember where I left it or if I ever even used it.

Own a lot of bikes though, and if you start collecting bicycles, you’re going to need a lot of bicycle tools. I now have a tool bench in my bike room and another one out back on the patio, and I own pretty much every required bicycle tool, including some duplicates so I don’t have to walk back-and-forth between the bike room in the patio.

The Goal…

I’m not sure how I feel about any of this, except maybe a little bit dirty because I feel like I own too much, and that seems to be on the increase.

My goal is still to retire to a small motorhome, and to do so within the next 7 or 8 years. Retiring to a motorhome has been, not just a goal, but a dream since I was a teenager. I’ve just never wanted anything more in minimalism than that — to simply live with the smallest of footprints.

A lot of people I know will roll their eyes at what I consider a dream. That’s okay. I’ve got a screw loose, I’m certain, but the idea of finding it and tightening it at this point, is far beyond me.

Someday that minimalist retirement will be here for me. I won’t have a need for yard tools. I won’t have a need for a yard. I’ll still have a need for 8 or 9 bikes though, so I guess it’s not gonna be that small of a motorhome after all.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5
176 miles
9,000’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
10,000 calories

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 is this from the incomparable Chris Whitley. Enjoy…

Detached…

I’m fading away — growing smaller and more distant to many people I know and love, and who I also know love and appreciate me. I wish that weren’t the case, but I see no end in sight. I’m not sure I’ll disappear altogether, but I know I’m getting smaller in the eyes of some, and others no longer see me at all.

I am becoming less communicative.

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It’s my hope that anyone reading this and who might be affected by my withdrawing from socialization will take these words at face value — will recognize my sincerity.

In the last few years of being a caregiver for my mother, I’ve learned that the more truths I share about my mom’s cognitive decline, no matter how true they are, the worse I sound as a person. So I hope that in writing this, I will not be perceived as saying negative things about my mom. Rather, this is an explanation — an expression as to why I’ve been withdrawing from so many relationships.

My mom lives in a state of cognitive and physical decline. There are no cures for, and few treatments, for these. She’s simply aging and wearing out. This will only get worse. Of course that’s not her fault, and she’s not doing anything wrong. Through it all, my mother has been brave, strong, and dignified. And in her quietest moments, when she’s able to see it  clearly, she is aware.

As her caregiver, it’s my primary job to act as a buffer between the realities of life, and the departures from reality which form her mind. Or as I often frame it…

Dementia isn’t forgetting things that actually happened. It’s remembering things that never happened at all.

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Unfortunately, caregiver is a full-time job and doesn’t pay too well. The only reward is the job itself. Caregiving isn’t just about helping her find her cellphone or the TV remote control 10 times per day, though things like that do take up a portion of each day. Caregiving, for the most part, is about listening, processing, and subsequently negotiating.

Though caregiving might be about listening to the same story 4 times in one day, it might also be on agreeing that Moon Pies are a vegetable and therefore adequate for dinner.

Caregiving, above all other things, is about safety, hygiene, health, and entertainment. Mostly it’s about entertainment. Not that being a caregiver is akin to being an entertainer, but more like being a cruise director. I keep the entertainment flowing — always looking for activities to occupy her mind and keep her stimulated.

When I’m unnable to do that, I often become the entertainment and make a lot of bad jokes. I’m not very funny.

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That said, I still have to make a living to sustain myself, and that also takes up a great deal of my day. It’s in navigating between those two jobs — between caregiver and business person, where I find myself shrinking away from and becoming more distant from my friendships and human relationships.

Of those who I correspond with from a distance, I’ve realized in recent years that I’m rarely the one who initiates contact. When I get phone-calls or emails from friends checking in on me, I always ask myself why I am not the one who is checking in on them. I hate that about me.

When I get invited to an event, an activity, or a social gathering with friends, I know before the invitation is fully extended, that I won’t be attending. Still, people keep inviting me to do things and I appreciate that. Unfortunately, it’s just not a part of the plan right now.

So for a guy who’s been very social and very outgoing for much of my adult life, I’m beginning to fade for some, and disappear entirely for others. I wish this weren’t the case, but it’s my reality.

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Someday, my mother won’t be with me. When that time comes, I’m certain I’ll look back feeling as though I did everything wrong on her behalf. That’s what being Jewish is like. And at some point thereafter, opportunities to be social will hopefully come my way again. We shall see.

This is what I think about when I ride…

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 5
178 miles
8,200’ climbing
15.6 mph avg
10,500 calories

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 is this from The Rainmakers. Enjoy…

Woosh…

Woosh is a sound we might associate with going fast. Woosh….! 🚴‍♂️

I live on College Avenue in Fallbrook California. My house is located about one-third of the way up a street which is roughly a one-half mile long. Coming off Main Avenue, College Avenue begins as a T and concludes as a dead end. My street is a fairly steep gradient.

That means when I pull out of my driveway to ride each day, I immediately go downhill — woosh…! 🚴‍♂️

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Bomer The Kreeps…

That initial woosh 🚴‍♂️ though, only lasts for a few seconds because at Main Avenue I must go left or right. Main Avenue is flat. More on that later.

Near the top of my To-Do list for the last month or so was the following bullet point…

– Pull brakes, BTK

That was a note reminding me to increase the brake tension of my Trek FX2 bike, aka, Bomer The Kreeps.

Pulling in the brake tension cable would help provide a quicker response when engaging my brake levers. It’s been on my to-do list for a while because along with pulling in the brake cables, there are a half-dozen little adjustments that also need to be made and tested. It can be a time-consuming process.

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Bella…

Due to a cancellation in my work schedule yesterday, I finally had a chance to pull in those brake cables and make all the appropriate adjustments. It felt good that I had done a proper job.

Pulling out of the driveway last night to begin my ride, I decided I would turn left at the bottom of College Avenue and head south toward the town of Bonsall and later Oceanside. This would set me up for a 30-mile round-trip

Woosh…! 🚴‍♂️

I didn’t take long though, before I realized the final adjustment I needed to make after pulling my brake cables in — was never adjusted.

There is a small knob on the inside of each brake mechanism which can be turned between the thumb and index finger to adjust the tension on the brakes, slightly, if needed. I had released the two finger dials after the final brake adjustment so I could spin the tires and ensure the brake rotors were lined up properly.

On completion of that alignment test, I never turned those knobs back in.

That’s a long-winded way of letting you know that by the time I hit the bottom of College Avenue last evening to turn left and head toward Bonsall, I was going roughly 30 mph headed into the busiest street in town — at 5 PM, which is rush-hour in my little town.

Woosh…! 🚴‍♂️

The whole circumstance unfolded in roughly 3-5 seconds. All I could do, without any brakes, was to hit Main Avenue and bank right instead of left, to turn as sharply as possible, and hope that no cars would be headed my way.

A number of cars were headed my way.

At the speed I was traveling, there’s no way I could have made a sharp right turn. So I headed into the northbound traffic lane banking a wide right when a mustard yellow Ford Focus saw me and laid on the horn.

These things which last for seconds always feel like slow motion. Decisions are made instinctively and without an ounce of reason.

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As I saw the yellow car headed my way, I was prepared to jump off my bike to avoid a collision. With a split second to spare, I decided to bank to the left after all rather and cut to the inside (passenger side) of the Ford Focus as it sped past me. Free and clear of the yellow car, And all other cars, and with my heart in my stomach, I pulled into the 7-Eleven parking lot. I got off my bike, checked my pulse, and proceeded to adjust the brake pads so they would catch the rotors.

Somewhat days to, I am mended my route and headed out for roughly 26-miles, but kept reliving that woosh moment over and over again in my head.

I truly could have died.

This August 13th will mark 2-years of me being emergency room free. I kept thinking about that while I was riding last evening — of how lucky I was. However, one other thought consumed me even more — the mustard yellow Ford focus that narrowly missed hitting me.

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Mustard yellow is not a stock color for Ford. That means some douche bag spent roughly $20,000 on that car and immediately turned around and put a couple thousand dollars more into that wretched paint job. And you think I’m the dumb one.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5
142 miles
7,100’ climbing
14.7 mph avg
8,200 calories

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 is this from Dave Edumds. Enjoy…

The Shocking Story Of Sam…

This is the story of Sam, not his real name. Sam is a military officer, a former cyclist, and a former triathlete who competed at a very high level.

Sam’s story is one I think about nearly every day when I ride. This story was told to me secondhand, by Sam’s mother, who was a friend and client at the time this took place. To the best of my ability, I’m relaying this story with accuracy. Though there may be some discrepancies in how I present this versus what actually happened, I believe any disparity is minimal.

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Sam was an Air Force B1 pilot in the mid-2000s. He flew regular missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. At some point, as those conflicts evolved and as the technology of war evolved, Sam was reassigned to the drone program and stationed near Las Vegas Nevada. This reassignment allowed Sam to spend his nonworking time training for triathlons, something he aspired to do at the highest level.

One afternoon, I believe in 2012, Sam was on a training ride roughly 20-miles outside of Las Vegas, riding alone on a rural road.

Far from civilization, and with no witnesses to see what took place, Sam was struck from behind by a pickup truck. The driver of the truck saw there were no witnesses and rather than stop, she continued on, leaving Sam for dead. Sam, however, survived the accident.

After being struck and probably unconscious for a while, Sam would awaken to the sensation of several goats licking blood off the back of his head. As part of the trauma, Sam had suffered a laceration at the base of his head, extending from ear to ear.

Additionally, Sam suffered a broken leg on one side, and what his mother described to me as a “shattered” ankle on the other leg, though I don’t recall which side was which.

Sam was not left on the side of the road though, as the woman who struck him believed.

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After being struck, Sam had tumbled over the cab and landed in the bed of the truck which hit him. The truck was carrying several goats, and the woman driving the truck was unaware that Sam had landed in back.

The driver, who was later determined to be intoxicated at the time she hit Sam, continued on to her home, a small ranch outside of Las Vegas. Parking her truck and still thinking she had left Sam on the side of the road, she entered her home and continued to drink, presumably to help settle her nerves.

As Sam began to gather his senses and attempted to figure out where he was and what had happened, he was able to drag himself out of the truck bed and crawl to a neighbors house to request help.

Help arrived and Sam was taken to the hospital at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. As Sam was being taken to the hospital, police apprehended the woman, a veterinarian with a history of DUIs, and processed her through the system. She would be released within 24-hours.

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Over the next few days, Sam would be assessed and a series of surgeries would be scheduled to repair his ankle and a broken leg.

Shortly after being released from police custody, the woman who hit Sam injected herself with Euthosol, a compound veterinarians use to euthanize animals. She died at her home.

Shortly after this happened, I lost touch with Sam’s mother, though I do know he was on his way to making a strong recovery. To the best of my knowledge, Sam remains an officer in United States Air Force. I don’t know though, whether or not Sam’s recovery was complete enough that he was able to return to cycling and triathlons.

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Each day when I ride, I think of Sam’s story. I know that there’s always risk involved in riding on these rural roads. It’s a risk I accept though, in exchange for the reward. The reward is simply decompression and peace of mind — I guess.

Again, to the best of my knowledge, I have conveyed Sam’s story accurately, as it was told to me by his mother.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 6
173 miles
6,700’ climbing
14.5 mph avg
10,000 calories

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 is this from The Thermals. Enjoy…!

Dad’s Greatest Gift…

On the Night my father passed away, he was in an assisted living facility in Las Vegas and I was at home in San Diego. A caregiver told me he wasn’t expected to make it through the night. She held the phone to his head for me and said he was able to listen but not able to speak. Knowing these would be the last words I would ever speak to my father, I thanked him for the upbringing he provided and for the tools he gave me to prepare me for life. I then told him that I loved and said goodnight.

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The next morning when I was notified he passed during the night, I realized I forgot to thank him for the most important thing — the sense of humor he instilled in me. To this day, in my morning prayer, I always thank him for that sense of humor.

My dad enjoyed laughing, but he enjoyed making others laugh even more — or at least trying to. He loved a good joke. He was always quick with the typical dad joke…

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Dad, I would say to him, I’m going to jump in the shower now. His reply was always, “don’t jump too high, I don’t want you to slip and break your neck…”

Or

Dad, I’m going to run to 7-Eleven and get some candy. “I bet you don’t make it 2 blocks before you stop to catch your breath…”

Hardy-har-har

Maybe those were comical retorts more than jokes, but he did like a good joke too. One of his favorites was this…

“Son, did you know a slice of apple pie is $3.00 in Jamaica, $4.00 in Barbados, $6.00 in the Bahamas…?”

No I didn’t, I would tell him.  Then I would cringe and wait for  what I knew was coming…

“Those are the pie rates of the Caribbean…”

Bud-dump-bump

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Dad, a former English teacher and one-time journalist, loved language, loved a good pun, and enjoyed word-play.

Across the dinner table one evening when I was maybe in the 3rd grade, he stopped cold, put down his fork, just looked at me dead-faced and asked…

“I know what the capital of Alaska is —Juneau…?“

I didn’t get it, because I didn’t know what the capital of Alaska was when I was in the 3rd grade. He had to explain it to me. Of course the next day in school, I attempted to use that joke all day long. None of my friends knew the capital of Alaska either, so I didn’t get anymore traction with that joke than he did with me.

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Later in life and well into retirement, April Fool’s Day became his high-holy day. I was in my early 30s when he called me on the phone one evening and suggested I sit down if I wasn’t already seated. He was in his late 60s at the time. His voice was actually haunting and I could tell something was wrong. I knew this was not going to be good news and I expected him to tell me of heart disease, cancer, or worse.

He then explained to me that during a lapse of judgment, he had gotten pregnant a 17-year-old girl who lived in his condominium complex.

I was stunned, but I was immediately steadfast in wanting to be there for him. I explained that I supported him no matter what. I remember clearly asking him how I could help him.

“Well“ he said “you can start by telling me what day it is…“

Huh…?

“What day is it today…?“

April 1st, I told him.

Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck…!

You got me, I told him. I might’ve called him an asshole, a son of a bitch, or both. Maybe it was both. I don’t remember, but I remember using foul language and in an instance when I could get away with it.

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Yes, my father raised me with an appreciation for the English language. He raised me with a good workout ethic, to be polite, to be a gentleman, to hold doors for women, and to say please and thank you to everything that moved. He taught me to write thank you notes, how to tie a Windsor knot, and he indoctrinated me on Dixieland jazz, big band, and swing music.

My father taught me to make my bed with hospital corners, how to polish shoes, how to mow the lawn in opposing angles each week to make the grass stand up straighter, and he taught me how to properly cook a steak over charcoal.

The most enduring lessons he taught me though, was having a sense of humor — of appreciating laughter and being able to make others laugh.

I’m not suggesting in any way that my father could have had a career as a comedian or a comedy writer. Most of the time he wasn’t that funny or he was just plain corny. He tried often though, to be funny, and that made a huge difference in an otherwise tense household.

Humor was a part of nearly every meal, every road trip, and even when we were in the backyard pulling weeds side-by-side, there was always…

“Son, how many rabbis does it take to screw in a lightbulb…?

I don’t know dad, how many…?  Cringe…

“Ve don’t need any lightbulbs. The oil in the lamp will last us least 8 days…”

Oy

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In some ways I think I was equally unsuccessful at making my own daughter laugh, but just as successful at teaching her the value of having a sense of humor.

Hey Dad, remember that day when I was in the 8th grade and when you walked into the house house only to find laying on the floor spread out like I was dead and I really wasn’t…? I was just playing dead to get you to laugh. Psyche…! I learned it from you okay, I learned from watching you. Sorry I scared the crap out of you.

To all you dad’s out there telling corny jokes at the dinner table, while driving to practice, or standing beside the swing-set — please don’t ever stop telling those horrible jokes. When you’re no longer around, those jokes might be the first thing your kids think of when they think of you.

This is what I think about my ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5
171 miles
7,900’ climbing
15.0 mph avg
10,000 calories

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 is this from Razorlight. Enjoy…!

On The Road With Selfishness…

“Idealism, in any quantity, without an equal quantity of intentional contribution to society, is the epitome of selfishness.” Me

I never bought into the dream. From an early age, the idea of the house, the gray flannel suit, and the shiny sedan failed to capture me. It’s not that I was opposed to work, and hard work at that, it’s been more about what I get in exchange for that work. Hiding behind a fence and a TV set have always seemed like little reward for a life of hard work.

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Though I have a failed to live it up to this point, I have come to begin planning and preparing for the next phase of my life — living in and out of a small motorhome, possibly in the next several years.

Last night I watched two documentaries films about working age adults living on the road. I watched the two films in a staggered fashion. I watched roughly 10 to 15 minutes of one, followed by 10 to 15 minutes of the other. At 75-minutes each, it timed out well.

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In 2 1/2 hours, I toggled back and forth between, and was exposed to a couple of very different approaches to life on the road. Both seemed selfish and left a bad taste in my mouth. Processing it all after the fact, I began to wonder if my own plan to live such simple life would be indeed as selfish.

I came to no conclusion.

One film was the story of a husband, a wife and their small child. Wanting more from life, they put their large suburban house up for rent, loaded up a Class A motorhome, and went on the road to explore life‘s rich pageant.

Their adventure was funded by multiple income streams — the rental revenue from their house, as well as the earned income from the husband’s business as a filmmaker and editor. He was in the fortunate position to be able to take his business on the road. So long as they were connected to Wi-Fi, he had the ability to work.

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Their travel agenda included pristine and picturesque places throughout the American west, Northwest, and even extend into Western Canada.

They cooked and ate almost exclusively organic foods, and made a point to stock up on those items as they were available. They looked like a rolling advertisement for Whole Foods, PBS, and the only thing missing was a James Taylor CD on the dashboard.

They spoke of the road less traveled, of the experience of travel for their child, and of the impact, both positive and negative, that life on the road would have on their marriage.

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Despite their tight quarters, some personal ups and downs, the family appeared to live a comfortable and aesthetic life, and wanted for very little. Each sunrise filmed looked like a TV commercial for a yoga studio. They had a dog along for the ride.

It all seemed so lofty to me.

The other film focused on a small group of young people in their late teens and early 20s. They were down and out misfits — runaways who chose a life of homelessness and riding the rails over the toxic and abusive home lives they claimed to have left behind.

Their agenda was more about connecting with other kids, like themselves, and less about seeing pristine and picturesque places.

Their income came exclusively by stopping along the way and “flying signs“ — the act of standing on a street corner holding a cardboard sign and asking for assistance from passersby.

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Their dietary requirements were less stringent than the family traveling in the Class A motorhome. They ate what they could get, and ate as much of it as possible when it was available, for the not knowing of when they would have the opportunity to eat again.

They drank alcohol, used drugs, and during interviews, could scarcely string a sentence together without including several curse words.

They were unkempt, looked exhausted and sick most of the time, and seemed to be taking more from society than they would ever be willing to put back into it. They too had a dog along for the ride.

It all seemed so lofty to me.

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When I had completed the two documentaries, I sat up in bed trying to take it all in — processing which one I thought was the most genuine lifestyle. I questioned if my own would-be life on the road would be his lofty.

To have watched either one of these individually, without the context of the other, I’m certain I would have been more inspired by each, and less critical. It’s not that I wouldn’t have seen the negative aspects of either one. It’s just that seeing them superimposed over one another in the way that I watched them allowed me to correlate the ups and downs of each a little bit better.

I was left with more disdain for each than inspiration. When I asked myself where that disdain came from, I realized it’s because both the family and the group of young people seemed to taking more from the world than they were willing to give back. They lived me-centered lives.

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Someday I will live in that small motorhome. I will continue to work, because work is what we are here for. I will probably live a me-centered life also, because most of us tend to do that. I will hope though, that I will continue, each day of my life, to reach beyond me and to give to others. Because along with work, relationships are what we’re here for, especially when those relationships are fueled more by giving than by taking.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

A bad week. I only rode 4 days due to illness. As I write this, I know I’m not going to ride  today and maybe not again for several days. My lungs rattle when I breathe, my head is congested, my fever has come down, but is still present.  My 18-month streak of riding at least 100-miles per week will probably come to an end this week.

Bikes Ridden: 4
104 miles 🙁
3,000’ climbing 🙁
15.8 mph avg 😬
6,000 calories

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 is this from Atomic Rooster. Enjoy…!

Praise Vs Acknowledgement: How Celebrity Corrodes Culture…

I’ll say from the get-go that I think the idea of celebrity is among the most corrosive and destructive conditions in western culture — along with bigotry and substance abuse. That’s not to suggest that celebrity doesn’t negatively impact eastern culture. It’s just that nobody carries the football of a bad idea with more agility and zeal than we in the western world. And nobody spikes that ball harder.

Though my distain for celebrity is on my mind often, it shows up mostly when I’m on my bike. In the rhythm of my pedaling, and as the trance of increasing serotonin manifests, I often default to thinking about music. When I think about music, I think about musicians. Musicians, as we all know, occasionally become celebrities.

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Make the distinction between celebrity and fame. Fame is when one is known by many. Celebrity is when one is revered by too many. Let the eye rolls begin. And so begins my thought-chewing…

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Some artists arrive at celebrity because they put everything they had into becoming one. Their inherent talent, creativity, and dedication to practice, for them, was the means to an end — to be celebrated. Celebrity was the goal the entire time. It’s not that artistic celebrities didn’t work hard to gain that adoration, of course they did. It’s just that for many, the goal of celebrity superseded the idea of sharing their art.

Others though, put everything they had into cultivating and sharing their creativity — they simply wanted to make the world a better place by creating art and spreading it around. They became famous in the process — an occupational hazard, and for many, to their own embarrassment. I think of Neil Peart.

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Whether their fame was intentional or a byproduct of pursuing their art, some artists do well with being famous. Whether they enjoy it or not, they learn how to manage it and all that goes with it. They work hard to walk the line between being famous and becoming a celebrity. They hope to paid fairly, they work hard to provide a good product in exchange for the payment, and they give back to society as they are able. They are often humble.

Other artists, as the saying goes, not so much. They live high on the drug of praise, and too often the more praise they get, the more praise they desire and pursue. The same goes for money and things. It’s not enough to share their art for a fair wage, they live as gods, well above the people who put them there.

Of course none of this is on the celebrity himself. This is 100% on how the public receives and reflects back to them. That’s where I find celebrity the most corrosive and most destructive — in the way us common folk praise, follow, worship, and prioritize celebrities.

I am certain we could better channel our energies and enthusiasms into outlets that would help the greater good. How much better might the world be, I wonder, if we simply acknowledged talent and paid it fairly rather than praised it, elevated it, and paid it far more than it’s worth.

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Praise isn’t the only force that elevates people to celebrity, but that’s where it begins. Praise is the first evolutionary step on the path to idolatry, glorification, and worship. Worship, is where it all goes to hell, because that’s where our priorities, individually and as a culture begin to break down.

The older I get, the more I believe that we should acknowledge our artists, pay them fairly, show them appreciation when opportunity presents itself, but to stop short of praise and beyond. Paying them for their value and saying thank you should be good enough to satisfy their needs, as well as our own needs in relation to theirs.

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Again, it’s not celebrities themselves that concern me. I could give a frog’s fat ass if Jackson Browne can write a poignant song or drag his girlfriend down the hallway by her hair, resulting in a police visit. Apparently he’s capable of both. There are far too many people though, in my opinion, who care far too much about either one of those things, and fail to simply appreciate the art. I just enjoy listening to his music — no autograph needed.

This is what I think about when I ride…

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 6 😊
129 miles 🙁
4,700’ climbing 🙁🙁
15.4 mph avg 😐
7,500 calories 😬

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 is this from Dee Snider. Enjoy…!

POSH People…

Before I rode yesterday, I walked my dog as I do most mornings, through a local nature preserve. It’s more of an amble than a walk. He stops to sniff the sniffs that capture him, and I use my lens to capture what I call, the smalls —  insects, flowers, and the like. Together, we walk a mile and a half.

Yesterday morning, as we approached the halfway point, I could see a man and a woman walking toward us. They were maybe 60 or 70 yards away. The woman was small in stature, though that image may have been distorted due to the size of the man she was walking beside. He was tall, maybe 6’2” or 6’3” and looked to weigh in excess of 400 lbs.

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My dog, a chihuahua/dachshund mix, walks off-leash and weighs just over 7 pounds. Generally, he walks 10-yards or so ahead of me. If he sees people approaching us, he might get a little bit further ahead — he anticipates either praise, a treat, or both.

As my dog’s pace increased and he approached the two people headed in our direction, the large man put his hands up over his ears and begin making unintelligible noises. He then hid behind the small woman beside him. It only took a moment for me to realize that the man was developmentally disabled. He was afraid of my dog.

Realizing this, I scooped my dog up with one hand and veered away from them a few steps.  As we passed them though, I wished them a good morning and continued walking. With my dog in my hand and with me veering away, the large man began to ask me questions about my dog. His speech was difficult to understand, but I got it figured out. He wanted you to know my dog’s name and how old he is.

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I explained that his name is Stroodle and that he’s 15-years old. The man giggled, in the same way a toddler might. I explained that he’s a very friendly dog the man giggled more.  I offered to let him pet Stroodle, but he declined.  I wished he and the woman beside him a good day and continued on. As we walked away, I heard his feet shuffling in the dirt on the trail.  I looked back over my shoulder and saw him running like a child at recess. There was a purity to him that I wish I could know.

Home from my walk, my workday began. I earn my keep as a fitness trainer. I have a studio adjoined to my house where people come and I help them exercise. My first client yesterday was also a special-needs person. I’ll call her Anna, though that’s not her real name.

Anna is almost 32-years old and she’ll be in the custody of her mother and father as long as they are able to take care of. She’s a beautiful person and one of the most pure human beings I’ve ever known. She has the innocence of a child, the sense of humor for teenager, and she lives in the body of a small adult.

As part of her exercise session, I take Anna for walks around my neighborhood. We make small talk while we walk and I make jokes that I can’t get away with making around other clients. In one section of our walk, where there is no sidewalk, no marked shoulder to the road, and where cars come flying by, I hold Anna’s hand for 20 or 30 yards so that she feels safe — so I feel that she’s safe.

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When this happens, and I can’t explain why, but when my hand makes contact with hers, I feel that sense purity that I long for but don’t otherwise know. I felt that same sensation earlier in the morning when I offered to let the large man pet my dog. Walking and holding Anna’s hand, might be the most pure I feel all week long.

With the workday done and my daily ride still a couple hours into the future, I asked my elderly mother who lives with me, if she would like to get out of the house and spend time at a local thrift store that she frequents.

She always says yes.

The thrift store, in this case, is one that uses developmentally disabled people to help keep it clean and organized. Adjacent to the thrift store, is the training center where the same developmentally disabled people receive training and advocacy.

While mom is in the thrift store, I remain in the car and reply to emails, text messages, and I return phone calls. Occasionally, I take a nap. Mom usually spends an hour or so in there. As I sit in the car staring into my phone, every couple of minutes or so I look up and see some of the special-needs people walking from the thrift shop into the advocacy office, and vice versa.

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There’s one young man there, maybe in his mid-20s, that I’ve seen daily for the three years we’ve been doing this. He appears to be the lead helper in the thrift store. He and I have never spoken.

Yesterday, from nowhere, he stood beside my car, reached into the window to shake my hand, and said hello to me. He was smiling from ear to ear. He had a soft handshake and a very friendly voice. I asked him how his day was going. He told me they were very busy. He then waved at me like a child, told me to have a good day, and resumed his job of organizing the sidewalk merchandise.

My day wasn’t half through, and I already had several encounters with Special-needs people. I don’t like that term — special-needs. I don’t like developmentally disabled either.

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So as I enjoyed my ride, taking in the scenery, embracing the hills, and contemplating life, I spent a fair bit of time thinking about my three experiences prior to my ride — three experiences with people pure of soul and pure of heart. And that’s when it hit me — they are not developmentally disabled nor are they special-needs. These are the POSH People: Pure Of Soul and Heart.

I like that, POSH People. We should all be so POSH.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 5
165 miles
8,200’ climbing
15.1 mph avg
10,500 calories

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 is this from Rick Danko. Enjoy…!

 

Declined…

I want to say it was in 2005, but I really don’t remember. Maybe it was in 2003 or 2004 — that period of my life was very chaotic and I look back on much of it as a blur. This moment however, I remember with unmistakable clarity.

It was 11:00pm, I was in bed unable to fall asleep, and I was profoundly depressed. Still digging my way out of the rubble of divorce, and poorly negotiating the meaningless life I tried to assemble after that divorce, I’d simply had enough.

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Bike: Bomer The Kreeps…

I got out of bed, put on whatever clothes were laying on my floor, and I drove 6-miles to the Ralph’s grocery store off Highway 76 in Oceanside. I remember turning the radio of my car on and off the entire way to the store. I wanted to hear something good — something to cheer me up, but nothing on the radio was what I wanted to hear.

Once in the store, I immediately grabbed the largest bottle of tequila I could find, and I put it in my handheld basket. Next up were a couple bottles of NyQuil — boom, into the basket they went. I headed to the automotive aisle, where I’d grab a bottle of lead gasoline additive, because I’d read or heard somewhere that you don’t survive drinking that stuff.

At this point, it was just shy of midnight.

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At the checkout aisle, I swiped my debit card through card reader, but made no eye contact with the checker. I just stared at the ground as I began to feel the shame building within me, from my chest up to my head. I had hoped the checker and the bagger weren’t onto me.

Still looking down, I heard the checker’s voice…

“Your card has been declined, do you have another card you’d like to use…?“

I explained that was impossible and that I had plenty of money in that account. She looked at me as though she heard that a thousand times before. This was my business account though, and at the time I had about $5000 in it.

I asked if I could swipe my card one more time and she afforded me the opportunity to do so.

Declined.

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Bike: Cortez The Killer…

I was stunned because I knew there was money in the account. So stunned, that I failed to process that there was an ATM machine just a few dozen feet from me at the end of the checkout aisle. I had no cash with me, so I left my things on the conveyor and headed out to my car, looking down the entire way. I drove home angry, confused, and I guess a little bit relieved.

This was in the early days of online banking, but as soon as I got back to my house, I logged onto my account and saw that I had plenty of money available in the account linked to that card. I couldn’t make sense of my card being declined, but I was emotionally exhausted and determined that I would deal with it in the morning.

For some reason, which I will never know, my card was errantly declined that night. I remember drinking wine directly out of the bottle until I fell asleep.

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The doorway…

The next morning I woke up in a pretty good mood. The truth is, I always wake up in a good mood — I always have. Wanting to drink led gasoline additive or a gallon of tequila was the furthest thing from my mind. And that began to resonate with me — that I woke up in a good mood and that I never wake up depressed.

In fact, as I woke up thinking about the failure of my debit card, I began making plans to kayak in the ocean later that day. I remember making a list of cleaning priorities, also for that day. The night before, I had realized, I didn’t want to die for the rest of my life. I simply wanted to die for that moment.

That thought, that I only wanted to die for a little while but not for eternity, would forever change the way I would view the ideal of suicide. My depression, I was coming to realize, was something that ebbed and flowed, but was never present at the start of a new day, and that always passed. It always passed.

Thinking about this as that day continued, and understanding that it is only the bricks of ritual that can pave the road to mastery, I began the process of mastering my depression — of getting me beyond those moments when I didn’t want to be me any longer — when what Epictetus referred to as “The Doorway” seemed like the best option.

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Bike: Tobio Obsession…

This is where I will be the most honest with you…

…my brain has been peppered with thoughts of the doorway intermittently, each day for most of my life. I understand that most people never experience such thoughts or feelings. There are millions though, perhaps tens of millions who feel this way everyday. I have no memory, since the 3rd grade, of a day in which I didn’t think the best way out of a bad moment was to not be alive.

I wouldn’t wish that burden on anyone.

Of all that I am proud of though, what I am most proud of is the strength that I have found in those darkest times to know that they always pass — and they always pass.

When I ride my bike each day, or when I walk in the woods, or when I lift weights, or when I just sit on my patio and pet my dog while listening to the birds, I reflect on the night that my debit card was declined just before midnight. There has not been one day since, that I haven’t thought about that gift.

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I’m sharing this story, above all, so that those who can relate to it know that they’re not alone. I’m also sharing this so those who can’t relate to it will consider that they probably know and interact with people like me in their everyday lives, and they probably have no idea those people carry these feelings.

This is what I think about my ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 4
164 miles
9,200’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
10,000 calories

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 is this from Jonny Wickersham. Enjoy…!

The Fence Between Meaning And Me…

Whether I’m on my bike or not, the search for meaning — what it is or where it can be found, consumes much of my thinking time.

The truth be told, I’m as certain about meaning as I am about anything, that I know exactly were it can be found. Meaning sits alongside perfection and enlightenment, and it’s over yonder, on the other side of the chickenwire. More on that in a minute.

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The two words that strike me most when I contemplate meaning, are work and relationships. Fundamentally, I believe if my largest priority each day is to complete a good day’s work, and in the process of doing so, protect and nurture my human relationships — as well as my animal relationships, that puts me in the best possible position to find meaning.

Seems pretty straight forward and should be pretty easy to attain, but for all the distractions.

Of course the large distraction of self, and all the little distractions that come attached to self, are like 3 layers of chickenwire separating me from meaning. I can see meaning and I know it’s there, but every time I reach for it, the chickenwire keeps me from knowing it completely.

Through the years, I’ve gotten good with experiencing intermittent tastes of and steady glimpses of meaning. After all, through the chickenwire I can still smell, taste, see, and even feel meaning in small doses. Still, I’m a prisoner to my self if not of myself.

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The older I get though, the more visceral my desire to remove the chickenwire gets. Also the older I get, the more dependent I have become on the little gratifications of self that make up the chickenwire. A strong desire to remove the chicken wire, while simultaneously needing it more than ever — that is the conflict that consumes me.

Those gratifications, by the way, are not necessarily material things. In fact, I live a pretty minimalistic life, the ever increasing heard of bicycles not withstanding. My gratifications come from alone time, the simple amusement of books and music, and the physical activity that serves as a metronome to my brain, keeping it working in proper time.

Back to work and relationships

I am much better at one that I am at the other.

I’m fortunate that I am involved in a line of work that I know well, and I’m able to do it on behalf of people who allow me a great deal of trust and latitude. In that sense, I get to the other side of the chicken wire a half-dozen times each day. When I am working, I am immersed in meaning. People pay me for a service and I attempted to give them every bit of value I can for that service. Most days end in the net-positive for my clients.

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Relationships though, are where I fail to find meaning, and I fail daily. It’s not that I’m not committed or that I don’t work hard at them, it’s just that very often I put the chickenwire first — especially when it comes to my friendships. I return calls and texts casually. I remember birthdays infrequently. Though I do listen attentively when called upon by friends, I do a lot less reaching out to my friends than they do to me. I hate that about me, by the way, I really do.

Given a choice between reading the latest book by Robert Wright or joining friends for an evening of dinner, live music, or both, I’ll take the chickenwire — ehr, the book every time.

In my morning contemplation, among the first things I remind myself to do is to work harder at my friendships. This usually breaks down by about 730 or 8AM. I love my friends, but do I really want to put them ahead of the latest album by the Waterboys or today’s bike ride…?  Of course not. Still, I do it regularly.

Back to meaning…

In those instances when I am torn, but when I choose lunch with a friend over the new Waterboys album, I may feel frustration and even some resentment at the time. However, when I crawl into bed at night, I am glad I chose friend over the dopamine loop. I ask myself, why don’t I spend more time with friends and less time building chickenwire fences…?

Of course the answer to that can be found in balance — something I strive for daily and am terrible at.

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Tomorrow’s a new day. I know where I can find meaning, just like I know where I can find perfection and enlightenment. When I wake up, I will be in hot pursuit of all three, and then it will be time for breakfast — and I will blow it again.

This is what I think about one I ride… Jhciacb

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This Week By The Numbers…

New Bikes Purchased: 1. It will be here Tuesday.

Bikes Ridden: 4
144.5 miles
8,200’ climbing
15.7 mph avg
9,800 calories

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 is this from David Johansen. Enjoy…!

Debris & Me…

To ride a bike, regardless of what I’m looking at or what I might be thinking , is to be continually surveying roadside debris. There is always roadside debris.

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Bike: Bella  Monserste Winery  Fallbrook CA

There are three types of debris I see regularly…

The first kind of debris is small and looks like it belongs there. I can’t ride 50-yards without seeing broken glass, small nuts and bolts, fast food wrappers, dead snakes and birds, and bits of broken taillight. Not that any of this should be there, but it just makes sense that they are. At worst, small debris like this might puncture a tire. These are no big deal.

The second kind of debris can make me scratch my head and wonder how it got there. Things like an embroidered woman’s blouse, the remains of a shattered Nintendo console, or two unused tickets to a Lake Elsinore Storm game — which I actually saw a few days ago. This type of debris may or may not be less hazardous, but always more conspicuous and sometimes makes me chuckle.

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Sting me… Los Jilgueros Preserve

The third kind if debris is larger, more or less fits in, can be easy to ride around, but I also know is capable of killing me — should I be in its path when it flies off a passing vehicle and lands roadside. This kind of debris includes large pieces of car or truck tire, links of chain, large pelican hooks,  small appliances, and other large or heavy  unsecured objects that fly off of passing vehicles — all of which I see regularly. I’ve seen ironing boards and window sized air-conditioning units resting comfortably in the bike lane — but they weren’t born there. They flew there.

That’s what gets me about that last kind of debris — that I know before it lands on the side of the road, it’s airborne. When I stop to think about the trajectory that carries objects like this from vehicle to roadside, I cringe. I’m not sure there’s a helmet strong enough to protect my head from a flying ironing board or a 10-pound pelican hook.

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Bike: Vasudeva  Live Oak Park

It’s not my intention to send negative energy out there, but the purpose of this blog is to share what’s on my mind when I ride. The possibility of being struck by an object like that and killed is never far from my mind. Hopefully though, the window sized air-conditioning unit stays on my mind, but never becomes a part of it. Yeah, here’s to that.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Footnote: Just a few hours after writing this I learned that a local resident, a woman who was well-known in the real estate community, the equestrian community, and the community at-large here in Fallbrook was killed — riding her horse.

I’ve been chewing on that a lot for the last 72-hours. Some people, and I am one of them, have a hard time sitting still. We need to be active and often being active means putting ourselves at risk. Some activities are associated with more risk than others. Our friends and family don’t always understand why we take these risks. For people like me, it’s because the reward (emotional/psychological benefit) outweighs the risk (injury or even death).

Examples of this might include skiing, surfing, riding motorcycles, riding bicycles, riding horses, diving off of cliffs, flying airplanes, jumping out of airplanes, and the list goes on. I have participated in all of these.

Others are adverse to risk — they go to great lengths in avoiding it. They might be physically active, but choose activities that don’t have the potential for injury or death — or even messy hair or smudged make up. Others still, avoid activity altogether, in favor of self-preservation. Their lack of activity is largely motivated by many fears.

There is no right or wrong with any of these. Each marches to the beat of his or her own drummer, and is influenced only by the ZIP Code they are born into and by the fingerprints of those they choose to associate with through the course of their lives.

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Nature’s M&M…  Los Jilgueros Preserve

I know each day when I get on my bike there is a risk that goes with that choice. On one hand, there is the methadone of motion that soothes my chaotic mind. On the other, are the six markers I pass by in the course of a week, each honoring cyclists who have been struck by cars and killed. I accept that risk in favor of the reward, and I work very hard to minimize that risk. Most every cyclist I know does the same.

Since learning how our local resident was killed riding her horse last week, virtually everyone I’ve spoken with about it said this or something similar…

At least she died doing what she loved.

This is a thought I carry with me every day of my life — in hope that those who love me never have to speak it about me.

Thank you, for taking the time.

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Bike: Cortez The Killer  Bonsall CA

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 4
153 miles
8,400’ climbing
16.3 mph avg
10,500 calories

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 is this from Bob Mould. Enjoy…!

Conflict Cocoon…

It was a great week of riding — 177 miles for the week. Lots of sights, smells, and sounds. Plus, the beautiful sensation of rhythmic motion in gorgeous surroundings.

If you’re not already following my Spoke And Word page on Facebook, find me there for daily updates and short musings on what I think about each day while I ride. Below is my favorite contemplation for the week. Enjoy…

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Bike: Bomer The Kreeps  Pauma Valley Ca

Conflict Cocoon…

I was thinking about conflict during last night’s ride. I think about conflict a lot. I go to great lengths in avoiding conflict.

In increasingly complex times, it appears conflict is often around every corner and always straight ahead. If one keeps their vision fixed any screen for too long, be it a 7-inch screen or a 82-incher, there’s a good chance conflict will hijack and saturate their perspective on most things human. Guilty I am.

Though I don’t necessarily see the world that way — as choking on conflict, that other people see the world this way brings me down more than I often let on. Watch people struggle long enough, and their struggle becomes your own.

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Some people have a better aptitude for absorbing and dealing with conflict. I’m not one of them. Others still, embrace conflict and feed off of it. Some even hunt it down. I’m not one of those either.

I grew up a typical suburban household with typical suburban parents. My parents, like many married couples, fought over typical suburban things — money, the kids, household priorities, time, etc. That is, they fought over small things — unnecessary conflicts that sucked energy and life out of the family. When my parents fought, they often yelled, especially my dad. It could get loud.

I have clear memories of hiding in my bedroom and often under my bed when my parents fought. Not that I ever thought they would come after me or become violent with each other — they just yelled. Being under the bed while they were yelling was like a protective cocoon to an eight-year-old. This is where my avoidance of conflict began.

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Bike: Tang   Fallbrook Ca

Don’t get me wrong, my parents loved my brother and I, and they were incredibly good and generous to us. They worked hard to give us a good home. Unwittingly though, they allowed conflict to tear that home apart and our family  eventually died from unnatural causes. They would end up divorced, and I would end up afraid of all things loud.

So where am I going with this…?

My parents no longer fight. They haven’t been married since 1977 and my dad has been gone for nearly 7-years. But conflict still surrounds me, and it still scares me in the same way it did when I was a child hiding in my room and under my bed.

Conflict today manifests in many ways and from many sources. Social conflict seems to be the rule of the day. Be it political, religious, gender related, food related, or gun related, it seems everything we discuss, has to be discussed with some amount of conflict.

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Bike: Cortez The Killer   Oceanside Ca

In my own life, and in my human relationships, there is almost never conflict. I have built my life that way. Build each day with a foundation of good intentions, shore it up with the framework of listening in equal portion to speaking, and wrap it with patience and intelligence, and that’s a good plan for a conflict-free day. When conflict does arise in my life, it’s usually minimal and easily resolved.

When I open my 7-inch window to the world though, I’m usually met with conflict within a few seconds — not mine, but I become an instant witness to the conflict of others. It’s like when I was as a child and my parents would fight — I become a victim of secondhand conflict.

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Los Jilgueros Preserve   Fallbrook Ca

I no longer hide under my bed though, to avoid conflict. I ride a bike. My cocoon rolls on as it insulates and protects me. The rhythm of my ride muffles the screaming voices until they dissipate entirely. The sounds, the sights, and the smells of the road remind me that there is much more to the world then the fruitless arguments, the chest thumping, and the escalating voices of fools on an uncharted course to nowhere.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 4
177.28 miles
11,400’ climbing
15.0 mph avg
11,801 calories
11 hours 47 minutes in the saddle

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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 is this from The Yawpers. Enjoy…!

Potato Swimsuit…

If those two words, potato swimsuit, seem like they don’t belong together, I agree. They showed up this morning though, on the note app I use on my phone to keep ideas for the next day’s writings.

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At the point in each ride, when I stop to take a pretty picture of my bike, I dictate some quick notes into my phone — ideas in bullet-point form of what I had been thinking about while riding up to that point. I might also make a few notes at the end of my ride.

The following morning, I reflect on those notes and assemble my writing(s) of the day, based on things I was thinking about while riding the day before.

Yesterday, after taking one of the pictures below, I dictated some notes into my telephone — maybe a paragraph or so, and a few bullet points. In truth, I have no memory whatsoever of what those thoughts were about yesterday.

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Bike: Bomer The Kreeps…

When I checked my app this morning, the only note in my phone read as follows…

Potato swimsuit

The thing is this — I’m reasonably certain I didn’t speak the words potato or swimsuit into my phone, and if I did, it certainly wasn’t an exclusive deal. Technology though, being what it is, those are the words I was left with to construct an essay from.

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I racked my brain in an attempt to make sense of potato swimsuit. Part of me wondered if one of those words was correct and the other was a mistranslation. Even so, I dictated at least a half-dozen sentences. I even entertained for a moment that maybe I did speak the words potato swimsuit into my phone, and I attempted to remember why.

Coming to no conclusion, I stepped away from it for a while. I edited some pictures, just went for a walk, and returned home to take a short nap — couldn’t fall asleep. I’ve been contemplating those two words since — potato swimsuit. Nothing.

Someday, hopefully not for a while, I will die. It’s my hope that when I pass, the first words my maker speaks to me after shaking my hand and showing me to my dorm, will be a detailed explanation of why the hell potato swimsuit showed up in my notes this morning, rather than the ideas I intended to write about.

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I had hoped to write something deep, philosophical, or meaningful this morning. That is always my intention on Sundays.

I might have been thinking about why Epictetus and Seneca left veganism. I might have been thinking about corruption with the International Olympic Committee. It’s possible I was wondering if dogs contemplate what we are thinking. I dunno.

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Bike: Cortez The Killer…

No matter how much I twist them, turn them, or rearrange them though, potato swimsuit adds up to none of that. It could’ve been great — a homerun essay, but it is this — potato swimsuit.

Hopefully, I’ll be taking better notes in the week to come. In the meantime, here are some pretty pictures from my walks and from my rides from this week past.

#potatoswimsuit

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers..

Bikes ridden: 4
Bikes purchased: 1
174 miles
9,200’ climbing
15.1 mph avg
11:29 in the saddle

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Bike: Bella…

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 is this from Doc Neeson and The Angels. Enjoy…!

Passing With Shame…

Maybe 2 to 3 times per week, especially if I am riding in the early morning or into the evening, I’ll look up while I’m riding and see a day worker ahead of me, also on a bicycle.

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Bike: Vasudeva…

He won’t be on a fast bike though, and chances are the chain on his bike will be dirty, if not outright rusty. His bike will probably have never been washed or cleaned, and he might be the 3rd, the 5th or even the 10th owner of it.

He will be riding at a much slower pace than me — a measured pace. Measured, inasmuch as he will be conserving energy for the labor he is on his way to perform all day. Or if I see him in the evening, measured because he has so little energy left from the labor he has given in exchange for the meager cash in his pocket.

A day worker, by popular definition, is someone from another country, generally Mexico or Central America, of legal or illegal status, who works for cash in support of the agriculture or landscaping industries. Day worker is an appropriate term. They work all day.

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Because I am riding at a faster pace and riding for different reasons than he is, as soon as I see him, I know that I’ll be passing him. Honestly, I’m always ashamed to do this. Ashamed, not because I’m faster than him, but because I’ve got it so good.

He probably paid $20 for his bike at a thrift store or he might have gotten it for free. He doesn’t know what brand it is. He doesn’t care. All he knows about his bicycle, is that it gets him to work faster than walking, so he can make more money.

In the evenings, I often see him with a white plastic bag dangling from his handlebars or from his hand. Inside the bag there are tacos from a local Taqueria. He might stop in the park and eat them along side a couple of other day workers who are in the midst of a similar commute. Or, he may take them home to the trailer or apartment that he shares with several other people — possibly several other families.

It’s time for me to pass him.

The shame in passing him, as I’ve mentioned, isn’t because I have strong legs or because I have an expensive bike. The shame is because I’ve got it so good in my life. I don’t work nearly as hard as he does or nearly as much, yet I have much more to show for the work that I do.

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Dancing With Them Who Brung Ya….

My shame, of course, comes from my being born in a different zip-code than him.

I’m maybe 10-yards behind him and I want to call out “passing on your left“ which is the customary call for passing another hobby cyclist. Since he’s not a hobby cyclist and since he may not speak much English, I just look over my left shoulder to ensure no cars are approaching, I sweep to the inside of the road a bit, and pass him quietly with my head down. I might glance his way and if he glances back, I’ll smile and say hello, but this doesn’t happen too often.

My strong legs place me far ahead of him in short order. I feel as though he’s staring at me the whole time and that he thinks I’m a fool and that I know nothing about hard work. At this point, even if he doesn’t think this about me, I do.

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Bike: Cortez The Killer…

I continue to pedal and I contemplate what his life must be like. I wonder if he has family here with him or if they are all below the border. I wonder what type of room he sleeps in at night and how much money he wires home each week by Western Union, so his family to the south can have a better life. I think about the amount of work he’s on his way to do or what he might have already done that day.

I keep pedaling.

Eventually, my thoughts of him thin and fade. I’ll begin thinking about my next client or getting my mom out to the thrift shop for an hour. I might wonder what my daughter is doing at that exact moment or if my cat is comfortable at home watching Animal Planet from the top of the sofa. A better sofa and a bigger TV, I think to myself, than the man on the bike that I just passed probably has.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4
171 miles
8,800’ climbing
15.2 mph avg
11,100 calories

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 is this from Curtis Mayfield. Enjoy…!

Play As Our Essence…

Inventory the obituaries of your local paper for a few weeks. Then, correlate the stories. You’re bound to read sentences like the following…

“She was happiest when she was on her horse…“

“He loved the game of golf…“

“She was a gifted painter, who enjoyed bringing landscapes to life…”

“He could often be found his guitar room…“

In fact, if one were to correlate 100 obituaries and extract the first descriptions of the individuals they’re about, you could easily compile an essay on play, recreation, and relaxation. That’s how we remember those who leave us — by the way they played.

Though obituaries might also remember a person’s business prowess, education, the ways they parented, or the roles they played in their communities, most will be remembered first, for what they enjoyed doing in life.

We will be remembered for our essence.

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Our essence, most often, is what we would choose to do when set free to do what we wish.

Call it what you will — play, recreation, hobby, whatever. When we fail to play on a regular basis, we fail to feed and grow our essence.

Every species of mammal has play intrinsic to its being. Human beings have the desire to play more than any other mammal, and yet we’re the only ones — THE ONLY ONES who work hard at thwarting our inherent playful instinct.

This has always confused me.

We have an innate desire to play, yet many of us get caught up in playing Whack-A-Mole all day long, striking at things that matter so much less than feeding our soul. And what gets lost when our energies are diverted this way…?

Play is where we best know freedom. Very often, play is when we best know joy. Play this where we can do our best thinking. Play is where friendships and relationships nourish and grow. Play is what gets us through the hard stuff.

Yesterday, after one of the most challenging work weeks I’ve had in a while, I got to play. I played bicycle with a couple friends from Colorado, who also got to play bicycle yesterday.

We rode. We talked some, and we stayed quiet even more. We picked fresh citrus. We ate tacos. We pushed our bodies. We came home, ate some more, relaxed and watched a movie, and then retired early, exhausted from our play day. When I woke up this morning, my first thoughts were of doing it again today.

And then I learned the sad news of a friend of a friend taking his own life. Last week, I learned of the adult daughter of a friend of mine taking her own life. So when I make play priority in my life, it’s because I know the stronger my essence, the less influence the puppets of another ilk will have in perpetrating lesser thoughts in my head.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Bomer The Kreeps
46 miles
2,400’ climbing
13.0 mph avg
2,800 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Tell Mama, by Janis Joplin

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 is this from Janis Joplin. Enjoy…!

Gimmie Shelter…

It ain’t all broken skies, avocado groves, flower fields, and acre after acre of citrus orchards. Yes, those are the kinds of things I see each day as I look up in wonder when I ride, but the balance is kept, perfectly, when I look down — into the nooks and crannies of it all. From my posture high on my rolling perch, I’m at a speed and in a position to see things that anyone driving a car on the same road would likeky never see.

Example…

Along Old Highway 395 there is a golf resort, Pala Mesa. It combines a hotel, restaurant, golf course, traditional golf course housing, tennis courts, swimming pools, and all within a picturesque setting that rivals any I’ve seen.

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Bike of the day: Tang…

Just behind one section of the patio homes adjacent to the golf course though, there is a ravine that slopes down about 40-feet below these houses and is roughly 1,000 yards in length. The homes above are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I’m certain are well worth the investment. What’s at the bottom of that ravine though, cannot be seen from the fenced backyards of the residents above, nor by anyone driving by in a car. With the bike lane being just a little closer to the edge of that ravine, and with a bicycle seat placing me up a little higher than the driver’s seat of a  car would, I can see the makeshift shelters down below.

There is old furniture there, several tents, and visible signs that multiple persons live down there — perhaps groups of persons. I can see a couple shopping carts, a baby stroller, some 5-gallon water containers, and even a couple of weathered bicycles, which are a far cry from the one I ride past on.

Oh, and I see many well-hidden communities like this one, all over the area. There are slopes and ravines by the thousands around Fallbrook, and while that doesn’t mean that each one comes with an encampment of homeless people, it does suggest that there may be more than a fenced yard or a passing Tesla will ever see.

Doing a little crude math in my head, I calculate that there might be a couple of hundred people living like this in and around the Fallbrook area. I think that is a conservative estimate.  A recent article in the local paper stated that precisely 46 homeless people currently call Fallbrook home — precisely 46.

I will argue that while there may be 46 visible homeless residents currently in Fallbrook, these are the squeaky wheels among the many more who remain silent and hidden, and for a variety of reasons.

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Living off the land…

The ravine behind the Pala Mesa Resort is just one pocket of many well hidden spots I ride past regularly in this community — pockets that some less fortunate people call home. I refer to them as less fortunate, not because of the circumstances that brought them there or the way that they are forced or choose to live. I referred to them as less fortunate, because it seems few people even know they are there.

They are invisible, except to each other.

As a rule of thumb, whether I come across them on my daily walk or my daily ride, and if I stop and have conversations with them, the salutation I always extend is this…

“Hello, neighbor…“

Because no matter the circumstance, they are my neighbor.

This is what I think about my ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Tang
23 miles
1,300’ climbing
15.4 mph avg
1,600 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Good To Be On The Road Back Home Again, by Cornershop

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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 is this from Cornershop. Enjoy…!

Cock-a-doodle-doo And Other Rooster Myths…

Ninety-percent of my daily ride takes place in rural surroundings. I live in a region of Southern California were commercial agriculture reigns supreme. Avocados groves, citrus orchards, flowers, plants, and greenhouses dominate my riding landscape.

Many residents here dabble in personal agriculture as well. Most homes here are on multiple acres of property and among the more fashionable trends in this community, along with ‘family fruit’ trees, massive bougainvillea hedges, and the ever-increasing front yard vineyards, is the keeping of chickens.

Where there are chickens, of course, there are often roosters.

Like you, I was raised to believe that roosters wake early and are nature’s alarm clocks — that every rooster gets up with or just before the sun and announces to anyone or anything in proximity that a new day is about to begin. His mechanism for this…? His cock-a-doodle-doo.

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Bike: Cortez The Killer…

Riding my bike in the middle of the day I have learned that roosters, at least the ones around here, could give a frog’s fat ass what time of day they cock-a-doodle-doo. I often ride in the late mornings, the early afternoons, and even after dark on occasion. As I ride around this community, turning corners, buzzing the straightaways, climbing the hills and taking in this earthy rural scenery, I hear roosters at every possible time of day.

So I sort of feel like I’ve been fed a bag of lies since childhood. Roosters, like wealthy white men it seems, crow all day long and into the night.

Underscoring this, two of my three adjoining neighbors keep chickens and roosters and never, NEVER, do I hear them early. Being one who gets up early each day, I would take note if they did. I do though, hear them as I am working in my studio — all day long.

But the real lie that I’m coming to terms with, the one that has been forced upon me since childhood, the lie that school teachers, children’s books, cartoons, and movies have all perpetrated is that roosters go cock-a-doodle-doo.

They do not.

Roosters, at least the ones around here, very clearly go Aroot-aroot-aroooooo. This is inarguable. If one listens, breaks it down phonetically and tries to duplicate through our human vocal abilities, the sound a rooster makes can’t be anything other than Aroot-aroot-aroooooo.

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Outside my studio. My neighbor’s Chicken — or Rooster, checking in on me…

Try it — just try and sound like a rooster. Do it right now, and as loud as you can. Don’t worry about your workmates, your fellow students or your family, just stand up and at the top of your lungs go Aroot-aroot-aroooooo.  You’ll see that I’m correct.

When those close to me take exception with my propensity for constantly challenging the leadership, I’m going to use this as another example of why we should always question authority, and why we should question everything we’re taught in school.

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Mischa: On Rooster Patrol…

We have all been lied to about roosters, and far too many have been willing to accept those lies — I guess because it’s just easier that way.

Roosters don’t wake up early, and roosters don’t go cock-a-doodle-doo. It’s just not true.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…
Bike: Cortez The Killer
23 miles
1,300’ climbing
15.2 mph avg
1,500 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: The Sun Do Shine, by Glen Campbell

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 is this from Glen Campbell. Enjoy…!

The Other Immigrants: A Butterfly Collective…

It’s hard to go anywhere in Southern California right now, and not be taken a bit by the sight of the painted lady butterfly migration. They are everywhere, by the millions, enroute from Mexico to the northwest.

Riding through and among them at roughly 15-20 mph, they hit my helmet, bounce off my hands, and one even ended up in my mouth a couple days ago, but it didn’t stay there long. He was quickly uninvited, and his departure was followed by a long swig of water, a swish, and a spit.

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Bike: Bella…

I confess, I’ve become more vulnerable as a cyclist due to the presence of the painted ladies — they’re just captivating. When I should be looking at the road in front of me, spying carpet tacks, thorns, twigs, and bottle caps, I find myself looking up in wonder as they flit about. In some instances the concentrations of painted ladies has been so thick that they’ve appeared as clouds overhead. My eyes fixed to them, I fail to see the aluminum can that my tire will eventually strike. So far so good though — a few bumps, but no bruises and no flat tires at the expense of the painted ladies.

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Glancing up at these butterfly clouds, with God present but invisible in the background, I begin to think about consciousness — individual and collective. With so many millions of butterflies, and with me trying so hard not to run into them, I begin to wonder if it hurts when I do hit them. I question whether they feel pain as their wings hit my handlebars or as their bodies get churned up in my spokes.

I contemplate what they might contemplate — or whether contemplate at all. I wonder if they’re looking down to guide themselves and are navigating by landmark or if they’re flying with eyes closed and listening to signals in their head from another source or another dimension. And as they head to their northern destination, I question whether they are thinking at all, and if they do think, do they do so as individuals or as a group…

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After dozens of attempts, only one mediocre picture…

I understand that some swarm animals — birds, insects, even some migrating mammals can act as a collective during their migrations. They move and respond as a group, but I wonder if there might be discontent in this. Is the butterfly in the back of the swarm sharing an identical thought with a butterfly in the front…? Or, is the butterfly in the back wondering if the Padres are going to make a run at the pennant this year, while the butterfly in front is bitter because he has to do the dirty work by cut through the wind.

When I have stopped at intersections and traffic lights or to drink water, I have attempted to photograph one of these critters. However, they don’t stop that frequently and when they do, it isn’t for very long. They are elusive. To this point, I have only taken one successful photograph, and it’s not that good.

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Stoke Signals…

For my part, I’ll just keep pedaling through the painted ladies, dodging them and admiring them — simultaneously, in these waning days of their migration. I’ll try hard not to hit them or breathe one into my mouth again. I’ll continue to spend time wondering if insects think, feel, or have souls at all, as I contemplate this about other animals, to a point of madness most days.

I’ll miss the painted ladies once the migration is through, but I might feel better, at least a little bit, for knowing that I’m not killing any more of them with my helmet, my elbows, and my spokes.

This is what I think about when I ride…

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 3
138 Miles
6,800’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
9,300 calories
Earworm Of The Week: Pretty Pink Rose, by Adrian Belew and David Bowie

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 is this from Adrian Belew and David Bowie. Enjoy…!

Tiny Rolling House…

Headed north into Riverside County yesterday. A 26-mile out-and-back for some quick climbing, good vistas, and a fun stretch of downhill switchbacks dropping into Temecula, where I can often glide upwards of 45-50 mph on a good day, though I only hit 38 yesterday.

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The only hiccup on my way out of town occurred about a mile from my house. A man in a white pickup-truck with scraggly hair and a beard that wasn’t even trying to be kept, flagged me down because he needed help. This was on E. Mission Rd. headed towards I-15. Normally I don’t get off my bike, even for friends, but when somebody needs help, that’s a no brainer.

“Hey man, do you know where the weed store is…?“ He asked.

Huh…? Feedstore…? I replied. I’m deaf in my left ear and I really thought he said feedstore.

“No! The weeeeeeed store, man…!”

Oh, I said, it’s in that building over there. I pointed in the direction of the only commercial building nearby, assuming it was somewhere in there, though I honestly had no idea where it was. I just wanted to get back on the road. I hope he found his weed. I found hillsides covered with wildflowers that would serve me just as well, probably better.

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I was thinking about used motorhomes for much of my ride. I almost bought one two nights ago, and I mean, I almost bought one. An ‘86 Winnebago with 32,000 original miles on it, in pristine shape, for only 6K. This was my dream house. I opted not to pursue this one, but the fact I am looking at and considering them more frequently — daily, confirms to myself that I really am getting closer.

When I do buy one — a used motorhome, it isn’t going to be for weekend recreation or as a desert, beach, or mountain toy. This rolling tiny house I’m searching for, which I have not bought yet, will be my forever home.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I plan on living in a small motorhome for an extended period once I get into retirement or semi-retirement. A minimalist for much of my adult life, and now in my late 50s, I’m beginning to see the headlights at the end of the tunnel. In an unstable world with an ever-changing economy, a house that is suitable to live in, that also gets 20 miles per gallon, is my kinda house.

I have no intention though, of going to grand or pursuing anything fancy — spending $50,000 or more on such a thing. When that day comes when I do make the purchase, I want to be able to pay cash for it. Not having any debt is a big part of my retirement plan. I will make sure that it is in good condition, has been well-maintained, and ensure that I continue to maintain it well once it becomes mine.

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Though tiny houses are now all the rage, the ridiculousness of how complicated they are becoming increases each year. Hint: if you require granite countertops for your tiny house, you’ve missed the point of tiny house. Besides, I’ve done the math 100-times over, it makes much more sense for me to live in a small motorhome than in a tiny house.

I grew up fascinated by the story of Dorian Paskowitz, the Stanford educated physician and surfer, who along with his wife, raised nine children in a series of pickup-truck campers, at the San Onofre beach here in Southern California, among many other places they traveled in those campers. To me, Doc Paskowitz is the patron saint of minimalism.

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So when I ride up and down these roads each day, occasionally glancing up at the  exaggerated tract homes, the million dollar homes, and the weekend motorhomes that are often in those driveways, and as glance into traffic, occasionally seeing an old motorhome from the 70s or 80s, and one that’s in good condition, my eyes light up. I think to myself, someday that’s gonna be me — that’s my dream house.  And of course, I’m talking about the old motorhomes, not the huge houses up on the hills. I’ll just have to figure out how to store 6 or 8 bikes in or on it.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…
Bike: Bomer The Kreeps
25.5 miles
1,900’ climbing
14.9 mph avg
1,700 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Delta Dawn, by Tanya Tucker.

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 is this from Tanya Tucker. Enjoy…!

Spontaneous Involvement And Being Consistently Consistent…

Out early yesterday, a bit cold, and with a severe time-change hangover. Hard ride. Fun ride. When I got back I sat down on the sofa for just a minute to dry my face and take off my shoes, and I fell asleep for nearly an hour. When I woke up, I was starving. I dropped my mother off at the local Dollar Tree, walked four doors down and ate Thai food alone at Thai Thai. I had the #54 — The Vegetable Lover’s Delight, with extra tofu for protein.

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Bike: Bomer The Kreeps

I was thinking about Dale Webster yesterday while I was riding, but the truth is, I think about Dale Webster every day of my life, whether I’m riding, writing, praying, walking or doing anything ritualistically.

For about 15 minutes in 2003, Dale Webster became famous for something he worked over 40-years to accomplish. In Bruce Brown’s movie, Step Into Liquid, Brown dedicated a segment of the film to Webster’s quest to surf every day of his life, catching at least 3 waves per day, between the two Septembers in his lifetime which would each have (5) Sundays in them. The first of those two Septembers was in 1975.

Webster eventually fulfilled that objective in September of 2015 and surpassed it by a month, until kidney stone surgery kept him out of the water in October of 2015. Webster surfed every day of his life between those two Septembers, catching at least three waves per day, for 40-years.

In the movie, Webster offered the most striking sentence I’ve ever heard…

“Surfing is the ultimate spontaneous involvement in a natural medium…”

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Dale Webster surfed every day for over 40 years…

Though Dale Webster and I have never met, he’s been with me on every ride, hike, or workout since I first became aware of his story in an issue of Surfer’s Journal back in the early 1980s. He’s been with me for a couple of reasons…

One: I attempt to ride every day, at least 20-miles per day, and more when time permits. In 2018 I road 359 of the 365 days.

Two: Although pavement isn’t a natural medium, the “spontaneous involvement” of cycling is the hook for me.

Every ride is a little different. Each ride requires me to think and act quickly, and often to do so in an instant. Cars, objects in the road, and even pieces of broken truck tire flying through the air and past my head, require me to act quickly. Riding brings me joy and keeps me on my toes — simultaneously.

Not withstanding, the different hills, different routes I choosee, the different scenery, different conditions, and the joy I find each time I speed downhill at 40 or 50 miles per hour. And riding takes place outdoors, so pavement notwithstanding, I’m in somewhat of a natural medium.

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Thai-ing one on, post-ride…

More to the point though, Dale Webster should be the global poster child for consistency in anything — the worldwide ambassador of no excuses. He should be an inspiration to anyone, young or old, male or female, athletic or artistic, who wishes to accomplish any goal or activity  requiring consistency.

I’m certain that had I not been familiar with Webster’s story for so much of my adult life, I probably would’ve skipped a lot more hikes, a lot more workouts, and a lot more rides. I’m not sure I would write every day, pray every day, or observe any of my other daily rituals, without Webster’s influence. Dale Webster is a name and a story  we should all be more familiar with.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Bomer The Kreeps
32 miles
1,500’ climbing
16.4 mph avg
2,100 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Back Door Man, by Soul Asylum and Iggy Pop

No Need To Duck, It’s Only A Slow Moving Watermelon…

I’m very big on firsts. That is, I value the idea of participating in things that have never happened before — in the history of mankind. I think I’ve participated in a few, and yesterday‘s ride might have added one to the list.

Approximately 3/4s of the way through an otherwise ordinary ride on another beautiful day in Fallbrook California, a 1990s Saturn station wagon full of teen boys passed me slowly from behind. The car was gold in color and weathered. There were two boys in the front seat and two more in back. Seeing their profiles in my peripheral vision as they pulled along side of me, each one looked like a skinny Muppet.

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Bike: Bomer The Kreeps   Took a break on some outdoor furniture…

As one might expect with a car full of kids, the thumping of heavy bass announced their presence to me 30 or 40 yards before they pulled along side. The smell of weed leaking from the car’s open windows might have been enough to distinguish them in my mind and amuse me for the next hour or so while I pedaled onward, but there was more. Much more.

How I will remember them, why will I remember them, and what it was that will distinguish them in my mind as co-perpetrators of a unique moment in human history, unfolded in an instant as they passed me. I will remember them for the rest of my life, for the moment they attempted to and failed, to chuck a watermelon at me through the car window.

Worth repeating: They attempted to throw a watermelon through a car window at a cyclist, me, as they drove past.

Depending on how you define human beings, we’ve been around for roughly 500,000 years. In that time, approximately 100 million human beings to have ever lived. Among those people and within that time, I’ll suggest I’m the first person to ever be the target of an attempted watermelon tossing and subsequent failure, by a car full of stoners.

I was not only the witness, I was the cyclist.

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Early birds…

I’ve had bottles thrown at me before, been honked at, yelled at, and have even had cars intentionally swerve in my direction to scare me. I’ve had a drunk guys in pickup trucks challenge me to pull over and fight them. In these instances, I usually experience some combination of frustration, rage, or disappointment in my fellow man. I’ve had interruptions like this not only ruin my ride, but ruin my day.

However, to see four stoned teenagers in a ratty, smoke filled car, fail in attempting to throw a watermelon out the window at me, absolutely made my day, and will probably be the highlight of my riding in calendar year 2019.

Why they were driving with a watermelon, and why they were willing to sacrifice it, I have no idea. But they did. Perhaps they were running an errand for mom, and just didn’t give a crap — they felt simple amusement was worthy of dumping mom’s fruit. Maybe they had bought it to plug, fill with grain alcohol, and serve at a party later in the evening. I’ll probably never know.

The watermelon did make it out the window, but barely. They giggled as the melon hit the pavement, yelled someone unintelligible words in my direction in their Wayne and Garth voices, and sped away. For those who may question the validity of this story, the remains can be seen on somewhere in the vicinity of Gird Road and Lake Trees drive here in Fallbrook.

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Fallbrook California: The  most beautiful community in America…

In a small town, I’m confident I will see this car again, and some combination of these boys. When I do, I’m going to offer to buy them lunch at Taco Bell, to thank them, because I’m going to get a lot of mileage out of the story, and for many years.

It may be possible that in some region of China, Idaho, Portugal, or on the North Island of New Zealand, that other stoned boys driving a beat up Saturn station wagon also attempted to chuck a watermelon at a cyclist as they passed him by. If it has happened somewhere else, forgive the momentary grandeur. Until it gets proven to me that it has happened, I’m going to assume that yesterday I participated in another first in human history.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Bomer The Kreeps
25 miles
1,050’ climbing
16.9 mph avg
1,600 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: One More Time, by Redbone

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 is this from Redbone. Enjoy…!

Cry Me A River…

It had been too long since I had seen the ocean, so I left Fallbrook yesterday and headed west until I could head west no more. It was a beautiful ride along the San Luis Rey riverbed through Fallbrook, Bonsall, and into Oceanside.

Wildflowers were blooming everywhere. The trees along the river bed have never looked greener nor more full, and certainly not this early in the season. In the usually dry riverbed, running water was cutting a swath 60 to 70 yards wide on either side of the recreation trail leading to the coast, the result of all the rain we’ve had in recent months and days. I must have seen 20 egrets along the way, another 20 roadrunners, and a half-dozen Osprey.

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Mixed in with all the growth and the wildlife though, was an inordinary amount of manmade debris. Unusually high and rapid moving water had forced sheets of plastic, large pieces of plywood, and corrugated tin up against tree trunks, fence posts, and against the walls of the overpasses that line the river trail.

What to do these items have in common…?

They are what homeless people use to create shelters, lean-tos, and makeshift tents in the riverbed. Since I ride the riverbed often, I have a good mental inventory of where many of these tents, shelters, and social complexes are located. And since I interact with some of the local homeless folks from time to time, I have a good understanding of how valuable these shelters are to them, and how people will go out of their way to protect them. After all, they may be made out of plywood and plastic, but they are a person’s home.

Since the rains that filled the dry riverbed with water were the same rains that have been falling on my own backyard in recent months, I know some of the more sudden storms have occurred overnight. It’s easy to surmise that some of these shelters may have been taken out by fast rising waters suddenly, and while people were sleeping in them. That’s why they were pushed up against tree trunks and bridges, because it can happen so quickly.

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That is, if any of the residents in the riverbed had any advanced notice that the water would have been rushing down, I’m certain they would’ve done their best to relocate their shelters to higher ground, which is available alongside most of the riverbed. That these got caught in the flow of the water is a good indication that the water came quickly.

I may be wrong about that, but with the sheer number of makeshift shelters along the river bed, it’s a safe bet that more than a few people woke up to rushing water and had to run to escape it. I’m just grabbing a number, but I would estimate that in the 10-mile stretch between Bonsall and Oceanside, there might be as many as 1000 people living down there, probably more.

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After catching my breath at the coast, enjoying the view, the smell of salt air, and the simple amusement of observing pasty kids from Omaha splashing around in the 53° water, I turned around and headed home.

I felt like the epitome of arrogance though, riding past torn up homeless encampments on my fancy bike and headed back to my fancy house. It was and remains very hard to reconcile. I guess some days privilege and of the lottery of birth both weigh a little bit more than on other days.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Cortez The Killer
32.5 miles
950’ climbing
16.8 mph avg
2,200 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Failed Christian (Nick Lowe) by Henry McCullough

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 is this from Henry McCullough. Enjoy…!

 

The Currency Of Cool…

Let’s go down the list…

Jesus Christ
Mohammed
Zoroaster
Confucius
The Buddha
Moses
Fonzie

Wait, what…?   Yeah, Fonzie.

Despite the influence that all these prophets would have at different times in my life, there’s one that has contributed to my day-to-day more than the others.

In 1974 I was in middle school. That was the year that Happy Days premiered on ABC.

As an awkward pre-adolescent, with few friends, a father that traveled, and a mother that worked swing shift, much of my life was spent in my own little world. The thing about living in my own little world was this; I didn’t get out much except to be picked on, beat up, or completely ignored by my contemporaries, which can hurt just as much as a beating at the bus stop.

Up to that point my only savior was The Six-Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin. Looking up to and emulating Steve Austin though, came with its own set of baggage. For example, Austin wore leisure suits, the trend in men’s fashion at the time. To be more like him, since I lacked bionic parts, I wore leisure suits to middle school thinking I would be cool. Let the bus stop beatings begin. The leisure suits didn’t last long.

Enter Arthur Herbert Fonzerelli.

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I like the night life, Baby…

I received my first leather jacket as a Hanukkah gift the same winter that Happy Days began its 2nd season. In the first season, you may remember, Fonzie wore a cloth jacket. He still made it look cool, but it wasn’t leather. His leather jacket though, in the 2nd season, put him on the top rung on the ladder of cool. My new leather jacket was my first evolutionary step in the long process of becoming cool — or cooler than a guy wearing a leisure suit in the 8th grade.

The evolution would be slow.

Something I recognized from the get-go though, was that when I wore my leather jacket to school, people treated me differently — better. I might not have been the coolest guy in school, not by any stretch, but there was something about that jacket that gave me a currency which provided entrée into places, situations, and with people I had not previously had access.

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This was also around the time I began lifting weights. And though it would take years for physique to fully develop, my biceps grew almost immediately. This served me well, because when the summer came and the leather jacket became too hot, having well formed arms underneath those sleeves was another aspect of cool.

I would not add another arrow into my quiver of cool for nearly a decade. That’s when I joined the United States Coast Guard. Being in the military is one of those things can seem very cool to some people and not cool at all to others. But there’s something different about the Coast Guard. The mission of the Coast Guard being so unique, gives it a cool that the other armed forces don’t experience.

Around this time, my physique did start to develop beyond just my biceps, so I had the fact that I was in the Coast Guard, I was fairly well-built, and that I could make a Coast Guard uniform look as cool as a leather jacket going for me. After all, a good physique is what made those leisure suits work for Steve Austin.

Buy my estimation at this point, I was about 50% up the ladder of cool.

However, my cool would flatline for the next decade or so, as it should have. This was the period when I got married, began working adult jobs, and started a family. But there was this one thing…

A fortunate twist of fate was that after I left the Coast Guard, I was hired as a security guard for America West Airlines in Phoenix. America West was just starting out and wanted their security guards to be corporate employees, not outsourced. From that position, it didn’t take me long to work my way into an analyst position in the pilot planning department. This was in the late 1980s, when working for an airline made you cool by default. I continued up the ladder.

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Though my career path in aviation wouldn’t last long, having the title of Scheduling Analyst and the pay that came with it gave me confidence in the working world. My recreational bodybuilding gave me confidence in everything else.

Confidence = cool.

Something significant happened as a result of this increased confidence — I began to share my sense of humor more. My father and brother cultivated a good sense of humor in me while I was growing up, but I didn’t share it too often for my lack of confidence. As I began to let it out though, people talked to me more and let me in a little closer. As cool as having an airplane job, big biceps, and broad shoulders might have made me, being funny took me up a couple of more rungs.

Even cool people struggle, and by the time I was in my 40s, I was divorced, somewhat broken, but not altogether defeated. Time to grow my hair. Straight up, guys with long hair may or may not be cool, but when guys have muscle and long hair, it’s a slam-dunk. Conan, Tarzan, and Chicago Bears defensive tackle, Steve McMichael were all cool.

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Milestone: This bike, Vasudeva, went over the 10,000 mile mark with me this week…

And since my hair was long and I had a decent physique, this was a time I could get away with wearing a lot of bracelets, torn pink tank-tops, and going barefoot everywhere I went.

What..? Is that the top of the latter I’m reaching for…?

It was roughly 2006 when the social media began to unfold. It was important to me, from the beginning, to stay unique. Though I have participated in my share of sophomoric hijinks in social media, for the most part the things that I have shared have been as unique and original I could have them be. Few things are more cool than being original and unique.

And all of this brings me to riding a bike — bikes actually, since I currently own six. My biking is something that I do daily, and in all conditions — rain, shine, or tonsillitis. And though I don’t ride expensive bikes, my bikes are cool, mostly because I keep them clean and decorate them with colorful water bottles. When I stop at the ocean, next to a pasture, or in front of a vineyard to take pictures of my bikes, people often complement them, and very often those complements include the word cool.

If it sounds lofty, arrogant, or like I’m high on my own grandeur to refer to myself as cool, forgive me. But I do think I’m pretty cool and that’s no accident. My coolness has been by design and has served me well.

I’m not an Ivy League scholar, I can’t do math in my head, I don’t have much money, and I don’t speak Portuguese. Despite these, I’m regularly granted access to people, places, and situations that a guy in a leisure suit might never find.

People give me the time of day because they perceive me as being cool, and whether you realize it or not, cool is a form of currency. At times it can be as valuable as intelligence, scholarly achievements, occupational status, and many of the things we use to value human worth. Cool has gotten me into places that a PhD never would.

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Spring has sprung in SoCal…

Make no mistake, cool is not who I am. Cool is how I portray myself. Cool is a shell, no different than a Porsche 356, an Armani suit, or shiny white teeth veneers. Cool gets me through the door, but what keeps me there is appreciating that I ever got there at all. And I hope I do that better than anything else — to show appreciation that I’ve been accepted into nearly every room, every situation, and with every person I have ever connected.

Since I put on that first leather jacket towards the end of my 8th grade year, I have recognized the power of cool.  And I owe all of this to Arthur Fonzerelli.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 3
151 miles
8,200’ climbing
16.6 mph avg
Night rides: 3, for 75 miles
10,200 calories
9 hours 4 minutes in the saddle

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 is this from Jackson Browne. Enjoy…!

 

On The Adversity Of Others…

At some point during every ride, I find myself contemplating the trials, tribulations, and the tragedies of others.  Not out of amusement, but out of humility. Mostly, those in my periphery — my friends, family, and acquaintances as well as those I cross paths with via social media.

As I stand out of my saddle and pedal up steep grades or as I glide swiftly down the other sides hoping to pass the cars ahead of me, I chew on the adversity of others much more than I think about my own. In comparison, I often think, I don’t even know what adversity is. This exercise within my exercise, is an excellent daily reminder of how blessed my life is.

More so, it’s a grounding reminder that many I know have interruptions in their own blessings, and that sometimes those interruptions are severe. I love them and I always pray for them.

It’s been 6 years since Gretchen died. She was a friend, in her late 40s, who I often hiked with. One afternoon while walking across the floor of a restaurant on her way from her table to the restroom, she had a heart attack. The EMTs revived her, but she passed away the next morning. Only minutes before, she had texted another friend that she was having one of the best days of her life.

There hasn’t been a week go by in the six years since, that I have not thought about that, at least a little bit.

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Bike: Cortez The Killer…

Several years later, the 13-year-old daughter of another friend passed away suddenly, on her way to family outing with her parents and two brothers. That loss has crossed my mind at least a few times a day, every day sense.

Other adversities start off bleak, but fare a little better, and some ultimately leave the realm of adversity as a description.

Several years ago a friend in Colorado allowed a tree to get between she and one of the better downhill runs she was having that day. She spent several weeks in the hospital, suffered multiple broken bones, a short term head injury, and some permanent scarring on the right side of her face. The scarring is minimal, she is skiing again regularly, and she has since finished college, despite the accident.

She refers to the scars on her face as “The signature of good fortune“.

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Because I ride past his house daily, I think of my friend Dave. He was a client who was complaining about shoulder problems about a year ago. He was concerned that our workouts were causing a constant pain he was having under his upper right arm.

After a doctors visit and a couple of referrals, it turned out not to be workout related at all. The shoulder pain was the result of inflamed lymph nodes, the result of of lung cancer that had spread. The initial diagnosis was stark, and he’s not out of the woods yet, but he’s responded to treatment much better than expected. I am hopeful he will deemed cancer-free in the next few months.

For the last few weeks, as I’ve been riding the hills, gliding the straightaways, and dodging broken glass and cars on the roads of North San Diego county, I’ve been thinking about a young man I’ve never met. His initials are G.E. His parents are social media friends who I’ve come to know and appreciate. G.E. was in an automobile accident recently.

One month since his accident, G.E. is now in a rehab facility with a fantastic staff, is making great progress, and recovering from his injuries. G.E.’s  current challenges include struggling with balance, a desire to leave his room and wonder, and short-term memory loss. I have a feeling that G.E. is going to make a great recovery. His wonderful parents are committed to helping him overcome the difficulties that lay ahead.

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Micky Zen loves fire “Th i i i i i i i i s” much…

These are just a few examples of the many adversities that have touched me, but have clearly touched those connected to them far more significantly. With each passing year though, there are one or two more. At some point, there might be so many that I’ll be able to think of little else.

The joke in my family is this…

I don’t have to get an annual physical. I just get my blood work done in the emergency room each year when I’m there.

Though I do land in the emergency room every so-often, I’ve been quite fortunate that nothing which has landed me there has caused me too much difficulty. Oh, there have been setbacks, but nothing that approaches the term adversity.

Maybe it’s because I ride by markers each day of my life that display where other cyclists have been struck by cars. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen more than a handful of gurneys being loaded into ambulances driving away from the remains of mangled motorcycles, bikes, and cars. Most likely though, it’s because I know the risks involved with daily cycling, that I think about the adversity of others and the impact it has had on their families and friends.

As much as anything, these daily thoughts remind me of just how good my life is, and how I should strive to protect and appreciate it.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Cortez The Killer
31 miles
1,500’ climbing
16.4 mph avg
2,100 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: He’s Misstra Know It All

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 is this from Stevie Wonder. Enjoy…!

Unplanned Routes And Freewill For Beginners…

Yesterday was the shortest ride I’ve had in a while — just a hair over 20-miles. I intended to ride between 24-27. It was cold, rainy, and a bit windy. About 10-miles out, I found myself riding in some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever ridden through. Despite being appropriately dressed and biked, I was getting soaked, chilled, and frustrated. I made the decision to cut it short and head home.

This is when I started thinking about freewill — yet again.

I think about free will often, especially when I’m on my bike. I think this is because riding a bike, above all things, is a continual decision making process…

– How I should position myself within the lanes.
– What road obstacles to avoid.
– Which direction I want to look to check on traffic.
– Which gear to be in.
– Which scenery to look at.
– Is that a bee on my knee, or a piece of gravel…?

And so-on.

When I leave my house to ride, I always know whether I’m going to go north or south, and I have a rough idea of how many miles I’ll ride that day. However, as I pull out of my driveway, other than going left or right, I don’t know for certain the precise route I’m going to ride.

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Bike Of The Day: Tang…

I have roughly a half-dozen courses that I ride regularly, and within those courses, there’s probably 20 or more variations of each. Every ride is unique to itself, even if only slightly from the previous one.

As I navigate my chosen course each day, and as I make last-minute decisions to go left or go right, up or down, or of where to stop and take a pretty picture and of what, I think about freewill.

Contemporary physics suggests that there is no freewill. Mathematics, apparently, doesn’t provide for it. Sean Carrol, Brian Greene, and Jana Levin among others, suggest that freewill is just an illusion. For his part, Greene says we should enjoy the “imaginary control” we believe we have, but viscerally not get caught up in it.

I have my doubts about this.

At least a few times on every ride, I’m forced into a decision to go left, to go right or to choose a prong on a fork taking me in entirely different directions, knowing that I can’t ride on two prongs at once.

In one instance, there is a fork that divides Live Oak Road from Reche Road here in Fallbrook. When I arrive at that fork, I often don’t make the decision of which way I’ll go until the very last second. If I go left, up Reche, I’ll get me home sooner, but I’ll pay for it with a steeper and more challenging climb. Conversely, going right, up Live Oak, will add a couple of miles to my trip home, but with a much gentler climb, and one that is more beautiful.

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On the drying rack, after its post-ride and bath…

Many times though, has my front tire been pointed left up Reche, when at the last possible second, I turn right up Live Oak for the longer but prettier climb. A last-second ‘choice’.

That those decisions happen multiple times on every ride, and that they often happen so suddenly, sure seems like freewill to me.

Maybe I am a pawn in a greater or lesser game that I have no ownership in. I think about a giant in different realm or in a far away universe, sitting in a chair, staring at a screen, and controlling me with a joystick.

Cosmologist and mathematician George Ellis argues against the more recent speculation that all reality is just a projection or a holographic image.

Part of me likes the idea that there might not be free will. If there’s isn’t, if I tell a nun to screw off, I’m not gonna have to pay for it in my next life. But I don’t buy it — not the holographic projection for the absence of freewill.

Every time I go left where I generally take a right, I feel myself making that decision. I just know it’s me, and only me.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Tang
20.1 miles
1,100’ climbing
15.0 mph avg
1,300 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: For Beginners, by M. Ward

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 is this from M. Ward. Enjoy…!

Me Time: In Case Of Emergecy…

I spend roughly 90-minutes on my bike every day. A little bit less when life has me hurrying on behalf of others, and a little bit more on the weekends and on days when extra time actually finds me. It’s my Me Time.

I never squander extra time, I invest it.

In a perfect life, I would ride for about 3-hours every day — that would ideal. Maybe when I retire I can do that. Or when I semi-retire, since I plan to work at least part-time so long as I’m able.

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Vasudeva…

More than a few people have asked me about that red and gray bag I have on the top-tube of my bikes — that thing that has the appearance of a small gas tank.

It’s my tool/utility bag.

A lot of cyclists don’t like this style of bag because they break up the aerodynamics of the bike, they add a little bit more weight, and they break up the aesthetic of the bike’s appearance.

I appreciate this style of tool bag though, so much. It may influence the weight, the aerodynamics, and the aesthetic, but it’s a great insurance policy when I’m 20-miles from home. It’s larger than most cycle bags, but allows me to carry just about everything I might need on my rides.

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In the bag I keep…

– A spare inner-tube in case of a flat
– Levers to help remove a tire in case of a flat
– A CO2 pump and (2) CO2 cartridges in case of a flat
– $20 bill in case I need food/drink or a taxi (in case of a flat)
– My insurance card in case I need an emergency room
– On the back of the insurance card is my emergency contact information in case I can’t speak for myself in the emergency room
– A multi-tool with a small socket set, hex wrenches, screwdrivers, a knife, and a bottle opener — this tool can work with any fitting or fastener on any bike I own.
– A Ziploc bag to protect my phone in case it rains
– Reading glasses — to see what I’m doing during repairs

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Bike tool was a Hanukkah gift from my friend Cliff…

Also, it appears that I have 2 water bottles, one on my down-tube in the other on my seat-tube. In warm weather, they are filled with water.

In the winter though, and on cold days in particular, the bottle on the seat-tube actually contains spare gloves, a spare beanie to wear under my helmet, and spare socks. These might get used if I’m out for an extended period and rain soaks the ones I’m already wearing. I’ll just stop under a tree, swap out the wet garments for dry ones, and continue about my way.

Or, they might get used if I drop into a colder elevation which happens frequently this time of year. In a matter of several miles I can go from 50°F down to 30°F. If this gets the better of me, I can just double up my gloves, socks, and beanie to keep a little warmer — or to keep from getting too cold.

I also keep a few peppermints just under the cap, for a quick sugar in case I start to bonk.

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For longer rides, I’ll put one more tool bag on the top tube and include a little food, a spare tire, some chain lube, and usually have enough room left to add an item that might be relevant for a longer ride, such as a windbreaker or a headlamp to be clipped on later,  should my ride continue into darkness.

So that’s it. That’s what goes with me when I ride.

Be prepared.

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t reflect on my Boy Scout days, and all these years later, those lessons serve me well.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Vasudeva
31 miles
1,500’ climbing
2,100 calories
17.1 mph avg
Yesterday’s earworm: Josephine, by Chris Cornell

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 is this from Chris Cornell. Enjoy…!

Friends, Copilots, And Conspirators…

Though I always ride alone, one constant when I ride is that I’m never really alone. I have friends, copilots, and conspirators who ride along with me, if only in my mind. They just pop in and out of my psyche while I ride, as my thoughts and mood weave ideas, new and old.

Depending on what I’m looking at and what I’m thinking about as I pedal, I have different conversations with different people. There is always some combination of friends, family members, associates, and even some whom I have never met, but have admired.

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Bomer The Kreeps…

During an average ride, I might converse with as many as a half-dozen different people. I confess that some folks show up more than others, but if I’ve been connected with someone for any length of time, either in person or via social media, there’s a good chance that person has appeared beside me on one or more of my rides and  been an unwitting participant  in these conversations in my head.

There are times when I ride with people I’ve never met. Roberto Clemente, Steve Earle, Colin Powell, Robert Wright, and James McMurtry have all ridden with me at one time or another — and many more like them. And yes, Donald Trump has even been on a ride or two with me, but his presence is always forced, and the result of his own permeating bad behavior.

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My copilots aren’t just in my head. They are always on bicycles, and right beside me traveling at the same speed, no faster or slower. My imagination paces us side-by-side so perfectly that it’s easy to converse. It’s as though we are always at identical fitness levels.

We chat. We laugh. I listen. They speak. I speak. They listen. We learn more about each other as we ride. Sometimes we talk of what we already know, while others times we talk of what should or could be — what we might want for the future.

We talk about art. We talk about how we can save the world. We always talk about how things can be improved. Occasionally, we tell jokes and might even sing.

Paul Weller and I sing quite well together.

The only time I take a leadership role during our rides is in explaining what’s ahead on the routes we are riding. You see, we may be riding side-by-side, but this is my turf, so I have to explain the how to prepare for every obstacle. It might go something like this…

– This is going to be a steep hill…
– Might get a little bit curvy up ahead…
– Going to need to do a little shifting just past that tree…
– Hit it just right, and we could reach 50-mph going down this slope…

Things like that.

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There may be gaps when we don’t speak to each other at all — when just enjoy the scenery, occasionally looking over to one another and silently acknowledging what beautiful surroundings these are or the thrill of breaking the 50 mph barrier.

We don’t talk about politics too much when we ride, but when we do we are sure to agree on things. That’s the beauty of my friends being with me on my imaginary terms; we’re pretty much in agreement on everything. Or should I say, they are in agreement with me…

We agree on music. We agree on sports. We agree on the beauty of the landscape around us. We agree that the world would be a better place if we all treated one another with more kindness. We agree that a successful outcome for man is supremely dependent on religious acceptance, as well as putting all animal life on an equal plane with human life.

Go ahead, ask me if I ever ride with God, I dare ya…

Like so many others, God pops in and out. He’ll spend a little time with me, maybe has something to say or gets me thinking about something in a new way, and on a good day, maybe he listens back just a little bit. Other times, he just sits on my shoulder  with the wind in his hair and enjoys the scenery as I do.

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I love riding with my friends. It’s actually a big part of why I ride — I can spend quality time with Todd Snider or Retief Goosen every day. Goosen is great on the hills. Snider…?  Not so much.

I ride alone, but I’m never alone when I ride. So thank you for riding along with me.

This is what I think about my ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Bomer The Kreeps
29 miles
1,200’ climbing
16.7 mph avg
2,000 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Ain’t That Peculiar, by Fanny

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 is this from Fanny. Enjoy…!

 

The Emotions Go To The Observer…

Got out early yesterday. By San Diego standards it was very cold — 38°F when I left the house. Double socks. Double gloves. Beanie under my helmet. Three long sleeve shirts. I still get a bit nervous about whether I’m dressed properly before I ride in winter here. I’m in proximity of several microclimates, and often have temperature fluctuations in winter of 10 to 20°. I’ve made good clothing choices so far this season.

A good rule of thumb: In winter, I dress for the downhills. Despite the cold temperatures, there’s a lot of heat and even sweat generated riding uphill. Reach a crest, go over the top, and with downhill speeds up 40 mph, 38°F, becomes roughly a 20° windchill.

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Don’t let the sunshine full ya. It was about 30° at the time I took this picture…

Was thinking about art and emotions on yesterday’s ride…

I often wonder why some songs makes me cry, that otherwise shouldn’t. Conversely, I wonder why songs that should make me cry, often don’t. I got to thinking about the balance of emotion between the artist and the observer. I say observer and not listener, because this also applies to paintings, movies, and literature. It’s just that music is my primary form of literature.

As I was peddling alongside citrus orchards and acres of vineyards, I contemplated how fragile the exchange of emotion is between artist and observer. That’s what makes art so beautiful.

There’s the external emotion — the essence of the artist, crafted and projected outward from his art, like a message in a bottle. And the internal emotion — the essence of the observer, yearning, needing, and stirring within. Those emotions meet and blend in the head, the heart, and in the soul of the observer.

I thought further about other influences in this dance.

The first time I heard the song Bad, by U2, I was driving down College Avenue in Tempe Arizona in my blue Renault Alliance. My white and gold Lhasa Apso, Scooter, was in the passenger seat. Maybe 3/4 of the way through the song, I  got a lump in my throat and began bawling. So overcome with emotion, I pulled off to the side of the road to finish listening, but more so to be less a danger in traffic. Scooter just stared quizzically.

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Since that day, I’ve listened to that song, maybe hundreds of times, and I always reflect back to the emotions I felt the first time I heard it. However, in all the times I’ve listened to it since, not once has it brought me to tears, though it still evokes an emotional response every time.

Now here’s the thing: I was scarcely listening to the lyrics the first time I heard that song. I didn’t know what the song was about. So where did those tears come from…?

Maybe it was the beauty of the day — sunny with my dog at my side and the windows rolled down. Maybe I had just gotten paid and felt a sense of relief that lightened my heart — no more ramen for a while. Certainly the way the song builds sonically was a factor in pulling me into it. Maybe it was that I was just so young and hyper-aware that I had so much of my life left ahead of me. I dunno.

Some combination of all of those things is probably what brought me to tears. And let me be clear, they were tears of joy. Now I’m certain Bono and The Edge had no idea who I was or that their song would bring tears to me that day. But along with my environment and internal emotions, the emotions they felt when they wrote and recorded that song were mitigating aspects of the dance in my soul that day.

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There are still some songs that bring tears to my eyes, but they are fewer and fewer these days. Perhaps that’s because I’m just so deep into life, and to scarred to feel as I once was able to feel.

Emotions are like clouds. They are the result of many influences, circumstances, and chemistry. And like clouds, emotions ebb and flow. They change shape, they change sizes, they change moods, and they sometimes disappear. Never though, do they stay in one place for very long.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Cortez The Killer
26 miles
1,300’ climbing
16.6mph avg
1,800 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Bad, by U2

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 is this from U2. Enjoy…!

Calling In Sad…

An all-out glorious ride yesterday. The skies were as beautiful as I’ve ever seen them around here. I got off the highway and rode light gravel and dirt trails for about 8 miles of a 25-mile ride.

Nearly every day I ride past an underpass and a sign above it that reads…

Wildlife Crossing SR76

The underpass is expressly for wildlife to cross under State Highway 76 in Bonsall.

More freedom, less roadkill. Makes sense.

Although it’s intended primarily for coyotes, raccoons, possums, rabbits and the like, I’m certain mountain lions and bobcats have crossed under the highway on this trail from time to time.

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I’ve wanted to explore the trail for a while now, but on this route I’m usually on a road bike, not suited for trail riding. Today I was appropriately biked, so this was the day to veer off the path and get dirty for a while.

I left the highway, used the underpass, and followed the trail as far as it went toward the San Luis Rey river bed. I was surprised at how well worn the trail was, but when I looked up to see two men in the underpass seated on a weathered mattress and leaning against one another sharing a bottle of tequila, I knew bipedal varmints also use the underpass and the trail.

Once I cleared the underpass, I was wholly invigorated and inspired by the scenery and by the skies — and just in time too.

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At this point, I was about 8-miles out from my house and only a few hours removed from one of the heavier depressive episodes I’ve had recently. It was a Sunday morning and I only had one client session, but I was having a pretty bad start to my day.

I sat there, with roughly an hour to go before my only session and I just stared into the glow of the fireplace. As much as I appreciated the expected client, I didn’t really want to do the session. I was just too sad.

I just sat there, holding my dog and crying, and for reasons that were beyond my grasp. I wanted to call my client and tell her that wasn’t feeling well enough to train her, but that seemed unacceptable for many reasons.

I ran through all the clichés in my head…

-Buck up!
-Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!
-Crash through it!
-Get over it!
-And a few others…

I knew I’d get it together, put my game face on, take her through a rigorous workout, and that she would leave my studio better for her efforts. Nobody ever walks away from a workout and says ‘I wish I hadn’t done that’.

And maybe after her session, for the efforts and dynamics of me getting her through it, I’d feel better myself. History tells me that could be the case.

Still, the depression was stifling at that point. But we’re not allowed to call in sad.

If I had some tangible germ, virus, condition or disorder and cancelled the session, my client wouldn’t have questioned it. The words ‘I have strep throat’ are more acceptable to a consumer than ‘I want to sit on my closet floor with the lights off and the door closed’.

And that’s too bad.

I don’t think that will ever change either, not in my lifetime, despite all we now know about depression. Calling in sad will never be an option.

When we are carrying germs that can spread to others and cause them sickness too, we are told to put up hard and fast borders — do not let those germs out and don’t let anyone in. Notwithstanding that when we’re sick, we are often too weak to work and likely to be less productive so staying home is acceptable.

When it’s tears though, that were carrying, rather than germs, we’re expected to hold them in and do so in a way that we aren’t expected to do with germs. We trust that with the right amount of effort, our sadness won’t be contagious.

Maybe there will be a day when I can call in sad and it will be acceptable. A part of me hopes that day comes, but a larger part of me hopes it never does, because my income might be cut in half.

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I’m glad did the session and as I reckoned, I felt a little better for having done it. It was one of my favorite clients. She works hard, and that helped me out my sadness — some. I’m as glad though, that I took my bike out immediately after the session because by the time I was done riding, my sadness was long gone — if only for a while.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Tang
25.5 miles
1,100’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
1,700 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Womb, by Toni Childs

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 is this from Toni Childs. Enjoy…!

Hard Working People Sooth The Savage Breast…

After a week of bad weather, 4 flat tires, and one cracked frame, I ended the week with a great ride. Very cold this morning and a bit rainy still, but I felt good to be trouble-free again, if only for a day. More bad weather headed this way later in the week, and these rural roads aren’t bicycle friendly after heavy rains.

As is often the case, I was thinking about music while riding this morning. Not songs, not albums, not styles, genres or even technologies. I was thinking about the dynamics that lead to music — the circumstances that lead somebody to learn an instrument, to take up writing or to form a band. But beyond that, I was also thinking about all the music that never gets heard.

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It’s amazing what can happen when a little sunshine follows a little rain…

Early on in my life I worked for Felyine Concerts in Colorado. My job was primarily at the Rainbow Music Hall in Denver, where I was a Junior Assistant to the Junior Assistant in charge of backstage security. I was also the Managing Director of strolling the parking lot to ensure car stereos didn’t get stolen once the concerts began.

On rare occasions, I might find myself at the Feyline corporate offices though, to do an errand for somebody, pick up a paycheck or a drop off time cards. One of my jobs prior to working for Feyline was as a sandwich maker in a local deli. Barry Fey, the founder of Feyline, was a regular customer at the deli. In my time there, I waited on Fey often and made dozens of sandwiches for him, so he knew me a little bit.

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All hail the Pollenator…

While in the Feyline offices one day, Fey’s office door was open. I peaked my head in a little bit and just waved while he was on a telephone call. He didn’t wave back or even acknowledge me. Behind him though, was a wall that was essentially a giant cassette holder. There were literally dozens, if not hundreds of cassette tapes lined up on the wall behind Fey’s desk.

Several weeks later, Fey showed up backstage for a gig at the Rainbow — might have been the Greg Kihn Band, and I commented on the magnificent cassette collection I had seen behind his desk. He laughed and explained to me that that wasn’t his music collection. It was all the demo tapes he had received through the years from managers, bands, and producers looking for him to use a particular band as an opening act at the Rainbow, McNichol’s Sports Arena, and his other little concert outlet, the Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Not usually giving employees like me the time of day, he actually stopped and talked to me about it for minute in an ‘I have a lesson for you kid’ kind of way. He took a minute to let me know that those were all bands I’ve never heard of and probably never would. He then moved onto the next important thing, which was probably scoring drugs, ice cream or both.

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I think the brief lesson or impression Fey was trying to leave me with, was that most bands never make it. He continued on about his business that day, but left me to chew on that idea for about 40-years and I’ve never been able to let it go.

Most bands never make it.

It’s never forgotten by me, ever, that the bands that I hear on the radio, see on TV, whose concerts I attend, albums I purchase or that I look at on YouTube, probably started by sending their demos out to everyone they possibly could, including promoters like Fey.

I think about that every day of my life.

I know the means and the platforms of exchange have changed, but the idea is still the same — the starving artist with starry eyes and the enormous odds stacked against him, knocking on doors and hoping to simply be heard.

Long before they were produced, overproduced, glorified or dumbed down by the likes of Ric Ruben, most artists were passionate, shabbily dressed kids playing on meager instruments, and who practiced practiced practiced.

So last week, when Maroon 5 headlined the Super Bowl halftime show, in what may go down as the single biggest piece of crap musical performance I’ve ever seen, I still took the time to think about how they started and where they came from.

That at one time in his life, Adam Levine was a kid from LA with a guitar and a dream, and that he practiced practiced practiced. And whatever I may think of Levine or however I might interpret his band’s performance at the half-time show, he started young, remained committed to a goal, and with the benefit of some good luck and good timing, fulfilled a dream that he might never have actually dreamt to begin with. I wish I had.

I also remember though, that for every Adam Levine, there’s 10,000 more just like him that practiced just is hard or harder, but maybe didn’t have the good luck or the good timing to reap the larger rewards. And may God bless those bastards, because they are the ones who give music a good name.

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

Today’s Ride…

Bike: Tang
24 miles
1,100’ climbing
16.0 mph avg
1,600 calories
Today’s earworm: The Black Cowboy, by Larry Robinson

The Firecrackers And Landmines Of Caregiving…

Another flat tire yesterday, 9-miles out. It was the 4th flat in 72-hours. All the recent rain has washed a lot of debris into the roads. Most of my flat tires take place in late winter and early spring here.

After a roadside repair, I limped home due to uncertain tire pressure, exchange bikes and headed out again. Every ride is a new stoke, and most rides are the best ride I’ve ever had.

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The bike I began on, would not be the bike I finished on. 4th flat in 72-hours..

I was thinking a lot about caregiving today…

A firecracker, unexpectedly detonated in your proximity might startle you, make you pause, and even take you out of your rhythm for a moment, but would otherwise be harmless. After a firecracker explodes, life carries on within a few seconds, as if it never happened.

A landmine exploding unexpectedly, can kill you. If you’re lucky enough to trigger a landmine and actually walk away, the consequences of the concussion can still be profound and often life-changing.

In assuming the care of my aging mother, I spend most waking moments apprehensive of the firecrackers and landmines which surround us. More firecrackers than land mines at present, but I know as her dementia advances, they will come into equal portion and at some point, the number of landmines may exceed the firecrackers.

Since my mother lives with me, and I work from home, my mother is within 50-feet most of the time. The only exceptions to this are when I walk my dog, go to the store or am on my bike.

Though I attempt to keep distinct separation between my mother and my business life, a big part of why I have them both in my home is so I can toggle between them and assist Mom in-between my appointments and when I’m not working.

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My mother, a retired federal worker, is in her late-80s. She walks exclusively with a cane, is in the early stages of dementia, but is lucid most of the time, just not all the time, and rarely when it’s convenient.

Mom is capable of engaging in normal conversations which might include gossip, current affairs, and the events of the day for each of us. She’s also capable of some light housekeeping duties, enjoys TV and reading, but naps in equal portion to anything she does when she’s not napping.

There are some quirks and idiosyncrasies which come with old age that can be disruptive, but are relatively harmless. There are also some heavier eccentricities that can stop a peaceful moment in its tracks. Those quirks are like firecrackers. The eccentricities are the landmines.

Sometimes, for no reason I’ve been able to understand, my mother will separate Oreo cookies from their main package and individually wraps them in paper towels, places them in coffee mugs, and put the mugs back in the cupboard — without making any mention of this to me. Imagine my surprise when I reach for a coffee mug, fill it with water and put it in the microwave to heat up the water for tea. Only after the fact do I realize I’m steeping my tea in Oreo water. I’ve learned to inspect the coffee cups before I do this. Still, if I’m in the rhythm of my day, I might forget to look in the cup first.

That would be an example of a firecracker.

A landmine, on the other hand, might be when I’m coming in for just a moment between appointments and I am confronted by Mom with the following information…

“I’m certain I’ve just seen the neighbors throw a baby into the dumpster in their backyard…“

I don’t believe this actually happened, but I don’t stand in front of my window for hours at a time looking to see what the neighbors might be up to. I do though, need to take time to discuss this with my mother.

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If I have just a couple of minutes in-between appointments when she advises me about the baby murdering neighbors, negotiating that conversation might take a little more time than I actually have, and I might be late for my next appointment.

No Mom, I assure her, I don’t believe the neighbors did put a baby in the dumpster. Would you like me to call the police…?

It just doesn’t set up for a quick conversation. Again, that’s a landmine.

Seeing Mars in the western sky one evening, Mom told me she thought it was the space station and that they were looking down on Fallbrook spying, but not on her specifically, at least not yet.

There was nothing else going on in my life that evening, so that was more of a firecracker, but certainly had the potential to be a landmine. Still, she met me with absolute disbelief at the thought that it might be Mars and not the space station. She didn’t speak to me for the rest of the evening.

Occasionally she leaves bed in the middle of the night to unplug all the appliances — so they don’t start a fire overnight. Of course, she does this in the dark so not to wake me — what could possibly go wrong with that…? If she were to fall in a darkened room, which she hasn’t done yet, that would be a landmine. Waking to hear her knock over a lamp or two in the process, is still just a firecracker.

When I’m in a session with a client and I hear the smoke alarm go off in the kitchen, a semi-regular occurrence, and I have to interrupt my workday to open windows, fan smoke out the door, and clean up any messes that might be caused by splattered grease — that’s a landmine.

Those are just a few instances of how my mother sees and negotiates the world differently than I do. Instances like these, however ord, are a semi-regular occurrences. These can be a little funny, sometimes entertaining, occasionally a nuisance, often frustrating, and at times dangerous. All in a day’s care.

These firecrackers and landmines — these sudden pops and explosions I navigate between each day, can wear me down. Occasionally, I catch her still attempting to do things I’ve asked her not to do, like use the stove or the vacuum cleaner. When an adult child has to discipline his parent for what is in-essence, misbehaving, both are sure to have heavy hearts, at least for a while.

There is one more landmine though, that comes up every 4-weeks as though it scheduled. It’s the day we deposit her retirement check into the bank.

Some months ago, my mom received a check from an insurance rebate for roughly $4,000. I asked her if I could hold the check overnight so it didn’t get lost — my mother has a habit of allowing the important documents and checks to end up in the recycling bin. She agreed  to let me hold the check overnight. The next day we deposited the check and that’s where the story should have ended.

Every month since the day we deposited that check, on the day that we deposit her monthly retirement check, she asks me if I have the insurance rebate. When I tell her that we deposited it 6-months ago, she disbelieves me and asks over and over where that check is.

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The bike and tires I would finish on. God bless Gatorskins…

So once a month I have to convince my mother that I haven’t stolen $4,000 from her. She never fully believes this, and despite that we have this discussion every 4-weeks, we have it again 4-weeks later. That’s dementia, high-fiving me.

And the worst thing about these landmines is this…

As immediately as they explode and are cleared, they return again, in the exact same place.

I am frustrated with firecrackers, but I am haunted by landmines.

Confessing all of this might help you understand that if my only break from this is walking my dog, going to the store, or being on my bike, then these things are the methadone of my existence.

To be continued…

This is what I think about when I ride…

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Vasudeva
29.5 miles
1,500’ climbing
16.9 mph avg 😁
1,900 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: The End Is Not In Sight, by The Amazing Rhythm Aces

Life With Chip…

It was raining steadily, but not hard when I left for my ride yesterday. I stepped outside prior to getting on my bike and scanned the sky in 360° fashion. I easily made the decision to go out. At worst, I would come home wet and a little more tired than usual, but perhaps a little bit cleaner behind the ears.

There was little wind and the temperature was in the low 50s, so it wasn’t like anything bad was going to happen. I have all the appropriate rain gear for cycling so this would be just another ride.

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The rain stopped long enough for a picture and a pee…

Besides, it’s not like rain pierces the skin, attacks the central nervous system, ceases muscles from functioning or causes sudden blindness when it touches the eyes. It’s just rain. It hits the teeth some — that’s kind of a funny sensation at 25 mph, but it’s never caused me to crash. It causes me to blink a little bit more when it hits my eyes, but that’s okay. It might make my feet a bit heavier on the pedals, but it’s just rain.

I don’t know that this has ever been tested, and I’ve never discussed it with other cyclists, but when I ride in the rain, I always feel like my drivetrain — my gears and my chain run more smoothly for the moisture that flows through them.

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A flat in the rain and a warm place to repair the tire…

In truth, I enjoy riding in the rain. As long as there isn’t much wind and it isn’t too cold, it’s fun. Another aspect of why I enjoy it is because I know most people would never do it. People question me and caution me against it. Some openly question my intelligence when I ride in the rain.

Not to be judgmental, truly, but not riding in the rain or not riding at all is easy. Riding in the rain is a test of my fortitude, and that translates to many other things in life. I become mentally stronger from riding in the rain, better skilled at riding when it’s not raining, and more confident in my ability to stand up to discomfort.

Standing up to discomfort, by the way, is a character trait that I began developing when I was a teenager, have never quit trying to improve on, and has served me well. Too many people I know struggle with standing up to discomfort.

At some point I will ride from coast to coast, and regardless of what time of year I do that in, there will be days when I will ride in rain, wind, snow, and possibly worse conditions. So going out for 25 or 30 miles when it rains is honest work toward that goal.

And getting a flat tire on a rainy day ride…? Well, that’s also a test, and one I passed yesterday — with flying colors.  Another mile-marker on the road of hardening me against discomfort.

This is also why I ride at night at least one or two nights per week — in the dark, but on a very well lit bike. I like to do things that other cyclists — that other people would never do.

I guess I’ve just got a chip on my shoulder. A Chip, actually. His name is Chip.

I spent much of my early life, well into midlife, being doubted and written off by others, even by people close to me. As far back as I can remember, few people have believed in me, and many more have doubted me in most all of my ambitions. As a result, I’ve spent the latter part of my adult life giving people reasons to never doubt me. I dare you to tell me I can’t do it — I double-dog dare ya.

That’s why I intend to live in a camper someday — to retire in one actually, and a small one at that. I want to prove to people who live in 5,000 square-foot houses or even 1,500 square-foot houses that I can absolutely live in an 80 square-foot camper and be happy doing it — just as I can be happy riding my bike in a rainstorm while somebody else is inside binge watching Game of Thrones in front of a fire.

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Not that there’s anything wrong with Game of Thrones or a 5,000 square-foot house. That’s just never been my priority. Okay, Game of Thrones is stupid, but there’s nothing wrong with 5,000 square-foot houses. It’s just not my shtick.

I like living my life with Chip. He sits up there quietly on my shoulder. He’s always there. He doesn’t speak often, but when he does, I listen. Chip not only reminds me who I want to be, but daily he also reminds who I don’t want to be.

Chip oversees my independent streak. I will be the Captain, but he will draw the chart, sailing into destiny…

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Last Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 4
172 miles
9,600’ climbing
16.0 mph avg
12,000 calories

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 is this from Rush. Enjoy…!

 

The Mind Drifts…

Truth be told, if I ride for 1-1/2 to 2 hours each day, I’ll probably think about a lot of things — anything — most everything. I’m at the beck and call of free association.

If it’s a beautiful day, not too hot and not too cold, and if my surroundings are aesthetically pleasing, which they always are, my first thought will probably be about something beautiful that I’m looking at. That will lead into my next thought, which will take me to another thought still, and so-on.

Before I know it, I’m playing connect the dots, thought to thought, and piecing together my entire life — what it was or what it might still be.

Hardly a ride goes by that I don’t think about my childhood; friends I hung out with, the things we did together, and the places where we did them.

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Bike: Tang….

Daily while I am riding, and without exception, I think about my time spent in the US Coast Guard. Again, the friends, places and the things we did.

I think about the first time I did an inward 1-1/2 somersault from the 3-meter springboard at Skyline Acres Swim & Tennis Club in Denver when I was 14.

I think about arguments I witnessed between my mother and my father when I was small — of hiding under the bed when their voices got too loud.

I think about jobs I’ve had and jobs I’ve quit. Daily, I think about my first job as a sandwich maker in the deli when I was 15. That remains the best job I’ve ever had. To this date, I’ve had exactly one more job than the number of jobs I’ve ever quit.

I think about mistakes I’ve made and regrets I have. I think a lot about my mistakes and regrets. Someday a form of math will be developed that might actually be able to tabulate all my mistakes and regrets, but until then, I’ll just refer to them as many.

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The rainbow connection…

I think about music an awful lot when I ride, and I’m constantly reciting lyrics of songs as my feet push me forward — occasionally even biting my tongue or lip when I hit a dip or an object in the road.

I think about dying honestly, but I think about living more.

I think about Carlton Fisk.

I think about my dog and my cat — and I still think about all of my dogs from the past, but not cats from my past because Mischa is my first cat.

I think about my daughter of course. I think about how lucky she is to have the mother that she has. I think about that a lot also.

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Stroodle, age 15   This is what I think about it when I ride…

Sometimes, for no reason whatsoever, I might think about the Lindbergh baby. I really do. I don’t know why, it’s just a story I’ve always been fascinated with.

I think about Professor Pausch.

I think about movies. Today I thought about the movie, Once Were Warriors. As the kids say, highly recommend…

I think about the men flying the many helicopters I see flying overhead each. Living this close to Camp Pendleton, I see Marine aircraft all day long. Sometimes I think about what they might be thinking about while they’re flying. Hopefully, they’re thinking about flying, and little else.

Of course I think about politics, but probably in a different way than most people. More on that in another essay.

I think about systems a lot, and have a great reference and respect for them — that we are all passengers, beneficiaries, and casualties in the many systems that carry us in different directions all day long. I think most people don’t give much thought to these systems, and most don’t realize that systems, not politicians, are our true leaders, and the systems get elected by the many choices we make each day.

I might think about cartoons some days. The Flintstones was my favorite. I also like to Quickdraw McGraw an awful lot.

I really do think about all of these things each day when I ride, and many more than this.

I’m always thinking when I’m riding. Always thinking. That’s my disease, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but at the end of the day, thinking is what makes me me.

You see, riding a bike isn’t just about escaping, though that’s certainly one aspect of it. It’s about riding towards things, riding back to things, riding around things, and gliding.

Riding a bike is about gliding as much as it is about anything. The body glides, yes, but the mind glides also.

Above all things, for me, riding a bike is about being alive.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Tang
22.5 miles
1,300’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
1,600 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Ship Of Fools, by Bob Seger

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 is this from Bob Seger. Enjoy…!

Soreing With Eagles…

 

My legs are sore today, quite sore. More on that later.

On a winter night in 1981, my friend Mike Wolf and I took a leg workout, after hours, at the Nautilus Fitness Center in Littleton Colorado. Mike and I, a couple of young bodybuilders at the time, were both trainers with Nautilus.

We were there for 3-hours that evening and did nothing but squats. Inspired by Arnold  Schwarzenegger and guided by youthful stupidity, we had decided we would each do a set of squats every 3-minutes for the entire 3-hours. This, we thought, would coax our legs into new growth.

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38 years later, still squatin’…

I don’t remember too much about the weights that we used at night other than we started heavy and by the end of the night we were using just the 45-lb. bar on our backs.

Barely able to walk, we stepped out of the gym into snowy single-digit temperatures, got in Mike’s Volkswagen and were on our way when Mike noticed the car was low on gas. It was probably some kind of guy thing but since it was his car, it would be my job to get out and pump the gas in the frigid air.

Though I had been sitting in the car for only a couple of minutes, my legs had gotten cold quickly after 3-hours of squats and were not responding to the signals my brain was sending them.

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Standing beside the fuel door, with the gas pumping away, I suddenly collapsed onto the sheet of ice below my feet. My legs weren’t cramping, they were just unable to move and I was unable to control them in any reasonable way.  For a moment, I honestly thought I had become paralyzed. Eventually the gas pump clicked off and I was still on my side next to the rear wheel of the Volkswagen, unable to stand.

Eventually Mike would step out of the car and begin looking for me. I can still recall the chuckle he gave when he saw me sitting on the ice trying to get up — kinda like Bambi on the frozen pond.  Mike would help me to my feet, get me into the car and deliver me home where I could sleep and eat dozens of eggs over the next couple days in hopes of growing larger quads.

For the next few days my legs felt a profound soreness that they haven’t known since — until yesterday.

Since I’ve been riding my bikes upwards of 150-175 miles week for the past year, I’ve cut back on my leg training some and have been okay with that. In particular, as somebody who has always squatted ass to the grass deep, for the last year or so I’ve been doing only parallel squats rather than deep squats.

By parallel, I mean squatting to the point where my femur is parallel to the ground, pausing for a 1-count and returning to the top. For most of my weight training life — 40+ years, I have squatted deeply but always safely.

Recently I noticed my quadriceps, just above the knees, look a little thin. Despite my cycling and that I still train legs with some intensity, I didn’t like what I saw.

Now this could be an age thing. Strength trainers and bodybuilders over the age of 50 and approaching 60, often lose leg development first. Very often this is due to  cutting back on or abandoning leg training after a certain age, but it is also part of the aging process. In my case, I attributed this to a lack of deep squats for the past year. The legs of older bodybuilders just don’t pop, and popping quads was my calling card for about 30-years.

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Nilla: Equal parts marshmallow cream, styrofoam, meringue…

Considering that squatting deep again might help fill out my quads over my knees, last week I began squatting deep for the first time in a year. For a day or two after that first session, my legs were more sore than usual and it felt good. It was even an indication that I might be on the right track.

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Three nights ago I did a second workout including more deep squats and much heavier this time. The next morning I felt a soreness in my thighs that took me back to that squat marathon with my friend Mike nearly 40-years ago. Today it felt like the entire Chinese Army walked by me and one by one, and kicked me hard on each thigh.

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Bike: Bomer The Kreeps…

Every step I have taken today has felt like electricity and sledgehammers were attacking my thighs simultaneously.  And then it was time to get on my bike…

I actually thought about skipping my ride. In truth, it was a great ride as it always is, and my legs loosened up quickly once I began to ride.

However, with the type of symmetry that can only be part of a divine and humorous universe, as soon as I got off my bike today, I collapsed and fell to the ground — exactly like I did at the gas station in 1981.

And that my friends, is a true story.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Today’s Ride…

Bike: Bomer The Kreeps

24.5 miles

1,100’ climbing

16.5 mph avg

1,600 calories

Today’s earworm: Paper Late, by Genesis

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 is this from Genesis. Enjoy…!