The New Secondhand Smoke…

A recurring theme in my thought-blender this week, while churning through the canyon communities of Rainbow, Pala, Valley Center, and here in Fallbrook, was the notion of secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke, as we all know, does peripheral damage to people who never light up. The extent of that damage can be hard to trace, but we can say with certainty that secondhand smoke has caused illness, birth defects, and even death in people who’ve spent significant time near smokers or in places were smoke gathers in excess — casinos for example.

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Somehow this week, pushing my way past roadside shrapnel, broken glass, and the uneven pavement of these rural San Diego roads, I connected the idea of secondhand smoke with other secondhand toxins.

These are everywhere these days, and we’re all breathing them in, whether we realize it or not.

In no particular order, they are…

Secondhand ignorance
Secondhand grandeur
Secondhand hate
Secondhand weakness
Secondhand prejudice
Secondhand intolerance

They are grown in the darkest places of the human psyche — where bacteria best take hold, and exhaled, sometimes with malice, but often innocently.

Secondhand fear though, is chief among them. Secondhand fear is the mortar that seals the gaps and holds the tiles of all the other toxins together. Sometimes when I ride — often when I ride, I’m simply trying to outrun all of these toxins. They are at the core of my people fatigue.

In the same way that people have gotten sick, and even died due to secondhand smoke, I’m beginning to wonder if all this secondhand hate isn’t adversely affecting my health — not just my mental health, but my physical health. I’m not trying to be clever when I pose that idea either.
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I ask myself regularly if, when I stand in proximity to others, as I interact with people on social media, and as I receive information via print and broadcast media, it isn’t similar to passing through casino, only to be quietly poisoned by all that secondhand smoke…?

Secondhand smoke is a legitimate public health concern — governments have regulated it, and those regulations have saved millions of lives. Secondhand hate though, and its lesser constituents can never be regulated because the implications in relation to our right to free speech are too significant. Still, as I ride my bike each day, often pedaling as fast as I can to outrun it all, I wonder if we can’t police this ourselves, just a little bit better.

This ride though, it works. I ride and I forget. Then I come back — to a society filled with gutless behaviors fronted by secondhand hate, and I sink back into myself, questioning whether the toxins from others are weakening my immune system. That’s when I begin to think about tomorrow’s ride. Is it tomorrow yet…?

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
204 miles
10,500’ climbing
15.1 mph avg
12,000 calories
13 hours 34 minutes seat time

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

What’s On My Mind…

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write about the current health crisis this week. People have had enough, myself included. I thought maybe, if I could work myself into a creative mode, I might be able to offer up a distraction.

Yesterday though, while stopped at an intersection on my bike, and looking at two older people in a silver Lexus beside me, both wearing masks, l burst into tears. It’s the only time I can remember freezing when seeing a red light turn green. I wasn’t able to move my feet or legs. I just gasped with deep breaths as a couple of tears fall from my cheek to my tongue. At some point, it dawned on me that green means go and I got back into the rhythm of the ride. But for the next 30 miles, I was stuck in that moment.

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A couple of nights ago I sent a note to a friend, a surgeon in North Florida, checking to see how he’s doing in the midst of all this. He replied by telling me he was doing okay. Like me, he lives in a rural area where things aren’t so bad. But he included this quote in his reply…

”Yesterday, I watched a doctor in Spain crying as he reported on how they are letting people over 65 die so the ventilators can be used for younger patients. That was hard.”

That thought was still fresh in my head when I broke down at the intersection and froze at the green light.

I had already been reflecting on stories I’d seen from Italy, New York, and beyond. I’ve been thinking about my friend Gayle who lives in India — I’m very concerned for their plight.

Two mornings ago I was entering the local market when I passed a grocery cart stacked so high with food and supplies that I couldn’t see the person pushing it from behind. It was a friend and client. She ducked her head as I passed, so not to be seen by me. I didn’t let on.

In California, for now anyway, restaurants can be open — for takeout only. I’ve seen a number of social media posts suggesting we support these small businesses by purchasing some of our meals from them. I’m sorry, but if things are really this bad, then restaurants should be closed. If grocery stores are open, people can eat. Having restaurants open might be good for the restaurant owners and the few employees getting any work out of it, but it puts more people into the mix and right now, I think that risk far outweighs any reward.
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The last day I worked was March 11th. I’m losing $300-$350 per day by not working. I can’t say I’m taking that loss with a smile, but I’ll figure it out because not working is the moral thing to do. I know of three fitness trainers/facilities that are still operating, despite the order that closed all gyms and fitness outlets. One is a multi-use gym, and the other two are private facilities like mine. One is directly across the street from me. I’m not bitter, truly, I just don’t understand.

Our often criticized governor, Gavin Newsom, was one of the first to invoke the shelter-in-place order. Whatever shortcomings he might possess as governor, taking that bold action so early has saved hundreds, and will ultimately save thousands of lives, though that may never be quantified. Newsom, in my opinion, has been an exemplary leader through this. Those participating in the effort to recall Newsom, might take a look at their children, spouses, or grandparents before taking another step.

I feel helpless. I have close ties to several nonprofits in the community. I’m on the volunteer call list for a few of them. However, I also care for my 90-year-old mother and need to keep my exposure limited on her behalf. I’m doing no volunteering other than for my own household.

In the meantime, the dog and the cat are happy and rarely without human contact. I’m giving mom more Coca-Cola than usual because, why not…? She’s 90 and is survivor of the great depression and World War II. Until further notice, Coke is a vegetable in this household — 3 servings per day.

As for me, my routine hasn’t changed much aside from missing work. I walk daily, taking dozens of pictures while Stroodle’s ‘hurry up’ eyes stare me down. I ride my bike because it soothes the chaos in my head, if only for a while. I write, because I feel compelled to do so and to share.

I’m hopeful, that this will be a turning point for our species. I’m not necessarily optimistic, but I’m hopeful. As I write this, I’m watching an episode of Love It Or List It. There’s a couple arguing about the color of backsplash above the granite countertop of the $900,000 home they’re considering. They’re a part of the reason I’m not optimistic.

The reasons why I’m hopeful though, despite not being optimistic, are all the people in the medical community who are literally putting their lives on the line right now and will be doing so for months, including my doctor friend in North Florida.

And when I contemplate what lessons, if any, we’ll learn from this, the only one that’s clear to me right now is to say I love you to everything that moves, because we truly are in this together.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
182 miles
7,800 climbing
15.0 mph avg
10,300 calories
12 hours 10 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this. After 12 years of waiting, a brand new album from Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks. Enjoy…

The Cleanup Crew…

Yesterday’s ride was spectacular. I pedaled up Rice Canyon — a two-lane farm road just east of the Pala Indigenous People community. A cool spring morning with broken skies recovering from an overnight rain. The shades of green right now are stunning. It’s a ride I’ll remember for a long time, as well as the story that took place in my head.

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I imagined a conversation between an expedition leader from a nearby planet and one of his lieutenants….

Expedition Leader: And what can you tell me about them, you know, as a species…?

Lieutenant: They weren’t like us. It appears they were an emotional people, overly reactive and lacked common sense. They put the individual ahead of the family, the family ahead of the tribe, and the tribe ahead of the species.

Expedition Leader: Did they have a golden age…?

Lieutenant: Oddly Sir, yes. It appears to have always been the one they had just come out of, or the one they were going into do next. Never though, does it appear to have been the one they were in at any moment.

Expedition Leader: What was their general behavior and what were their final actions like…?

Lieutenant: They appear to have spent most of their waking lives immersed in petty bullshit. They disagreed with one another on a regular basis and over little and unsolvable things, making it impossible for them to agree on the bigger things — the ones might have prevented their extinction.

They failed to learn from the past. They regularly looked beyond the obvious warning signs of danger, in favor of momentary relief. They liked shortcuts. They were relentlessly addicted to harmful forms of energy, easy credit, and cheap consumer goods.

They spent too much time focused on simple amusement, didn’t take the concept of work seriously enough, and had an inherent tendency to take more than they were willing to give.

Expedition Leader: Cool. Thanks for the hard work. I’ll arrange for a cleanup crew and see if we can get the remaining reefs, rain forests, rivers, and animal population brought back to good health and a complete comeback now that the humans are gone.

Lieutenant: Sir, would you like for me to archive their historical records…?

Expedition Leader: No, burn them. Our children should never know of such a species.

Lieutenant: Excellent point, Sir.

Expedition Leader: Oh, and euthanize all the monkeys and apes, just in case.

Lieutenant: Of course, Sir, right away.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Eleventeen Cupcake
31 miles
1,400’ climbing
14.4 mph avg
1,700 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Babylons Burning, by The Ruts

Neither Heaven Nor Hell…

Eternal is a ring — it has no beginning and no end. It’s a cycle, everlasting.

Never-ending is a line. It has a beginning, but extends without ever stopping.

Pointing out the difference between eternal and never-ending may seem like a small point, but when people talk to me about the prospect of an eternal hell, I’m quick to remind them the term they’re looking for is never-ending, not eternal. It often flusters them. I explain to them that hell has to have a day-one. I envision it something like this…
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You show up, get in line, and get your ID number, then there’s probably a lot of waiting around. Eventually some unfriendly being or beings begin to have their way with you and it never ends.

Apparently that’s God’s way of teaching you a lesson you’ll never be capable of learning, in an environment where you’ll never be able to apply it.
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Wait, what…? How could a god who created a human mind capable of logic wrap things up for us with a scenario that rejects it…? That’s a rhetorical question. Of course, the idea of heaven defies logic also.

I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but I’ve been thinking about them both lately — because so many people keep bringing them up. Honestly, I might be as fearful of heaven as I would be of hell, depending on what memories we’d take with us as contrast for our new surroundings and our new chores.

By the way, it’s not the Covid-19 I’m worried about. My age and fitness level would likely get me through it. My concern is growing though, of a global collapse. Although I still see that scenario as very unlikely, this is our Cuban missile crisis and it’s going to last much longer than 13 days.

Facing uncertain and possibly catastrophic times, I’ve been trying to get my moral bearings straight and my principles lined up. I’m focusing on how I should live in these coming weeks and months, should I not make beyond 2020. I’m not doing this out of a fear of hell or a desire to enter heaven. I’m doing it because it’s the right way to be, but it always has been.

If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that I’m a much better person than I’ve given myself credit for. I say that based on my observations of all the people and all the nonsense which has taken place around me in an increasingly complex world.
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Being raised in a society inherent with religious fright as the foundation of most moral learning, has done little to make me feel good about myself. Set against the backdrop of the end of daze, I think I’m in pretty good field position.

In just a few short years we’ve gone from Francis Fukuyama‘s The End Of History to Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny. Heaven and hell not withstanding, I’m going to steer my current course and continue to be me — it’s all I know.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 7
203 miles
8,600’ climbing
15.1 mph avg
11,500 calories
13 hours 21 minutes seat time
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from The Eurogliders. Enjoy…

On To The Next..

In this time of Passover, Easter, and in the midst what might be the most critical moment in modern human history, God has been on my mind a lot of this week. And yes, I believe in God, though I make no attempt to characterize or define him, her, or it. I just feel there’s something bigger than humankind.

Rarely an hour passes that I don’t think about purpose and meaning. Those thoughts always lead me to God.

God, to me, is wonder and that’s where I feel all discussions should end. The question of whether or not God exists does little for me. The more important question is where does he take us from here…? A lot of people, myself included, might be discovering that in the coming weeks and months, and in numbers we haven’t seen in a long time.

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I’ve never believed this is the only life we get, but like my feelings of God, I can only go on a hunch. My hunch is that we carry on. Where we land when we leave this world, I have no idea. Perhaps another body, another realm, into a different simulation, an alternate universe, or a new upload — I’ve got no clue.

I don’t believe in Heaven nor Hell, just continuation. I would simply hope that where and how we continue beyond this life is precisely correlated with how we lived here — graded on a curve of course. Nobody can predict how things will unfold in the coming weeks and months, but I’m somewhat at peace with it all — at peace with what might be next for me Apprehensive, but at peace.
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In recent years I’ve learned the value of the volunteering. I’ve discovered great meaning in putting the needs of others ahead of my own, animals included. I’ve felt the joy in giving my last dollar to a friend in need. I’ve made friends with the local homeless, and make sure to remember their names. I took in a kitty who was left on my driveway and told her she’s a Cohen now too — and I’ve treated her accordingly.

I’ve learned that argument is almost always fruitless and that insults are a sign of weakness. I’ve learned that there actually is a wrong time to make a joke. I’ve learned to listen, to put myself in the shoes of others, and to say I love you to everything that moves and many things that don’t. In this social media era, I’ve learned that you can call somebody ‘friend’ having never met them.
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I’ve often joked that in Mad Max world, I like my odds. I’m not sure I really believe that now, but in the next world, I think I’ll do okay — I hope so anyway.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Vasudeva
30 miles
1,300’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
1,700 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Black Coffee, by Humble Pie

Waiting On That Final Day…

“The end of the world is just five years away — and it always will be…“ Every Optimist

I’ve never been a doomsdayer and I’m not now, despite legitimate concerns over the current global health crisis. It’s always bumping around though, in the bingo hopper of my head, that life as we know it might turn on a dime — to begin the downward slide that takes us out as a species.

In 1971, just before a Cub Scout meeting, my mom, who was also my Den Mother, showed me a newspaper clipping — an article about an earthquake in Los Angeles a few days earlier. The story told of a young boy, also a Cub Scout, who had been killed collecting soda bottles to raise money to buy a new uniform. It wasn’t her intent to alarm me, but I got the sense that all of Los Angeles had been destroyed by that earthquake.

Several years later in China, an earthquake was said to have killed 500,000 to 1,000,000 people. That number would later be amended down to roughly 250,000, though the exact number can never be known. Still, by the time I was 12-years-old, my science teachers and the nightly news convinced me that earthquakes were capable of killing millions. It just hadn’t happened yet. What a way for the world to end though.

Long before the movie Independence Day, in early elementary school, I often wondered if large spaceships might show up to annihilate us. That’s what happens when your 3rd-grade teacher makes the class listen to The War Of The Worlds on Halloween day, rather than practice addition and subtraction problems.

Each morning, when I step outside to retrieve the newspaper, before I return to the house, I always do a 360° pirouette, looking up for the spaceship that might be preparing zap us into infinity. I do that at other times during the day too, no joke, I actually do.

Just before Christmas in my 7th-grade year, The Missiles Of October aired on PBS. It was a well-made television show, which had actors, William Devane and Martin Sheen among others, use actual transcripts of meetings between JFK and his cabinet, to dramatize how Kennedy addressed Russia placing missiles on the island of Cuba. My brother and I watched it side-by-side in absolute silence. If the Cuban missile crisis had gone in the wrong direction, I might have died in a diaper 11-years earlier. Pfew…

In 2010, during the H1-N1 pandemic, I joked to a few clients that the Swine Flu couldn’t catch me because the Swine Flu wasn’t quick enough. After a short trip to Chicago to visit my daughter that year, I learned that the H1-N1 was not only quick enough, but had the stamina to go the distance with me. I ultimately won, but spent 11-days not ingesting a single calorie, and had a fever which hovered around 102° for over a week. The world did a good job keeping it at bay, but I had first-hand knowledge of what to expect if millions of people were exposed to it.

Today I live in Fallbrook California, less than a mile from the back gate of Camp Pendleton Marine Base. Part of living adjacent to the base means that we hear waves of ordinance being detonated regularly, often so loud that windows, walls, and pictures on those walls shake. Every-so-often there will be an explosion hard enough and loud enough that, no matter how well conditioned I am to think it’s Pendleton, I still run to the nearest window looking for the mushroom cloud that came courtesy of North Korea or Russia. So far, so good.

It’s always there — thoughts that on any given day, it might be my last day on earth, or the first day of the big downward slide that eliminates our specie. So far, so good.

When I was a kid, my dad placed a hand-written note on the bulletin board of my bedroom. It was my father’s liberty with the words of Rudyard Kipling, and it read precisely as follows.

“If you can keep your head when those about you are losing their’s, then my son, you are a man…”

I can’t say I’ve been perfect with those instructions, but the older I get, the more I find value in trying, pandemics included.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
174 miles
8,000’ climbing
15.0 mph avg
9,700calories
11 hours 27 minutes seat time

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

Thought Recap March 2 – March 7…

A little something different this week. Since I write a daily version of this blog on Facebook, and many people who read this are not on Facebook, I’m going to share a recap of those original Monday through Friday thoughts here each Sunday.

If you’re interested in checking them out daily on Facebook, you can follow the the link here. If you’re not on Facebook but are interested in what goes through my head as I ride each day, you can read it here each Sunday.

Monday, March 2. Practicing Mistakes

One of the best parts about riding early on Sundays is the streets are nearly void of cars. As my ride winds down though and I return to town, I pass several churches along the way. Traffic backs up as the parking lots begin to fill for Sunday services.

I take it all in.

For much of my adult life I’ve drawn many comparisons, and cultivated much of my worldview by identifying similarities between religious culture and fitness culture. On the surface that may seem like a stretch. However, the similarities between religious culture and fitness culture are numerous, and in my opinion, very telling.

It all starts with expectations.

There are expectations in society that we take care of our souls. Houses of worship, we learn at an early age, are the best place to prepare our souls for all that will confront them. There are also expectations, albeit to a lesser degree, that we take care of our health and bodies. Gyms, yoga studios, and similar places of worship are as numerous as houses of the holy.

It continues with expectations.

For many, whether we’re talking about protecting our souls or our bodies, it’s those social expectations that create intent. Whether we have a deep calling or not, many attend religious services because they feel it’s expected of them. Similarly, many exercise regularly because they feel it’s expected of them.

Location and leadership.

Because nobody is born with inherent knowledge of religious doctrine, they seek locations of practice and leadership who can teach and cultivate progress toward an increasingly moral life. In the same way, someone seeking to improve their physicality must seek a location of practice and a leader to teach them how to improve.

Ritual Obedience.

Again, whether we’re talking about the soul or the physical being, ritual obedience is necessary to make progress. Obedience to the doctrine and leadership, and consistent ritual practice of what is taught.

You go, you light the candle, you say the words, and you eat the cookie, you leave.

You go, you program the treadmill, you take the steps, do you drink the smoothie, you leave.

Clearly I’m not a priest, a rabbi, or an imam. I have though, made my living teaching different aspects of fitness and exercise for much of my adult life. I’m fortunate inasmuch as I do no group training. My lessons are all one-on-one, which enables me to teach in a way that better secures the expected results.

If there’s one doctrine that I teach above all others, it’s to execute proper form in all the exercises. I regularly tell students that if they’re not using proper form when they exercise, they’re simply practicing mistakes over and over again.

Though I don’t have occasion to enter public gyms too often these days, when I do I’m always struck by how many people are exercising outside of proper form — entire communities reassuring one another that they’re doing a good job, when in fact they’re not.

I know people will take offense to this, but when I think about that — when I think about the entire population of a gym practicing mistakes over and over again, I have to believe that happens in houses of worship as well. It’s just human nature I suppose.

If there’s a message in this attempt to compare the need for spiritual growth with the need for physical development, it’s that if we’re going to practice something, it’s probably best to not practice mistakes over and over again. Eventually, those mistakes become part of who we are.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

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Tuesday, March 3. Signs…

As if the joy and exhilaration of riding yesterday wasn’t enough, the skies were an additional reward for my effort. Gray, charcoal, varying hues of blue, and white combined to reflect the ground below in spectacular fashion. I know I say it all the time, but ‘stupid job…!’ I had to go back my stupid job.

I ride, in part, to escape the news of the day. These last few weeks though, the news has snuck in to my escape. Actually, it’s full-on molested me. The last 6-miles of my ride each day are a climb back into Fallbrook, up South Mission Road. Because it’s a steady climb, it’s the most ordinary part of my ride. I’m mostly head-down, churning, tired because it’s near the end, and this is usually where my feet begin to hurt. These days though, my eyes hurt more.

Leading up to Super Tuesday, South Mission Road gets transformed into The Alley Of Wasteful Politicians. It’s an assault to my psyche even worse than scrolling through my morning feed. Dozens of signs with the names of politicians or the numbers or letters assigned to the propositions this community should be voting for. The names Darrell Issa and Carl DeMaio pollute the 6-mile stretch. Not to be excluded is the good guy liberal candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar and some lesser judges, assessors, and so-on.

By the way, I’m not taking a political stand here, other than the fact that I believe these signs should be relegated to the past by way of a mutual agreement from all parties and by all causes.

For the second time in a few months I’ll run with my favorite quote from the 1972 book, The Limits Of Growth.

“If you want to protect the environment, stay out of it…“

Also, quit using it.

The game has changed. Political marketing has gone digital and I think that’s a good thing. I know these signs along people‘s driveways and on the sides of the roads buy bits of our brains that their sponsors hope register precisely when the ballot is in front of the voter, but but these signs are profoundly wasteful.

Signs require energy and multiple resources to be manufactured, need to be transported multiple times, and need to be disposed of when the campaign is over — if they’re collected at all. The only bigger waist than the signs themselves, are the wasted words of the politicians they pronounce.

Campaign signs should end tomorrow. The end, no justification, no rationalization, they should simply go away.

Crap. That’s just one more thing I have right that all the politicians in the country are still getting wrong.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

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Wednesday, March 4. Wearing My Plants Wrong…

Fun ride yesterday. Sleeveless t-shirt. Middle of the day. Everything is green. I’m getting my tan back. A fun little lunch-break, indeed.

I’m taking my fitness a more seriously these days. I know that’s an odd statement coming from a guy who does fitness for a living. Despite my so-called fitness lifestyle, I’ve got a weak link in the chain these days that I need to repair.

I’m consistent on my bike. I’m consistent in the weight room. I’m consistent with my stretching and with my balance work.

So what’s missing…?

My eating has been for shit.

I don’t mean that I eat junk food, that I overeat, or that don’t take my eating seriously. It’s just that my eating has become an identical reflection of my lifestyle — loosely organized, haphazard, and anything goes just to make it to the next day. In the scope of my fitness life, I’m eating good enough to get by, but I expect better of myself.

Riding as much as I do, getting enough calories is the only priority I have in eating. Balancing my nutrients and micro-nutrients is an afterthought. Because of my busy lifestyle — working and taking care of my mother, I get my calories as efficiently and conveniently as possible. This means I’m over-depending on rice, pasta, peanut butter, tofu, and convenient fruits. If you noticed a big void there, yes, vegetables are woefully missing — they only find their way into my system by way of the Thai and Chinese takeout I eat for lunch or dinner most days. I eat almost not vegetables but for a small serving of mixed frozen vegetables every 3rd day or so. In my (mostly) plant-based diet, most of those plants are wheat, rice, nuts, bananas, and soy.

I’m attempting to change that.

The biggest thing I have working against me is time. Eating vegetables, especially the better ones, takes time. It’s easier and quicker to throw down a spoonful of peanut butter and a bowl of pre-cooked rice than it is to prepare and chew on enough broccoli, zucchini, Brussel sprouts, and asparagus to sustain a 1,700 calorie ride.

Really it comes down to organization and planning, and that’s where I hope to improve.

Don’t get me wrong, I can still tuck in my shirt and make it look okay, and the blood panel from my last physical was above average for an old guy. Still, I haven’t been completely dialed in with my eating since I left Colorado in 2015. It’s time to get back on it.

That’s it. My lack of veggies has been weighing on me, so to say. I’ll keep you posted.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

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Thursday, March 5…

A Long Way From SeaWorld…

Second ride on the vintage Fuji yesterday. Not as fast as the first ride, but I faced a lot of wind heading west. Still, this bike is smooth and fun to ride. I’ll need to be cautious not to ride it too much — maybe twice a month or so.

I received a couple of unrelated emails recently, from two friends who live in separate parts of the country — each questioned me, asking why I say I live in San Diego when the pictures I show look nothing like the images they have. Let me clarify…

Most people, it seems, associate San Diego with Seaworld, Mission Beach, and our beautiful downtown waterfront. San Diego’s moniker is America’s Finest City, and I couldn’t agree more. However, I actually live about 50-miles north of downtown San Diego and 15-miles inland from the nearest beach. My home is in the unincorporated community of Fallbrook.

Fallbrook is a rural community known for its agriculture including avocados, plant and flower nurseries, citrus groves, and more recently, vineyards. And horses, we have a lot of horses. We are a community of 40,000 persons living sparsely among roughly 44 square-miles. We have a concentrated downtown with shops and restaurants.

If David Lynch built his own Mayberry, this would be it. I’m not citing this as an official statistic so just take my word for it, but we have more eccentric personalities per capita than any place on earth. We have a cross-dressing feed store manager, a cowboy poet who wears spurs everywhere he goes though I don’t believe he ever rides horses, and we have dozens more personalities who dress, speak, and behave just differently enough so they get noticed. We even have one guy who rides around town on a different bicycle, every day of the week.

Due to the hilly landscape and the large agricultural presence, there are only a few housing tracts here. Most homes have at least a little bit of land around them and some have grand properties. I often tell people the best way to see Fallbrook is to fly over it at low altitude, because there are so many homes and incredible properties that can’t be seen from the streets.

Most everyone grows some family fruit — avocados, citrus, and stone fruit, to be passed around and traded in a quasi-barter economy. Between March and early summer, it’s not uncommon for people to leave bags of fruit at the edge of their properties for anyone to take. Walk into out library or community center on any spring day and there might just be a bag of lemons or grapefruit with a sign beside it saying “take a few“.

Because this is the best growing climate in the United States, everything grows here — flowers, plants, fruits, vegetables, name it. The best part of that though, is there is visible Color 365 days a year. If fallbrook has a secret weapon, it’s the Bougainvillea. These transplants from India can be seen growing along fences brightening up the landscape in any direction one looks.

To ride a bike through Fallbrook, I often feel liked I’m on a tropical island. It’s truly that beautiful. Because most people have never heard of Fallbrook, I’m quick to say I live in San Diego. That’s true since I am in San Diego County. San Diego may be America’s finest city, but Fallbrook California is America’s most beautiful community.

Each day, when I could be doing many other things, I choose to spend a couple of hours in a bike, taking it all in at a speed which is on a more human scale than a car. This vehicle of choice, this bicycle, allows me to better appreciate all that captivates me. I smell the society garlic, the eucalyptus, and the citrus blossoms. If I see a blue heron standing in water or a turkey vulture sitting on a fence, I can stop without hazard and just take it in for a minute, and then move on to the next gorgeous scene. Fallbrook is my home.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

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Friday, March 6. If I Never Die…

It’s not always rainbows and unicorns in my head when I’m on the road. My mind goes to some peculiar places. Not necessarily dark or even bad, just strange. As I’ve said before, it’s hard to get on a bike every day for a couple of hours and not think about mortality.

I think about what might happen if I get hit by a car or if something falls off a truck and hits me in the head. As those thoughts churn, I think about my family, my friends, and any legacy I might leave behind. Sometimes though, I go the opposite direction.

I’ve survived a half-dozen legitimate near death experiences. I don’t seem to be any worse off for that wear. And that bodes the thought, every so often, what if I just keep on living…? I mean, my track record so far is 100%. By all accounts, I probably shouldn’t be here. Broken vertebrae — skydiving accident. Head injury(s) — skydiving, bike, river escapades. Notwithstanding, I once had an ER doc tell me my brain was swimming in alcohol and he wasn’t sure I was going to make it.

What happens if I keep on waking up, ongoing…?

That’s a question I think about often when I ride. Fifty-eight years old, 64 years old, 78, 93. When does that final day come…? What if it never comes…? 142 years old…? 210…?

I don’t mean that in a messianic way — that I’m not human, invincible, or that I’ll live forever. I just wonder, maybe too often, if I’ll be like Stroodle and just keep waking up each day and running like a deer, with only a little more gray on my face as time goes on.

And then there’s that deeper thought, the one that pops in and out of my head all day long and has haunted me for years…

Maybe this isn’t a life at all, just my purgatory. Perhaps I’m trapped in a waiting game that will only end as I allow it to end, by offsetting my previous wrongs by the actions of my daily rights. Purgatory plays out like Groundhog Day, right…

Wake up
Do more good than bad

Write
Do more right than wrong

Walk
Do more good than bad

Work
Do more right than wrong

Ride
Do more good than bad

Work more
Do more right than wrong

Take pretty pictures
Do more good than bad

Go to bed
Wake up, do it all again.

Each day a rebirth, but toward what end…?

Eventually, I do enough good while weeding the bad and I get to move on. Maybe that takes me 72 years. Maybe, 113 or 175 — I dunno, I just keep tryin’.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

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This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
202 miles
9,,500’ climbing
14.8 mph avg
11,500 calories
13 hours 36 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this. After 12 years of waiting, a brand new album from Cornershop — and it’s excellent. Enjoy…

Blah Blah Blog…

I’ve been writing daily for much of my adult life. For nearly 20 years I’ve been sharing that writing via several platforms, most recently this blog. In recent weeks though, I’ve been struggling to find new ideas — new thoughts to write about and to share. In considering that, it’s clear that I’m either running out of fuel for thought, or I’ve lost the creative ability to make more from less.

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Of course, it might also be that I’ve said everything I have to say. Nah, I don’t think so either. So like it or not, this is a brief piece of writing about my writing.

My reason for writing, more than any other, is to help me better understand my beliefs, or to talk myself down from them. Putting my thoughts into a digital record offers me the chance to distill them to their greatest purity and store them for future contemplation.
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Sharing my thoughts, on any subject, is never about initiating debate or changing anyone else’s mind. It’s about me showing my work in the calculations if life that take place in my mind. Writing, in that sense, is much like my physical exercise — it’s something I do to improve me, not others. In the same way I ride a bike to make my lungs stronger and do planks to tighten up my core, I write to make my mind more fit. If others find value in my writing, great. If not, no biggie.

Many suggest reading is the best exercise for the mind and the only way to broaden and strengthen one’s worldview. Clearly reading is an important exercise for the mind and I read or listen to books daily, average completing, 5-6 books per month. However, reading someone else’s and thoughts, I believe, offers a lesser platform for self-appraisal. Honest self-appraisal, in my opinion, is the best way to broaden and strengthen one’s mind. Writing and subsequently reading my own words, forces helps me distinguish the sensible from the wacky.

In this age of increasing complexity, with more voices than ever continually shouting from every direction, writing down my own thoughts helps me distinguish them from the thoughts of others, and perhaps that’s the best way to illuminate the road to self-discovery.

I’ve said for a long time that I believe the world would be a better place if people spent as much time writing Bibles as reading them. I stand with that, now more than ever. I blog, therefore I am.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
204 miles
9,600’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
12,000 calories
13 hours 09 minutes seat time

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

Daily Nonsense Cap And Trade…

A big part of my riding is to offset the time I spend connected to the electronic world. Scrolling through social media, watching television, and streaming videos is what I refer to as my ’daily nonsense’. Nonsense, inasmuch as it does nothing to promote a better world and even less to create a better life for me personally. Electronic entertainment is among the cheapest and easiest forms of amusement — it’s the ultimate act of taking without giving.

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I first understood the idea of offsetting my inactivity when I was 14. My brother, four years older, had left for college and my father found me in front of the television increasingly. Until that point, having an older brother often kept me active and away from the TV. My brother and I shot baskets together, built snow caves, rode bikes, and we regularly walked along a foot trail near our house where we just talked about life. We ice-skated, swam, and played a lot of pickup football. With my brother gone to college, my activity partner was gone. After my brother left for college, my father noticed me watching television much more.

Dad did what he could to discourage my TV habit, but he also traveled a great deal and my mom was less concerned. By that point, I even had a television in my bedroom and I kept it going most of the time. One evening my father entered my room and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse…

He explained that he was going to monitor my television habits and require me to spend an equal amount of time reading or engaged in outdoor activities. I could watch as much television as I wanted, he explained, but for every hour of TV, I had do some combination of something physical or read books.

Guess what I clung to most…?
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Although he tried to emphasize the reading part of the deal, at that point it was clear that I was reading challenged, so he was content to let me play outside or ride my bike in equal portion to the television I watched. He even tracked my activity with a tablet of graph paper and a grease pencil on a clipboard he attached to his office door. This only lasted or a few months, but it was long enough that it became a habit. By the time my brother returned for the summer after his first year of college, I was probably spending more time on my bike or shooting baskets than in front of the television.

What can I say…? Habits learned through adolescence tend to stick, or at least have the potential to be reawakened later in life.

There’s a lot of talk these days about net-zero carbon emissions. In the business world, companies like Delta Airlines are taking massive steps to offset their carbon footprint in hopes of achieving net-zero carbon status by a certain date. Cap and trade is a hot topic in the business world and among world governments. Step lightly with our carbon footprints, they say, and fill them in as soon and as completely as possible.
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One could make an argument that I’m a digital media whore. I spend time daily writing for this blog, my Spoke And Word Page on Facebook, a fair amount of time scrolling through other peoples’ nonsense, and at night I watch a lot of YouTube videos on philosophy, religion, music, and cycling. I call this my ‘nonsense footprint’. It may not be as damaging to the world as a carbon footprint, but then again it might.

So I do my best, each day, to offset my nonsense footprint. I do what I did when I was a kid — I spend a lot of time outside, in equal portion to the time I spend with my nonsense. Of course I ride my bike, but I also walk twice daily, I spend time tending my gardens, and in-between clients sessions, I sit on my patio and stare at the trees and at the sky with my hands and mind free of nonsense. Although I use an audio format, I also listen to books daily for at least one hour, usually when I’m gardening or in the weight-room.
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I think this is a good way to be. Though I enjoy streaming videos, scrolling through other peoples’ nonsense, and watching Dan Rather interview musicians on AXS TV, I make sure that I detach from it all, offsetting my nonsense footprint.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
194 miles
8,900’ climbing
14.9 mph avg
11,000 calories
13 hours 01 minute seat time

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

The Faster And The Furiouser…

Another fun week of riding. I hit the 200 mile ballpark yet again. If I can maintain a minimum of 180 miles per week through June 14, 2020, then I will have a 10,000 mile year, beginning June 15, 2019. Though it’s not a calendar year, if I keep this pace, I will have ridden 10,000 miles in 365 days — a club I never thought I’d be a part of.

The first thing I do when I get off my bike is to click off my riding app to confirm my the time and distance. The app I use is Map My Ride. The instant I close the app though, I’m met with the faster and the furiouser — all the notifications I missed while I was detached from the world.

Between text messages, emails, and social media notifications, I might have 20-30 notifications to prioritize. As I walk through the door, take off my helmet, and lean my bike against the cedar chest in my living room, I attempt to triage the chaos of the moment.

My dog stares at me with the eyes of an 8th grade girlfriend as I walk right past him. He broadcasts a sense of…

“I won’t be ignored, Roy…“ in his best Glenn Close.

The cat sees me, jumps on the dining room table, which is reserved just for her, and prepares for me to feed her. I walk past her also. She meows and nudges her plate a single time with her left paw. Her eyes follow me as I head to my bathroom to change out of my sweaty gear.

My mother disrupts my path and asks me how my ride was. It’s her way of reminding me that she needs to eat too — every bit as much as the cat and dog.

Eventually, I make my way to the bathroom, change out of my sweaty clothes and into the dirty clothes I was wearing before my ride. I run a brush through my hair and put it back in a ponytail.

Through it all, I’m staring at the phone in my right hand trying to prioritize the messages and notifications I received while I was riding. I typically ignore the messages that matter most — those from my family. Sad, but true.

I put my phone down long enough to feed the cat, the dog, and my mom, in the order of whoever is making the most noise. This is typically the cat, though if mom is hungry, she’s capable of making some noise too. For his part, the dog is usually silent. Throughout the feeding process, I attempt replying to messages and notifications as I’m able.

Some of the messages that show up when I ride are work related — appointment confirmations, schedule changes, as well as eating and workout questions from clients. Work related messages take top priority. I might also get messages from family members, but unless they are noted as urgent, as mentioned, I generally reply to them later.

The social media notifications are the wildcard. There might be 15-20 of them popping up so quickly that they feel like grenades being lobbed in a war zone. Though I’m still focussed on feeding the animals and the old person, if a message warrants an immediate response, I’ll do my best to reply. If not, dismiss.

Once everyone is fed, the important messages have been returned, and if I don’t have a client waiting for me, I’ll take a minute and dictate a few bullet-points about my thoughts while riding. These highlights are put into a digital hopper, to be used in an essay to come, maybe. I have to do it though, or they’ll disappear from my mind immediately, never to be considered again.

Eventually, the chaos of my return eases. Everyone’s fed, important messages are returned, and I can catch my breath, if only for a while. Tomorrow, I’ll do it all again, just after I roll my bike through my front — the portal to the faster and the furiouser.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
198 miles
9,800’ climbing
15.0 mph avg
11,100 calories
13 hours 12 minutes seat time

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

Still Feeling Out The Wormhole…

Like many, after a more than a decade, I still wonder how social media, Facebook in particular, should fit into my life. I still wonder whether it should be a part of my life at all. And in my quietest moments, I’m often concerned about the influence social media has had on my personality.

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In 2006 my life and business were on autopilot. My days were evenly divided between working, exercising, and reading books on religion and philosophy. I didn’t even own a television and I wouldn’t have changed anything. Well into my 40s, for the first time in years, I felt like I was in a good place.

Around that time, I started a fitness blog, partially to bring credibility to my business, but also to speak out about an industry that had become so perverted that I no longer recognized it. One day a friend, a tech-industry insider, suggested that the up and coming social media platform, Facebook, would be a great vehicle to share my writing. She felt Facebook would become, in a short amount of time, the most used form of mass-communication the world had ever seen.

At the time, my internet use was limited to my fitness blog and email only. There was no Netflix streaming, YouTube was in its infancy, and my time on keyboard each day could be measured in minutes, not hours.

Subtly though, over a period of just a couple of years, I began spending more more time on my computer. At that time, I still used a desktop PC — this was 2007 or so. Checking my email, Facebook, and responding to comments on my blog usually took place at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day. If time and circumstance allowed, I might check these media in the middle of the day, but not often.

In 2008, I bought my first laptop. With Wi-Fi being more established in restaurants, coffee houses, and other public places, I began taking my computer with me just about everywhere, mostly so I could write if I was so inspired, and if had the time. I also checked email and Facebook messages more frequently.

In 2013, I got my first smartphone, an iPhone 3. That’s when the quantity of wormholes, and the gravity inside them increased. The camera on my iPhone was better than the point-and-shoot camera I took with me on my hikes. I developed an affinity for smartphone photography. As better apps and filters were being developed to support my photo habit, more platforms manifest to share those pictures, such as Hipstamatic and later Instagram. I began a seamless progression onto the social media road that I still walk today.

Facebook though, was a superior outlet because I could share both my writing as well as my photographs. Facebook was growing fast though and changing form from week to week. The increasing network of warmholes and tunnels were so easily drawn into, that at least a part of my psyche began to reside there, even when I was away from my phone or computer.

Viscerally, I was becoming aware of the negative impact this could have on my time, but I was also becoming concerned about any impact it might have on my personality. I regularly questioned whether this increase of screen time was healthy, though I never answered those questions. This might be analogous to someone enjoying a glass of wine with dinner each evening, but on the inside, knowing the 2nd and 3rd glasses were not as easily justified.

My pattern has been pretty consistent for the last 4 or 5 years — I take a lot of pictures, I write, and I share. Seems harmless, and a good creative outlet, yes…?

“If you’re going to the prom, you best be prepared to dance with them who brung ya…” Bum Phillips

The world has changed a great deal in the last 13 or 14 years since Facebook and other social media platforms took off. What has changed the most, is the profound impact social media has had on journalism, institutions, as well the unscrupulous companies pitching their wares while simultaneously mining for personal data. It’s a web of agenda and manipulation the likes of which the world has never seen — one I willingly step into every day.

What began as a platform for social interconnectivity, not only gave everyone a vehicle for their own voice, but each vehicle came with its own road. Within a few years, people and institutions were speeding, changing lanes without looking, changing roads without looking, doing countless U-turns, and constantly changing directions — and there were few rules and even less enforcement. Using social media became a lot like driving in Athens — one is best served to have diligence, patience, a good eye for deception, and a backup plan.

What makes any technology worthwhile is when it’s used for its highest purpose and with the best of intentions. I have no problem saying that most people and most agencies don’t do this with Facebook and other social media platforms. People and institutions, for the most part, behave like children on an unsupervised playground.

I can say with honesty that Facebook and other platforms have enhanced my life in ways I would have never imagined back in 2006. Many aspects of my life have improved due to the connections I’ve made and the information that’s been shared among and between those connections. I’m grateful all of this happened in my lifetime.

Facebook is a generic term to me. It’s not a company, it’s an idea that would have happened anyway, and by any other name. Social media was going to happen no matter what. Facebook just got in line first. Facebook may be broken up by the government in time. It may sell itself into pieces — of its own accord. It may even go into bankrupt someday and come out with a completely different structure. It might even dissolve entirely, if pressed by a competitor which can offer more, although that’s not likely (see Microsoft).

If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, a vacuum would be formed so quickly, it would be replaced within weeks, or sooner. It isn’t Facebook the company which has changed the world so much. It’s been the ability to communicate so quickly and with so many people — social media is about the efficiency of being human. How we continue to use this technology is up to us, but it’s not going anywhere. I still plan to use it for purposes of good, how about you…?

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
199 miles
8,900′ climbing
15.0 mph avg
1,1,200 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’s this from James Reyne. Enjoy…

The Spirit Of 114…

Just after a picture was taken, the one below with the lifeguard stand masking the sun setting into the pacific, I stepped into the Harbor Gift Shop to purchase a vegan cookie. It’s the 400-calorie treat I enjoy at the halfway point of my 30-mile ride from Bonsall to the coast and back.

Though I usually pay with a debit card, I had some change making noise in the bottom of my riding pack the other day so I decided to use it for the cookie — and to eliminate the annoying jingle coming from my pack. With my right hand, I pulled out the last $.25 needed for the $4.75 purchase. It was a bicentennial quarter.

The first bicentennial quarter I saw was in 1976. I was 14. I have a fuzzy memory of doing some quick math to determine whether I might live to someday hold and even spend a tricentennial quarter. By quick math, all I needed to do was add 100 to my age of 14, but I probably used a pen and paper.

That was the first time I seriously entertained the idea of living past the age of 100. Only months before, a woman from Okinawa who had been the oldest known person in the world (111, I believe), had passed away. Although it was unlikely, knowing that somebody made it to 111, led me to believe I might someday hold and spend a tricentennial quarter.

By age 14, I was already strength training daily and running several times a week. I was also paying better attention to the foods I put in my body than any of my social contemporaries. I became somewhat obsessed with the idea of living to be 100-years old, though the tricentennial thing — making it to 114, I knew was unlikely.

I’m now just passed the halfway point of making it 114 — of holding and spending a tricentennial quarter.

When I held that first bicentennial quarter in 1976, the microwave oven and pocket calculator had only been around for a couple of years. The electric typewriter had been around for a few years, but manual typewriters were much more common. Gas was $.54 per gallon, and Bruce Jenner was still a man and about to become an Olympic and cultural icon as the world’s greatest athlete. TaB was the best selling diet soda.

The world has changed much since 1976. Gas is nearly $4 per gallon. The phone I’m dictating this blog into (and not typing) also contains a pocket calculator. Bruce Jenner is now Caitlyn Marie Jenner, and Diet Coke, sadly, has replaced TaB.

Despite my daily fitness regimen, including the cycling that drives this page, I doubt I’ll live to be 114 years old. I’m not sure I want to — early 70s seems like a good stopping point. We’ll see.

There’s two relevantquestions though, that I have to ask myself, should I succeed and live to be 114 years old…

– In 2076, will we still be minting coins…?
– In 2076, will there still be a United States of America to celebrate its 300th birthday…?

At this point, I’m not sure I’d bet $.25 on either of those.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
178 miles
7,900′ climbing
15.3 mph avg
10,500 calories
11 hours 36 minutes seat time

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

Sipping On Humor…

Each morning in contemplative prayer, among the first things I express gratitude for is that my father raised me with a sense of humor. And if it was my father who raised me with humor, it was my older brother who helped me understand that could be applied to just about any difficult situation to make it more tolerable. To know frustration, anger, or pandemonium as a Cohen, is to do so looking for the punchline.


As a caregiver for my aging mother, humor has been my drug of choice to help cope with the all the stresses, surprises, and frustrations that go with caregiving. Humor has helped make difficult circumstances tolerable and helped keep my disposition in check, most of the time. Incorporating humor into difficult times, not only makes them less difficult, it can even make them fun and memorable, for both me and my mother. And that’s the hook for me — that when I make a joke around my mom, even if she’s a part of the joke, she laughs. Seeing a little old lady laugh can be as uplifting as watching an old dog run, something else I get to do nearly every day of my life.

I never use humor against my mother or place her as the object of my frustration. I don’t belittle her, insult her, or use jokes to make her feel poorly about herself, ever. I just throw her into the story somewhere —sometimes in the middle, more often in the periphery, and place my obnoxious or sarcastic comments around her. In a way, that humor acts like a shield, protecting her from the inner me.

In the course of a day, my mother is likely to lose something, drop something, forget something, and be unable to process a moment. When I say in the course of a day, I mean every couple of hours or so. As any of these unfold, they will most likely happen at inconvenient times. After four years, my ability to reach for a punchline rather than an F-bomb has become seamless.

I had thought of citing some examples to insert here, and had even outlined a few to be expanded on. I realized though, it’s one thing to make a joke involving my mother in the heat of a difficult moment. It’s something entirely different to try and explain that joke to people who may not even know me or her. Joking about one’s mother is one of those things that, the more you say, the worse you sound, so I’ll just end things right here.

Each morning in contemplative prayer, among the first things I express gratitude for is that my father raised me with a sense of humor. Immediately after that, I ask forgiveness for those moments when my sense of humor failed me and I lost my shit.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
202 miles
8,900′ climbing
15.7 mph avg
12,000 calories
12 hours 52 minutes seat time

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

The Flags Of Fast Rain And High Water…

Leaving Fallbrook on my bike, I most always head south 6-8 miles to Highway 76. At that point I can either head west toward the coast or east toward the Pauma Valley, but I have to make a choice. Either way I choose, I’ll be riding along the San Luis Rey river basin. Most of the time I ride on the shoulder of the highway roughly 1,000 yards from riverbed. Other times, if I’m appropriately bike’d, I’ll ride on the dirt paths and single-track trails which can lead within a few yards from the almost dry river.

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The increase in homeless encampments in the river basin is noticeable. Three or four years ago, along a the same stretch trails, I might have seen a handful of tents, canopies, and makeshift shelters. Today there are dozens of them visible from the road and bike paths, and probably many more that are well hidden. I’ve said before and am still of the belief that in the 20-mile stretch of the river basin between I-15 and the coast, there are probably 1,000 or more people who call that area home. Perhaps many more. 

We’re in winter now. Though we haven’t equaled the frequency of storms we experienced last season, we’re still above average with rainfall by nearly two inches. The dry river isn’t currently dry, and like most river basins, the San Luis Rey is prone to flooding during heavy rains.

As I’ve ridden along the river basin this season, I’ve noticed a significant increase in one of the more poignant signs of life which manifests after the rains — I see more blankets and clothing hanging from tree branches and from makeshift clotheslines. This is what happens when one lives outdoors and in a floodplain — their belongings get soaked with every passing storm.

Since the rains that fill the riverbed with water are 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 fair to surmise that some of these shelters may have been taken out by heavy rain and fast rising waters, suddenly and while people in them were sleeping. I can’t imagine.

Yesterday, while riding from Fallbrook to Oceanside, I saw roughly 20 blankets and dozens of articles of clothing hung out to dry. I call these the Flags Of Fast Rain And High Water. They are a reminder of how fortunate I am.

When I hang a blanket or piece of clothing on my clothesline throw them in my dryer, it’s always because I’ve previously washed them, by choice, never because they got soaked by an unexpected rain in the middle of the night. Never do I have a sudden need to dry the blankets or the clothes that keep me warm.

And it’s not just in the riverbed. I’ve seen these flags of the downtrodden just about anywhere I see open space these days. If you’re not paying attention, you may not notice it, but they are there — an obvious sign that homelessness is on the increase during some of the best economic times this nation has ever experienced. That math does not add up.
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Whatever one’s opinion of homelessness is — of the reasons why or of the damage done, if you ever see these Flags Of Fast Rain And High Water, please take a moment to reflect just how fortunate you are. You might also ask yourself, if the economy is really this good, why is this on the increase…?

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
171 miles
7,800′ climbing
15.8 mph avg
9,800 calories
10 hours 46 minutes seat time

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

Let ‘Em Eat Cake…

My father’s been gone for nearly eight years. He spent his last years in assisted-living in Las Vegas. He was mostly bed-bound or wheelchair-bound during that time due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. Near the end, he was taking 19 different medications. When a person is on 19 medications, having a complementary diet is important. That’s what the doctors, nurses, and caregivers of his facility claimed.

On some level I know that’s true. Additives, preservatives, and chemicals in foods can have interactions with medications that cause them to fail, conflict with other medications, or conflict with organ function. With that in mind, my father’s diet while in assisted-living was bland and offered limited options.

For elderly in long-term care facilities, meals are often the most important part of the experience. For my father, eating was just another routine obligation — an unexciting dose of calories to be chased with a glass of water, just like his blood pressure medication. The joy of eating had been lost.

During that time, I visited my father as often as my schedule and my finances allowed. One ritual I practiced when visiting him, was to stop at Taco Bell or for Chinese takeout on my way, and surprise him with food he might not otherwise enjoy. His eyes lit up if he saw me walk into his room with little white boxes of Kung Pao Chicken or a bag full of burritos. He was so starved for exciting food that watching him eat these surprise meals wasn’t a sight for kids.

I have a clear memory, on one of our final visits, of watching him take the final bite of a Chinese takeout meal. When I thought about how much sodium and other chemicals were in that meal, and on consideration of his 19 medications, I was genuinely afraid I might have just killed him — that’s not a joke. It would be a good two hours before I became confident there wouldn’t be any negative interactions between the foods keeping him happy and the medications keeping him alive.

And this is where it gets blurry…

If my father had died, I later wondered, from eating General Tso’s chicken and an egg roll soaked in sweet & sour sauce while staring out the window at a parking lot full of scooters and golf carts, would it have been any worse than if he died later that evening from pneumonia while watching Family Feud…?

I’m taking care of my mother now — she’s 90-year-old. To put it bluntly, my mom eats like shit. Since I am largely responsible for her shopping, food choices, and meal preparation, I might someday be culpable in her premature demise resulting from lesser eating choices. She only takes a couple of medications, one for blood pressure and the other for her thyroid, but food quality and quantity can impact each of them.

Most of my mother’s meals are premade from the local grocery store. I occasionally attempt to cook or assemble something from our kitchen, but regardless of the source, she takes in very little at mealtime. If she eats 1/3rd of what I serve with each meal, I consider it a victory. Generally, she eats less.

In-between meals, like many seniors do, mom craves sweets. Moon Pies, Snickers Bites, soft peppermints, and 8-ounce glasses of Coke are her fix. Though she is more mobile than my father was, and is able to get out each day, I’m certain the best part of each of her days is tasting a bit of sugar on her tongue.

I have a hard time drawing a line between what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to the elderly and eating. I know if I fed my mother a diet of plant-based foods, limited sugars, and forced her to adhere to it, it would serve her health better and possibly extend her life.

Is it my place though, to force a 90-year-old woman to eat things she doesn’t want, or to deprive her of the things she does…? I could end up with a shiv between my shoulder blades, and when I least expect it.

Mom came up through the depression, watched a world at war, served in the military, and after all of that, had a 45-year career as a nurse. Notwithstanding, that she raised two strong-willed sons and had a husband who was good at making life difficult. At this point, if she wants to consider soft peppermints a vegetable, who am I to argue…?

I eat better than most, I think. When he was my age, so did my father. When my mother was my age, she included a vegetable at every meal, including breakfast. My mother and father were both active well into their 70s. At some point, our bodies slow down — our lives slow down. Tastes change. Priorities change. The things that bring meaning to our lives become simpler.

It might be that we could all live longer lives and with a better quality, by eating more sensibly. The only question I have is, how long does somebody want to stare out the window all day at a parking lot full of scooters…? How many episodes of Dr. Phil mark a complete life…?

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
179 miles
7,200′ climbing
15.8 mph avg
9,700 calories
10 hours 43 minutes seat time

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

The Great Depression…

The hardest part of living with depression isn’t the pain it causes. The hardest part is covering it up all day so I can earn a living and fit in within my community.

The last few weeks have been a little rough in my head. Knowing that I’ll get on the road at some point during each day though, has helped me charge my way through it. Some days it just takes a little extra effort to hide the chaos between my ears so that it can’t be seen.

I’ve never stuck a needle in my arm or a spoon under my nose, but have to believe that putting two tires to pavement in splendid isolation has got to be the better way to go. As my heart-rate increases from pedaling, the serotonin exchange between receptors in my brain increases proportionately. That’s the same effect that cocaine has on the brain. I’ve never purchased cocaine, but it’s probably less expensive than a bicycle habit. Still, I think this is worth the price.

Once I’m on the road, it just all falls away. I feel like John Travolta after shooting up in Pulp Fiction, driving down the road under the night sky, smiling that secret smile and all is right with the world, if only for a while.

My tempo increases, the road passes under my feet, and I think about my long-kept retirement plan — to apprentice as a sheepherder on the interior of Sardinia. That idea becomes more attractive with every BREAKING NEWS story. When I see how people argue, dig trenches, and build walls around their coveted opinions, I long to be a baby harp seal in the arctic getting clubbed for my fur – certainly that would be less painful than going through my newsfeed each morning.

I’m mostly kidding. My morning feed brings me as much fun and amusement as it does anguish. It’s just that the weight of the anguish is greater than the fun and amusement.

I don’t talk about my depression as much as I should. Most people who live with it don’t. Stigma casts a long and wide shadow. My depression is viscerally biological, but is largely influenced and exacerbated by environment — by the people who fail to think before they speak and act.

I take no medication, although I do recognize the value and the need for medication in others. Medications enhance and enable many lives for the better and they’ve certainly saved lives, but I prefer to deal with my depression organically. These are some of the ways I cope with my depression each day…

1. Strength training and stretching
2. Walking in nature
3. Catering to my creative side, mostly through writing and taking pictures
4. Riding a bicycle, daily
5. Spending time with my pets, hourly

If I add up all the time I spend organically treating my depression, it comes out precisely to every waking moment that I’m not working. That is, I’m either working or engaged in something to take my mind off the sadness that inexplicably pops in and out of my head all day long.

What may not make sense to a person who doesn’t or has never experienced these feelings, is that I have a wonderful life. I make a good living. I don’t want for anything. I probably have too much of everything. I have friends and loved ones who know me and like me anyway. On a scale of 1 to 10, my life is an 11. Given the option, I wouldn’t want to be anyone else, except maybe Kenny Aronoff. Still, intermittently throughout each day, it just shows up knocking at my door. It’s a warning knock – not to announce its presence, but to let me know it’s coming in.

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The only weapons I have against my depression are creativity and physical movement. When I’m not otherwise engaged with work or taking care of my mother, I’m keeping my depression at bay.

If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll consider that at some point this week you’ll be face-to-face with a dozen other people who look on the outside exactly as I do — confident, well-adjusted, and perhaps jovial. On the inside though, they may be battling every bit as much as me, some much more. Since you won’t know it to look at them, please give everyone you see a little bit of grace this week. It may be just what they need to get through the day.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
176 miles
7,800′ climbing
15.4 mph avg
10,050 calories
11 hours 26 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’s this from Daniel Lanois. Enjoy…

The Spoke In Review: 2019…

It’s time to close the door on the first year my little Spoke And Word outlet. I say outlet because I began this site to combine my desires to write, ride, and take pictures — all of which I had been practicing daily, and share them via a singular outlet.

When I began this one year ago, I also thought it might be a marketing arm for a bike shop I hoped to open in Fallbrook sometime in 2020. As I explored that more deeply though, bike shop got less and less traction. Mom and pop bike shops are closing up at an alarming rate, with Amazon and YouTube being the main reasons why. Amazon, for selling parts and components quickly and cheaply. YouTube, for being a great resource for teaching cyclists how to do their ownrepairs. That’s okay though, I make a good living as a fitness trainer and I’m much more qualified.

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I’ve enjoyed waking up every morning and writing about what I might have been thinking about while riding the day before. Monday through Saturday that’s been on my Spoke And Word Facebook page, and on Sundays it’s been here. I’ve had fun looking for good photo opportunities daily — seeking out new backgrounds, placing my bikes in different positions in different locations, and doing so at different times of day in order to get unique photographs.

Neither this blog nor the corresponding Facebook page were ever intended to be too much about cycling. What I’ve sought to share is what goes through the mind of someone who spends a couple of hours each day on a bike. As I’ve gone about this in 2019, I’ve tried to improve my cycling, my photography, and my writing. I have no problem admitting to my own mediocrity in each, but at least the photography is improving — some. Charge on.

I’ll say straight up that this blog and the Facebook page have been as fun and fulfilling as anything I’ve done in some time. They’ve become my identity. As outlets, they’ve helped daily to cleanse my aching soul and chaotic mind. They’ve helped steer me in a more productive direction in my day-to-day life. They’ve also helped cultivate better decision making in all areas of my life.

2019, for many reasons, has been another great year in my life. I remain self-employed. I have the privilege of helping take care of my mother as her abilities slowly give way to time. I’ve done more volunteering in my community than in previous years. I feel like I walk the walk a little bit better and for better reasons than I have in the past.

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2019 hasn’t been without difficulties, demons, and depressive days though. The very things that pushed me into cycling to begin with — depression, inexplicable sadness, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety still manifest, sometimes daily. Writing, pedaling, and photography all help keep those that bay. Any one of those might come up on me fast, but none of them are faster than a guy on a bike.

In fitness circles there’s an axiom that one can’t out-exercise a poor diet. I believe that to be true. Conversely, at least up to a point, I do believe one can out cycle some aspects of mental illness. And yes, I just used the term mental illness to describe myself publicly for the first time. In 2020, I’ll continue to use the tools I have available to cope with the brain I was given, and that’s the best I can do. I hope it works.

With just a few days left, and assuming I don’t hit by an obnoxious kid in a truck or get my head chopped off by a low tree branch while I’m pedaling, I will close out the year at just over 8600 miles. That’s 400 miles short of my 9000 mile goal. Still, it’s nearly 1000 miles more than I rode in 2018, and over 2000 miles more than I rode in 2017. I don’t necessarily think 2020 will be my first 10,000 mile year, but it might be.

To the handful of people who have followed this outlet here and/or on Facebook, thank you very much. Your support and your feedback are appreciated more than you can know. Your priorities are way out of whack, but thank I you.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

2019 By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 12
8,618 miles
388,300′ climbing
15.1 mph avg
529,500 calories
504 hours in the saddle
27 flat tires
353 earworms
Countless smiles and moments of wonder

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

That Tin Shed…

I’m getting closer to pulling the trigger on my first bike trip in a while. I’m hoping to make it happen in April or May. It’s not through Patagonia, across the United States, or along the coastal boundaries of Vietnam — though each of those is a bucket list bikepacking trip.

This trip will be a short tour — a figurative stone’s throw from my front yard. By bicycle, it’s roughly 150 miles to the town of Fillmore California. That’s one long day of riding, or more likely, two comfortable days in the saddle, with a few stops and some good people watching along the way. Perhaps twenty-four to forty-eight hours at my destination, and then two more days to return home. A five to six day trip in all.

Though I haven’t invited them yet, I’m hoping my friends Tim and Ashley from Steamboat Springs can fly out with one of their tandem bikes and join me. It’s also notable that my potential host for this trip, Bill, a Fillmore resident who I’ve never met, hasn’t been notified of my intentions either. However, since Tim and Bill will both read this, I’m inviting them to declare their respective thumbs-up or thumbs-down on this idea, and relate any questions or concerns in the comment fields.

There are essentially three draws in making this trip.

1. The first draw of any bicycle trip is the trip itself. Honestly, a bike trip from Newark New Jersey to Breezewood Pennsylvania would be just as compelling as a trip along coastal British Columbia. In cycling, it’s about being on the road and all the little rituals that go with it, as well as the people you meet along the way. Fillmore will be a great destination.

2. Bill himself. Bill, a Fillmore resident, was a college classmate of my brother at Whitman College in the late 1970s. Though Bill and I have never met, we connected on social media years ago and have had daily interactions ever since. I have no problem saying that those interactions have enhanced my life and helped make me a more positive and better living person. I consider Bill a true friend.

3. That tin shed. Each morning, while so many people are quick to demonstrate the ugly side of social media by misrepresenting themselves, by using hateful language, spreading fear by using lies, and by acting like children in a world that needs adults now more than ever, Bill is one who strives to keep it positive. Like me and a small portion of others, Bill uses a mixture of descriptive language and photographs to express positivity each day. Also like me, Bill takes photographs of the same objects and the same scenes on a regular basis, often from different angles, during different times of the year, and under different skies. It’s a daily reminder that nothing is static, and that even seemingly fixed things and predictable places are ever-changing.

There’s one object though, that Bill takes photographs and shares regularly, that has compelled me since the first time I saw it. It’s a shed on or near what I believe is Bill’s property. It’s a shed — a beautiful metal shed, resting in the foreground of the local foothills. I have no idea what the shed houses or is used for. Whether it’s tools, old trucks and farm equipment, or covers a pumping station for a well, I have no idea. I just know that I’ve wanted to ride my bike to, and to photograph that shed for years now. So this spring I’m going to do it — so long as Bill allows me on his property, and Tim and Ashley ride along with me to keep me company.

When I ride my bike each day, along the coast, through the local vineyards, beside the farms that grow tomatoes, peppers, spinach, and cilantro, taking in that beauty is such an important part of the experience. But everyday, for years now, I’ve envisioned myself riding down that unkempt road, on a bike fully loaded with gear, and approaching that tin shed for the first time. Oh, what a sight that will be. Also, I’m not really sure it’s made out of tin, but that gives it a good name.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
169 miles
6,600′ feet climbing
16.0 mph avg
9,700 calories
10 hours 37 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 worthy cover from The greatest rock band on earth, Los Lobos. Enjoy…!

Pampered…

I was maybe 19 years old or so. Mark Regis, or Reej, as we called him, and I were doing squats at Rocky Mountain Gym in Aurora Colorado. I had 315 lbs. on an olympic bar — that’s (3) 45 lb. iron plates on each side. Real iron plates — not the padded, oversized, and underweighted phony CrossFit plates people post on their Instagram pictures today.

Honestly, I can’t remember if I did 6 reps, 8, or 10. I just remember being proud of myself as I re-racked the bar with the required ‘slam’ into the squat rack. When I turned proudly to face Reej, he whispered in his quiet voice…

“Why do you pamper yourself…?“

Inferring that, despite my effort, I could have done more reps — given more of myself.

“Why do you pamper yourself…?“ was Reej’s calling card. If I put dressing on my salad…

“Why do you pamper yourself…?“

If I warmed up my car on a cold snowy day…

“Why do you pamper yourself…?“

If I felt like taking a nap on a weekend afternoon…

“Why do you pamper yourself…?“

That was a formative phase in my life. Not in a bodybuilding sense, but in a life sense. That was the time I began questioning just how often I pamper myself, in any scenario, and just as significantly, why I pamper myself…?

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In hindsight, it’s easy for me to see that since that time, I’ve pushed myself pretty hard in most everything I do, from my personal fitness, to my business life, and in so many of my day-to-day actions. Reej’s glib remark made a lasting impact.

I don’t like quitting anything before I’m finished.

I’ve gotten accustomed to all kinds of pain.

I’ve learned to dislike being too comfortable too often.

I’ve learned to need very little.

I don’t like taking breaks.

I see sleep as a tool, not as a hiding place.

When I feel I’m pampering myself, I feel guilty, and often ashamed.

Sadly, I confess, I tend to not understand people who don’t share these values, though I try not to be judgmental.

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I guess this was on my mind yesterday as I pedaled my bike 32-miles in the pouring rain. I had an almost daemonic grin for a moment as raindrops hit my teeth and eyes and I flashed back to my friend Reej, knowing that at that moment I wasn’t pampering myself. I was cold, wet, working hard, and having fun through it all.

I’ve read multiple times that America is the pampered society it is, because it became a democracy too soon and without too much prior adversity. That once state and local governments began to form, it got too easy too soon. America’s abundant resources and little competition for those resources, almost from the beginning, might be at the root of our pampered difficulties today.

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In these tumultuous times, a statement like that is bound to offend more than a few people. I stand with it though — we are a culture of pampered people. More than a few notable historians have studied and suggested this. Pampered, by the way, is the term I use. Critical historians prefer words such as materialistic, demanding, lustful, and of high expectations with a disproportionate willingness to earn or give back.

Maybe in choosing not to pamper myself with too much too often, is how my minimalist tendencies began to form. The less one has, uses, or requires, the less pampered one becomes. I genuinely believe that.

Yesterday was just one of those days when, after a good bit of thinking about it, I couldn’t help but believe if people raised their expectations of themselves, lowered their expectations of others, and if they pampered themselves a little bit less in most aspects of their lives, we might be a much stronger nation.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4
170 miles
6,400’ climbing
15.mph avg
10,000 calories
11 hours 5 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 worthy cover from The McClymonts. Enjoy…!

Getting Back To Doing My Part…

I gave up everyday driving in 2008. Living in a small town, being in good physical shape, and never one to shy away from challenges, I gave away my Jeep and took to being a bicycle commuter. At the time, my fitness studio was located 5-miles from my residence.

The town grocery stores, hardware store, and most every shop and restaurant were located along the 5-mile route between my home and my workplace. If I had a need to go longer distances or carry heavy objects, I always had the option of borrowing or renting a vehicle. For years this is how I lived — without a car.

The smaller environmental footprint notwithstanding, saving money on gas, on insurance, and on car-related maintenance offered me a unique kind of freedom my social contemporaries didn’t understand — or didn’t seem to care about.

There was only the occasional downside to living exclusively by bicycle. I have a clear memory of December evening in 2012 — needing toilet paper at 10:30pm. The local grocery stores closed at 11:00pm. Five miles into town wasn’t a very long bike ride, but that roundtrip on a cold winter’s night felt like an eternity. It was also a good lesson for me in better planning.

When I relocated from Fallbrook to the mountains of Colorado in 2014, I’ve vowed to continue a car-free lifestyle. My only change-up was switching to a mountain bike as a commuter vehicle. Though I stayed just one year, I rode my bike most every day and for most every errand — even through heavy winds and subzero temperatures. If the weather was too severe, I would ask my landlady for a ride into town. If I needed to go into Boulder, I’d throw my bike on the municipal bus, do my errands in Boulder, throw my bike back on the bus, and ride back up the mountain where I lived.

In 2015 I returned to Southern California — still car-free. This got ugly quickly since I opted to rebuild my business in the town of Fallbrook, but initially lived in Temecula — 15 miles to the north. Thirty miles of bicycle commuting each day got old, and I became increasingly dependent on rides. I usually rode to work in the morning, and hopped rides home in the evenings when possible. Eventually I moved back to Fallbrook and continued riding a bike for all my errands.

Later in 2015 I rented a house that could serve as both my residence and my fitness studio. Shortly thereafter I relocated my mother from Colorado to join me. Around the same time my mother gave up driving and I purchased a car for the first time in nearly a decade — a used Prius. My intent was to use the car exclusively to get my mother to and from her errands, entertainment, and medical appointments.

Within weeks though, I was using my car for virtually all of my personal errands. I would use it to go to the grocery store, the hardware store, and to pick up takeout. If the morning paper failed to be delivered, I drive to 7-Eleven to get one, even though I’m looking out my window at that 7-Eleven as I write this — just a couple thousand yards away. Lazy spreads easily within my bones and psyche. It became so automatic to use the car for even the shortest errand, that I quit feeling guilty about it within a few days — after all, a Prius.

I’ve been thinking about that more recently though — how unnecessary it is for me to drive to do anything in this town. The unnecessary use of anything/everything might is at the center of most of our national issues, and yes, I actually believe that.

I own X# of bikes. I ride between 25 and 30 miles every day of my life — for recreation. If I need a Chapstick though, I’ll drive to the store. That doesn’t add up. There is no reason why I can’t dedicate one bike to being a ‘town’ bike, fixing it with appropriate racks, and using it for all my nearby errands. As pharaoh said, “And so it shall be done…”

I will continue using my car to transport my mother to and from her errands and on my personal trips beyond town. I‘ll also use it to transport my dog to and from our daily walk at the local nature preserve. At 16, he’s too old to make the 2-mile trip in a bike basket. For any local errands, needs, or visitations, I will use my town bike, ongoing.

I know there will be exceptions to this and I know I’ll fail on occasion — that I’ll use the power of rationalization to make decisions to drive rather than to ride, but I’ll do my best to keep those to a minimum. Though this coincides with the closing of the year, this is not any kind of resolution. At a time when I hear the term climate change several times a day, and almost never in a good context, this is something I should just be doing — something many people should just be doing.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4
140 miles
5,400’ climbing
16.0 mph avg
8,000 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 worthy cover from Clutch. Enjoy…!

The Eye I Carry….

Thirty-five (35). That’s how many pictures I took yesterday. A quick scroll through the ‘camera roll’ on my phone suggests yesterday was an average day. Multiply that by 365, and it’s a safe bet I’ve taken roughly 12,000 pictures in the last year. I think that’s a conservative estimate.

Did Henry Diltz take 12,000 pictures in his career…? I don’t know, and no, I’m not comparing myself to Henry Diltz in any way. I think it’s a good comparison though, just for scale. Thank God I don’t have to pay to have my pictures developed — I’d have to sell some bikes.

I can’t help it. Taking pictures has become as important to me as riding my bike, strength training, or interacting with my pets. It’s become as much a form of therapy for me in the last few years as any of those. There’s just something satisfying about looking for something ordinary around me — anything, framing it up, and capturing it in the best possible light.

Though I do own a nice camera, I have not used it since 2014. That was the year I decided my smartphone would be my only camera, ongoing. Of coarse sharing my pictures and the subsequent acknowledgments of that sharing is a part of the attraction. What’s the point of doing anything if it can’t be met with a round of applause — or a few 👍’s…? Notwithstanding that I’ve found photography to be an increasingly effective form of communication when I can’t find the right words.

From 2014 through today, my picture taking has been mostly limited to three areas of interest and accessibility…

– My bikes each day when I ride.
– My pets when it suits me, even if it doesn’t suit them.
– The local nature preserves where I walk each morning or evening, honing in on insects, leaves, flowers, and random objects I might find there.

Occasionally, if I find myself in a setting beyond those usual circles — peripheral to interesting architecture, objects, or faces, I might attempt a picture or 30. Mostly though, it’s dogs, bikes, and local nature.

Since I began this in 2014, I think I’ve improved some, both in how I’ve approached my smartphone photography and in how I’ve learned to edit my pictures for the best possible result. I think regularly of reaching beyond the areas I normally photograph — that I should expand my smartphone photography horizons, but this is where I’m comfortable — dogs, bikes, and local nature.

To attempt something different this week, I took a decorative tequila bottle, filled it with mouthwash, and placed it on the floor of my fitness studio in the morning light. I think it’s pretty, but it’s outside my flow of normal. It was contrived. I don’t do contrive too well, so I think I’ll just stick with aiming my smartphone at what interests or strikes me as I amble through life.

On December 15, it will be one year since I began this blog and its corresponding Facebook page. I made the commitment to myself to write a complete essay for this blog each week for one year, and a shorter post every morning for the Spoke And Word Facebook page. I’m about to step over the finish line for that year. Though I will continue this blog and The Spoke And Word Facebook page, I’m going to scale both back a bit in the year to come, so I can have more time to focus on things like house cleaning, yardwork, and brushing my teeth.

For the handful of people who have taken time each week and each day to read this collection of what I often referred to as mixed thoughts, thank you very much. I’ll make every attempt to improve the photography and writing in the coming year — well, the photography anyway.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers….

Bikes Ridden: 7
185 miles
15.0 mph avg
7,200’ climbing
10,400 calories
12 hours 23 minutes seat time

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 Dog Trumpet. Enjoy…

Work, Relationships, And Creativity…

Why are we here, and what do we get in exchange for being human…? That’s the two-part question that consumes me all day, every day. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who worries about it. When I look around though, I sometimes feel like others don’t worry about it quite enough.

When I think of purpose and meaning, I don’t necessarily look for answers in faith or religion. I think faith and religion make a great framework — can offer useful guidelines in the search, but in finding purpose and meaning, I default to the three primary aspects that I think make me human…

– Work
– Relationships
– Creativity

I don’t see a need to look beyond those three. To be fully human, for me, can be found in maximizing these aspects of my life. And like a three-legged stool or three equal branches of a government, I encourage the three to work together, on behalf of a more complete whole.

On Work…

Work is what I am are here for. I may be capable of, and I certainly may find enjoyment in what I do beyond work, but contributing to the whole of the machine is where it all begins. I can’t imagine not working. That’s not to say I enjoy every moment of my workday, though I’m grateful to do what I get to do for a living. I would rather flip burgers though, than to collect disability or unemployment without a legitimate need to. To not work when one is able, puts a greater strain on the system and all its other contributors, however so slight.

In the picture, all those slights add up.

I don’t say this in reference to people who have worked hard and been able to retire. They have earned their downtime. People who find reasons not to work though, that are not legitimate reasons, lose an entire aspect of being human — they lose one leg off their stool. Just my opinion.

 

On Relationships…

From the checker at the grocery store, to the person on the other side of the fence, to the elderly mother I share my home with, all human connections are relationships. Some are brief — the man whose bike has a flat tire that I offer to help on the trail.  Some relationships are occasional — the checker at the grocery store who I make small talk with a few times a week. Others still are ongoing — the clients who trust me with their time and money in exchange for my leadership and advice. Every person I interact with each day is a kind of relationship. I can’t imagine not working to maximize and promote every person I connect with each day, from the ones I connect with and may never see again, to the ones I will engage with over and over again.

How hard is it, I often ask myself, to try and keep my interactions positive and uplifting, even when facing difficult circumstances…? Confrontation begets frustration, which too often leads escalation.  On a given day, my mood is forged as much from my human interactions as from anything I do or any outside circumstance. The more effort I put into keeping those interactions positive, the more likely I am to be in a better mood, though I acknowledge that those outside influences can alter a good mood quickly. That’s all the more reason to keep my human interactions positive.

 

On Creativity…

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of young people through the years, both professionally and peripherally through acts of volunteering. More than a few teenagers have felt my index finger pushing into their sternum as I’ve forcefully uttered the following sentiment…

Above all things, we are here for work and for relationships.

I’ve said it dozens of times through the years, to dozens of teens. There’s always some critical moment in the course a relationship with a teen when I’ve pulled that ace from my sleeve and dropped on them to their surprise. In hindsight, I have failed all of them by failing to mention creativity as an equal branch of self-government.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I received a book in the mail from my friend Judy. A workbook actually — a platform on which to draw, read, write stories, color, and reflect. One third of being human is being creative, I thought to myself. I have no memory of ever saying that to young person as I’ve driven home the importance of work and relationships. That won’t happen again. I’ll be quick to remind them that appreciating creativity — music, literature, art, and even well-made movies and television can be a creative outlet, but being creative is a necessary outlet.

Three equal branches of self-government…?

Three-legged stool of being human…?

Both are pretty cheesy analogies, I know. When it comes to finding purpose and meaning though, focusing my life on work, relationships, and creativity — and viewing them as having an equal influence in my life, has put me in better field position in finding fulfillment.

By the way, I didn’t necessarily write this for you. It could be that I wrote it for your children, your grandchildren, your neighbor’s children, or the kid who mows your lawn, so please feel free to share.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
168 miles
6,600’ climbing
15.3 mph avg speed
10,000 calories
10 hours 58 minutes seat time

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 Clarence Clemons and Jackson Browne . Enjoy…!

Craving Decorum…

“Beginning with the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, the occupant of the White House has become a combination of demigod, father figure and, inevitably, the betrayer of inflated hopes. Pope. Pop star. Scold. Scapegoat. Crisis manager. Commander in Chief. Agenda settler. Moral philosopher. Interpreter of the nation’s charisma. Object of veneration. And the butt of jokes. All rolled into one.”

Andrew Bacevich, from The Limits Of Power

I think we could superimpose that statement on our expectations of any would-be successor to the president, even if it’s too late for the current president.

Let the arguments begin.

How hard is it, I ask myself multiple times each day, to just bow out of an argument for the sake of our nation’s health…? Arguments today, especially those within social media platforms, are incredibly superficial, waste time, waste energy, frequently alter moods to a lesser state, and accomplish absolutely nothing except to fulfill the immature need for self-gratification among the craving participants.

Craving…? Craving attention. Craving stimulation. Craving fulfillment. Craving superiority. Craving to stir the pot. Craving craving craving. Increasingly, many crave arguing in the same way they crave sugar.

Argument, in that frame, is the Type II diabetes of our national health.

Within and between my social media connections, at least when it comes to politics, I’m usually the quiet one and argue little or not at all, in the same way I’m the one who passes on dessert at the end of a meal or goes for the asparagus before I go for the potatoes.

Decorum, I reckon, is the insulin of this increasing national health crisis.

I did a search recently, of how many times I used the word decorum in my writings, going back about 15 years. Since 2003, between my social media outlets and my personal writing, I’ve used the word decorum approximately 120 times. Apparently I’m big on the word, as well as the idea it represents.

Decorum, it seems, has gone the way of sensible portions at meal time, and sensible snacks. Think about that — as meal portions were once more responsible, so too was how spoke to each other in matters of politics and government. Think Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan.

If one takes the “s” out of the word politics and changes it to politic, the word takes on a whole new meaning, and becomes an actual synonym for decorum. Conversely, if one puts an “s” politic, it begins to lack luster. Say that fast and you’ll see you where I’m going.

Practicing decorum, I’m learning in the social media era, is a lot like eating better. If everyone did it, our health as individuals would improve, and so too would our collective health as a nation. Like with good eating though, most people know this, yet few choose to practice it.

As it shouldn’t be that hard to mix in a vegetable a couple times a day, it shouldn’t be that hard to say “Okay friend, now it’s your turn to speak and I’m going to listen“.

In that same light, stopping short of calling somebody a “pompous jerk” could be just as beneficial as stopping short of that second helpings ice cream.

If a career in fitness has taught me anything about culture, and the poorly motivated apes that drive culture, is that it’s easier, and on most levels probably feels much better, to get away with things we know are going to hurt us in the long run, as individuals and as a nation. With argument, we will tax our nation to a point of social diabetes.

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

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes ridden: 6
180 miles
7,200’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
10,100 calories
11 hours 41 minutes seat time

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 Marty Willson-Piper. Enjoy…!

Work Before Fun…

When a plate of food is set before me and there are multiple courses on it, though they may alll be appetizing, there’s always one that I will desire the least and one that I’ll be drawn to more than the others. Others might fall in-between. My mind quickly performs a kind of triage that rates the dishes from worst tasting to best tasting.

I’ll begin by eating, in it’s entirety, the one I find the least appetizing — lima beans for example. That will be followed by the next one up in my establish order, and so-on. By the time there is one food remaining on the plate, it will be the one that I most wanted. I will have earned my way from worst to best.

It’s not just foods I do this with.

My community of Fallbrook California is roughly 700-feet above sea level. Because the land here has a lot of contour, there are areas of Fallbrook which are higher and some valleys that are lower. On average though, we’re at 700-feet. For at least a portion of every bike ride, I leave Fallbrook for the neighboring communities of Bonsall and Oceanside, both of which are lower in elevation than Fallbrook.

 

South Mission Road is the downhill vein that leads me out of Fallbrook and into the lowlands. From my driveway, which sits well above the median point of Fallbrook of 700-feet, it’s roughly 7-miles of descent until I’m on highway 76 in Bonsall. That means the first significant portion of my daily ride is downhill — the best part of my meal first, when I would rather have it for dessert. Conversely, the lima beans of my ride, the 7-mile climb back into town, comes at the end. This is the precise opposite of how my mind works. I would rather start my rides with a hard 7-mile climb and finish with the downhill glide.

If I could change this about my ride I would.

One option I do have is to head north into Riverside County instead of further south into San Diego County. The problem there is one of mixed topography. Though cumulatively, heading north I begin by climbing, because of the mixed hills, I also end with a good deal of climbing, spelled only by short and steep descents. Although this is great for conditioning, it forces me to ride at a slower speed and I can’t gather the mileage that I prefer to.

I can’t help it, I’m just wired this way. When I was a kid, my dad assigned me weekly yard work — pulling weeds and mowing the lawn. I hated pulling the weeds, so I did that first. Mowing the lawn was the fun part, so I do that last.

Homework as a kid…? I got the math done first, so I could enjoy the history. I just like getting the hard stuff out of the way first. Even when I brush my teeth, I spend the first couple of minutes working on the hard to get to places, and finish by brushing the storefront — my pearly whites.

When I clean my studio each week, I dust first — getting into all the nooks and crannies, and only then do I get to clean the floor, which is my favorite part.

No matter what though, so long as I live in this house, my rides will always start easy and end with difficulty, despite that I prefer it the other way around. I’m not willing to go through the expense though, and hassle of relocating so I can better enjoy my rides. Well, not yet anyway.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
158 miles
6,100’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
9,100 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 Orville Peck. Enjoy…!

Of Good Intentions And Born Destroyers…

I took a seaside walk with my cousin a few weeks back. As we discussed the heavier side of man’s social challenges, nature suddenly called upon me. Far from any buildings, businesses, or public restrooms, I tactfully asked my cousin if she’d mind me disappearing for a minute. She was fine with it. My good intention was that I didn’t want my cousin to see me pee into the Pacific Ocean.

Walking back in her direction, I pondered how many micro organisms in the reef I just peed on were killed by my good intentions. I contemplated the impact that I might have had on the sub-local environment. My cousin, a wildlife biologist, chuckled at my suggestion. In truth though, I probably killed something, even if small and insignificant.

We can’t help it, even with the best of intentions, we’re just born destroyers. We begin destroying the world around us as immediately as we are born.

Two people, with the best of intentions, decide they want to have a child. The the first diaper to be soiled by the new baby has an environmental impact — both when it is manufactured and when it gets discarded. At the young age of 7-minutes old, we don’t think about that negative impacts of our parent’s good intentions, but that’s how soon it begins.

The pain medication that gets shot in a mother’s back prior to her giving birth has consequences. The consequences of the medication being manufactured, the consequences when it hits the mother’s blood stream, and the consequences of the needle when it’s discarded.

The doctor who delivers the baby wakes up from a dead sleep, possibly a pharmaceutical induced sleep, at 2am. He drives to the hospital to deliver the baby, groggy and perhaps not fully alert. He is a cornucopia of potential destructive consequences despite that his good intentions are to deliver a healthy baby. If he’s in an accident and gets injured along the way, or worse, if he kills somebody else, who’s fault is it…? Fundamentally, it’s the new parent’s fault, for choosing to have a baby.

That’s a stretch, I know, but all of life, the good and bad of it, can be distilled this way.

A couple of days ago, while riding along the Rio Salado river project in Tempe Arizona , I was thinking about all of this on another level. That horrible axiom goes through my mind all the time when I ride…

‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions…’

That aphorism is most often an ignorant battering ram people use when arguing against moral stances in favor of altruism, empathy, charity, and civility. An inarguable fact is that good intentions may not always lead to good results. Very often they don’t. Good intentions can lead to terrible things, I was reminded of that yesterday by a friend in the Midwest.

However, since mathematics and statistics can only predict the future so well, most anything one does born of good intentions is probably as much guesswork as it might be predictable, based on any calculations performed ahead of time. That is, good intentions are very often a throw the dice.

In his book, Enlightenment Now, Professor Steven Pinker was quick to add in a current ‘unintended consequences’ scenario just before his publishing deadline. It had to do with a driverless car accident in Phoenix in 2018. An Uber driver in a self-driving car, struck and killed a pedestrian — while she watched a streaming video on her cell phone. Hey, the car was supposed to do the driving, right…?

Following the incident, and with the best of intentions, Uber suspended its self-driving car testing in the state of Arizona. Clearly that seemed like the right thing to do from both a publicity point of view and from one of safety. Though it is nearly impossible to calculate, the self-driving car testing, which continues today in other cities and with other companies, probably still saves many more lives than it takes — overwhelmingly. Using simple calculations, Pinker argues that by stopping the driverless car testing in Arizona, and again this is impossible to calculate accurately but reasonable to suggest, it likely opened the door to more fatalities, not less.

By stopping the testing, drivers who are not in self-driving cars and also not paying attention, are a greater risk than those in self-driving cars who are not paying attention. Let us not forget that a large portion of the motivation behind self-driving cars was to substantially cut down on road fatalities. It would have been possible for Uber to continue the driverless car program in Arizona while simultaneously conducting investigations on how to improve the program and minimize, even more, the potential for unnecessary fatalities.

Regardless of which side one is on — shutting down the wireless driver program while conducting the investigations, or continuing the program while conducting investigations, both camps have good intentions.

Most of the good in the world, possibly all good in the world, starts with good intentions. At best though, good intentions are a throw of the dice. Good intentions need to be driven by good effort, consistency, and need to be followed up on regularly to ensure integrity. Even so, actions born of good intentions are always a gamble.

Bad intentions though, to be successful, don’t require as much. Bad intentions simply need to be shared — they spread so easily. Let’s face it, it just feels good to do bad things. The dice of bad intentions…? Well, they are much more accurate then the dice of good intentions.
As far as the road to hell goes, well, I’ll argue until my dying breath that its paved by one thing and one thing alone — people who go through life expecting and regularly taking from the world more than they are willing to give.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5
169 miles
6,100’ climbing
15.7 mph avg
9,700 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 Emmylou Harris. Enjoy…

The Power Of Nonsense…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

I call it my morning nonsense — that single hour each morning, before my workday begins, when I sit on my sofa and exchange ideas, information, and entertainment via the internet. It’s a transitional time for me — a bridge between my peaceful slumber and the efforts of my impending day. I sit with with my dog on my lap, a kitty at my feet, the space heater humming in the distance, and I connect with people near and far via an invisible and instantaneous web.

Central to that nonsense, is this blog you are reading and its corresponding Spoke And Word page on Facebook. The Facebook page is a platform similar to this one, where each morning I post one picture from my bike ride of the day prior, and expand over several paragraphs on what I might have been thinking about on the previous day’s ride.

It seems riding, writing, and sharing are central to my life — I am compelled to do all three every day.

If there’s any purpose to this riding, writing, and sharing, and I like to think there is, it’s that I’ve always hoped my photographs and musings would inspire others to dust off their own bicycles and take a little time each week to see the world from this rolling point of view.

Silly as it sounds, this morning nonsense is something I’m very proud of. Proud, in part, because I do it consistently — seven days per week. Since I have a life’s history of inconsistency, I feel this has a legacy aspect to it worthy of pride.

Since I began this blog and its corresponding Facebook page nearly a year ago, i’ve been contacted by over a dozen people, some who I’ve met, and others who I’ve never met, who’ve let me know they are riding their bikes again, in some cases for the first time in years. Others have asked for my help in purchasing bikes. And a couple of people, who have never ridden a bike in their lives, have asked for my assistance in learning.

I’ll always drop whatever I might be involved in to answer questions about cycling or to help somebody pick out a bike that fits the type of riding they do — or help them explore what type of riding suits them best.

Bicycles can be both transformative and pragmatic. Bikes are the most direct path to freedom I’ve ever known. They are also the most efficient form of transportation ever conceived. I use mine for both — recreation and transportation. Again, I’m proud that I’ve inspired a handful of people to use their bicycles for recreation and/or transportation also.

When people talk of the vast wasteland that is social media, I’m often inclined to agree. However, when I look at the miraculous nature of the internet, and what it can do when its power is used with good intentions, I can’t help but think we live in the most amazing age in human history.

A technology is only as good as its use. Each day, as I conduct my morning nonsense, I intend to use this technology exclusively with good intentions. If I reach a couple of people, fantastic. If they reach a couple more people, that’s even better.

I’m not sure if Margaret Mead ever rode a bicycle. As I ride mine though, each day through the hills, vineyards, orchards, and the coast lines of San Diego county, she sits quietly on my handlebars and asked me to share my view with others, that they might do the same.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5
187 miles
8,400’ climbing
15.0 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 U2 and Patti Smith. Enjoy…

 

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…?

DA3FB334-8702-4AA2-8EC7-1BC64BCA2460.jpeg

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.

A516A6DF-116A-4E99-BB12-6637097A5E8F.jpeg

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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