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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New Bike: Eleventeen Cupcake…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

Nobody Told Me…

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

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

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Bike: Tobio Obsession

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Nobody told me.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

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

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

Ignition Sequence Start…

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

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

Apollo 11

Part I: One And Not Quite The Same…

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

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

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

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

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

We each see the world a little differently though.

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

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I blame John F Kennedy, but not directly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think we need another moon landing.

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Part II: Chasing Michael Collins…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

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

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

I Light Up My Life, Kind Of…

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

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

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

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The Transition…

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

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

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

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

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The Bedroom And The Bikes…

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

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

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

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

The Car…

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

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

That needs to change…!

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

The Tools…

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

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The Other Tools…

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

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

The Goal…

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

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

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

Detached…

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

I am becoming less communicative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride…

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

Woosh…

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

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

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

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Bomer The Kreeps…

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

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

– Pull brakes, BTK

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

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

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Bella…

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

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

Woosh…! 🚴‍♂️

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

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

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

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

Woosh…! 🚴‍♂️

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

A number of cars were headed my way.

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

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

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

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

I truly could have died.

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

The Shocking Story Of Sam…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

Dad’s Greatest Gift…

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

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

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

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

Or

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

Hardy-har-har

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

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

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

“Those are the pie rates of the Caribbean…”

Bud-dump-bump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huh…?

“What day is it today…?“

April 1st, I told him.

Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck…!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know dad, how many…?  Cringe…

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

Oy

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

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

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

This is what I think about my ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

On The Road With Selfishness…

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

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

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

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

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

I came to no conclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It all seemed so lofty to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It all seemed so lofty to me.

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

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

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

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

Praise Vs Acknowledgement: How Celebrity Corrodes Culture…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride…

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

POSH People…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She always says yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

 

Declined…

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

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

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Bike: Bomer The Kreeps…

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

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

At this point, it was just shy of midnight.

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

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

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

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

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

Declined.

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Bike: Cortez The Killer…

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

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

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

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The doorway…

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

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

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

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

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Bike: Tobio Obsession…

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

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

I wouldn’t wish that burden on anyone.

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

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

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

This is what I think about my ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

The Fence Between Meaning And Me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to work and relationships

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

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

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

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

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

Back to meaning…

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

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

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

This is what I think about one I ride… Jhciacb

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This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

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

Debris & Me…

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

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Bike: Bella  Monserste Winery  Fallbrook CA

There are three types of debris I see regularly…

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

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

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Sting me… Los Jilgueros Preserve

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

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

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Bike: Vasudeva  Live Oak Park

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

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

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

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

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

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

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Nature’s M&M…  Los Jilgueros Preserve

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

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

At least she died doing what she loved.

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

Thank you, for taking the time.

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Bike: Cortez The Killer  Bonsall CA

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

Conflict Cocoon…

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

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

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Bike: Bomer The Kreeps  Pauma Valley Ca

Conflict Cocoon…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bike: Tang   Fallbrook Ca

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

So where am I going with this…?

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

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

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Bike: Cortez The Killer   Oceanside Ca

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

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

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Los Jilgueros Preserve   Fallbrook Ca

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

Potato Swimsuit…

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

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

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

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

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Bike: Bomer The Kreeps…

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

Potato swimsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bike: Cortez The Killer…

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

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

#potatoswimsuit

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers..

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

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Bike: Bella…

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

Passing With Shame…

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

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Bike: Vasudeva…

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time for me to pass him.

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

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Dancing With Them Who Brung Ya….

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

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

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

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Bike: Cortez The Killer…

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

I keep pedaling.

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

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

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

Play As Our Essence…

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

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

“He loved the game of golf…“

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

“He could often be found his guitar room…“

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

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

We will be remembered for our essence.

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

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

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

This has always confused me.

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

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

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

Gimmie Shelter…

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

Example…

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

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Bike of the day: Tang…

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

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

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

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

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

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Living off the land…

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

They are invisible, except to each other.

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

“Hello, neighbor…“

Because no matter the circumstance, they are my neighbor.

This is what I think about my ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bike: Cortez The Killer…

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

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

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

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

They do not.

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

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

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

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

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Mischa: On Rooster Patrol…

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

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

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…
Bike: Cort