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…