Let The Music Be My Master…

Though I have no way to accurately measure this, I estimate that my thoughts turn to music — songs, lyrics, albums, or bands and artists every 15 minutes or so. Those thoughts may be fleeting, but they continually bounce around my head like balls in a bingo hopper.

I earn my living as a fitness trainer, something I enjoy doing and am grateful for. In teaching exercise, I’m always in the presence of others when I work. I’m also a caregiver for my elderly mother. When I’m not working with clients, mom is never more 30-feet from me. I’m in face-time, all day long.


For much of my adult life, playing albums and more recently digital music, has been a daily ritual for me. In the mornings while prepping for my day, in the evenings while cooking, and on the weekends while doing household chores and yardwork. Engaged in any of that, applying my personal soundtrack has always enhanced those experiences.

The most important of my music rituals though, has always been Sunday mornings on the porch, sipping coffee with my dog on my lap and listening to the Cowboy Junkies, James McMurtry, and Colin Hay among others.

Then, five years ago, I made the decision to move both my business and my mother into my home on the same week. Since I’m either in the presence of clients or my mother, there’s little opportunity to run music in the background or to just sit and enjoy it in purposeless relaxation.

In bicycling, one rides with their ears first. Awareness of what’s around you might save your life, so listening to music while cycling is never an option.

It comes in bits and pieces these days. I wake up early and before I commit to too much of anything, I pick one song to listen to — from beginning to end. No specific genre, just whatever pops into my head first. Usually it’s via Spotify or YouTube.

As the day goes on, and if I get a break in-between clients, fixing meals for mom, or taking care of the pets, I try and listen to another song or two. One of the upsides of social media is that friends share songs regularly. Sometimes old songs, sometimes new, very often songs or artists I’ve never heard before. I have something called The Rule Of Three…

In a day’s time, I attempt to listen to three songs shared by other people. It reminds me to stop and listen to a little music, often exposes me to something new, and may even improve my mood. I think this is a good way to be.

And as I snack on songs intermittently throughout the day, they sustain me but they don’t necessarily nourish me in the same way sitting on my porch and listening to an album once did.

And as the day winds down and I crawl into bed, my laptop is on my bedside table facing toward me. I watch documentaries about music, bands, and the recording process. I watch interviews with musicians, music executives, and producers. I might also sneak in one or two more songs at low volume so I don’t wake my mom.

The way I listen tomusic has changed in recent years, a response to the way my life has changed. What hasn’t changed, is that music is one of the best best friends I’ve ever had.

Lastly, as I reflect back on this I realize the most important relationships I’ve had and continue to maintain seem to involve music — either directly or peripherally. I think that’s beautiful. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
174 miles
7,400’ climbing
14.9 mph avg
9,800 calories
11 hours 36 minutes seat time

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

Bringing Fun Home…

I consider myself fortunate through all of this. My life has been largely unaffected by the pandemic, and despite the political and social upheaval in the nation, the patterns of my day-to-day existence haven’t changed too much.

I’m grateful.

I went out later last night, for a ride that would bring me home well after dark. I took the mountain bike which I don’t do that often — there just isn’t much trail riding nearby. There is an old golf course though, gone back to seed, that’s become a public recreation area, so I headed there to tear it up for a while and leave the day behind.

Despite that I ride every day, something felt different last night. Being on a mountain bike versus a road bike brought out the kid in me. On the ride to the golf course I was jumping on and off sidewalks, taking air while going over speed bumps, and cutting through private property for that off-road feeling.

I was having fun.

And as I was zigzagging across property easements and bunny hopping over irrigation lines, I realized it’s been a long time since I felt the outright sensation of fun. I ride every day, I walk, I exercise, and I meditate. I have conversations with friends, I work in the yard, and I’m employed in a job I love. But I can’t remember the last time I had fun like I had on last night’s ride.

And then I thought about it. Fun used to be an every day thing for me — I more or less designed my life around the idea of fun, yet it’s been missing.

Sometime back in March, when the reality of this pandemic set in, the civil unrest manifest, and as the political strife we’re experiencing has grabbed every available headline, my ability to have fun vanquished. And then, out of nowhere, it showed up last night.

And how did fun come back to me…? By being airborne — by jumping over a speedbump on Old River Road in Bonsall.

Being airborne is a kid thing.


I’ll be chewing on that in the coming days and seeing what I can do to bring fun home again. Last night illuminated that I’ve allowed fun to disappear from my life — be kidnapped actually, by the headlines of the world and the nonsense of people arguing over them.

Maybe in the world would be a better place if we all got airborne, for just a few minutes each day.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Tobio Obsession
26 miles
1,100’ climbing
14.0 mph avg
1,400 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Where The Rose Is Sown, by Big Country

Morning Pins And Needles…

I’m the early riser in the house — 4:15 most mornings. I’m in the shower by 4:16. Stroodle, my 17-year-old chihuahua, pops up and heads to the back door as soon I exit the shower. Mom, 90, wakes up last, usually around 6:00. She checks on me and then goes back to bed for another hour or so. My workday starts at 7:00 or 8:00, depending on the day.


We don’t just live together, I’m the caretaker for my mom and the steward for Stroodle. Their care is in my hands. No matter what else I do with the course of the day, my pass/fail grade each day is based solely on how good their days are.

It’s come up a time or two in recent months that when I stepped out of the shower, Stroodle hasn’t popped out of bed and run to the back door as he usually does. My panic is brief though, because as I step toward the bed to check on him, that’s when he pops up, full of life and energy. All is good with the world.


A few weeks ago, failing to pop up after my shower, and completely still as I stepped toward the bed, my heart stopped. At 17, I know that his time could come any day. I slowly placed my hand on his ribs, which were warm, and rolled him gently back-and-forth. No movement. I stepped back and took a deep breath. The time had come.

Standing there, gathering my thoughts and determining whether or not I’d work that day, he popped up like the little kid he is, jumped off the bed and ran to the back door.

All was good with the world.

A few minutes later, we carried on with our morning routine, me sipping coffee and writing, with him on my lap and back to sleep. My workday was to begin at 7:00 that day. By 6:45 mom had not been up. Occasionally she struggles with her sleep, so I assumed she was just sleeping in a bit. I stepped into my studio, closed the door and worked my first two sessions. Through that 2-hour period though, I kept one ear to the other side of the house, hoping to hear some noise from mom. Nothing.

At 9:00, during my first break, I stepped into the house to check on mom. Her bedroom door was still closed and the newspaper, which I leave for her beside the coffee pot, was still there unopened. I put my right hand on the door knob to her bedroom, turned it slowly, and making as little noise as possible pushed it open. She lay on her bed, completely still.

I swallowed hard, took a half-step back, and watched to see if she were breathing. In a darkened room, with her shades pulled down, it appeared that she wasn’t. I probably processed a couple hundred thoughts in just a few seconds. No, I thought, not today. Her hand then moved, just a little bit, and as she turned her head I heard her breathe.

I stepped back, closed the door quietly, walked to the kitchen and stared out the back window for a few minutes as I took it all in.

In the course of just a few hours, though only for a few moments each, I had believed my canine companion of 17-years and my mom had each passed away in their sleep. That circumstance has happened with each of them previously, but never both on the same morning.

I’m a caregiver for my 90-year-old mother and a steward for my 17-year-old dog. Both are in relatively good health, but 90 and 17. I work from home, leave long enough each day to go for a bike ride and to pick up whatever essentials we might need from the market.

With no plans to move anytime soon, it’s fair to suggest that both my mom and my dog will live out all their days in this house. And it’s also fair to suggest, I’ll spend more mornings on pins and needles, if only for a few moments each.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
196 miles
8,500’ climbing
14.9 mph avg
11,049 calories
13 hours 11 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 new gem from The Waterboys. Enjoy…!


Dogs Are Love…

For Sparkie and Baxter

I originally wrote this for my Facebook page back in December. I’ve been chewing on it the last few days though, since the person who inspired it lost her girl, Sparkie, this week.

Kirsten and I first connected nearly a decade ago, via the fitness blogging community. We’ve never met face-to-face, but we’ve had enough interactions through the years that I consider her a true friend. Six or seven years ago, in a reply to one of my Facebook posts, she impacted my life significantly with this simple comment…

“Dogs are love…”

It was in response to a picture I posted of my dog, Stroodle, when he was a puppy.


I consider myself a dog person. With few exceptions, there’s been a dog in my life every day since I was born. Kirsten’s comment that day took my appreciation of dogs to another level, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it came at a difficult time in my life — I don’t know. I only know that from that moment forward, those words have resonated daily. Yes, every day since reading that comment, it’s run through my head, often several times a day.

“Dogs are love…”

It’s not as if I didn’t already think dogs were love. I did. I do. I always will.

The older I get though, the more I believe dogs are angels here on earth, and I mean that literally. Dogs are here to observe and report back. For those who are concerned about privacy in this era of technology, if you have a dog, all bets are off. They see everything we do, they know everything we think, and they report it back to the mothership in real time.

Something’s happened to me in the last decade or so — like a personal dog/love renaissance. I hold dogs in a much higher regard and with a greater reverence than I ever have, and that appreciation increases with each passing day. I love and appreciate dogs, all dogs, more today than I did yesterday. I will love them that much more tomorrow — all of them.

My love for dogs has softened a lot of hard edges in my life and rounded some sharp corners. It’s made me take more frequent and more honest inventories of who I am. My love of dogs has provided me with the best possible template of how to better conduct myself in all aspects of my life — to be more humble, more forgiving, more patient, show more gratitude, be more trusting, and to love more — unconditionally.

Last week, Kirsten, who inspired this piece, lost her girl Sparkie after 14 years. Several days ago, my sister-in-law also lost her dog, Baxter. My response to each, on learning of their losses, was the same response I offer everyone under the same circumstances, and it’s possibly one of the best sentences ever constructed…


“When you get to heaven, all your dogs come runnin’ to ya…” Kinky Friedman

I will add to that, the only truth I’ve ever known is looking into the eyes of a dog.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
196 miles
8,600’ climbing
14.9 mph avg
11,040 calories
13 hours 10 minutes seat time

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

Red White & Kablooey: We Can Do Better…

It’s Saturday night, just after 9pm. This is the time I usually sit down and write an essay, arisen from thoughts which form in my head on my daily rides.

Tonight though, also happens to be Independence Day. It’s kind of hard to concentrate on writing with all the mini-explosions taking place in my neighborhood. Firecrackers and fireworks have been going off without interruption for nearly 45 minutes. If the last few years are any indication, this will continue for another hour or so.

I live near the center of a small town. This demographic is low-to-middle income, and many of the homes in my neighborhood have multiple families living in them — with multiple children. Most every household in my neighborhood has at least one dog in the yard and some have more than one. I’ve never been able to accurately count the outdoor and feral cats in the neighborhood, but there’s a dozen or more I see regularly.


The dog on my lap, this dog that got over 80 likes earlier in the day for a picture of his sweetness, is now trembling in fear from the sound and vibration of all the fireworks going off. My cat, Mischa, has run through the house at full speed a half-dozen times now, driven mostly by the louder explosions.

When I returned from Colorado back to Southern California in 2015, I lived next-door to a man named Laverne. Laverne was an Army veteran who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s. Laverne had been granted an early retirement after a diagnosis of PTSD. Laverne spent most of his days smoking pot and watching television in his garage — his man cave. He spent most of his nights in there too, also smoking pot and watching television. He confessed to me once that he was afraid to fall asleep. His young daughter and wife lived a relatively separate life from him on the other side of the door.

On July 4, 2015, we were surrounded by fireworks. Between the professional display that took place down the street, and all the neighborhood fireworks, and as cliché as it sounds, it sounded like a war zone that evening. In-between concussions, I could openly hear Laverne crying and talking to himself from under the half-open garage door. When I peaked under the door, Laverne was curled up on the sofa holding his knees towards his chest. There was a smoking apparatus on the table beside him and the television was on but the volume was off.

I think about Laverne every Independence Day, as I coax my dog from behind the toilet — the place where he instinctively hides from the explosions that surround him. I hold him on my lap, I reassure him and I think of Laverne. If there’s one crying veteran, I think to myself, there are thousands more. If there’s one frightened dog, there are millions more.

The celebration of Independence Day with explosions that scare veterans and animals is an idea let’s run its course. I get that it’s only one day a year and just for a few hours. I also get that they fascinate children and adults alike, and are an age-old ritual that brings people together. But at what price…?

The sight of a grown man curled up on a sofa crying to himself with a cloud of smoke coming out from under the door was enough to convince me, rigidly, that fireworks are a poor way to celebrate the day, and somewhat ironic — pets hiding behind toilets not withstanding.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 6
199.78 miles
8,600’ climbing
14.9 mph avg
11,267 calories
13 hours 26 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 Willy DeVille. Enjoy…


Fun ride last night. Not as fast as I was hoping due to the wind, but it was a good test of Bella‘s new wheel-set. They performed well and $500 later, they’re a legit upgrade. Eventually these wheels will get passed on to another bike, and she’ll be fitted with her first carbon rims, but I have some financial catchin’ up to do first.


In his book, Upheaval (2019), author Jared Diamond suggests honest self-appraisal is the single most important mechanism for a nation in crisis to successfully resurrect itself. Since the leadership of my nation is making no attempt to do this, I’m sort of taking it on myself. I’ve spent a lot of time recently looking at my social weaknesses and examining how I can improve on them.

I don’t care who you are and what your worldview is, there will never be a better time than right now for some honest self-appraisal.

First on the list for me has been taking inventory of my prejudices. It’s not been an easy exercise. It’s important though, that I this considering the current social climate. It’s not just my racial prejudices I’ve been exploring either, but those that have to do with physical appearance, age, geography, and all the demographic lines we use to separate ourselves from them, politics included.

In exploring my prejudices, or any weakness for that matter, it’s important not to rationalize my prejudices away. No excuses. I won’t minimize them either, by disguising them as biases, or for being so-called evolutionary defenses that occur naturally in my species. Simply put, my prejudices have been learned behaviors since my earliest days and have been practiced and consistently reaffirmed without much regard for their impact on the people I’ve judged so freely.

One exercise I’ve been using has been to hit the pause button on my brain frequently throughout each day and when engaged with others. Whether it’s with a service employee, a client, a neighbor, but in particular with passing strangers, it’s amazing how quick I am to judge anyone based on their appearance, and how willing I am to not second-guess myself in those snap judgments.

We’re marching for a lot of things these days — BLM, LBGT rights, proper context and subsequent application of our questionable past, environmental concerns and so-on. I haven’t participated in any of these marches.

My march though, and the one I’m encouraging everyone to take, is a march on the road to honest self-appraisal. It’s a nasty road with lots of hazards and, at least in my case, and a very long one. It’s also a place our leaders are never going to take us.

This is what I think about when I ride…

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Bella
29 miles
1,300’ climbing
15.6 mph avg
1,600 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Girlfriend, by Matthew Sweet

It Ain’t Easy…

A light schedule gave me the opportunity to ride to the coast yesterday. Coastal rides take longer because I don’t start from my house. I throw my bike in my car and drive about 20 minutes to a trailhead where I can take a bike-path directly to the water’s edge.


It’s a fun ride, but I probably won’t do it again anytime soon. It’s more time-consuming than the rides which begin from my driveway. Also, the bike path is crowded these days — too much for my comfort.

I’m exhausted lately — to a point where I feel like something has to give. I’ve added a lot of values into my life over the last few years. As I’ve added these values, I’ve removed exactly none. By values, I mean all the things I do each day — taking pictures, reading, writing, riding bikes, walking, lifting weights, and gardening. These enrich my life a great deal. Combined though, they occupy as much as 5-6 hours of every day. And let’s not forget social media, and yes, I consider social media a valuable aspect of my life.

It’s like being me is a full-time job.


You know what I don’t do…? I don’t sleep a lot. I don’t clean house as much as I should. I don’t check in with friends the way I once. I dedicate most of my non-working time to just being me. Seems like a selfish endeavor, yet I have no desire to budge.

These things I do — these values are important to me because I thrive on stimulation, activity, and consistency. I also live with doses of sadness and depression intermingled into each day, sometimes from out of nowhere. Pandering to my values helps helps keep the sadness and depression at bay.

I’ll come full circle — I’m exhausted. I should probably change some of these values, cut back on them, or at the very least, rearrange them. It’s something I think about each day when I ride. All things in moderation right…?

If I were to change one thing in my life, that I’m certain would have an immediate impact on my time management and fatigue level, I would let go of all social media with the exception of my blog, http://www.thespokeandword.net. I don’t think I’ll do that anytime soon, but ya know, maybe I will.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Tang
28 miles
700’ climbing
14.9 mph avg
1,600 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Goldin Browne, by Kid Congo