A Bridge Not Too Far…

It happens infrequently enough that it always shocks me. That said, it never really surprises me. I don’t think that’s a contradiction. More on that in a bit.

A regular stopping point during my rides is The Old Bonsall Bridge, just west of the community of Bonsall. The bridge was formerly a section of State Highway 76, and spans roughly 200 yards across the San Luis Rey River, 90 feet below. 

The bridge was completed in 1925. It majestically served the state of California for 65 years until it was decommissioned in 1990. In 1992 the bridge was designated as a National Historic Site. In addition to its historic status, it’s also the designated bike lane for westbound Highway 76, diverting cyclists off the new Bonsall bridge, roughly a 2,000 yards to the east.

I cross the old bridge twice on most rides — once on my way out, and again on my way home. On my return crossing, I usually stop at the midpoint of the bridge for some water and a small snack. I allow myself a few minutes to take it all in — to stand in splendid isolation on this antique structure, surrounded by native plants, trees, and occasionally some local critters and birds. For a moment in time, I’m separated from the rest of my species. 

The bridge is a little bit ancient Rome, a little bit midcentury Americana, and a whole lot of aesthetic wonder. In the five years I’ve been riding across it, I’ve stopped midpoint nearly 1,500 times. The only time I don’t stop is when I look up and see them

Them is the photographers, their assistants, and the woman or women in bikinis or perhaps a little bit less, being photographed on the bridge. 

There’s often a sports car or motorcycle involved, but sometimes other props are used — swords, guns, and even animal skin rugs. I recently witnessed a bikini-clad woman posing with a fishing pole. Some of these photo shoots are for commercial purposes, while I’m certain others are just for fun. 

No judgment from me — not at all. 

I just feel a little uncomfortable stopping on the bridge when one of these photo shoots is taking place. I don’t want to be seen as a creeper. A few weeks back though, an epic sunset was taking shape that I didn’t want to miss. 

At the the midpoint of the bridge was a black BMW, a photographer, his assistant, and a girl covered with tattoos wearing a bikini. As she Tawny Kitaen’d herself about the hood of the Beamer, one man adjusted a light reflector and the other took photographs. I stopped about 30 yards short of their shoot. 

I tried hard to not look their way. I just did my own thing and pretended I normally stop there. That’s when I remembered I do normally stop there — to drink water, eat a snack, and take a picture or two of my own. 

That evening I took a few pretty pictures, got back on my bike, and got out of there without once turning my head toward the photographer and his model. I purposefully looked down as I rode past them. 

I’ve witnessed a dozen or more of these shoots in the last five years. The women I’ve seen are usually on the younger side, some I’m guessing, a little too young. And as I exit the bridge onto Old River Road, I always remember two things…

1. Thats somebody’s daughter. 

2. Girls may be cute, but old bridges are beautiful. 

It’s a bit of a novelty to see these photo shoots, but I prefer having the bridge to myself. Probably not what 15-year-old Roy would have thought. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 141 

Climbing: 6,100’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 8,050

Seat Time: 9 hours 26 minutes

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 Sugarcubes. Enjoy…!

Swimming In Systems, Part II…

I have great reverence and respect for systems — generally more than I do for people. Systems, after billions of years of honing and refining themselves, are what gave us people. Systems, I’ll suggest, are the only true force in nature and are responsible for the direction of all things. That said, I tend to accept what system deliver more than what people expect from them.

When Donald Trump was elected president, I accepted it. 

For 4-years I’ve kept my mouth shut. I’ve done my job. I’ve taken care of my business, my family, and remained an active participant in my community. I’ve bitten my tongue, I haven’t lashed out, and I’ve managed to say please and thank you as I looked into the eyes of people whose values are different than my own. I’ve shown everyone the respect I think they deserve, even when I’ve disagreed with their politics. 

I know this is a bit of a stretch, but I hope that people who didn’t vote for Joe Biden can and will accept his presidency in the same way I accepted Donald Trump‘s. I know many will. I also know many won’t. Push.

And just as much, I hope that the people who supported Joe Biden and voted him into office, can walk across the end zone quietly. Don’t spike the ball. Don’t do the dance. Don’t get in anyone else’s face. Use your inside voice. Gloating is unbecoming.

Regardless of who anyone voted for, let’s just do the work now. Let’s bite our tongues. Let’s prioritize community, family, and the individual — and in that order. Let’s say please and thank you to everything that moves, especially when our pride tells us not to. 

We are just tiny constituents who spend our entire lives swimming within the many systems that led to us — most never realizing this…

Food Systems, medical systems, religious systems, education systems, family systems, transportation systems, economic systems, weather systems, ecosystems, information systems, social systems, communication systems, and on-and-on.

Political systems. 

When I think of systems, I think of David Foster Wallace’s brilliant commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005. Wallace spoke of the old fish passing the two younger fish and asking them…

“How’s the water, boys…?“

And the two younger fish replied…

“What’s water…?“

The water, I would come to understand, is all the systems that surround us, drive us, feed us, inspire us, enrage us, protect us, move us, and so much more. And most of the time, we have no idea we are surrounded by these systems, and have even less awareness of how influential they are in driving every aspect of our lives.

We may have free will within our own skin, and perhaps a little influence within our smallest circles. Within the systems though, that drive everything beyond our thoughts and emotions, we’re just tiny constituents in a loosely packed Borg.  

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 191

Climbing: 8,900’

Mph Avg: 14.6 ☹️

Calories: 10,600

Seat Time: 13 hours 01 minutes

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 John Lennon. Enjoy…!

Three-Minute Scripture…

At least half of my thoughts while riding center around music — song lyrics in particular. Most often, lyrics show up in fragments. Though the whole of the song is always present, it’s those well-turned phrases that capture my thoughts and guide my moral sensibilities. A good lyric can remind me who I should aspire to be. It might also, by comparison, remind me who I don’t want to be, and which roads to avoid.

Lou Reed famously referred to a well-crafted song as the “three-minute novel”. Indeed. I’d extend that though, to suggest a well-crafted song lyric can be three-minute scripture.

When I was 16, I walked into the bathroom of a recreation center where I’d been exercising. On the gray concrete wall, just above the paper towel dispenser and written in crayon, were these words…

“And the men who hold high places

Must be the ones to start

To mold a new reality

Closer to the heart…”

It’s a verse from the song Closer To The Heart, by the Canadian band Rush. I’d heard the song dozens of times, and the album had actually been on my turntable the day prior. There was something about reading those words that day, that changed the way I think about lyrics.

That’s when I began regularly reading song lyrics from the album liner notes, to better understand them, as I listened to the corresponding songs simultaneously. It was also the day I realized lyrics offered me more than the Torah ever had. 

There have been dozens — maybe hundreds of formative moments in my life, just like that one, which have resulted from reading and re-reading lyrics while listening to music. On or off my bike, I don’t go more than 15-minutes without a formative lyric showing up in my head, usually getting my full attention. 

I often tell the story of sitting on a seawall in Oceanside California in the months after my divorce. With earbuds in and facing the spit blowing of the tops of waves, I listened to music by the band The Call, while simultaneously reading the printed lyrics of their songs. Those were religious services to me, every bit as much as listening to Rabbi Krantzler was on Friday nights in the 1970s. Listening to those songs, reading those lyrics, and staring into the sea humbled me and helped me come to terms with some bad choices in my life. 

Another lyric that stays with me daily is from the band Social Distortion. Reading the lyric regularly, while listening to the song Ball And Chain, has given me strength, over and over again, to stay away from alcohol — when nothing else I tried ever could.

And those formative lyrics — those fragments of moral philosophy which come and go in my head all day long, every one has been as impactful on me as any religious scripture ever has. In a very real sense, song lyrics have been the religious scripture that’s most shaped me. 

I know people will make the argument that there’s some pretty bad lyrics out there too. Pick any page though, in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or the Qur’an, and you’ll find some pretty bad lyrics there as well.

In my life, good lyrics have been the fingerprints of God. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 201

Climbing: 8,750’

Mph Avg: 15.7

Calories: 11,481

Seat Time: 12 hours 43 minutes

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 Call Enjoy…

Crib Death, Redux…

Every so often I’ll be pedaling down the road and look up to see a mid-70s Chevrolet Vega. It’s a treat, since there aren’t too many out there. When I saw one the other day I began thinking about Crib Death. Honestly, there’s hardly a week go by that I don’t think about Crib Death. Crib Death brings back so many memories — wonderful memories of my restless adolescence. The Crib Death I speak of though, is the name of a car, not the unexplained medical condition that occurs with human infants.

In February of 1979 I was 17-years-old. I worked full-time as a sandwich maker at The Bagel Delicatessen in Denver. After the sudden passing of my ‘67 Ford Falcon, I needed another car to get me to and from work. I had a budget of $400 — cash I had saved in a hollowed out copy of Treasure Island. 

Scanning the classifieds in the Rocky Mountain News, one of the first cars I saw was a 1974 Chevy Vega panel wagon — for $400. Bingo. I knew Vegas had a reputation as oil burners because they had aluminum engine blocks, but the $400 price tag made it the perfect car for me. I had a friend drive me across town to take a look at it. 

A panel wagon is a compact station wagon, but with no seats in back, just a flat bed. The rear/side windows were covered over with aluminum panels. It was essentially a small truck with an enclosed bed — the type of vehicle a plumber, carpenter, or electrician might use.

I lifted the hood, opened the doors, and sat in the driver’s seat where I was captivated by the underdash Pioneer stereo. Four corresponding speakers were mounted throughout the car. That stereo was all I needed to confirm my decision. Without even bargaining, I agreed to buy the car. I taught myself to drive the 4-speed stick shift on my way home. Drab green in color, and with two bucket seats upfront, this would be my car for the next four years. 

So where did the name Crib Death come from…? My friend Jeff, who took me to look at the car that day, remarked that it looked like a hearse for little kids. I can’t remember which one of us came up with Crib Death, probably Jeff, but it stuck. And from day one, that car was known as Crib Death, by friends and family alike.

The Vega’s reputation as oil burners was well deserved. From the beginning I kept a one-gallon container of motor oil in the back of the car at all times. About every 500 to 600 miles or when the smoke from the tail pipe got blue enough, I’d stop and put in a quart of that oil.

Crib Death was a road trip warrior for my friends and I. Having no seats in back, but just the flat bed, it was  like a tiny motorhome. If I got too tired to drive, I’d just pull off at a rest stop and crash in the back. If I was driving with friends, we’d rotate taking turns napping in back while the other drove. 

In its time with me, Crib Death made trips into Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kanas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada, and Arizona. All, without a major repair needed — just a lot of motor oil.

I wasn’t big on maintenance beyond the tires, brakes, and the engine. In four years, I might have washed that car just two or three times. When the windshield wiper motor went out in 1982, rather than replace it, I cut a piece of wood to the length of a wiper blade, wrapped it in plastic, and glued a squeegee strip along the bottom. If it rained, I’d open the driver’s side window and every few seconds sweep the water away with my handmade windshield wiper. When I drove my girlfriend home from college for the first time, and it began snowing as we ascended Vail Pass, she was mortified to learn this is how I kept my windshield clear during snow storms. It was a cold ride home. 

During a midnight run to Taco Bell one evening with a group of friends, as we loitered in the parking lot telling jokes and stuffing Enchiritos down our throats, somebody used taco sauce packets to write Crib Death on one of the green side panels. Since I never washed my car, the acid in the taco sauce ate through the paint over time and my car had been permanently branded with the words Crib Death.

When I reflect on all the cars I’ve owned, Crib Death wasn’t the best — not the fastest, the prettiest, or even the most dependable. To this day though, it remains my favorite car. Every so often I look online to see if I can find a ‘74 Vega Panel Wagon. They are few and far between, and I have yet to see one for sale in Southern California. If I ever find one though, and it’s proximate enough to be feasible, I’ll buy it in an instant.

Owning Crib Death also cultivated one hard and fast sensibility which remains with me to this day — that I’ll never buy a car I can’t pay cash for and also sleep in. I think that’s a good way to be.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 169

Climbing: 6,750’

Mph Avg: 14.8

Calories: 9,509

Seat Time: 11 hours 21 minutes

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…

Painting With Words…

I’ve been chewing lately on creativity — of where mine fits into my life and what get lost when I over-prioritize it. Something I’m coming to terms with is that my creative impulses increasingly consume me. 

I have this compulsion to write, though the story is never primary. However compelling or impactful a thought might be, it’s secondary to forging it into something larger. Choosing and arranging the words to grow the story is what fulfills me. I enjoy selecting words and placing them into a story like a painter might place colors onto a canvas. 

A little more of this — a little less of that. I might rearrange a sentence a half-dozen times before I get it just right. I’ll place a paragraph higher or lower in the story, depending on how it all unfolds. I never know if a word, a sentence, or a paragraph will make it into the end product — until there is an end product. As choppy as all of that sounds, there’s usually a flow to it.

Writing, much of the time, is like swimming the breaststroke in warm calm water — its a gentle pleasure. Other times, it can be like swimming the backstroke upstream with one arm tied behind my back and a tennis ball stuck in my mouth. That usually means I’m trying to force something though, and it’s time to step away. Most writing sessions are more breaststroke than upstream backstroke.  

Turning little thoughts into bigger stories is always on my mind. It’s gotten to where I don’t seek or enjoy simple amusement anymore. Writing itself has become my primary form of entertainment.

I do make time for television in the form of online lectures, interviews, and documentaries, but I interrupt them frequently to pick up my phone and dictate. It might be an idea for something new, a change I wish to make to an essay in the works, or just a phrase that strikes me from nowhere that I want to store and save for later. I often wonder if this is healthy.

It seems like I should be able to enjoy a movie or go for a walk without needing to work through a thought and speak it into my phone. When I walk my dog, I write. When I drive, I write. When I watch television, I write. When I lay in bed, I write. The only time I don’t write, in the physical sense, is when I’m on my bike, and then I’m writing up a storm in my head, in hopes I can remember it to be written down later.  

I’ve never been someone who needs to document and expand on every thought that crosses my mind — just the ones that matter. Seems lately though, more of my thoughts do matter. Or maybe that’s just my rationalization to justify me painting with words — every chance I get.

This blog is a journal — a place where my thoughts can be stored, shared, and resurrected long after I’m gone. It’s a digital headstone stating that, in my mind, I was here and that I mattered. 

This quote caught my eye recently, by Seth Godin…

“Even if no one but you reads it, the blog you write each day is the blog you need the most. It’s a compass and a mirror, a chance to put a stake in the ground and refine your thoughts…”

The creator gods were working hard the day I read that in Seth’s column. Just a few hours earlier I had renewed my domain name and my web host for two more years. I guess I’ll just keep writing, and see if anything comes of it.

This is what I think about when I ride…Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 191

Climbing: 7,900’

Mph Avg: 14.8

Calories: 10,873

Seat Time: 12 hours 56 minutes

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 Soul Rebels. Enjoy…

20 + 20 For 2020…

I’ve been told that I’m long-winded. Verbose. I use a lot of words. I say too much. I over write. I can’t even write my name in less than 360 words. I never met a superlative I didn’t use immediately. I’m only happy when I’m heard. Totally.

That said, I’m going to leave words behind this week, and share my 20 favorite pictures from the trail in 2020, along with my 20 favorite bike pictures from 2020. I want to start the New Year with a big thank you to everyone who has supported this platform. Words can’t express…

My 20 favorite pictures from the trail…

My 20 favorite bicycle pictures…

To all who have supported this, thank you…! May 2021 find you riding toward your own adventures, regardless of your vehicle.

You are who I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me this year. 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 Eskimo Joe.   Enjoy…