The Escape Package…

When I ride each day, I’m peppered by the thoughts of others. Movie lines, song lyrics, and conversations with friends keep me occupied with every mile. Some of these have been recirculating for years. There are also quotes from authors and critical thinkers I’ve read through the years. One thought that’s been making regular appearances these last few months is this nugget…

“Every generation of prosperity has it paid for by the generation or generations prior…”  Jared Diamond, from Upheaval (2019). 

I’m beginning to wonder if we’re a generation going through turmoil to pave the way for a generation down the road to have things better. I pretend it doesn’t get to me, but the cultural polarization we’re experiencing weighs heavy on me — every day. At times it’s so depressing I wish nothing but the worst for humanity, so we can get it over with and yield back the planet to those critters who don’t reason and have done nothing to screw things up.

If you had told me six years ago the best therapies to keep away the sadness and depression that our polarizing social behavior causes me would be photography, cycling, and spending hours a day writing, I would’ve said you pronounced alcohol wrong. But mindless observation, capture, and the documentation of my thoughts have become my medicines of choice. Oh, and some prayer and meditation to hold it all together. Collectively, these are my escape package.

It’s to the point where I spend every non-working moment medicating myself with exercise and creativity, so I can forget about the ugliness of the world and the people in the world who create that ugliness. I just want it to stop. Every time I turn on the television or pick up my phone, I’m reminded of my mother and father screaming at each other when I was a child, and I’d hide under my bed to feel safe. 

Anyway, I don’t really have much to say this week. I know my photographs aren’t world class and my words are amateurish and not well edited. But it’s all I’ve got to lean on these days — it’s what keeps me going.

Oh, and I do want to say something about the folks in Washington DC too — the ones we’ve elected to help govern our country…

I wish they’d shut their mouths and do their jobs. I’m sick and tired of elected politicians opening their yaps and lying or distorting truths for the express purpose of pandering to their base, raising money, and getting reelected. They are literally killing people in the process, destroying lives, and making the country weaker for their own gain. 

How hard is it to do what’s right…? I do it every fucking day of my life. If there’s an afterlife for our elected politicians, at least the ones that are in Washington today, I hope it involves getting eternally sodomized by Satan himself, with a salt-encrusted toilet plunger wrapped in barbed wire. Having a D or an R alongside their name no longer carries any weight with me. And don’t get me started on those who sit before a camera each evening lying and bending truths for the express purpose of an increased ratings share and a bigger paycheck.

If that offends you. I’ll ask your forgiveness. I’m certain I’ll be in a better state of being next week. But even I have my limits. What I’ve seen come out of Washington DC these last few weeks makes me want to cheer for the volcanoes, the hurricanes, the earthquakes, and even the fires.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 141

Climbing: 6,100’

Mph Avg: 16.1

Calories: 8,100

Seat Time: 08 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 Mint Juleps with Ladysmith Black Mambazo . Enjoy…

The Last Goal…

When I began this endeavor six years ago, I had a simple goal — to ride my bike seven days per week, taking just one day off per month. In the beginning my rides were short, just 10-miles each. Within a few weeks though, that wasn’t enough so I began riding further, 15-miles and gradually more. 

The riding app I used at that time, Map My Ride, provided a field to enter a weekly goal. Without much thought one day, I entered 100-miles as my goal. I was already doing it, so it felt like an easy mark to meet — and I’ve always believed in setting achievable goals.

Before long I was riding 125 per week, then 150, and eventually riding 175-200 miles each week. As my average weekly mileage increased though, I never amended the goal in my riding app upward. I simply exceeded my goal week after week and month after month. And that’s the thing about setting achievable goals…

…that no matter how my life might unfold in the course of a week — the good, the bad, and the ugly at all, I’d find satisfaction and maybe even some confidence in knowing that at least I accomplished one thing I set out to do. 

For six years that 100-mile per week goal has been challenging at times, but always achievable. In fact, it’s only been in jeopardy when I’ve been otherwise incapacitated due to the bike itself — finding myself in urgent care, emergency rooms, and laid up in bed nursing the occasional broken clavicle, sprained ankle, or fractured wrist. And even in those instances, I’ve somehow managed to get 100-miles in each week. 

And this is something I’ve never shared before…

…at some point along the way, and I don’t remember when, I upped the stakes for my goal. I didn’t increase my weekly mileage, but I made the commitment to myself that I’d meet the 100-mile mark every week for the rest of my life, come rain, shine, or tonsillitis, and I meant it. 

Now it may be hard to envision a 95-year-old man riding a bicycle 100-miles per week. If I’m being honest though, I’ve never seen myself becoming a 95-year-old man. If I hit my mid-70s I will have exceeded all expectations — from God, most everyone on my friends list, and even myself. So for the last few years, I’ve been riding with the belief that I’ll ride 100-miles every week for the rest of my life.

This past week was the first time that 100-mile goal was truly in jeopardy. Due to a COVID scare set in motion buy a selfish client, I lost a couple of days. When yesterday’s workday came to an end I was at 99.27 miles for the week. I was also physically exhausted, mentally drained, and dozing off in between bites of my 3pm lunch. But I couldn’t let the streak go.

At 3:30pm, and feeling as lifeless as a 30-pound cat on muscle relaxants, I dragged myself off the sofa, prepped a bike, and hit the road — utterly and completely exhausted. And the streak lives on. 

I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to meet that 100-mile goal each week for the rest of my life, but I’m sure gonna try. The situation with my mother might prohibit it, and of course that would be okay. I might get the opportunity to travel someday — and that travel might not include a bicycle. I’ll address that when and if it presents itself. I might also be stricken with a disease or find myself in hospital emergency room yet again. I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️

Sometimes meeting a goal though, is simply the coming together of an achievable goal and a reasonable commitment to meet it. As I sit here this morning, those things are in place. Maybe the weirdest thing about setting a goal like this is that I’m fortunate enough to achieve it, I won’t be around to celebrate it. Weird, huh…?

This is what I think about when I ride…  Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 4

Miles: 123

Climbing: 5,200’

Mph Avg: 16.6

Calories: 7,100

Seat Time: 07 hours 25 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 Sleeping At Last. Enjoy…

What Can You Say to a Terminally Ill Person…

This week’s piece comes from my friend, Peter Rosky. Pete wrote this  8-years ago and shares it annually. It’s much better and much more important than anything I could’ve shared with you today. I thank you in advance for taking the time… rc

I had a friend. His name was Dave. We worked together. The year was 1992. I had just started dating someone, and we both agreed that getting tested for Aids was important before having sex. I was telling Dave that I got my results back, and whew, they were negative. Dave smiled, nodded, and told me he was HIV positive. Had been for a number of years. I was shocked to hear this. It was a death sentence. I thanked him for sharing something so personal, but didn’t really know what else to say.

A month or so later, Dave quit. He told me he had to get out of Oregon. I wished him well, and we promised to keep in touch, but didn’t. To be honest, I didn’t think about him that much, until a year later, when he called me to tell me he had moved back home, with his mom and step-dad. When I asked him what prompted the move, he told me that he was no longer HIV positive, but now had full blown AIDS.

I didn’t know what to say. Who does in this situation? I can’t even tell you what we talked about next. I can tell you that I drove to his mom’s house that night, and we drank beers and talked. And talked, and talked. At first it was small talk. We talked about his travels. He asked about my life, and I told him about my job change, and the status of my relationship. I asked him about Christine. Christine was the person who introduced me to Dave. She got him the job at the call centre where we all worked together. I had left there about 6 months prior, so I asked how she was. Dave said he didn’t know. He said they didn’t talk anymore. This surprised me, as they were best friends, who had gone to school together, worked together, and when you met them, you would swear they were brother and sister, they were so close.

Dave then proceeded to tell me that Christine stopped talking to him not long after he told her that he had full blown Aids. See, it was 1993. People were scared of Aids. It was incurable. It had only been around a little over 10 years, and people didn’t trust the science that told them you couldn’t get it just from being around someone who had it. She had panicked and shunned her best friend. When he probably needed her most. She wasn’t the only one. Dave told me that almost everyone he knew was the same. They were afraid of getting sick. They were young, they wanted to party, they didn’t understand. They had a million excuses, most of them bullshit. The reality was, Dave’s friends, both gay and straight, abandoned him.

And Dave was getting sicker. Have you seen the movie Philadelphia? Remember when Tom Hanks character got the skin blotches and went blind? This was Dave’s future. This was what he was facing. Mostly alone.

I decided that night, that I wouldn’t abandon Dave. I would be his friend. I would visit him. I would talk to him. I would be there if he needed me. Please understand, I’m no saint, and this story is not about me. I split up with my wife when my son was 2 years old, and missed seeing him grow up. I’ve done a lot of shit I’m not proud of.

As I drove home that night, I started thinking about what conversations would be like when I talked with Dave. What do I know about being terminally ill? What could I offer? Would I say the wrong thing?

I went back to Dave’s house a few days later. He was sick at this point, but not bed ridden. We sat on the veranda, and got stoned. And we talked. And we talked. Not about dying. Not about living. Not about anything really. We just talked. We laughed. We did normal shit.

As I drove home that night (yes, I drove stoned, sorry), I thought about how easy it was to just talk with Dave. There was no expectation on his part. I sensed he was just happy to have someone besides his parents to talk with.

For the next 11 months, this became routine. I would go to Dave’s house, we would talk, sometimes get stoned, sometimes not, and I would go home. He would ask about my day. I would ask about his. He would tell me of his medical appointments. He would tell me stories about his past. I would share stories of my past with him. To be honest, when this started, Dave was more of an acquaintance, but we became friends. In hindsight, I wonder if I would choose to become friends with someone who was dying? I’m not sure I had thought this through. I just felt he had reached out to me, and I felt I couldn’t say no.

I remember early in the piece, we had the conversation about dying. I asked him if he wanted to go through the pain he knew was coming, or if he’d rather just leave this world without all that pain. He said he didn’t want to go through it. If he was going to die, he just wanted to die peacefully. We didn’t talk about suicide directly, but we both agreed that if it came down to it, it would be better to kill ourselves, than to endure the pain that was sure to come with Aids.

I watched Dave as he got sicker. It was sad. It was horrible. It was soul destroying at times to watch someone I had grown to care for get so sick. He lost so much weight he couldn’t walk. He got the skin blotches. He went blind.

As he got sicker, visits got tougher. It was obvious Dave was dying. One night, about 6 months later, we re-visited the ‘would you go through the pain scenario’. The answer was completely different. Dave no longer cared about the pain. He wanted to stay with his family. He wanted to enjoy every minute of his life. No matter how painful.

I would show up at Dave’s house, and be greeted by his mother, or his step father, who would give me the run down on his condition. They looked so sad. So worn out. If you didn’t know better, you’d think they were the ones who needed medical attention. Hell, they probably did.

Dave’s mother was a wonderful woman. Dave told me she knew he was gay, long before he came out to her. She was totally accepting and supportive. His step father on the other hand, had a hard time with Dave’s sexuality. He had been in Dave’s life since Dave was 8 years old. He was a truck driver. A man’s man. He didn’t know how to deal with Dave and his lifestyle. Dave told me this was part of the reason he moved away.

I got to know his mother and step father during this time. Not well. More superficially. They were nice people, and they were dealing with a terrible situation. They were watching their child die before they did. As a parent, I can’t even fathom the pain this must cause.

I got a call from Dave’s step father on a Tuesday morning to tell me that Dave had died the night before. I was devastated. I had been there on Sunday night, and Dave was really sick. He had that death rattle in his chest. It was the first time I’d experienced that. Sadly, not the last. He was in and out of consciousness. Still, hearing the words, he’s gone, was a shock to my system. I think I thanked his dad for calling, and then I cried for a long time.

A week later, I was back at Dave’s house. I was there to celebrate Dave’s life with his family and friends. Mostly family. His mother had made a poster that had all of Dave’s school pictures from K-12. I met his sisters. I met aunts and uncles. I don’t know who else. It was a blur. It seemed unreal. It was so sad. His sisters, whom I hadn’t met before, thanked me for coming, and one of them said that Dave had told her nice things about me. A few family members got up and spoke about Dave, some stories were shared, and there was smiling and crying and sadness and laughter. As a non-family member, I felt a bit awkward at best, but wanted to be there to honour Dave.

When it was time to go, I said goodbye to everyone and started to leave. Dave’s step father walked with me down the side of the house. As we walked he thanked me for being there for Dave. He told me how much he appreciated it. And how much Dave appreciated it. I told him that I was just doing what was right, and that he was the one who was there for Dave. That Dave knew how hard it was for him to deal with everything. And that Dave had told me he loved him. Dave’s stepfather, the most stoic man I have ever met, burst into tears. He hugged me hard for a long time, while he cried. Neither of us said a word. Then he thanked me, and I thanked him, and I left.

I never went back to Dave’s house. Sure, it might be a better story if I became friends with his family, and we started a foundation, and gave away scholarships, but that isn’t reality. Reality is, our link was Dave. And he was gone.

I was so worried about what to say to him when I found out he was dying. But, that was never a problem. Never. Sometimes we forget how social we are. How much we need others to be there to interact with us. Especially in an awkward situation. Like when someone is dying. We don’t think we know what to say. We don’t want to mess up and say the wrong thing. So, we say nothing. We do nothing. We walk away. I hope if you get anything out of this story, it’s the message that there is no wrong thing to say. The truth is, we need each other. We need to feel that human connection. We need people to listen to us. So, smile at your fellow human. Talk with people. Sure, it’s hard. You might fuck up. But, walking away is even worse.

Peter Rosky is an American expatriate, currently residing in Brisbane, Queensland.

 This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 122

Climbing: 5,100’

Mph Avg: 17.7

Calories: 7,000

Seat Time: 07 hours 12 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 Lo Moon. Enjoy…

And Now What…

Several days ago I made the decision to give up riding. It’s not that I’ve fallen out of love with it — I’ve never enjoyed cycling more. However, the time away from my mother and the thought that her safety might be compromised by my absence, got the better of me. I purchased a stair-stepper to act as a surrogate in fulfilling my (physical and psychological) need for cardiovascular exercise. Long before the bicycle became my shtick, I was a devotee of the stair-stepper. 

After my first session on the stair-stepper and off the bike, I began to rethink things.

It turns out that my relationship with cycling has evolved over the last six years, becoming stronger and more complex. Cycling is more than cardiovascular exercise for me, it’s an escape, a medicine, and a therapy, and in ways indoor cardio can’t approach. Corny as it sounds, daily cycling has become a part of me.

So now what…?

The internal dialogue to figure all of this out has been going on for months. It’s been difficult and draining. And the truth is, I haven’t come to any resolution yet, despite that I thought I had. My mother’s safety and well-being can’t be compromised. Yet the benefits of cycling have helped steer my life into a place of stability, calmness, and presence I wasn’t capable of six years ago.

There’s also the aspect of this blog as well as my daily Spoke And Word page on Facebook. To quote Seth Godin…

“The most important blog is the one you write…“

The combination of my daily cycling and the subsequent reflection of my thoughts while pedaling have become who I am. To think that, on a dime, I could quit being the guy that I’ve become in the last six years, doesn’t seem so realistic — not from the vantage point of my sofa on this cold morning. 

So what does this mean…?.

It may mean shorter rides or perhaps riding early in the morning while my mother is still asleep. Maybe every-other-day, with opposing days on the stair-stepper. I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️

I understand that at some point I won’t be able to leave my mother for too long, and at some point after that, I won’t be able to leave her at all. I’m just not sure we’re there yet, and God I hope that’s not the worst rationalization of my life.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far I thank you. And I don’t do it often, but I welcome your thoughts and opinion on how or if I should continue riding.

 This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 145

Climbing: 6,600’

Mph Avg: 15.6

Calories: 8,300

Seat Time: 09 hours 18 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 Glenn Frey. Enjoy…