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 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…?

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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.

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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…