Can I Get A Witness…

I rode up Alvarado Street the other day. It’s a road I don’t take often due to a steep, and I’ll confess, uncomfortable climb. It’s one of the few roads that keeps my speed in the single digits — generally about 9 mph. However, I wanted to work off the french fries I stole from mom at lunch, so I took a left where I generally take a right.

There’s a house I pass on the way up Alvarado — owned by some of my first clients in Fallbrook, nearly 20-years ago. It’s a family of three — a father, his wife, and their (then) teenage daughter. I trained the parents for general fitness and for their daughter, a competitive tennis player, I was a private strength and conditioning coach. 

They invited me over for dinner one evening, maybe a few months after our professional relationship began. I was new to town and grateful for the invite. I even wore long pants that evening — which doesn’t happen more than a few times a decade. I arrived at dinner with a bottle of wine and some flowers for my hosts. We sat in the living room and caught up for a few minutes, but they were quick to serve dinner.

I was escorted to the dining room and to a table which more resembled a holiday meal than a casual dinner. Something among the fabulous place settings stood out though — on one dinner plate was a stack of books and pamphlets. The book on top, A Purpose Driven Life, was making its way through churches across the nation at the time. 

As I sat, my host turned the deadbolt on the door leading from the dining room to the back patio. It occurred to me only later, that might have been for effect. As his wife began bringing dishes from the kitchen into the dining room, my host began talking about his journey into Christianity. I immediately felt uncomfortable.

Dinner was served, and forgive the expression, but the sales-pitch continued through the entire meal. It was loud, relentless, and I was afforded no time to speak or reply on my own behalf. I was being witnessed to — a concept I was familiar with, but had never experienced. After dinner we settled in the living room for a continuation of the same. 

Feeling less comfortable, I made attempts to change the conversation or suggest it might be time to go. I was met with scenario after scenario that might benefit my soul, and was asked repeatedly for a commitment to join them at church the following Sunday. I gave the same vague excuse each time I was pressed — that I was unsure whether or not I’d be working that Sunday. I didn’t have anything against church, but I didn’t want to be coerced into going. 

Their schpeel continued into the evening and I was getting weary. I wanted nothing more than to get in my car and drive away, but felt trapped. It must have been as clear to them I wanted to leave as it was to me that they weren’t willing to release me. I sat for a couple of hours, listening to all their brand of Christianity could offer my life. The evening came to conclusion just before midnight, but not without a couple more attempts to get me to commit to attending church with them. 

I couldn’t drive home fast enough. I felt dirty as I drove away — like my mind had been violated, because it had been. To this day it was the most uncomfortable I’ve been in the presence of social contemporaries. I didn’t feel violated because of the content of their offering, but from their method of delivery.

The church they were associated with, I learned in subsequent weeks, one of the larger ones in this area, was known for this pressing sales approach. I’m not sure if any perks, credits, or heavenly incentives are offered for each soul brought to the table, but they got no bounty for me that night.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m religion’s biggest fan, though I subscribe to none. More than half the books I own have to do with the world’s religions, both historic and current, and their value in society.  I will argue until my dying breath that the world needs religion — it’s the mortar that holds the bricks of culture together. 

We live in a time when far too many people are critical of or are outright against religion. It’s not religion we should be against, not ever. It is the abuse of religion which gives all faiths a bad name — in the same way that it’s the abuse of any institution that gives those institutions bad reputations. And I can think of few worse abuses of religion, than trying to get somebody to commit to it against their will — over chicken cacciatore and a raspberry vinaigrette salad. 

I didn’t let that incident sour me on Christianity, Christians, or the upside of that tradition. It did though, reinforce my stance on propagating any religion — that it should be made available, but never forced down anyone’s throat.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 171

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 15.4

Calories: 9,800

Seat Time: 11 hours 07 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 Los Cenzontles. Enjoy…

Spitting On History…

It was the winter of 1987. My mom worked for the Indian Health Service in Chinle Arizona. Trudy and I lived in Denver and made the trip to see mom for a long weekend. We split the drive into two days, spending our first night in Durango, and driving into Chinle the following morning. 

Chinle is a small community near the center of the Navajo reservation. Home to Canyon De Chelly and some of the most spectacular scenery in the American southwest, the town exists in complete isolation — the kind of isolation one might feel if they were in Antarctica or on Mars. That kind of isolation was as much the attraction for me as the scenery.

We left Durango under cloudy skies and in sub-freezing temperatures. The forecast through the desert was more of the same. As we approached Chinle on Highway 191, 30-miles or so from town, we began to see the occasional dirt road leading to a hogan, a mobile home, or some combination of the two. These are called Navajo Suburbs. 

As snow began to fall, we came across a sign reminding us how isolated we were…

 YEILD TO LIVESTOCK

The Navajo reservation is open-range, so it’s not unusual to see cattle, sheep, and horses crossing the road — or even gathering in it. As we slowed to yield the intersection, we noticed an elderly Navajo woman, in traditional dress with a shawl across her shoulders, standing beside the road with her thumb out — hitchhiking. It might’ve been 30° and large flakes of snow were falling slowly to the ground.

We slowed down to offer the old woman a ride, but before we came to a complete stop, and upon looking at us, she spit on the ground in front of her and turned her back to us — indicating she didn’t want a ride. Not from Anglos anyway — or at least that’s how we perceived it. 

I honestly don’t remember if we pursued offering her a ride beyond that, but I don’t think we did. I know we were both humbled and saddened, but we knew why. I remember making the comment that the old woman wasn’t spitting at us — she was spitting on history. I’m pretty sure Trudy and I didn’t talk again until we arrived in Chinle. 

At least a few times a month I ride through some of the local Indian communities in North San Diego County. A few of those roads are similar to the Navajo suburbs — long dirt driveways cutting through dry chaparral, with the occasional mobile home a few hundred yards in the distance, though there are no hogans around here. It takes me back. 

Nearly 35 years later, I still think about it — about the old woman who would rather stand and let snow fall on her shoulders on a frigid morning than accept a ride from a couple of white folks in a Renault Alliance. Somehow, I don’t think much has changed.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 173

Climbing: 7,300’

Mph Avg: 15.6

Calories: 9,900

Seat Time: 11 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 David Lindley and Wally Ingram . Enjoy…

Rising Above My Darker Feed…

I’ve been among social media‘s biggest fans. From the beginning, I’ve seen the benefits and the upsides of it in ways I think most people don’t, and perhaps can’t. In the chronological blink of an eye, the world connected in a way that would have seemed like magic only 100-years ago.

And because I’ve seen and focused more on the positive aspects of social media, I’ve been resistant to criticize it, let alone estrange myself from it. That’s not to suggest I don’t recognize the downsides of it all. It’s just my perspective has been that social media, like any tool, is only as good, or bad, as the intentions it’s used with. For my part, I’ve tried to use it with good intentions. 

I’ll admit though, it’s getting harder these days. Social media, Facebook in particular, has become an outlet for so much hate, negativity, and ignorance that, at times, it overwhelms and depresses me. I truly don’t know what people are trying to accomplish by using it in these ways, but my feed has taken a noticeable tilt toward the darker side. 

And the thing is, my friends and connections haven’t really changed through the years. What’s changed has been the world around us — and how (ordinarily) good people are reacting poorly to those changes. How we respond to the changing world defines who we are. I don’t know, I guess we just all need somebody to hate — and a place to scream. 

And no, this isn’t where I’m going to say I’m walking away from social media or taking a break for a few weeks. I still see the upside, and I’m still grateful for the interactions I have with like-minded people in matters of philosophy, humor, and the arts.

It’s interesting though, and this is not new…

Much of what I think about when I ride my bikes through the hills of North County each day is the interactions I have with others on my social media platforms. I think about it as I pedal — the good, the bad, and the ugly of my feeds. 

Oh, and there’s this…

If I get hit by a car later today, and not survive, I’d be very proud of the social media legacy I’d leave behind — my digital imprint on the world. It’s honest. It represents me well. It involves no malice. It’s all been done with good intentions. I’m not sure how many people can say that. Some days, I’m not sure any people can say that. I can only say that I wish more people used social media this way. 

Funny — in a life where I’ve fucked up pretty much everything I’ve ever done, it’s ironic that social media is one of the few things I do well. At least I think I do it well.  

This is what I think about when a ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 168

Climbing: 7,100’

Mph Avg: 15.6

Calories: 9,600

Seat Time: 10 hours 45 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 Ryan Adams. Enjoy…

Secretly Jealous…

The last thing I see as I ieave my driveway each day is my neighbor’s backyard. Well, it’s more complicated than that…

The people who reside next to me, once occupied the house I now live in. They owned it, but got foreclosed on. Because I live in the house they once owned, they’ve shunned me for the last six years. They avoid eye contact, don’t reciprocate when I offer a hello, and have pretended they don’t speak English when I’ve attempted to speak with them.

The thing is, they don’t live in the house next-door. They live in the backyard next-door. When they were foreclosed on seven years ago, and with no place else to go, the elderly woman who lives in the house next-door agreed to let them set up temporary shelters in her backyard.

They are a family of five — a mother and father, probably in their mid-50s, and their two adult children, a daughter and a son, who look to be in their mid-20s. The daughter has a toddler who’s maybe 3-years-old. 

The family lives in windowless plywood shacks, roughly 12’x12’. Each hut has electricity run by extension cords from the main house. The yard itself has been reduced to dirt, though they do have several gardens of vegetables, fruit trees, and even some flowers decorating the periphery. There’s a fence that divides their yard space from the main house. So far as I can tell, this is a business agreement and they don’t intermingle with the lady who owns the property and lives in the main house. They simply rent her backyard.

The mom and dad share one shack, with the two adult children each having their own. In-between the structures, in the central part of the yard, are a couple of easy-ups they use for common living spaces. Under one easy-up are lounge chairs and end tables. Under the other is a family-size picnic table where they dine. Behind the living spaces and towering over the dirt is a freestanding refrigerator, also powered by extension cord. Beside it is a gas powered grill — with side burners. This is their kitchen. 

The patriarch is independently employed in landscape maintenance. He works seven days per week, generally leaves about 5am, and returns about 3pm. His wife stays home, tends the gardens and her toddler grandson, and spends much of her day preparing the evening meal. The two adult children also leave early for jobs in town, and return in mid-afternoon also. 

At home, they seem to spend most of their non-sleeping time in the common areas under the easy-ups, where they cook, listen to traditional Mexican music from a boom-box, and play with the lone grandchild. When they’re not working, they’re together most of the time. I overhear a lot of conversation, laughter, and music. 

I admire it — and don’t mind saying I’m secretly jealous. It’s a simple life, not complicated. From a distance, it’s all so charming. They aren’t hung up on granite countertops, 80-inch wall-mounted televisions, and the latest heat resonating cookware. This is the epitome of functional minimalism. Each day as I roll my bike past the gate that secures them, I think to myself…

I could do that — I could totally live like that. And I mean it — I even aspire to it.  

I admire a man who wakes up early, works long days, and does so seven days per week. I admire the mom who stays home all day, tending the garden and preparing the evening meal. I admire that, despite they each have an improvised bungalow they could hide away in, they spend their time outdoors conversing, laughing, and listening to music. They even host social gatherings on occasion, where a dozen people or more show up with food, drink, and occasionally play live music. 

And I’ll be so bold as to say this…

If more of us live like that — lived minimally, spent our free time together as generationally undivided families, and conversed more, the world might be a better place. I don’t want to suggest what they have is utopia or that they even aspired to be were they are. Again, they once lived in the house I’m in now, with liberty and hardwood floors for all. But they seem at home in their circumstance and surroundings and not forlorn. They truly don’t seem to want for more.

If I’m being honest, I kind of don’t like the people next-door. I want to like them, but they’ve been rude to me, ignored me, and even hijacked my garden hose once to fill their water tanks. It’s hard to like somebody who treats me poorly — all for the crime of living in the house they couldn’t hold onto. Still, I’ll keep waving to them, smiling at them, and saying hello — even if ignored. And as I smile my neighborly smile, I have no idea if they can see through me — if they know I’m secretly jealous of the life that they live.

I’m certain I’ve offended more than a few with this viewpoint, even some close friends and family members. This wasn’t my desire and I hope you’ll forgive me. I just never bought into the dream — not completely anyway. Contrary to my father, good enough has always been good enough for me. If we all lived a little more minimally, even a little bit, I just think that would be nice.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 132

Climbing: 5,800’

Mph Avg: 15.4

Calories: 7,600

Seat Time: 8 hours 35 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 Otis Gibbs. Enjoy…

Casualties Of Hate…

Like everyone else who’s witnessed what’s happening in Afghanistan, I’m saddened and feel lifeless. In the hours after seeing this unfold on both the big and small screens last week, I began to feel like I got sucked into a narrow vacuum hose and stuck with no way out.

The horrors in Afghanistan notwithstanding (that sentence in-itself is wretched), what’s crushing me just as much is how people are claiming exclusive rights to their strong opinions, and name-calling those they disagree with in the aftermath of it all. 

Once the war of opinions began, the war in Afghanistan became monumentally insignificant to them, though they’ll never admit this. It didn’t take long for the hate grenades to be lobbed back-and-forth across media platforms, including social media. And as usual, the insults and hate speech were lobbed without much thought. 

Boom — explosion!  

The insult landed. A direct hit. The damage was done. But how much damage, do you even know…?  Hope you feel better now. 

Insults are the weapons of discussion that people choose when their intelligence weakens. I frame it that way because most everyone has the intelligence not to use insults and hate speech. Of all the reasons I can think of not to insult somebody or belittle their opinion, chief among them is this…

That when people use the media and social media to project insults and hate speech, people who aren’t being targeted also get hit. You see, there’s collateral damage in being a dick. We’ve all heard the following cliché or something like it:

You never know what somebody else is battling, so be kind. 

The damage that can be done to somebody who lives with hidden turmoil and who hides it behind a strong face, may be far greater than the person throwing the insults know. I can speak to this first-hand. An insult or abusive speech might truly be the difference in a person’s bad day, bad week, or God willing, hopefully not in their life.

Everyone has their right to expression — to throw insults, use hate speech, and to express unsolicited strong opinions. And everyone else has their tipping point. And those who throw insults blindly, regularly, and the name of feeling more intelligent or superior to another, probably have no idea whether the person they are aiming at is approaching their tipping point — or what innocent bystanders might also receive that hate grenade. 

Ready. Aim. Insult…

Don’t worry about the casualties, so long as it makes you feel good. 

With that in mind, I have two (rhetorical) questions for anyone who has insulted anyone else in relation to what’s happened in Afghanistan…

What, specifically, did you get out of being mean to another person…?

How does the world become a better place for your verbal malice…?

And I’m not just singling out social media warriors and water cooler prophets here. Media personalities, pundits, senators, representatives, and retired military leaders have used language on national television, radio, and the internet recent days that is inconsistent with the esteem those positions (should) warrant. And the men who hold high places…

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 157

Climbing: 6,900’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 8,900

Seat Time: 10 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 Mari Boine. Enjoy…

The Wolves…

Last week, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band on earth, Los Lobos, released their most recent album. Of course when I call them the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, that’s just my way of saying that I have a great deal of appreciation for them.

Native Sons, their 18th album, is a collection of songs covering California artists who influenced their musical sensibilities early in their career. Over the last several months, Los Lobos released bits of the new album on YouTube. I liked what I heard, but was looking forward to putting the CD in my car stereo and taking it for a drive. Last Saturday I got to do that.

I can’t say that this is their best album, but it’s certainly well-made and it didn’t disappoint. Perhaps time will prove it to be a top three or four album of theirs for me. In recent years, artists I’ve appreciated for decades such as James McMurtry, Cornershop, and The Waterboys have delivered albums I’ve enjoyed, but consider subpar. Native Sons is far better than that. 

The intentions behind this album can be felt immediately. The care that went into recording it is evident right away. Singer, David Hildalgo, who has a history of clunker vocals both live and on their recordings, is smooth on each of his vocal tracks. The recording fidelity is excellent — better than any of their previous albums. There’s ample space between the sounds, and the instrumentation and vocals are crisp and distinct. 

Something the band attempted to do on this album was be true to the original song, but also put their own signature on each. That’s no easy task. Very often with covers, a band will try to duplicate the original song or take it in another direction altogether. Los Lobos walked a fine line and definitely achieved what they set out to do. Each track is true to the original, but there’s no doubt who’s performing it.

The song selection took me by surprise, but in a good way. Several of the songs are rock standards that I knew word-for-word, while others are songs I’m scarcely familiar with. 

Bluebird (Buffalo Springfield) and Sail On Sailor (Beach Boys) are standouts for me. Again, true to the originals, but no doubt the guys from East LA are at the helm. Where Lovers Go (The Jaguars) takes me back to a simpler era of music — one that took place while I was still a toddler, and is probably my favorite song on the album — for now.  

The musicianship, as always, is stellar. Hidalgo is one of the great guitar players nobody talks about. He demonstrates his usual outstanding playing throughout the album, but it’s kept a bit further back in the mix on most songs. However, on The World Is A Ghetto (WAR), Hidalgo’s guitar playing is prominent, precise, and clean. Cesar Rosas’ vocals and guitar work throughout the album are as good as ever. Louie Pérez sings, plays guitars, and adds some percussion. 

Pérez, the original drummer for the band, gives up the kit on this album for David Hidalgo Jr. (Social Distortion) and Jason Lozano, who play superbly on their respective tracks. Steve Berlin (Saxophone) and Conrad Lozano (Bass) are like piecrust holding the band together. Their supporting roles are at the heart of the thing, and each gives the album a character that can’t come from anyone else.

After I listened to the album the second time, one line kept going through my head, over and over, from the movie Tender Mercies, starring Robert Duvall… 

“Sing It The Way You Feel It…”

It’s evident on every track that the guys from East LA sang and played every song the way they felt it. 

Footnote: I first wrote this for my Facebook page 2-weeks ago. I’ve since listened to the CD nearly a dozen times and compared each track to the original. For my money, I’ll take the Los Lobos cover over each of the originals, including the two Buffalo Springfield songs. Yes, I said it. 

This has quickly become a top-3 album of theirs for me, just behind Kiko and The Town And The City. My standout tracks, as of this morning are, Farmer John (The Premiers) and For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield). At some point, I’m guessing every song on the CD will be my favorite, at least for a while.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 179

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 15.1

Calories: 10,100

Seat Time: 11 hours 52 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 greatest rock ‘n’ roll band on earth, Los Lobos. Enjoy…

Here In My Mold…

I truly wonder who I am sometimes. Just as often, I wonder who I should be. I was thinking about that when I went out the other day — about whether I’m the me I’m supposed to be or if I’m actually the me I’ve created. And no, this isn’t an exercise in freshman philosophy. It’s something I think about quite a bit. I worry that I’ve invested too much of myself and given up too much of my soul in creating the character I play when people are looking — because I’m afraid to just be myself.

I wonder who I’d be if I wasn’t influenced by the expectations I think others have of me. 

I wonder who I’d be if I wasn’t influenced by entertainment — stories, music, television, and movies. 

I wonder who I might be if I wasn’t influenced by the expectations I have of myself — and I wonder further where those expectations come from.

I wonder who I’d be if I was brave enough to say what’s on my mind 100% of the time — or even 50% of the time. 

I wonder who I’d be if I put others ahead of myself more often than I do.

I wonder who I’d be if I didn’t choose play over work as often as I do. 

I wonder who I’d be if I listened to the ‘do-right’ voice in my head more than I do. 

And I don’t just wonder who I’d be on the surface, but I wonder all kinds of wonders…

I wonder if I’d sleep better.

I wonder if my financial status would be more stable.

I wonder if my social and personal relationships would be stronger.

I wonder if I’d worry less about an afterlife.

And the thing is, this goes through my head all the time. On my bike, off my bike, when I’m awake, and even when I sleep I have dreams about the influence everyone and everything outside of me has on me.

Of course, I guess that’s our mission as human beings — to absorb the good from the outside, filter out the bad, and charge-on being the best we can possibly be. Some days though, I question whether I’ve absorbed too much of the wrong things, and whether I’ve filtered out too much of what I really need. 

I just think about it all the time. All the time. 

This is what I think about when I ride…. Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 180

Climbing: 5,800’

Mph Avg: 15.2

Calories: 10,200 

Seat Time: 11 hours 55 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 Richard Ashcroft. Enjoy…

That Six Minutes…

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. Between Vietnam, Kent state, and Watergate, my television didn’t have much good to offer each evening. Sure, there were the Apollo missions every-so-often, and Fractured Fairytales on Saturday mornings, but during the dinner hour, television was our household conduit to the fearful and foreboding atmosphere of the day.

Every four years though, dad would relinquish the large round knob on the upper right-hand corner of the Admiral television set in our living room, and let my brother and I watch as much Olympic coverage as we wanted. That was the golden age of the Summer Olympics. 

To this day, when people speak of Mexico City, Munich, or Montreal, before I think of anything else, I think of the summer games. I think of John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Mark Spitz, Dave Wottle, Steve Prefontaine, Olga Korbut, Bruce Jenner, and Ray Leonard, among many others. Those were just a handful of people who made the summer games of that era iconic.

When I watched the Olympics, there was no Vietnam, there were no race riots, and Nixon was an afterthought. Those were the first times I remember escaping reality through sports. Even during the tragedy in Munich, the world seemed to unite, if only for a moment, and the games went on.

Between 1968 and 1976 I was certain I was going to be an Olympian. I tried my hand at everything — boxing, diving, swimming, and I even set up a decathlon course in my backyard, minus the polevault. And of course, I tried my hand at Olympic style weightlifting. I sucked at every sport and have continued to suck at every athletic endeavor I’ve ever attempted. The only thing I came close to being good at was 3-meter springboard diving, but I gave that up to pursue the weight room — which I also sucked at and still do.  

It was the Olympics though, that got me interested in athleticism. It was also the Olympics that introduced me to people to cheer for — my first heroes, if you will. I had their pictures on my wall, I tried to emulate them, I cheered for them when they won, and I cried when they lost. Watching the Summer Olympics was transformative. 

And then politics set in, 1980 and 1984 — the two summer Olympiads that will be forever remembered as being incomplete. That was the first of what would be many disconnects between me and the Summer Olympics, and I’ll suggest, for millions of others also. 

The games would recover and continue on in exotic places like Seoul, Barcelona, Sydney, and Athens. They had an allure to them, but the magic of the Summer Olympics I knew in my youth had faded. In-part, that was probably due to having to make a living, marriage, fatherhood, and all the adult responsibilities that go with all of those.

Today, the Olympics bring about thoughts of television marketshare, product endorsements, performance-enhancing drugs, gender roles, and the multitude of electronic platforms available to watch them on. It all seems too complicated for me — like too much work is involved in both watching and enjoying them. 

Before I began writing this, I sat in my dark living room, pre-dawn, sipping coffee and watching the highlight of a 17-year-old girl from Alaska touch the wall before any other swimmer in the pool. Lydia Jacoby had won the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke. Tears fell from my cheek to my tongue and I sucked snot like a toddler — and it was only a replay. I’m glad I was alone. 

My connection to the Olympics may not be what it was when I was 6 or 10 or 14 years old. But I was reminded this morning of the value of distraction and the need for inspiration. The world can still be a fearful and foreboding place, and I’m grateful to have been drawn in, if only for a while.

“It’s not the 6-minutes. It’s what happens in that 6-minutes…”

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 193

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 15.1

Calories: 11,000

Seat Time: 12 hours 41 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 Roky Erickson. Enjoy…

Uncritical Mass…

Anyone who began recreational or competitive bodybuilding in their youth and continued it well into their adult life will tell you, you don’t really learn how to train until you’re in your 40s. And for those who continue it into their 50s, with an emphasis on right-diet and consistent training, the results are often as good as men and women much younger.

To be clear, I’m talking about bodybuilding without pharmaceutical enhancement. No drugs. 

In 2013 I was 52, and coaching a female bodybuilder, among my other clients. Having let myself get out of shape, or what I call emphasizing loosely packed muscle, she remarked to me one morning about my “soft physique” and asked if I had “given up” on it. I assured her that with eight straight weeks of training and proper eating, I could get in the best bodybuilding shape of my life. When she snickered, I asked if she would put her money where her laugh was. A bet was made for $500 and I got to work.

In the coming weeks she saw my progress, and it became clear to her, possibly for the first time, I really knew what I was doing when it came to coaching bodybuilding and fitness. By the end of the eighth week, I was walking everywhere in town with my shirt off. When the day came for her to pay off the bet, her pocketbook was nowhere to be found. Cool. I proved my point. 

I maintained that shape for the next couple of years, until early 2015 when I returned from Colorado to California. That’s when I began to emphasize my cycling, loosened my diet, and the weight room became secondary. I still lifted weights 3 to 4 days per week, but not with the intensity I’d been maintaining since my early teens.

A couple months back I was reflecting on that bet I made in 2013, and the shape I got in as a result of it. With little fanfare, and no mention of it to anyone, I began an earnest attempt to get in, not just good shape, but possibly the best bodybuilding shape of my life. I retooled my diet, stepped up my strength training sessions, and began a course of supplementation I haven’t adhered to since I was in my 30s.

The only difference in my day-to-day training between 2013 and now is at that in 2013 my only cardiovascular activity was running 2 to 3 miles 5 days per week. Also, today I eat almost exclusively plant-based protein.  

After eight weeks of training — of grinding it out in the gym day after day, of increased supplementation, and a significantly retooled diet, I’m proud to say I have made no progress — none. To look at me, you might not even think I lift weights at all. I have muscle tone, but it’s the kind you might get by living in a Salvadoran prison for 18-years.

So what’s gone wrong…?

First, I’m on a bike for nearly 2-hours every day. It’s just something I’m not willing to sacrifice. The calorie expenditure and the lack of recovery that cycling creates, is completely inconsistent with adding muscle mass. In fact, my weekly photographs to disclose progress suggest my muscle mass might have slightly declined in the last eight weeks.

In 2013, I was sleeping a combined 6 to 7 hours every night. Not great, but adequate for exercise recovery. Today, primarily due to my caregiving responsibilities and my relentless addiction to 4am writing, I get 4 to 5 hours of broken sleep — on a good night. 

Also, I’m entering my 60s. Though it varies from person to person, male strength athletes tend to have a noticeable decline in muscle mass and muscular quality over the age of 60. This is largely due to a decline in the production of testosterone. This doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to maintain some degree of muscle mass and strength, but it’s unrealistic to expect the same results today that I was getting 10-years ago and 10-years before that.

Lastly, I began early — I’ve been in the weight room regularly since I was 12-years old. After 48-years of regular strength training, there’s no place for the body to really go.

So where do I go from here…?

I still enjoy being in the weight room — it’s my sanctuary. I value the physical autonomy that being strong provides me. I also know that strength training, done properly, promotes flexibility, balance, and slows down the inevitable loss of bone density — even if I do look like a Salvadoran prisoner.

I’m just slightly bummed that the guns of old and the quads that once popped with every step are beginning to fizzle. I’ve known though, for a long time, that I would get to this day. For now, I’m going to give it another couple of months and see what happens. After that, I may take my own advice and just strength train a couple days a week. The cycling though, is here to stay.  

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 193

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 15.1

Calories: 11,000

Seat Time: 12 hours 41 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 Sean Costello. Enjoy…

Exhilarated…

Within minutes of posting this, I’ll be headed to the coast on a bicycle once again. It’s my Sunday morning ritual.

Morning rides are the best. In part, because they breathe life into me at a time of day when any exhilaration is welcome. I may get up at 4am, but I don’t come life until mid-morning. Spinning my legs and pushing my heart as early fuel for my day puts coffee to shame. 

I’ve been thinking about that word lately — exhilaration. While riding last Sunday morning, under a fading sunrise, I thought about as many synonyms for exhilaration as I could. The word that most closely resembled exhilaration, I thought, was joy. When I returned home, I used the Google to search for synonyms for exhilaration, and joy was among the first that came up. Funny though, every subsequent synonym would also be appropriate for what I feel when I ride.

I’ve been thinking about how lucky I am that I get to feel exhilaration most every day of my life. Of course that exhilaration isn’t with me all day, but it’s a great equalizer for other emotions that sneak into my day…

Sadness

Frustration

Rage

Fear

Anger

Depression

Confusion

Fright

On consideration, and if I’m being honest, there are more negative emotions which guide my mood in the course of a day than there are positive ones. The positive ones though, seem to carry more weight, and among them all, exhilaration carries the most.

And no, this isn’t a how-to about how you can build exhilaration into your own day. If you want it, you’ll find it — or create it as I do. I just can’t imagine living without a dose or two of exhilaration each day to fend off those lesser emotions which strive to bring me down.

I honestly don’t remember thinking too much about the word exhilaration before. I’m not sure it’s even crossed my mind until this week. My takeaway from this contemplation though, is this…

Without some daily exhilaration, my world would be a much darker place.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 199

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 11,200

Seat Time: 13 hours 10 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 Leonid And Friends (Steely Dan cover). Enjoy…