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 Spoke In Review Part II: 2021 In Summary…

With 2021 closing out, I want express my gratitude to everyone who takes time to read this. 

Many people are glad 2021 is almost over — as though 2022 comes with an antidote for all which we’ll leave behind. Probably not. People speak of 2021 in terms of profound negativity — polarization, COVID, and the general tenor of our nation. I’d be lying if I said those don’t impact me also, but they don’t represent my year. 

This was another above average year for me, and one of my best years of the last 20. I’m grateful for the richness it provided, as well as the opportunities, blessings, and so many positive human interactions. When I count my blessings at the end of each day, and I do count them, the lists in 2021 were always long. 

Of course not everything went my way in 2021. I cried a lot, felt rage more than I care to admit, and I endured my share of despair. Sometimes I experienced all of those simultaneously. And to be honest, there were days I didn’t want to go on. Some of my darks days were at the will of circumstances beyond my control, while others were due to my own poor choices. When I quantify the past year though — using the proverbial list of pros and cons, 2021 has been net-positive. 

I remain surrounded by more of everything than I will ever want or need. I live in a charming house. I’m located in a beautiful community. I have easy access to services, sustenance, and safety. Through the eyes of most of the world, I live like a king. 

I earn a good living, I have more friends than I deserve, I have loving of animals around constantly, and I get to spend valued time with my mother daily.  I also get to spend time outdoors about as often as I wish. When the clock strikes midnight this Saturday, I will have been on my bike 345 times in 2021. 

For a guy who can honestly refer to the 8th grade as my senior year, I couldn’t ask for more — so I don’t. If anything, I have so much I should be actively be pursuing less. I guess I do pursue a little less with each passing year.

At a time when people are busy typing into their phones, posting memes, and being mean and hyper-critical of other people who are also typing into their phones being mean and hyper-critical of others still, I enjoy and appreciate the technology that connects me with people from northern England, Germany, Australia, upstate New York, and even Poughkeepsie. I don’t get drawn into much online negativity because I learned long ago to peek through the window before I open the door. I choose peaceful windows.

I know there will be tears, rage, heartache, and sadness for me in 2022. I also know that as I experience them, I’ll always feel like I’m at rock bottom. But goodness, I remind myself daily, enters my life through larger and more frequent doors than the badness. And that goodness, tends to linger longer than the bad stuff. 

I hope that 2022 brings you peace, joy, laughter, and love. And I’ll remind you that if you’re not looking for it, you may not find it — but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. 

I’ll close out my 2021 blogging experience as I do every year, with the most formative line from any movie I’ve ever seen. And I recite this to myself daily…

“And in the end, I realized that I took more than I gave, that I was trusted more than I trusted, and that I was loved more than I loved. And in the end, I realized that what I was looking for was not to be found, but to be created…”

John Hughes, from She’s Having A Baby…

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

2021 By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 17

Flat Tires: 34

Seat time : 591 hours 45 minutes 

Climbing: 397,600’

Average Speed: 15.1

Calories Burned: 517,050

Total Miles: 9,050

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 Brenton Wood. Enjoy…

A Holiday For All…?

We celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States last week. Like most holidays, it has evolved over generations to be something different from it’s original intentions. The Thanksgiving we celebrate today is different than the one past presidents and legislative bodies have advanced, canceled, and tweaked at their whim.

Scroll social media on Thanksgiving morning and you’ll see memes, cartoons, and outright proclamations declaring that, like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving was born from exploiting natives, setting them up for internment, slavery, and genocide. And certainly there’s truth to that at the roots. Yet I know of nobody who gathered around the table this past Thursday, held hands, and thanked the Lord Almighty for making the Indians such easy prey. Most I know were just glad to spend time with friends and family, and as is often the case, just as glad to hit the road as soon as the last bite of pie went down or the Cowboys lost — whichever came first. 

And don’t get me started on Christmas or Easter. Nothing is stagnant and everything changes, holidays included. Christmas, Independence Day, Passover, even Memorial Day are all different now than at their inception. Like religions, holidays evolve and mutate based on the ever-changing facts on the ground. And as a result, every holiday from Halloween to Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently today than it was just a few generations ago. And as holidays have evolved, they’re bound to draw more people in as they push others away, reinforcing divisions in culture. 

I’ve long believed we should drop one more holiday into the mix though, and probably the only one we need — because we could all use it. No, not Peace Day, Kindness Day, or even Hugs Day, but Decorum Day. Decorum Day would be secular, celebrated as a national holiday, and provide an opportunity for everyone to just be civil to one another for 24-hours. Who could argue with that…? A day of respect, right speech, and biting one’s tongue.

Of course Decorum Day would never work — not in the United States. It would have its detractors from the beginning. Decorum Day would limit free speech. Religious institutions would complain of its godlessness. It would have to be administered by the government — good luck there. And eventually, Hallmark, Lexus, and CNN would brand it and monetize it. 

But the real reason Decorum Day wouldn’t work, isn’t because of the reasons I just mentioned. Decorum Day wouldn’t work because most people wouldn’t be capable of adhering to it’s simple doctrine — to conduct themselves with dignity, act with decency, speak sparingly, and deescalate when in the path of verbal confrontation. We’re just not capable of it — or are we…? I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️.

At the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that holidays are a lot like Frankenstein — they are created by man, grow to have a life of their own, and eventually become monsters that we can’t control. Why should Decorum Day be any different…?

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 152

Climbing: 6,600’

Mph Avg: 16.0

Calories: 8,800

Seat Time: 09 hours 31 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 Taj Mahal. Enjoy…

Keeping My Head…

Like most everyone else, my head has been spinning these last few years. Noise coming from every direction, voices getting louder, and the sense of urgency increasing with new crisis. And there’s a new crisis nearly every hour, each one with a little more gravity than the previous. And the crowd breaks as cleanly as two saltine crackers — between us and them, and the crumbs from the middle fall to the ground.

My political compass fluctuates just a few percent on either side of center. In matters of culture and social orientations, I lean a little bit to the left. In matters of fiscal accountability and defense (defense being defined as protecting our interests within our own borders), I lean a little bit to the right. In matters of conducting myself with decency and decorum, I lean straight in. 

If I’ve been disappointed with anything these last few years, aside from the behaviors of our elected officials and media pundits who illuminate them, it’s with the way my fellow citizens have conducted themselves in conversations with one another. We are a nation of middle-schoolers. 

I’m proud of a lot of things these days…

I’m proud that since January, I’ve taken just 12 days off riding. I’m proud that in that time I’ve hit my weekly goal of 100-miles — usually by Wednesday. I’m proud that I haven’t once looked out the window and thought it was too rainy, too windy, too hot, or too cold to ride. Okay, once. I’m proud that in the three years since I began this blog, I’ve missed only one Sunday.

Away from my bike, I’m proud of other things…

I’m proud that I’ve gotten my mom out of the house for a short walk or drive, all but a handful of days in four years — even during the pandemic. Same goes for my dog. I’m proud that I show up for work every day, even after my many sleepless nights. I’m proud that I treat each client as if they’re my only one. 

I’m proud that I never let my daughter’s calls go to voicemail, that I pay my bills on time, and that I spend time in contemplative prayer every morning of my life — even when I’m running late. I’m proud that I take time each day to listen to three songs I’ve never heard before.

I’m sure that all seems a lofty, but I’m proud of those things.

The thing I’m most proud of though, through these last few years, is that I haven’t lost my head — not once. I haven’t called anyone a name. I haven’t belittled anyone. I haven’t allowed my behaviors to get ugly in public or private. I’ve conducted myself with decency and decorum. 

I’ve remembered the one value my father instilled in me growing up, that mattered to him more than any other. In the words of Kipling, paraphrased, dad reminded me regularly…

“Son, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then you are a man…” 

I’ve certainly had my opinions in these last few years, and I’ve definitely run the gambit of emotions. I’ve wanted to throw my television set through the window. I’ve wanted to push some people down tall flights of stairs. I’ve wanted to set fire to some buildings, turn over some cars, and I’ve even wanted to drive through a crowd or two — but I’ve kept my head, because that’s what adults do.

Again, if this too sounds lofty, I get it — I’m lofty. But whatever the opposite of lofty is, I don’t want to be that — ever. There are far too many people filling that role as it is.

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

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 5

Miles: 125

Climbing: 5,500’

Mph Avg: 16.0

Calories: 8,000

Seat Time: 07 hours 49 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 Blaze Foley. 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…

Earth Day After…

I saw a lot of nods to Earth Day this week, on social media and beyond. Climate change is on my mind daily, though I know I could do more to lessen my impact on the planet. 

I saw many of the usual suggestions for Earth Day…

– Eat less meat

– Recycle more

– Use less water

– Conserve household energy

– Drive less, and do so in more efficient vehicles

– Travel less

– Use less paper

– Eliminate single-use plastics

– Vote for politicians who champion fighting the climate crisis

These are all important individual steps, and if we all practiced them, it might benefit climate change over time. I’m not sure we have that kind of time. 

I have my own thoughts on what might make the most immediate impact on climate change, but these are large-scale group efforts which, to be impactful, need to begin immediately…

First, no reasonable conversation about climate change should exclude the idea of nuclear energy, if only as a 100-year (or so) bridge until the use of sustainable renewable energy is mastered and maximized. 

Two, is to accept that we can live without most printed materials. This would include business and legal documents, books, newspapers, magazines, compact discs, pamphlets, correspondence — virtually anything that is now printed but can be otherwise created and distributed digitally. It’s been suggested by some climate scientists, including Sir John Houghton, that replacing printed materials with digital copies of the same could, in itself, create a measurable slowing of CO2 levels within a couple of decades. 

But none of this really matters. Because the most important thing we can do to combat climate change is something we are increasingly unwilling to do — to prioritize bridging the gaps between political, cultural, and social divisions. 

No significant steps in addressing climate change can be initiated from a divided populous and the divided leadership selected by that populous. At the most grassroots level, we need to grow up, quit pointing fingers, quit name-calling, and listen, even if we don’t like what we’re listening to or who’s speaking it. We also need to elect people willing to do the same.

We understand the changing ecology and climate through science. So too, do we understand cultural and political polarization — through science. Scientists study the impact of name calling, arguing, and refusal to participate in discourse, in the same way they study CO2 levels.

It’s been proven mathematically that when we insult somebody — when we call someone a name, shut them out of the conversation, or refuse to listen to them, it widens and reinforces the gaps which divide us. 

Or to frame it this way…

There’s no moral difference between throwing a plastic bag into the ocean or disparaging somebody we disagree with. One-off, it’s no big deal. However, when everyone is doing it, the oceans soon become clogged, and the waters of discourse are unnavigable.

It’s not a joke. 

There’s no need to recycle, conserve energy, or cut back on meat consumption if, when we interact with those of opposing values, we choose to give them the middle finger over an ear or acknowledgement.

There’s a science to understanding social and political polarization. If we’re willing to embrace climate science, we should also pay attention to the science of getting along. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb 

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 193

Climbing: 8,600’

Mph Avg: 15.0

Calories: 11,000

Seat Time: 12 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 Matthew Sweet. Enjoy…!