Three Weeks Later…

Another lunch at the airpark yesterday. The usual Saturday cast of characters were there — a gray haired lady in a white SUV with her two dingo-looking dogs. There was an older couple in a Ford Escape sharing a hamburger and critiquing the landings. And of course, a few cars with tinted windows — teenagers smoking their boredom away.

There was a car I hadn’t seen previously though — a sporty black sedan. A skinny teenager with greasy hair sat in the passenger side staring at his phone while the driver, presumably his father, sat at the picnic table next to the car eating a burrito. He was a stocky man with a few tattoos. He looked like he worked out, but that he also ate a lot of burritos and knew his way around the beer aisle.

He was friendly as mom and I walked by, asking me where I worked out — musta been my sleeveless t-shirt. I explained that my home gym and that was is my domicile for making meat these days

“Yeah, me too…“ he said.

He looked to be my age. We made small talk about how the heavy toll iron takes on aging bones. He wished mom and I a good day and went back to his burrito. He seemed like a nice guy and I enjoyed talking with him. That’s when I recognize his car…

Several weeks ago, while riding out of town, I had an unprovoked altercation with a motorist. Below is my journal entry from that day…

About a mile out of town yesterday, a black Cadillac CTX passed me. The driver honked his horn several times as he cut in toward the bike lane. I caught up to him at a red light and looked in the open passenger side window. I never said a word. I was just curious who honked at me — if I knew the person. 

Before light turned green, the man left his car and ran toward me yelling obscenities. Startled, I stayed on my bike but prepared for an altercation. He stood a couple feet from me, and even at that distance I could smell alcohol — lots of it. He continued to scream. The passenger, apparently his teenage son, exited the car and caught the man from behind, putting him in a headlock. Without hesitation I took off on my bike. As I rode away, I heard the young man yelling…

“Get back in the car dad…!“

Moments later, I heard the same car honking behind me once again. He followed me at my speed, roughly 20 mph. I didn’t think he’d do anything other than drive away pissed when suddenly he drove into the bike lane ahead of me. I don’t think he wanted to hit me, just scare me. As this happened, a couple men in a Pathfinder wedged their vehicle between me and the Cadillac, shielding me at my speed. They signaled if I wanted them to call the police. I nodded yes.

They stayed with me as a shield, while the man in the Cadillac stayed behind them honking continually. At that point there were probably 20 cars behind the Cadillac — all wondering what the hell was going on, as was I. I’d never seen this man in my life, and don’t believe I did anything to offend him or start an altercation. It was as though he selected me at random as his target for a different rage.  

The passenger in the Pathfinder signaled that the 911 dispatcher wanted to speak with me if possible. With some hesitation, I stopped and the two men in the Pathfinder stopped along side me. The passenger handed me the phone through the window as the man in the Cadillac pulled over in front of them and exited his car — again. Again, he ran toward me. This time I prepared to leave my bike, aware that I not only wore a helmet, but wore gloves with armor protection over the fingers. The man’s son exited the car and convinced his dad to get back in the car before the cops arrived. He headed the kid’s advice and took off at a high rate of speed. 

The emergency dispatcher asked that I wait until a police unit arrived. I thanked the two men who shielded me and they went on their way. I waited for roughly 15-minutes for the police before I decided to continue my ride. I’d given my own phone number to the emergency dispatcher and figured the police would call at some point if they wanted to investigate the incident. I’ll follow up with the police later today.

(end of entry)

Once I realized the man I’d been enjoying smalltalk with at the airpark was the same man from the incident a few weeks earlier, I got cautious, though I was sure he didn’t recognize me. Mom and I continued to walk laps of the parking lot, and each time we passed by him, he’d smile and comment about the weather or how pretty mom‘s hat was.

This was a completely different man.  

He man was clear-eyed, present, and genuinely nice. I overheard him having a conversation with his son in the car beside him. They laughed and joked. As we passed him for the final time, I wished him well for the balance of his weekend… 

“You too, bro…“ he said. 

As I drove mom home, I tried to reconcile all of this — that this was the drunk who tried to run me off the road weeks earlier. Yesterday though, I considered inviting him to see my workout studio. Like the pregnant woman I saw smoking a few weeks ago, I know nothing about this man. I can only hope he spends more time as the man I saw yesterday — joking with his son and telling my mom she had a pretty hat. And I’ll hope his days of drinking, driving, and picking fights on the road are in the past — but I’ll keep my eyes open just the same.  

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 175

Climbing: 7,800’

Mph Avg: 15.7

Calories: 10,000

Seat Time: 11 hours 06 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 Sundial. Enjoy…

Identity Crisis…

In a few weeks, it’ll be the 3rd anniversary of his blog. It began with a simple notion — that I have a love of cycling, smartphone photography, and writing. Since I practice each of those daily, it appealed to me to combine the three in a creative outlet.

The idea was that after each ride, I’d jot down a few thoughts I chewed on while riding, combine them with a picture or two I took along the road, and post it the following morning to the Spoke And Word page I created on Facebook. What actually happened though, is that each night for three years I’ve written a complete essay instead of a few passing thoughts. And for people who aren’t on Facebook, I created this platform so on Sundays I can select my favorite essay from the previous week and share it.

I often tell people that I write these in 20-minutes or less. That was true once, and still is occasionally, but usually these days I spend an hour or so working on them, reworking them, and getting them to flow and fit properly. Sometimes I do this before bed, but most often before the sun comes up — before my day job.

There’s also the time I spend cropping and editing photographs. I don’t edit pictures a great deal. I crop them according to proportion and symmetry, and I might adjust the light and contrast a little bit, but I rarely adjust the color or tint. That said, it still takes a few minutes to complete each photograph. 

Between writing and editing photographs, I probably spend 75 to 90 minutes on this each day. That, combined with roughly 2-hours on my bike, and that’s 3+ hours dedicated to this creative hobby — every single day. It can all be a little exhausting, considering I work full-time and am also a full-time caregiver.

The initial goal was to do this for one year. 

I had so much fun with it, and with my creative juices flowing, I continued into a second year. The second year came and went, and I noticed I had an extremely small but dedicated following. The whole thing started to become my identity. I’ve never had an identity before, other than being the eccentric old guy in the neighborhood that kids are told to avoid. I’ve enjoyed having this identity, even if I’m the only one that sees it. 

As I wind down my third year, catering to and preserving that identity has caused me to press a little more. I feel I have to get my rides in each day. I have to get a few good photographs each day. I have to think of something at least a little interesting or clever to write about. There’s almost a sense of obligation to that identity. 

The thought of beginning a fourth year next month is a little intimidating. I have this thing in me though, that if I start something, I have to see it through. If I go even one day into a fourth year, then I’ll need to complete it. I worry that all that pressing might actually be changing that identity — diluting it, weakening it, or causing it to veer off course. I dunno 🤷🏼‍♂️.

Riding, writing, and taking photographs — an identity I enjoy, but one I don’t want to do out of obligation or have come off the rails. Lots to think about in the coming weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

This is what I think about when it ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6

Miles: 154

Climbing: 6,700’

Mph Avg: 16.0

Calories: 8,900

Seat Time: 09 hours 42 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 Spooky Tooth. Enjoy…

Ed’s Last Flight…

Shortly before heading out the other day, I read that Ed Beauvais had passed away. He was 84. Beauvais was a giant in the aviation industry, and was a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame.

Beauvais was best known as the founder and CEO of America West Airlines. Prior to that, he had an extensive career as an aviation executive and consultant with Frontier Airlines (the original incarnation), Western Airlines, and Continental Airlines. However, in the 1980s and early 90s, Beauvais put Phoenix on the aviation map. 

I was fortunate to work for America West in the early days. I was hired as a security guard when the company had just 900 employees. Within a few years, the company grew to nearly 10,000. Because of that phenomenal growth, I was able to coax my way into an analyst position in the Pilot Planning department, despite my lack of experience, and I remained there for the next couple of years. My analyst gig was my first adult job after leaving the Coast Guard, and changed my life in many ways. But back to Ed…

The thing I remember most about Ed Beauvais, and something I still think of often, is that he was a people’s CEO — in the same way Tommy Lasorda was a player’s coach in major league baseball.

Every other Tuesday, unless he was legitimately unable to do it, Ed worked a 6-hour shift throwing bags on the ramp at Sky Harbor Airport. He wore the burgundy coveralls that all America West ramp employees wore. He wore steel toed boots. He wore ear protection. He threw bags. He rolled up his sleeves. He even ate crappy chicken salad sandwiches out of cellophane wrappers. And he kept up with the best of them. 

A part of my job was to run pilot scheduling information from my office to the ramp a couple times each day. Occasionally I’d see Ed cutting it up in the break room with other ramp employees. I might also see him standing under a 757 offloading bags and covered in sweat. 

Ed was the most passionate person I’ve ever known in a business environment, and was relentlessly positive. I have few memories of seeing him without a smile on his face. Ed was a visionary. He started the first in-house travel agency of a major airline — Ameriwest Vacations. He also created the concept of fully cross-trained and cross-utilized CSR (all ground personnel). As he used to say…

“There are only CSRs…”

Ticket agent

Baggage handler

Gate agent

Flight attendant

Reservation agent 

There were no specialists. Every person hired in at that level was cross-trained in all of those positions, and therefore could be utilized at any of them. People could bid their seniority — a senior employee who wanted to work in-flight could do that, but they had to take at least one rotation off per quarter and work a different job. The thing America West was most known for, was also Ed’s idea… free cocktails on all flights. No wonder America West took over Phoenix in just a few years.  

Ed Beauvais personally signed off on me, a low-level analyst with no aviation degree, to help start a crew-base in Honolulu, in preparation for regular service to Nagoya Japan. Shortly after I returned from that assignment, I left America West to return to Colorado. It was a bittersweet departure, because America West was the first corporate family I’d ever had — and Ed Beauvais was the patriarch. 

There’s a handful of business leaders who influenced my early adult life. Ed Beauvais is at the top of that list.

There’s something else though, something I couldn’t find in any of the obituaries and articles I read about him after he passed, but I can speak to it personally…

Ed Beauvais told a joke to somebody every day of his life — or at least he did during my time at America West. He believed that humor in the workplace was a gateway to better morale, and to this day, I believe that to be true. To underscore Beauvais’ sense of humor I’ll throw one more at you before I close this…

My partner in the Pilot Planning department and I spent so much time there during a particularly difficult phase, that we actually pitched a tent in the middle of the office — as a comical protest. We even hung out there in our downtime. One morning Beauvais walked past the tent, and without slowing or looking down, he dropped a paper bag at the tent door. It was a bag of marshmallows, some graham crackers, and a few Hershey bars — for making s’mores. 

Ed Beauvais got his final pair of wings this week. If he’s as true to his form in heaven as he was on earth, I’m certain he’ll try and start an airline there. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 175

Climbing: 7,900’

Mph Avg: 15.1

Calories: 9,900

Seat Time: 11 hours 33 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 Bellrays. Enjoy…

Chasing Joe’s Musical Argument…

My friend Joe likes to stir up complicated discussions on Facebook — he’s a lawyer, so he’s pretty good at it. It’s usually politics and religion with Joe, but occasionally he’ll throw music into the mix. Just before I headed out for a ride the other day, I saw this on Joe’s feed…

I was just curious if any of my Facebook friends want to make a case that popular music is even close to what it was 30-years ago and before…

Occasionally, Joe swings and misses, but he has the ability to hit one out of the park. This particular discussion didn’t disappoint. It also got me thinking…

…Joe is 100% right on this one. I spent much of my riding time that day formulating why that’s the case. It’s a discussion I’ve had with my music friends many times over. This was my reply to Joe’s question…

The simple answer is this…

From the early 1950s through the mid-1990s, every genre of music evolved organically into its own — for the very first time. Every category of music was new. 

Sock-hop rock, British Invasion, bubble gum, British blues, psychedelic rock, country rock, disco, yacht rock, soul, funk, heavy metal, hair metal, punk, new wave, grunge, rap, hip-hop, gangsta rap — et all, had never been done before. 

What an extraordinary time in popular music

People took risks, tried new methods, participated in unlikely collaborations, took drugs that had never been taken before, evolved with ever-changing social norms, and through all of this, recording technology changed at an exponential rate. It was inarguably the most fertile time in popular music history.

The Big Bang of rock ‘n’ roll came in 1951, and it’s been expanding ever since. And like the Big Bang of the universe, the more it expands, the more complex it becomes. But the stuff that happened just after the Big Bang — those first 40 years of music, that’s when all the elements were formed. 

I let my answer with Joe end there, but I’ll expand on it a little bit more here…

The reason music from the 1950s through the 1990s is a cut above everything since, is because it was fresh. Notwithstanding there was less of it and there were fewer platforms to learn about it. We allowed ourselves to get more familiar with it. The playing field is theoretically better today — more artists, more music, and better platforms improve things for everyone. But with all the artists out there today, and all that music, we only become partially intimate with portions of it. 

I attempt to listen to new artists and new music, but the last time I discovered an artist who compelled me buy their entire catalog was probably 20-years ago. There’s just too much opportunity to jump around and try something else. We don’t just want to know what music is out there, we want to know what else is out there.

Though I missed the sock-hop stuff and the early British invasion, I’ve been around for everything since. My tastes have waxed and waned through the years. I’ve been a punk, a hick, a rocker, and from 1974 to 1978 I thought I was black. I rode the New Wave, couldn’t have been more excited to get the latest Pablo Cruise LP, and once walked 6-miles in the snow to see Molly Hatchet. Somewhere in-between I grew my hair out and got it permed so I’d look like Peter Frampton. I’d let a stranger into my house and walk away with all my bikes before I’d let him take my Steely Dan catalog.

It’s not that music isn’t good now. It’s that, in popular music anyway, it’s all been done before. The metaphor I’ll close with is this…

In 1977 if I recorded an album onto a cassette, it sounded good. But if I took that cassette and made a recording of it on another cassette, the sound was slightly diminished. And if I took the most recent cassette and recorded it onto another tape, it would be diminished that much more. Essentially that’s what’s been happening with popular music since the 1990s. Each time a genre gets copied, it gets diminished. It’s still music, but it’s not new — and there’s too much of it to get familiar with. That’s my take, and I’m stickin’ to it. 

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This week by the numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7

Miles: 178

Climbing: 7,900’

Mph Avg: 15.1

Calories: 10,100

Seat Time: 11 hours 51 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 Rush. Enjoy…

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…

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…