Red White & Kablooey: We Can Do Better…

It’s Saturday night, just after 9pm. This is the time I usually sit down and write an essay, arisen from thoughts which form in my head on my daily rides.

Tonight though, also happens to be Independence Day. It’s kind of hard to concentrate on writing with all the mini-explosions taking place in my neighborhood. Firecrackers and fireworks have been going off without interruption for nearly 45 minutes. If the last few years are any indication, this will continue for another hour or so.

I live near the center of a small town. This demographic is low-to-middle income, and many of the homes in my neighborhood have multiple families living in them — with multiple children. Most every household in my neighborhood has at least one dog in the yard and some have more than one. I’ve never been able to accurately count the outdoor and feral cats in the neighborhood, but there’s a dozen or more I see regularly.

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The dog on my lap, this dog that got over 80 likes earlier in the day for a picture of his sweetness, is now trembling in fear from the sound and vibration of all the fireworks going off. My cat, Mischa, has run through the house at full speed a half-dozen times now, driven mostly by the louder explosions.

When I returned from Colorado back to Southern California in 2015, I lived next-door to a man named Laverne. Laverne was an Army veteran who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s. Laverne had been granted an early retirement after a diagnosis of PTSD. Laverne spent most of his days smoking pot and watching television in his garage — his man cave. He spent most of his nights in there too, also smoking pot and watching television. He confessed to me once that he was afraid to fall asleep. His young daughter and wife lived a relatively separate life from him on the other side of the door.

On July 4, 2015, we were surrounded by fireworks. Between the professional display that took place down the street, and all the neighborhood fireworks, and as cliché as it sounds, it sounded like a war zone that evening. In-between concussions, I could openly hear Laverne crying and talking to himself from under the half-open garage door. When I peaked under the door, Laverne was curled up on the sofa holding his knees towards his chest. There was a smoking apparatus on the table beside him and the television was on but the volume was off.
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I think about Laverne every Independence Day, as I coax my dog from behind the toilet — the place where he instinctively hides from the explosions that surround him. I hold him on my lap, I reassure him and I think of Laverne. If there’s one crying veteran, I think to myself, there are thousands more. If there’s one frightened dog, there are millions more.

The celebration of Independence Day with explosions that scare veterans and animals is an idea let’s run its course. I get that it’s only one day a year and just for a few hours. I also get that they fascinate children and adults alike, and are an age-old ritual that brings people together. But at what price…?

The sight of a grown man curled up on a sofa crying to himself with a cloud of smoke coming out from under the door was enough to convince me, rigidly, that fireworks are a poor way to celebrate the day, and somewhat ironic — pets hiding behind toilets not withstanding.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 6
199.78 miles
8,600’ climbing
14.9 mph avg
11,267 calories
13 hours 26 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Willy DeVille. Enjoy…

Self-Reckoning…

Fun ride last night. Not as fast as I was hoping due to the wind, but it was a good test of Bella‘s new wheel-set. They performed well and $500 later, they’re a legit upgrade. Eventually these wheels will get passed on to another bike, and she’ll be fitted with her first carbon rims, but I have some financial catchin’ up to do first.

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In his book, Upheaval (2019), author Jared Diamond suggests honest self-appraisal is the single most important mechanism for a nation in crisis to successfully resurrect itself. Since the leadership of my nation is making no attempt to do this, I’m sort of taking it on myself. I’ve spent a lot of time recently looking at my social weaknesses and examining how I can improve on them.

I don’t care who you are and what your worldview is, there will never be a better time than right now for some honest self-appraisal.
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First on the list for me has been taking inventory of my prejudices. It’s not been an easy exercise. It’s important though, that I this considering the current social climate. It’s not just my racial prejudices I’ve been exploring either, but those that have to do with physical appearance, age, geography, and all the demographic lines we use to separate ourselves from them, politics included.

In exploring my prejudices, or any weakness for that matter, it’s important not to rationalize my prejudices away. No excuses. I won’t minimize them either, by disguising them as biases, or for being so-called evolutionary defenses that occur naturally in my species. Simply put, my prejudices have been learned behaviors since my earliest days and have been practiced and consistently reaffirmed without much regard for their impact on the people I’ve judged so freely.

One exercise I’ve been using has been to hit the pause button on my brain frequently throughout each day and when engaged with others. Whether it’s with a service employee, a client, a neighbor, but in particular with passing strangers, it’s amazing how quick I am to judge anyone based on their appearance, and how willing I am to not second-guess myself in those snap judgments.
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We’re marching for a lot of things these days — BLM, LBGT rights, proper context and subsequent application of our questionable past, environmental concerns and so-on. I haven’t participated in any of these marches.

My march though, and the one I’m encouraging everyone to take, is a march on the road to honest self-appraisal. It’s a nasty road with lots of hazards and, at least in my case, and a very long one. It’s also a place our leaders are never going to take us.

This is what I think about when I ride…

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Bella
29 miles
1,300’ climbing
15.6 mph avg
1,600 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Girlfriend, by Matthew Sweet

It Ain’t Easy…

A light schedule gave me the opportunity to ride to the coast yesterday. Coastal rides take longer because I don’t start from my house. I throw my bike in my car and drive about 20 minutes to a trailhead where I can take a bike-path directly to the water’s edge.

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It’s a fun ride, but I probably won’t do it again anytime soon. It’s more time-consuming than the rides which begin from my driveway. Also, the bike path is crowded these days — too much for my comfort.

I’m exhausted lately — to a point where I feel like something has to give. I’ve added a lot of values into my life over the last few years. As I’ve added these values, I’ve removed exactly none. By values, I mean all the things I do each day — taking pictures, reading, writing, riding bikes, walking, lifting weights, and gardening. These enrich my life a great deal. Combined though, they occupy as much as 5-6 hours of every day. And let’s not forget social media, and yes, I consider social media a valuable aspect of my life.

It’s like being me is a full-time job.

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You know what I don’t do…? I don’t sleep a lot. I don’t clean house as much as I should. I don’t check in with friends the way I once. I dedicate most of my non-working time to just being me. Seems like a selfish endeavor, yet I have no desire to budge.

These things I do — these values are important to me because I thrive on stimulation, activity, and consistency. I also live with doses of sadness and depression intermingled into each day, sometimes from out of nowhere. Pandering to my values helps helps keep the sadness and depression at bay.

I’ll come full circle — I’m exhausted. I should probably change some of these values, cut back on them, or at the very least, rearrange them. It’s something I think about each day when I ride. All things in moderation right…?

If I were to change one thing in my life, that I’m certain would have an immediate impact on my time management and fatigue level, I would let go of all social media with the exception of my blog, http://www.thespokeandword.net. I don’t think I’ll do that anytime soon, but ya know, maybe I will.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

Yesterday’s Ride…

Bike: Tang
28 miles
700’ climbing
14.9 mph avg
1,600 calories
Yesterday’s earworm: Goldin Browne, by Kid Congo

Ugh, That Sentence…

I don’t usually preface these, but in this case I will. Many who read this will be upset by what I’ve written, will consider me anti-American, and probably have some choice words for me. That’s cool — I’ll still like you.

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There’s just this idea that I’ve been chewing on lately, and I can’t let go of. If nothing else, perhaps sharing it will get it out of my system so I can move onto the next idea that people will look down on me for having.

I’m constantly trying to make sense these days, of how Americans with opposing views treat each other, of how we prioritize the values we’re willing to stand up for, and how far we’re willing to go just to make a point and be heard. And when I look at the growing divisions between us in everything from our politics to our moral values, I think it all arises from a single sentence…

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

God, I hate that sentence.

That idea, to me, has always seemed rigged. To put individual liberty first, ahead of the whole of society as a cornerstone of our righteous doctrine, is like building a ship with a sturdy hull, and purposely leaving a small hole in it — just to see what will happen, and hoping nothing does.

And though the Declaration Of Independence is not a governing doctrine, and that sentence itself is not in our constitution, nor is it guaranteed by any laws or codes that I am aware of, it is a part of our national identity — it’s something most have come to expect as a right of American citizenship…

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

I don’t care what side of the political fence one is on, I think that ideal is at the core for much of what ails us these days.

I know it’s too late now, but I wish read more like this…

Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, keeping in mind that the life of our society is more precious and more important than any one constituent.

Once again, Confucianism gets it right.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
168 miles
7.900’ climbing
15.2 mph avg
9,600 calories
11 hours 03 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Sonny Landreth. Enjoy…

To Be A Better Father…

It’s Father’s Day. My daughter is now 29 — the age I was when she was born. She lives 2,734 miles from me, so we won’t be having brunch today. We will share food though. At some point today I’ll send her some money electronically so she and her partner can order dinner in — on Dad. I’ll also call her and thank her for being a fine daughter and an outstanding person.

Father’s Day isn’t about me. It’s about her. I learned that lesson late, but hopefully not too late.

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I’ll just be pedaling along, in tune with the rhythm of the road and enjoying the cool air against my skin when it just pops into my head — a regret from days gone down. Most everything I regret has to do with divorce, being a father, and being a son. Regrets, unlike mistakes, aren’t forgivable, not for me anyway. My regrets always seem to involve the people I love. That residue lingers.
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I heard some wisdom recently that I’d never heard before — I’ve been chewing on it as Father’s Day has approached. It came from the philosopher, Jonathan Rowson, in an interview for the radio show On Being. Rowson, reflecting on advice somebody gave him before the birth of his first child, said this…

“If you want to be a good father, the best thing that you can do is become a better husband…”

Now as simple and straightforward as that sounds, I’d never heard it before. I know I hadn’t heard it before because if I had, I would have remembered it. Whether I would have headed it or not, is something else. But statements like that are indelible.

Sadly, it never occurred to me that as a new father, the best thing I could have done would be to become a better husband. It makes so much sense in hindsight. But nobody told me.

So as I pedaled through the hills last night on the eve of Father’s Day, and as I sped past the vineyards and the orchards that decorate this community so sweetly, I stumbled onto a lingering regret and chewed on it for a while. I regret that as a younger man I wasn’t a better husband, and as such, to become a better father.

So if you’re reading this as an expecting father or as a recent father, please head the advice — like I said, it’s pretty straightforward. It might truly shape the life of a child, the life of a mother, and extend the life of a family.

And you’re an older father, all too familiar with the taste of regret, don’t wait for Father’s Day to come to you this year — it isn’t about you. Use this day to be a better father by being a better husband.

Nobody told me.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 6
201 miles
9,250’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
11,500 calories
13 hours 10 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there this from Puddle Of Mudd. Enjoy…

A Missed LaChance…

With the police being so much in the news lately, my riding-mind has been revisiting a slice of my life from 35 years ago. In my early 20s, before enlisting in the United States Coast Guard, but after my time working with Nautilus Fitness Centers, I applied to a four-year law enforcement program at Mesa College (now Colorado Mesa University) in Grand Junction Colorado. The year I applied was the inaugural year of the program.

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It was a unique program for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was four-year law enforcement programs weren’t common in the early 1980s. It also stood out because the entire curriculum was to be taught by one man, a retired police Lieutenant and psychologist named Paul LaChance.

I’d made one trip to Grand Junction to meet LaChance prior to enrolling in the program. He spent an hour with me, we connected well, and I felt that I could count on him to help me through the program. As a reading challenged student, the ability to connect with his human side was important.

There were roughly a dozen students enrolled in the program, though at 21, I was the oldest in the group. Still, I was fearful I might not have the fortitude to stick it out for four years, but I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life teaching people how to do squats and lat-pulldowns.

On the first day of class I took my seat among the other students when a man entered the room and addressed the class. He had long hair, glasses, wore a sloppy suit, and began to speak…

He explained that LaChance, the man who was supposed to teach the program, had cut deep into one of his arms with a tablesaw a few days prior. He was hospitalized indefinitely. The man speaking was a local attorney and former police officer who agreed to cover for LaChance until his return. I honestly don’t remember his name.

What I do remember is that after the first few weeks of classes, I found myself unengaged and unable to receive his lectures. It didn’t help that he wasn’t available for assistance after classes due to the legal practice he also maintained. The assigned reading became more important since the substitute wasn’t as prepared as LaChance. I found the whole thing difficult to the point of exasperation.

One month in, we were told LaChance wouldn’t return until the following semester. The first semester would be  facilitated by the substitute. On learning this, I immediately quit attending classes, but didn’t officially drop out of school until the end of the semester — so I could continue living in the dorms rather than return home to get a job.

The following spring I enlisted in the United States Coast Guard thinking that, absent of any related degree, it would be a logical steppingstone to a law enforcement career. Anything, so I wouldn’t have to teach squats and lat-pulldowns for a living.

Simple twists of fate — we swim within them all day long. They surround us like parallel universes with on and off ramps that we continually traverse, but never actually see.

When I’m out there riding, hiding from the ills of the day, and when I’m pushing my body as both meditation and medication, I sometimes wonder what my life would have become had Mr. LaChance not cut into his arm with a tablesaw prior to the start of that program. Perhaps I would’ve completed the program and proceeded into a law enforcement career. Maybe not.

The events of this week have had me questioning how I would respond to peaceful protesters, and those not so peaceful. I’m short-tempered by nature, and well into my 30s I was aggressive, if not combative, with anyone who might have disagreed with me. In hindsight, it’s easy to see I wouldn’t have been a very good police officer, especially in matters of dealing with crowds, but probably in most other matters too.

Apparently fate got this one right. Each day, in-between teaching squats and lat-pulldown‘s, I get to ride my bike and take it all in. I landed where I’m supposed to be.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 6
194 miles
9,100’ climbing
14.6 mph avg
10,900 calories
13 hours 16 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there this from The Vulgar Boatmen. Enjoy…

Life Like Piecrust…

When I think of piecrust, I think of three women — my late mother-in-law, her daughter (my former wife), and our daughter. Each made incredible piecrust, the recipe passed down from the generations above. To this day, their piecrusts stand out from any others I’ve tasted.

I think about that all the time, but not in a way that necessarily causes me to crave pie. Rather, in a way that reminds me how to live. You see, those three women not only made excellent piecrust, but each has embodied the roles and characteristics of piecrust as they lived their lives.

Wait, what…?

Piecrust is the ultimate support system.

Though it has its own distinct flavor, piecrust isn’t and never tries to be the star of the show. Piecrust lays low and attempts to blend in. Despite its importance, piecrust would rather you remember the filling.

Piecrust has to be strong. By weight, piecrust is usually a fraction that which sit on top of it, but it must hold the whole thing together. If the piecrust fails, then there is no pie, only stew. In that sense, piecrust must have a strong back and a constant presence.

Piecrust is good with being anonymous. It doesn’t require its name to be on the marquee, it seeks only to be appreciated. When pie receives a complement, piecrust is satisfied and humbled, knowing it did its part.

Piecrust, good piecrust anyway, isn’t complicated. It consists of just a few basic ingredients. The key to good piecrust is assembling those ingredients properly and never in haste.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. In a world where so many people attempt to stand out, take credit, steal the show, and take more than they give, perhaps more of us could attempt to live like piecrust. It’s no coincidence that the three women I know who made the best piecrust I’ve ever had, also lived their lives like the piecrust they made.

Blend in.

Be strong.

Pursue appreciation, not stardom.

Be simple.

These are the characteristics that make good piecrust, and good people.

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

This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 7
185 miles
9,200’ climbing
15.5 mph avg
10,500 calories
11 hours 59 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there this from Spain. Enjoy…

Something ‘Bout Inner Peace…

There’s much I want to say this week, but I don’t think anybody’s listening. People are busy now, looking through their 7-inch and 60-inch windows to the world.

Too many are occupied with making snap judgments, arguing, predicting the future, moralizing, pointing fingers, and shunning responsibility. All the while, ignoring options, taking their eyes off the ball, forgetting what matters, and failing to connect with those who do matter.

I’ll sit this one out this week. I have things to say, but I’ll save them for another day — when people might actually listen. In the meantime, here are some pictures from the week that was — my week that was. These have nothing to do with politics, the psychology of rioting, infectious disease, The wearing of masks, mass gatherings, mail-in ballots, wet markets, stock markets, or personal liberties.

These pictures I take each day, they are the opposite of hate, the opposite of fear, the opposite of rage, and the opposite of rubber bullets. These are the opposite of ignorance.

This is what I think about when I ride, when I sit, and when I walk… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
199 miles
9,800’ climbing
15.3 mph avg
11,300 calories
13 hours 00 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there this from Beausoleil. Enjoy…

 

Speaking Of Priorities…

The priorities of culture should be fairly straightforward. If you’re not familiar with them, here they are in order — or the order in which roughly 1/3rd of the human population has them in…

1- Society as a collective — all people who inhabit the earth.

2- Communities within that global society — nations, states, counties, townships.

3- Work — what enables communities and societies to move upward and ahead.

4- Family — those persons we most value and are closest to, who give meaning and purpose to going to work.

5- Self — the smallest constituent of the engine of culture, that’s often corrupted by the illusion of autonomy.

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Governmental malfunctions and abuses of leadership notwithstanding, there’s a reason we aren’t seeing large profile movements in Asia (China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea) of disobedience, rebellion, and outright refusal to do what’s best in thwarting a global pandemic — the wearing of masks in public places as an example.

That reason is Confucianism — a system of priorities dating back roughly 2500 years, that is near the center of most Asian culture. In his book, The Religions Of Man (1958), Huston Smith writes…

“It’s said that every Chinese walks in Buddhist sandals, covers with a Taoist cloak, and wears a Confucian cap. They are all of these things, but not always all at once…“

In matters of taking precautions that benefit the whole of society, and doing what’s best to stop the spread of a disease, most of Asia today is showing it’s Confucian cap.

In his book, Confucius And The World He Created (2015), author Michael Schuman suggests South Korea is the most Confucian society in the modern world, as it relates to the priorities listed above. He suggests Japan is a close second. Whatever issues South Korea and Japan have had during this pandemic, civil disobedience in favor of self hasn’t been one of them.

The Declaration Of Independence (1776) gives us this phrase…

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…“

Uh oh.

I’ve seen that phrase cited repeatedly in recent weeks relating to matters of home confinement, the wearing of masks, and the curbing of our ability to gather and enjoy the fruits of our democracy. That phrase life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is at the core of our cultural DNA. I’m not opposed to that phrase, but I think it should be extended to read as follows…

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — so long as our priorities are in order.

Without that stipulation, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness above all things, has made America the drunken college frat boy of the modern world.

Some may read this and consider me un-American, unpatriotic, and even a malcontent. I suppose I’ve invited that criticism, though it’s misguided. I’m a veteran, a responsible citizen, and a person who will never put self above the whole of society. I think this is a good way to be, and I’ll argue that a successful outcome for mankind is dependent on it.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 7
202 miles
9,100’ climbing
15.2 mph avg
11,500 calories
13 hours 17 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Nada Surf. Enjoy…

Oh Daddy…

Global pandemic, domestic political upheaval, and bird attacks notwithstanding, it was a good week of riding. Last week also marked the 8th anniversary of my father’s passing.

I don’t think it’s possible for me to ride my bike for a couple hours each day without thinking about my dad. He’s always there — memories of moments, conversations, arguments, and the telling of bad jokes. As I pedal through the scenery and take it all in, I think of my dad throughout the different phases of his life and of our relationship. It’s no stretch to say that my dad sits on my shoulder on every single ride.

I didn’t begin to truly understand my father until it was too late — until after he passed away. And it’s only because of his passing that I began to take inventory of our relationship, and accept that I was as responsible for the stresses, strains, and gaps as he was.

I guess that’s a common thing with middle-aged men — to seek a better understanding of their fathers only after they’ve gone. When it became a one-way conversation, getting to know my dad better could be done without any arguing. In-turn though, I’ve had to hear to my own voice and absorb my own thoughts.

I often wonder what my dad would think of me now — of my compulsion toward ambling through the woods each taking pictures of little things. I wonder how he’d feel about the shtick I write and whether he’d enjoy it, or mark it up and send it back to me for correction. I wonder if he’d understand my reasons — my need to ride bikes each day. I wonder if he’d approve of the way I’m taking care of my mother, and how surprised he’d be that I’m still making a living doing what he thought I’d never make a go of.
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Through much of my adult life, especially after I was married and after I became a father myself, I avoided my dad. I called him minimally, visited him infrequently, and I never put forth the effort into connecting with him that he put in reaching out to me.

There was definitely love between us, respect, and appreciation. If I’m being honest though, I was a dick to my dad more often than not, standoffish, and aloof in his presence. In hindsight, I’m certain that hurt him deep down, but on the surface he never let it show. He probably recognized his younger self in me and loved me anyway.

When I’m out there, pedaling long stretches of these rural roads, and when the wind is to my back and I’m deep in the rhythm of my ride, I think about the man. I think about the moments, the arguments, and the jokes we shared — in good times and in bad.

I think about being able to say I love you to him one more time — something that didn’t come as easy for me as it did for him. Forever is a long time to regret not saying I love you enough.

This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb

This Week By The Numbers…

Bikes Ridden: 6
169 miles
8,100’ climbing
15.4 mph avg
9,600 calories
11 hours 0 minutes seat time

Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Yes — one of the finest songs ever recorded. Enjoy…