Ten Things for the New Guy

There are simple things to help with day-to-day cycling activities. Here are ten simple things I have learned:

  1. Always keep a new tube of super glue in your saddle kit for quick repairs on cleats, seats, etc.
  2. Never Armor All your saddle. Lycra and a slick saddle do not mix.
  3. Keep your helmet strap loose. You don’t have to cinch it so tightly.
  4. Never ride within one hour of a heavy meal. Do and you’ll see why you shouldn’t.
  5. Make it a point to learn what you personally need in the way of water and food during a ride. The rule of thumb is drink every 10 and eat every 30 for a ride over 2 hours long. This will very depending on you and how hard you are riding.
  6. Use denture cleaning tabs on a molded water bottle, next day like new!
  7. At first, don’t dump large amounts of money on lighter things for your bike. Work on the engine.
  8. In group rides, watch and learn. . . then watch and learn. Shhhhhhhhh
  9. No matter how you broke it, don’t lie to your mechanic.
  10. Make a habit of understanding and knowing your bike tires’ PSI (for road condition, performance, etc.) and always check and maintain before a ride.

Have fun. Enjoy what made you fall in love with a bike when you were a kid. Don’t worry about your kit (clothes you wear) or if don’t have an expensive bike.

A Possible Conversation

The Seth Thomas clock ticked sleepily on the mantle of a dark, oak-paneled room. A gray fog of pipe smoke hung in the air, moving only at the encouragement of a hand or body movement. The fireplace in the back of the room popped loudly and then resumed its whispering duty.  Only two men occupied the small place where time appeared to be on vacation. A typical Monday night affair, the location was a pub on St. Giles Street just north of St. John’s College named The Eagle and Child.

One man, more slim than his companion and a bit more hair, leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs and rested his pipe hand on his top knee, bumping the knot of his wine-colored tie with his free hand before bringing it down the on the table with a thump; the sound muted by the heavy, oak wood. The other man, black hair skirting the side of his very round head, took a long drag of his pipe to encourage the flame and exhaled the words to this possible conversation between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien:

“So we agree on the Truth being smuggled past a secular audience? And my vehicle of choice being time or history, if you prefer?”

Lewis held his already long gaze into the yellow, red, orange and white flames of the fireplace. “Of course I do. Requisitioning me for more praise of Mister Bilbo Baggins, are you?”

Tolkien smiled and took a sip of beer. After several seconds, he answered, “What is your vehicle, Jack?”

“I’ve got some particulars rolling around, and I’ve given a few of them a jot.” Lewis dropped his dangling foot to the ground and met the unbroken stare of his friend. “You know that since our conversation on Addison Walk, I have made more than an effort to reconcile my ideas of reason and imagination. I will purse joy and longing in my next. I think children will carry the banner.”

“Allegorical I suppose?”

Lewis took a drag of his dead pipe and looked at the bowl, patting the pockets of his salt and pepper blazer. “How else should I smuggle, Tollers? There is more than one way, you know.”

“Jack, you mustn’t add sugar to theology. We are not theologians. It is my belief to focus on people and allow their actions to reflect Him.” Tolkien refilled his tankard. “The work must allow escape.”

“True, true, but we can’t leave it so without seasoning that it lacks identity. The revelation must be present . . . somewhere.” Quitting his quest for a match and resting his pipe on the table, Lewis rose to his feet and walked to a window and looked out toward Magdalen College. He took a deep breath, more cleansing than stressed. “The concerns of allegory are well noted, Tollers. I know too well from Pilgrim’s Regress that I must, with all that is within me, use the tool to reveal rather than hide. My unintentional obscurity tethered the reader, last time.” Lewis turned back to his friend. “The children in this book will bypass this problem. Their innocence will be the eyes of the reader.”

Tolkien shifted his chair to look more directly at Lewis. “Well then, off you go. You must write.”

“And you, my friend. Should we know no more of your allegory?”

The chuckle came from deep inside of Tolkien, as he stood and leaned toward his friend. “Don’t do that, Jack . . . history, not allegory.”

Lewis reached and placed his hand on Tolkien’s shoulder, “‘A safe fairyland is untrue to all worlds.’ I read that somewhere.”

Ay, There’s the Rub!

“I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. And this is one: I’m going to tell it – but take care not to smile at any part of it.”
― Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

During various readings, I have come across some interesting study on suicidal actions based on economic circumstances. Various studies have shown that a wide range of people by gender and race have 50% higher rate of suicide if making less than $35,000 a year and the same set of peoples by gender and race who make over $105,000 a year have a 10% higher rate than the lower income group. Why? I took a while to think on this, and I believe that it is quite simple.

Dreams propel us. Knowing that there is something out there to obtain or a goal to reach is a driving force that keeps us reaching for that brass ring. We make bucket lists. We lie in bed and imagine a coming event(s) in our life. We make plans for retirement. We joke about spoiling grandchildren one day. The darkness of having a bleak, or the thought of having no future at all, is hard for many to see past, as with those who cannot rise above a heavy economic strain. In a strange way, it may also serve an even darker purpose when you have money for anything you want and have no dream to propel your existence. As in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, who is wealthy beyond comprehension, whines about her and her child’s life: “I hope she’ll be a fool–that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool… You see, I think everything’s terrible anyhow . . . And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” What’s her purpose for rising in the morning?

I love teaching on the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, as many of you know. The Great Gatsby is a cornerstone of fine writing and easily a top 10 (top five with me) American classic of all time. Although the novel operates on multiple levels, the idea of dreaming is a primary key. Gatsby is fueled by his dreams, as when he is introduced in the novel by Nick, when Gatsby is standing on the end of his dock stretching his arms toward a mysterious green light. Nick has dreams also, when he moved from the moral mid-west, to the east coast, only to find a”foul dust floated in the wake of [Gatsby”s] dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.” And it isn’t long before Nick sees the purgatory of this “dreamy” world when he enters the Valley of Ashes: a place of bland, grey dust that covers everything and everyone; where there are tiny trails through the powder that leads to and from work and where “occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.”  No joy. No dreams. It is at the end of the story where Nick sees the human quest for dreams: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And one fine morning–” It is innate in all human beings to stretch and reach.

Yes, I have a bucket list on my blog. I dream, maybe more than others. I’m not rich by any means; a career in education is not the path to take for that. Yes, I have been blessed with a gloriously wonderful family and have things. But not all of my dreams include getting more things. I am excited about spending the rest of my life with my true love and prove that I am worthy of such a woman. I am ecstatic to see what’s in store for my son and daughter. I will one day hopefully ride a bicycle on the misty hills of Scotland, pedal through the heavily scented vineyards of France, through the old country of England, and deeply breathe the salty wind as I journey down the narrow roads of the Amalfi coast in Italy. Each one of these dreams, and there are more, will happen one fine day.

This all began with something written by Emily Bronte. It is in this quote that lies the answer to all of those who cannot see the light. Hold tightly to what you dream. Don’t allow others to poke or dismantle them, even yourself. Purse them. Hard.

I Just Won My First Official Race!

It’s unbelievable! The field had close to 60 riders at the Crank Your Heart in Opelika, AL. I’ve done bunches of sportives, club things, and such, but I’ve had this circled on calendar for a loooooong time. The race is a 22 mile circuit race with two laps of 11 miles. At the end of each lap, there is some stout climbing.

Looking around at the start line, I think I was one of the older dudes in the field. I had a plan. I worked hard all winter and knew I had a least a shot at a top ten. Maybe. Coming into the end of the first lap I was sitting on the fourth wheel back and feeling calm with good breathing and heart rate. Before the climbing section, the speeds were floating between 21 and 26 mph. Like I said, I felt good and stuck with my plan. For most of the second lap, I drifted around 4 or 5 in the bunch, and my confidence started growing. At the base of the final climb, a bunch jumped out and came around us, but we keep them in sight and  . . . they faded. Now, there are only four of us at the top and starting our descent. The guy I was most concerned about began to hammer down the climb that bottomed and rolled into two pretty good little hills before the finish. I took off. I checked once about half way down and found that it was just the two of us left. I made his wheel on the second to the last hill and held. Down again. On the way up the last climb before the finish, I saw him glance over his shoulder to see where I was . . . I hit it. My jump was good. I had about 500 meters to the finish, and I knew, by the way the other guy’s bike was shifting under him, he was spent. I emptied the tank.

Crossing the line first, for the first time, I threw my hands in the air and almost  . . . almost starting getting teared up with my sweet wife and family screaming at the line. I know this sounds kind of ridiculous, but I know without a doubt I have worked so hard for this day. I want to scream it from the roof tops! Could it be possible to get an interview from Velonews? Okay, I need to calm down. So the ceremony wasn’t anything close to UCI standards, but it was awesome to hear my name called over the PA system and receive my first place medal for overall top male rider. I also received a $100 gift card and a gift certificate to Road ID. It is a day that I will probably never forget . . . with my Valentine right there by my side.

I Got It, Yesterday Afternoon

Yes, it happened. I think about it many, many days throughout the month. I even have ask God to allow it to happen sometimes. It sounds ridiculous to blog about, but we all need it every now and then. It is not that it stays on my mind 20 out of 24 hours a day. It is just something that I am reminded of a lot. When I say a lot, I mean A LOT. I am not sure if it is particularly more of a thought with only men, but I am all that I have to judge on that account. All I know is that it makes me feel like THE MAN!

Other guys and I talk about it quite often. We make jokes about how sporadic it comes along. Some get it more than others. Some say they never get . . . now that is hard to believe. I don’t understand why it doesn’t come to me more often. I guess it’s the luck of the draw. I guess the memories of it is what keeps me going. Gosh, it is so awesome. My whole body just relaxes just thinking about it. Because when the opportunity does come, I am totally consumed in it. I think of it as a form of renewable energy. It just doesn’t last long enough, like time speeds up during it. I try not to think about it during the process because it then feels like I am just begging for it to last longer and then . . . boom, it’s over; then the waiting game starts all over again.

Yep, it was yesterday that I got a terrific and long lasting tailwind. It was so remarkable . . . what a small joy in a large piece of nature. Some of you who read this aren’t riding enough, if you thought I was discussing sex.

Medicating Yourself Healthy

Today there is seemingly medication for everything under the sun. Our televisions are bombarded with commercials telling people to ask if a certain medication is “right” for them. Every since the birth of our children, we have instilled in them that medication is not the answer to every little ache and pain. Millions and millions of people in the world are over medicated as it is. Their bodies have become dependent on the drug to do what their bodies were already designed to do. But let me go ahead and clear something up: nope, I’m not a Christian Science follower. There is a place for medicine, doctors, treatment, and surgery. But medicating for any and every reason only does the opposite, harming your body in the long run.

Any day now, I expect to see a commercial that is something like this: “Do you suffer from gaining weight after eating a 1000 calorie diet? Well, you are not alone. Millions suffer from this dreaded disease. Now, you have to no longer suffer. Stuffurfacia is now available. Talk to your doctor if this medication is right for you. Free yourself to live the life you’ve always wanted.”

Society has chosen to do what is easiest for them. Lower your cholesterol? Take a pill. Problems with dry eye? Take a pill. What about just what you eat and exercising and staying hydrated?  It is crazy, according to the CDC, over 70% of Americans are on one or more prescription drugs. We have found our way into a cycle that is  hard to break. Many people that I try to encourage to do a little bit of exercising tell me that they would, but their knees and back and shoulders and other things hurt too much to do anything like that. I counter with doing something less impactful and in small increments, but the people slough that off with an added your-nuts look their eye. Electric shopping carts. Handicap tags for obesity.   5-minute meals loaded with preservatives. When does it all end? Or does it just get worse and worse?



It is Still Among Us

Word crafting is still alive. It has been diluted over time, but there are true artisans still in our midst. Allow me to give you a tiny sample of one . . .

I’m remembering what it means to stagger under the splendor of sunlight on water, to bow my heart to a kingfisher in flight or the parable of a live oak cloaked in the grave clothes of Spanish moss. I greet God’s emissaries in the fragrance of the marsh grass and the wild, joy-cries of the gulls overhead. And when He stains His sea and sky with violet and salmon-pink from the rim of the world, I welcome the sweet wound of it all, knowing that these beauties but house the real Treasure.

To read more of Lanier Ivester click here.

Maybe Next Time, Villa Picolette

In the not too distant past, the home of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, in France’s much-sought-after cap d-Antibes, was on sale for 35 million Euros . . . and financing was available! I know that I’m a bit strange when it comes to my level of interest in history. I enjoy sitting for bits of time and scanning old photographs of any period, especially those pre-1940s. When it comes to this opulent house snuggled against the azure blue Mediterranean Sea (if given the opportunity to see it first hand), it would eventually require physical force to remove me from the grounds.

I can look at the picture of this living area in Villa Picolette and envision Scott Fitzgerald sipping his gin while Earnest Hemingway rants on and on about a Frenchman that pissed him off while he was in the market. Can you see it too? Two of the greatest American literary giants sitting around in this exact room, not to mention Gertrude Stein popping by just to say hello.

Now, I stare into the room where it is quite possible that some, most or all of the The Great Gatsby was written and the first few lines of Tender is the Night were plunked down. And I can clearly see Zelda swooshing in at the wrong time to tell Scott that she’s bored and wants to go into town. Damn it, woman! Can’t you see the man is writing what is arguably the best piece of American literature to have ever been penned! Sorry, kind of lost my head there for a second.

The view isn’t shabby either. The same view that eventually used for the dust jacket of Tender is the Night. Oh, I’m sure that this piece of history will come available again, and I with nothing but the change in my beggar’s cup will watch it pass by once more. But I can dream. Come on, lotto numbers.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

(all pictures were provided by http://www.nydailynews.com)