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The World Doesn’t Stop Drinking Just Because I Did; On Being Okay With It

Just Wednesday night, I attended a concert (Ministry) with my wife at one of the best concert bars in the world – and it’s a twenty minute drive from my house.

As you can see, it’s an “intimate” setting – we were but 20′ from the stage, and we showed up after the opening act. In other words, if you want to see a band, this is the place. It’s amazing. My wife and I have seen Stephen Pearcy (Ratt), Spacehog (Liv Tyler was there, too), Scott Weiland (Holy $#!+ was he awesome), Ministry and a few others.

The main point, though, is that it’s a bar. Friends, at just shy of 27 years clean and sober, I still check my motives before I enter a place like that: 1) Do I have a legitimate reason for being at the establishment? 2) Am I on solid ground, program and spiritually? 3) Do I have an immediate way out should I turn stupid at some point.

If I can’t honestly answer “absolutely good to go” to all of those, I won’t go. Skipping out gets a little pricey, so you can bet your @$$ I make sure I’m ready days in advance. No matter what, though, if there’s even a tinge of hesitancy, I’m out. No concert is worth the misery that would come with a drink.

So there I am, listening to one of my favorite of all time bands rock out one of my favorite all time songs, and some dude launches his beer (accidentally, I believe). Foam pelted my back. What I wasn’t expecting (getting doused by a beer at a heavy metal concert wasn’t a surprise), the guy apologized and used his sleeve to wipe my jacket off. I almost fell over.

As the night wore on and the band got to the older stuff (their new music is still quite good), the mosh pit got rowdy. I considered jumping in, given the stressful times of late. In the end, I decided risking a broken nose was probably not necessary so I just watched from the sideline. Blowing off some steam sure looked tempting, though.

Mrs. Bgddy and I left after the encore and the drummer started throwing his sticks, about 10:30. We were in the driveway at 10:50. And I was no worse for the wear.  We had a brief discussion on the way home about how I was doing…

Because my recovery was built on a solid foundation, the world didn’t have to quit drinking because I did, and I don’t have to hide from it.  Not anymore (it was definitely advisable while I was building that foundation).

I’m the one with this problem. It does me good to remember that.

The Number One Reason the Garmin Varia is the Best Taillight on the Market

I’ve been riding with a Garmin Varia now for the better part of a season and I can say without question, it’s been a fantastic addition to my cycling gadget collection. I love my radar.

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So, how this works is, the Varia picks up traffic that’s moving toward you, but only traffic faster than you. This includes cyclists. If, however, that traffic is moving at the same rate of speed you are, say you’re in a group on a club ride, that isn’t detected. This gives the appearance that it’ll pick up a car but not another cyclist – it’s not that complex – it just picks up whatever is moving faster than and toward you.

I’ve also written posts about how I use the Varia’s onscreen display to keep vehicles from buzzing me. Since starting this tactic, I haven’t been buzzed once.

How I use my rear-facing radar to avoid being buzzed isn’t the best feature, though.

The best feature is that the light changes its flashing pattern as a car approaches. With the changing pattern, it automatically draws a motorists eyes as they seek to put together what’s going on – because no other light on the road changes patterns. This means you’re noticed, and for cyclists, being seen is everything.

I use my Varia on all of my bikes, almost every time I ride, except Tuesday nights. I figure if a motorist can’t see 20 cyclists cruising down the road in a double pace-line, well, we never had a chance anyway and a blinky wasn’t going to help.

I’ve used standard blinky lights in the past, as well – my favorite used to be a Serfas Thunderbolt (my wife still uses one) – but nothing compares to having a radar on your bike that shows you where traffic is, and changes its pattern as traffic approaches.

Current models are running about $200 in addition to your Garmin Edge 520 Plus or better, which is the minimum it can pair with (it’s gotta have bluetooth capability). They’re worth every penny.

In Recovery (And Life), I’m not Afraid of What I Don’t Understand; I’m Afraid of What I’m Unwilling To.

My friends, we interrupt the usual stuff about cycling to bring you an important message.  This isn’t about politics – this is about real life.  In fact, life and death.

The most important realization I’m reliving with enjoyment lately hearkens back to the first time I really gave the Fourth Step an effort.  My first attempt was kinda lame and was designed to just get me by.  The real effort came after I fought doing the step again, even though I knew I needed it, to a point where I almost went out and drank again because things stopped getting better.  I had some pretty ugly things on my Fourth, including a possible prison sentence, and that scared the $#!+ out of me – especially after I’d finally gotten out of trouble and paid my last debt to society.  I didn’t want to go through that again.

Instead of pressing forward, cavitation.

I would talk at length at meetings about how I was working on the Third Step, that it hadn’t fully sunk in yet and someone had told me, if you’re not ready for the next step, you didn’t do the previous thoroughly.  People who had really worked the steps knew I was full of it, but they let me go on in the delusion until I started sounding more frantic.  See, the Third step is simply making a decision.  Once made, you move on to Four.  The trick is, I simply had to keep remaking that decision because I was forgetful.  I had, like so many of us, a tendency to go back to my old way of thinking.  The obfuscation of what was really going on lasted for a while, but eventually I stagnated.

I came to find that superficially working the steps simply wasn’t good enough.  I had to do it right.

My sponsor helped me to reach that understanding – I was right around ten months sober at the time; the point at which we normally realize that the first year really was a gift.  Simply working the steps at drinking only gets us so far.  This is where I realized I have to work them on all my affairs, as it says in the Big Book.  So there I was, fear of prison, or fear of drinking again.  Like so many times in my drinking career, I was out of options.

After many late night conversations with my sponsor, I started working on my new Fourth step inventory – the real one.

I set aside a full weekend to get it done.  It was in the fall, so rollerblading was effectively done for the year (falling leaves hid the fallen sticks that would fall me), so I had nothing important on the agenda.  I went to work Friday evening after dinner.  The first thing I did when I sat down with pencil in hand, was to ask God to put energy to my pencil, to make the words flow on the paper, to guide my writing and thoughts (this was a very important first).

I left no stone unturned about my past.  If I didn’t know how to fill something into the columns, I made it up.  Every resentment, every bit of guilt, everything that ever bothered me went on the paper.  I’d write for a couple of hours and take a break.  A couple more hours, then eat.  I’d roll till dusk, then go to a meeting.  Then, sometime Sunday evening, I got to the good side of the ledger.  I wrapped up Sunday, around eight in the evening.  I looked at what I had written over the weekend and was overcome by emotion.  I was more than a little misty.

Once I collected myself, I called my sponsor to let him know I was done.  And this was the part I was really afraid of, sharing my past with someone else.  THIS is why I was so afraid to do Four.  And my sponsor told me he was leaving for a last second vacation in the morning – that I’d have to hold onto it till he got back.

Folks, that was a long f’in’ week!

The day after he got back, it was a cool, cloudy, breezy Saturday morning.  It almost felt like it was going to rain.  We sat on a picnic table outside a church where we met on Tuesday nights, and I went through every page of what I’d written.  Toward the end, the clouds literally parted and the sun shone, warming us up.  I was so excited to be done, I could hardly contain myself.  I’d done it.  I faced my fear and plowed through it.  And that was the least of it…  I felt free.

And that’s one of the more important lessons I learned in all of my years sober.  I was afraid to do that Fourth because I was afraid of the Fifth – and I was afraid because I had no idea the freedom I’d feel as I quietly did the Sixth and Seventh on the way home.  That was a defining day in my recovery, my friends.  It changed my life profoundly.  That was the beginning of my growing up in recovery.  I went on to do the Eighth and Ninth.  I was entirely ready to get done.  I went at my amends with a fervor… until I was done.  Entirely.  And then I realized I’d had no idea what freedom was at the end of my Fifth step.  I’d only had a glimpse of freedom – a sniff of it.  It was the day I could start working Ten and Eleven regularly that really changed the game.  I stopped building resentments and quit making stupid decisions (mainly because I didn’t want to have to go through that crap again!).  And my life changed.

If I can pass one thing on, it’d be this; don’t be like me.  Don’t pause if you’re afraid.  My fear wasn’t rational because I couldn’t see what was waiting for me on the other side.  Had I known I would feel that good, I would have plowed through that Fourth without even thinking about it…

On the other hand, if you find you’re like me, know that it’s normal, and I got through it without resorting to trying to find my escape at the bottom of a bottle.  I was only afraid because I couldn’t fathom how good freedom would be.

Believe me, being free from my past is good.  Now I understand.

The Bittersweet Embrace of Falling Back to Normal Time After Daylight Savings Time for a Northern Cyclist

The first Monday after the time change can be bittersweet.  If it’s nasty and cold outside, I’ve got an excuse to ride the trainer because it’ll be dark out shortly after I get home.  On the other hand, when it’s reasonable out, it’s a bit of a bummer because I have to think about dodging traffic in the dark – not a favorite of mine.  Better, I can always take the gravel bike out for a spin – I’ve got dirt just a quarter-mile from my house… Unfortunately, this is our rainy season, too, so the dirt roads will likely be mush.

Last Sunday’s 30-miler was a muck fest (though fun, for sure).  Had it been a dry Monday, I could have thrown the lights on the gravel bike and gone out for a ride in the dark.  I suppose, if I really wanted the outdoor miles, I could ride the paved roads, but I’m not all that trusting of my fellow motorists – even when I am lit up like a Christmas tree… and believe me, I ride bright when I ride at night.

In reality, this is the beginning of the end.  I’ll still get out on the weekends, of course, and I’ll still put my time in on the trainer.  But the mileage drops precipitously from here on out, though.  It’ll be four-ish months before we start seeing some decent outdoor mileage again.

So, the bitter part is that I’ll be indoors a lot more than I like.  The sweet is that life simplifies over the next few months.  With trainer miles increasing, the laundry decreases, and the time needed to get ready and on the bike is cut by 15-20 minutes.

I wrote a post a while back that highlighted a difference of opinion between The Farmers Almanac and NOAA… TFA said it was going to be a cold, nasty, snowy winter.  NOAA said it was going to be mild by normal standards.  We’re in the process of digging out of 8″ of snow.  A record for this time of year. It’s been 10-25° colder than normal for the last two weeks and tomorrow we’re going to breaking all known records for cold.  We’re currently 35° below the normal high for this time of year.  We’ll be 26° shy when we hit our high for the day.

In my post, I said I was betting on The Farmers Almanac over the eggheads at NOAA.  Heh.

The only question remaining is whether or not I’ll be able to get my last 52 miles to pass 6,000 outdoor miles for the year…  It’s not looking good, but with more than a month and a half, we can’t have that much cold and snow before the new year rolls around.  I hope.

Day 259 Days of Recovery from Procrastination

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I’ve never seen anyone drink their way to happiness…

Or, as the linked post explains, I’ve never seen anyone procrastinate themselves into happiness.

Never thought of it quite so simply, but it sure does work.  Please take a moment and check the linked post out.

The Humble Bumble Gravel Bike: What You Do and Don’t Need in Your Gravel Bike to Be Able to Love It

Ah, the humble gravel bike.  Well, some aren’t so humble.  I’ve got a friend who rides a Pinarello Grevil eTap and he’s got more into that than I do into both my race and rain road bikes.  My gravel bike is humble, though.  My 24 pound Specialized Diverge A1:

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A lot of roadies in the US are turning to dirt roads in the off-season to escape traffic.  For those getting into the dirt, one might wonder just how much bike is necessary to enjoy dirt road cycling.  In my experience, the answer is encouraging; not much.

The modesty of my bike room aside, $5,000 separates those two bikes… and just shy of nine pounds. My gravel bike (front) isn’t much in the “you paid what for that thing?!” department, but there’s no question it’s an enjoyable ride.

I have a few friends who have almost as much into their gravel bikes as they do in their road bikes. I simply wouldn’t afford that – sitting just outside the frame is my wife’s gravel bike. Everything is in twos, now, so things get pricey in a hurry.  For the gravel bikes, we had to be less… flashy.

Gravel season, for a roadie, is a fantastic time of year.  For many, especially in the farther north (and south) reaches of the globe, everything slows down for a couple of months as we enjoy just being outside before the snow flies.  For others, dirt season is just an extension of road season where miles are pounded out and average speed matters.  The trick is to figure out which is you.  Some stick to mountain bikes only – but we roadies need the speed.  Even when we’re puttering about on the back roads on a mountain bike, we’ve got this nagging sucker  in the back of the melon committee with his hand raised, jumping up and down shouting, “you’d be a lot faster on a road bike, knucklehead”.  Eventually, that jerk can’t be drowned out anymore with happy thoughts of cruising the back roads.  Thus, gravel bikes.

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For the easy gravel rider, where I ride, gravel season doesn’t require an expensive, carbon fiber bike.  I prefer something with a Shimano Sora drivetrain as a minimum.  Recent (2017) improvements in the Sora line mean the 105 and Ultegra lines aren’t as necessary as they once were.  Looking at the lesser drivetrain lines, I just don’t like the way the Claris line operates.  We have that on my wife’s gravel bike and I’m going to switch that out first chance I get to slip a few hundred bucks under the radar.  Claris is finicky.  Sora, at least, operates on par with its more expensive, lighter siblings.  The frame is going to be aluminum because with the wider tires (I run 32’s, the widest that’ll fit betwixt the seat stays), I’m not going to have to worry about the ride quality inadequacies of an aluminum frame.

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The day the bikes came home from the shop. The lawyer weight was removed shortly thereafter.

Brakes are a big deal.  For a gravel bike, I’d never go with a rim brake – heck, that goes for anything I’m going to be riding in the dirt.  There’s nothing wrong with rim brakes, as long as you’re willing to accept that they get gummed up with dirt and grit which eventually wears down the wheel’s rims.  I’d never buy a rim brake gravel bike with discs out there (heck, if I ever buy another road bike, it’ll have discs on it).

The only question left on the subject of brakes is mechanical or hydraulic?

Hydraulic brakes will come on upgraded drivetrain packages, you’re entry-level bikes come with mechanical brakes.  Hydraulics are vastly, vastly superior to mechanical.  If, however, you’re just going to be using the bike to grind out some post-season miles, mechanical disc brakes are just fine.  I’ve got hydraulic on my mountain bike and mechanical on my gravel bike and I definitely appreciate the hydraulics, but the gravel bike’s brakes do the job.  Brakes only slow you down, anyway, as the saying goes.

Tires are important, too.  I could write a series of posts on the importance of tires.  You’re going to need something that’s got a little give and has some tread while giving you a center strip for when you’re cruising on paved/hard-packed roads.  I’m currently riding 32 mm Michelin ProTek Cross tires (between $20 and $25 each, depending on where you buy them) and I love them.  Gravel tires can get expensive in a hurry and I simply didn’t want to blow between $200 & $300 on tires for the gravel bikes.  The Michelins are fantastic for all dirt needs.  They’re just heavy.

I was, at one time, a bike snob.  Heck, facing facts, I still am, though it’s more accurate to call me a road bike snob.  My Specialized Diverge Sport A1 is proof that even a bike snob can love an entry-level gravel bike – when it’s used properly.  The key here, for me, had to do with managing expectations.  At first, I won’t lie, I was a little bummed at having to bring home an entry-level bike.  What I found, though, once I got the setup and tires right, was surprising; my bike is adequate for how I ride it.  I just have to work harder to keep up, and that’s not a big deal at all when we’re all riding to enjoy the miles anyway.

I’ve found the bike’s setup, how it fits, to be the most important piece of loving my gravel bike.  Once I got the fit right, saddle and cockpit, the tires made up for the aluminum frame and the Shimano Sora groupset is adequate.  Now, if I were interested in riding the bike a bit more competitively, entry-level wouldn’t work.  For what I want out of a gravel bike, the one tick above entry-level gravel bike is easy to love.

…Because They’re Bonus Miles Now.

I went out for a gravel ride with a couple of friends yesterday morning. It was nasty, cold and windy. And it turned out to be a great time.

I’m absolutely digging my gravel bike nowadays. It’s nothing special, but it fits right and riding in the dirt makes reminds me of my childhood. That’s all good.

We were cruising down the road, Chuck, Robert and me, and Chuck started pulling away. Robert, a big fella, was having a tough time holding our wheel on hills and we were laboring up a doozy. Chuck pulled away and I decided to stay with Robert… no sense in racing up a hill, just to wait at the top.

We crested the hill, warmed up from the effort, and Chuck was already down the back of the hill and on his way up the next. We just took our time. Over the next hill, Chuck was pulled over, waiting for us.

I didn’t let up. I unclipped my left foot, my right pedal low, and pushed out with my right foot while I hit the back brake, causing the back tire to slide out. I slid to a stop a foot from Chuck, a smile across my frozen mug.

We pulled into Chuck’s driveway with 27 wonderful, cold, cloudy, windy, gnarly miles. I got a good smile out of it, though. As nasty as it was – we were riding through flurries at times – I was out with my friends, staying fit. The pace was slow, but I didn’t have a care in the world. All outdoor miles at this time of year are bonus miles.

Good times and noodle salad, my friends.

I’ve got just 81 miles left to hit 6,000 outdoor miles, and I passed 7,500 overall yesterday.