I get hit with slings and arrows every day, sometimes from those very close to me. I maintain a positive attitude through it. This is how I choose to live and it isn’t easy.
I’m not perfect by a long stretch, sometimes I deserve to have to duck. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes someone might think I deserve to duck when they’re the one who should be ducking.
To put it simply, this is just part of life. At least that’s how I choose to look at it.
I don’t write much about difficulties here. First, if it doesn’t have to do with a bicycle, I have a golden rule; if I’m not going to be worrying about it in six months, it’s not a big deal. This means there aren’t many big deals (especially after two – and some change – decades of recovery).
In the end, what keeps me sane and happy is knowing I’m doing my best to do it right. I really try to be the guy the Big Book says I can be – both the Big Book and the Bigger Book.
When we enter recovery, the idea is to enjoy life because we’d been freed of the shackles of addiction. I take that as one of the most important instructions in the Big Book of AA.
It also doesn’t hurt to remain thankful (and therefore mindful), on a daily basis, that I was spared from a “hell on earth” experience of my own making.
Today I will stay in my lane and concentrate on what I can do to be the best, happiest me I can. That means concentrating only on my own actions and behavior. I will stay in my lane, not for the benefit of all of the other knuckleheads out there (even if they do benefit from a better Jim). I’ll stay in my lane because this is the only way I can be happy, joyous and free.
One day at a time.
Recover hard, my friends. The alternative sucks.
Sunday was a busy day. We rode Saturday morning, then went to my youngest’s swim meet, then to my eldest’s university marching band practice. It was a spectacular day but I didn’t get much done – and there was much to be done.
We rode at 7:30 from a high school 15 miles from the house, and one of my favorite routes. It’s a departure from the slow, rarely traveled country roads we’re used to. We head south to the outer suburbs of Detroit.
We had a great, small-ish group. Chuck, Chucker, Matt, Mike, Diane & Jeff on a tandem and me. Mike wasn’t feeling well so he took his toy and went home… turned out he had a knot in his back that wouldn’t release.
Our route is pretty straightforward till we get far enough south that we’re getting to Kensington Metropark. Then we hit a straight shot 8% descent that, with a little effort, you can briefly break the 45-mph speed limit on. I hammer that sucker till I can’t pedal any faster. 50/11 at 45.4-mph. I pedaled so hard I passed the tandem and topped out at 46.5 with a smile stretched from ear to ear (I did not employ the super-tuck for this one).
Now, if you noticed, I hadn’t mentioned my wife yet, who always rides with us on the weekends… heck, normally we’re on the tandem. She’d fallen ill with sore throat (and you know why I first defaulted to “sore throat”) and was asleep when I left. She was in rough shape. She was also not showing any signs of being under the weather Saturday… when we’d been playing kissy-face all day, as married people do. This meant every time I lacked comfortability, cycling in 85 degree heat and abundant sunshine at high rates of speed, I’d think, “Oh, crap, this is it! I’m sick too and I’m x miles from home… this is gonna suck.” Only to feel better a few minutes later. I lost count how many times that happened.
We stopped for coffee and a snack (I had a fantastic cinnamon roll) which, in hindsight, was a little weird… coffee, when it’s just shy of 90 (30 C)? It was fantastic, though – the perfect “not so hot you have to wait 20 minutes to take a sip” drinking temperature. We rolled out for home after a nice, not too long, rest. I felt fantastic and fast all the way home. I relaxed. We ended up with 52 miles, 1,900 feet of up (a lot for what I’m used to – double normal), and an average speed of 18.2-mph, a perfect Sunday Funday.
I got home, showered up, ate some lunch and took a quick nap. And that left the chores. My youngest helped by cutting the grass – her first time on the tractor, so there was some teaching time involved. She was awesome. While she was on the tractor, I turned my attention to the camper. The front storage section started rotting out under the corners (where water gets kicked up from the truck). The corners were gone. It needed a new floor and I had to cover the two holes from below, plus rebuild the righthand side which had rotted out completely.
I started working on it at around 2pm and by 5:30 I was almost done. It took a lot to figure it out but I’ve got it solid, now. I’d be willing to bet it’s good for at least another decade – and if I ever have to revisit it, I know exactly how to put it back together. It turned out vastly better than I’d hoped it would – I’m enthusiastically surprised, really. I’ll finish it up this afternoon – we had a storm blow through that forced me to stow my gear and I was absolutely wiped out by the time I sat down to eat dinner. I wasn’t about to go back out and get dirty after supper. The last bit this evening should go quite fast as I know exactly what I’m doing.
I slept like a baby last night. Everything got done – or close enough to it that I’ll finish tonight.
It never ceases to amaze me how much I love food after quitting nicotine – and by “nicotine”, I mean all forms. I smoked, cigarettes and cigars, chewing tobacco, I was even hooked on the stop smoking lozenges for a couple of years. I never had a problem with eating until I gave up the nicotine. I certainly do now, though. Even a properly made peanut butter & jelly sandwich tastes like heaven. Don’t even get me going on some good barbecue, a steak, burger, grilled chicken or salmon, a decent salad with spinach, carrots and cucumbers… I love it all.
I’ve been struggling mightily with being over my ideal weight this year. I like to be about 165 pounds but I’m currently dangling in the high 170’s and I flirted with 190 earlier in the season.
It doesn’t matter how many miles I ride, I can eat enough that, at best, I will maintain my weight. Losing weight, even at 230 miles a week at better than a 19-mph average, has proved most difficult.
I’ve made great strides in recent weeks, though. Adding grilled chicken and salmon to my normal menu has helped immensely.
There have been a few times earlier this year that I entertained the notion of just letting myself go, the way it seems much of our nation has. Then, almost invariably, I see a person who’s been on the wrong side of way too many Double Whopper Combo Meals with an extra side of Chicken Fries struggle just to get from the handicapped parking spot to the electric riding shopping cart and it helps me pop my head out of my ass.
Another thing that has helped keep me on the straight and narrow path is my desire to ride my bikes fast. I’d be plenty happy creeping along at 15-mph, but I love to go fast:
The light blue dotted line is 19.7-mph and that dip well below was climbing hills… the rest was slightly downhill to flat. It is one of my favorite sections of road on our normal routes. As I crested the first hill, I left everyone as I put the hammer down. I was up to 32-1/2-mph and giving it everything I had as I rounded the chicane, leaning my bike so much the pedal would have scraped if my right foot wasn’t up all the way, at 28-mph.
As I exited the final corner, I was smiling ear-to-ear as I waited for the others to catch up. It’s as good as when I was a kid hitting jumps we built in the field across the street from our parents house. It feels like being a kid, only with a lot of money. With twenty or thirty extra pounds, those days are done. I’d never be able to keep that pace up, let alone being able to enjoy keeping that pace, with all of that extra weight.
The recovery is something else altogether, though. Oh, I get to enjoy fitness a little more because I don’t have anything messing that up, but recovery and my relationship with God are a lot deeper than “having fun”. Still, a good bike ride makes recovery more enjoyable, and that makes keeping my spirituality in order all the more important.
If I don’t do what it takes to have a good life, I won’t have one. And that’s the whole point to getting control of how much I’m eating, when it all boils down.
After getting to this point, I’m grateful for being able to understand myself so fully. Sure, I still struggle, but sooner or later, I manage to see the light. I’ll keep coming back, because it keeps getting better.
[Ed – The information contained in this post is solid, though digging deeper into the problem I eventually came to find that the main culprit to my tale of woe was a bad chainring.]
When we last left this sordid tale, I’d added a 1 mm shim behind my cassette, that’s 1 mm on top of the shim that came with the wheelset to fit a 10-speed cassette on an 11-speed cassette body.
I added the extra shim because I had a bit of a chain line problem that caused my chain to drop into the bottom bracket under intense power (500 + watts). This isn’t a problem under normal riding conditions, but when I’m hammering up a hill to hold a wheel, keeping the chain on the drivetrain becomes quite important!
We’re here because the issue wasn’t quite fixed. It was vastly improved and very close to fixed, even “good enough for government work”, but I could still make it skip (though not drop) in the smaller cogs out of the saddle in the little ring up front.
I assumed, when I skipped the chain last evening, that I needed to tune the rear derailleur by dialing the barrel adjuster clockwise… same as last time. So I did.
I hopped off the bike and gave it half a turn to the right. Shifting was slightly improved. I gave it another half clockwise a little while later… Every gear hit perfectly. Then I heard a skip. And another. And another. The barrel adjustment wanted to go counterclockwise to stop the skip this time, but it wanted clockwise to shift better. This is opposite what I originally started with.
I needed a thinner shim. A half-millimeter. See, I initially went with the full millimeter because “go big or go home”, figuring a half wouldn’t be enough to make a difference.
Dialing in the rear derailleur was easier than with the .5 mm shim and shifts were crisp and precise. No skips were perceptible in any gear, up and down the cassette, big and little chainrings, front or backwards with the pedals.
I’m hopeful it’s even better this time around. The best part is, I’ll have to put in a bunch of miles on the Trek to test the theory. I think I shall start with the experimenting right away…
A friend from another country asked if we were back to normal in the USA the other day… Well, that depends, really, on where you live in the US, but I’ll go with my hometown which will go unnamed for obvious reasons.
I went to my daughter’s swim meet yesterday afternoon and timed. The crowd in the stands was sparse by normal standards, but there were parents up there.
Not one kid, coach, parent (timer) or official wore a mask on the pool deck and only three parents had one on in the stands.
This is all good news to me, of course. I actually brought a mask with me, figuring they’d be required to get in the building (I have no problem playing along, though the misrepresentations of the science get tiresome). I was overjoyed when I saw adults walking into the building bare-faced, so my mask stayed in my pocket. Where it belongs.
We’re almost back to normal, but I can’t dare give out where I live for fear the mask-fascists will attack our school with their desire to c*ck-block everything good, happy and wonderful in the world to give off an air of superiority whilst, and at the same time, trying to keep everyone living in a state of constant fear and panic.
I will say this, though, with the left-wing extremists being the only people left in masks, at least it’s easy to tell who the nuts are.
For the record, according to the office of the Governor of Michigan (a Democrat), 98% of all COVID cases in Michigan occur in unvaccinated people. 96% of all hospitalizations are unvaccinated individuals. 94% of all COVID fatalities are unvaccinated. The rolling average for cases per day in Michigan are around 1,300. That means in a state of ten million people, twenty-six vaccinated people will come down with COVID today, on average. 9.6 people will die every day in Michigan at current levels… which means about one vaccinated person will die every third day from COVID… and that’s with virtually no masks being worn in public. (All Figures are averaged from last ten days as posted on the Michigan Dept. of Health website).
Put another way, according to the Mayo Clinic (and who doesn’t like mayonnaise?), “The CDC has said the risk of infection is 8x higher in the unvaccinated than the vaccinated, and the risk of hospitalization or death is 25x higher.” And the Moderna vaccine appears to be much better than the Pfizer. Guess which one I got.
I will take those odds; being this close to “normal” is sweet.
To add context to why I’ll take those odds, one of the main reasons I’m not afraid (apart from the obvious, that I’m vaccinated) is that I actually went back to work at the height of the pandemic, ten months before the vaccines were even available. I’ve been living and working safely for just shy of a year-and-a-half. I’m still careful, of course, but I’m not fearful and I ditched the mask after I was vaccinated.
So, are we back to normal? Meh, close enough for government work.
With my firstborn at college, it’s a little less Bella around here. A little less flamboyant. You’d think I’d make up for that, but you’d be wrong. My girl can 🦚.
I was ready for her to go, I thought. I prepared myself so I could be the stoic me until I didn’t have to be. My wife, daughter, and I all helped her move in. We took her to lunch after, then we dropped her off and headed home.
I was on the way to the bike shop and an old favorite song popped up on my Napster feed and it all caught up with me.
I look to my faith to get me through…
And that’s when I realized, for the most part, I’ll only have fleeting opportunities at passing on knowledge about how the world works and how to push through its troubled parts so you can ultimately be happy with all of it. In fact, I don’t have much left than to hope I did a good job as a dad.
I know I did better than my dad did, without question, and he did a great job. I think I’ll just roll with that.
We’ve had a “threat” of storms every day for the last several because of high temps and humidity. Nothing materialized from any of those threats because we’ve had a high pressure system parked above the Great Lakes for the better part of eleven days. It’s been glorious. And so that led me to think the same would happen again last night, so I prepped the Venge for duty.
The temp on my car’s thermometer read 91 degrees (33 C) and the sun was blazing down as I finished a phone call and pulled my bike from the trunk and got ready for the warm-up. I say “warm-up” in the classic sense of the word… standing outside in that heat for five minutes would have worked, too… we went for a spin. When we got back, Matt was pulling into the parking lot. I was pretty stoked to see him on a Tuesday night. He hadn’t been there much this year.
We started out As & Bs together and it got fast in a hurry, though once everyone caught up, it seemed to settle… at least for a half-mile. We turned north with a slight tailwind and it got fast immediately. Chuck and I had made the decision to hang with Matt in the event he got dropped. I have DALMAC coming up, so I need my legs rested (without actually, you know, resting them), and we’ve been on a fairly hectic streak of late with some really fast rides under our belts. I noticed Matt had fallen off about five miles in as we rounded a corner so I said something to Chuck and he, I and Dave quietly slipped off the back to wait for Matt. He caught us and we rolled out, keeping the pace around 21 to 22-mph. Three miles later we realized he’d quietly slipped off the back and was making a turn for a shortcut.
Matt is a fair-minded, hard-headed fellow. He won’t let anyone know the pace is too hot, he’ll just slip off the back and go his own way – as he likes to say, he knows his way home. So we let him go.
The three of us pressed on at the aforementioned pace, into the mild, but noticeable breeze. Looking at the sky, I already knew we were in trouble and thought about doing the 24, or even the 21-mile route. I was shot down. Chucker said, correctly, that the percentages of storm activity were low – and they had been just before we rolled for the warm-up. My eyes were telling me something different, though. We went for the normal 29-mile and change route.
We rolled through Vernon – a rainstorm had passed through the area just before we got there… the roads were wet. The spray was refreshing after the heat, though. I wasn’t complaining a bit. Three miles later I knew for sure we were in trouble. I could see the storm moving in. As we approached the homestretch, the crosswind was immense – we actually had to slow down to stay upright. We made the turn, though, and the fun began. 200 watts would get you 28-mph, so that’s where I kept it, hoping we’d be able to outrun the incoming storm. We just couldn’t escape the creeping black, though. With the storm on us, I made a choice – fight some cross-headwind for a mile so I didn’t have to follow the normal route, which meant avoiding overshooting our finish point, only to have to fight a headwind for another half-mile. I would literally save a full mile and they’d be stuck with a crosswind while I would have some tail to my final two miles (the wind was northwest – they were heading north east while I would be due east). North, the way I would turn for a mile, was looking awfully sketchy, though.
Dave and Chuck headed straight and I turned north. The cross-headwind was brutal and it was as dark as I’d ever ridden without a light. I could feel the occasional rain drop mixed in with the path-altering wind. I didn’t know if I’d have to pull off and seek shelter as I headed up a 5% hill with a ripping cross-headwind – trees were starting to bend under the weight of the wind. I made my turn and I could barely see with my sunglasses on, but I couldn’t take them off for fear of flying debris getting in my eyes.
As I made the turn on the homestretch, I was out of the saddle and on the gas, hitting 30-mph and keeping it as close as I could. I had the faintest glimmer of hope that I’d outrun the rain as I hit a half-mile to go at 28-mph… and then it hit. Light, at first, but the drops grew bigger and came faster the longer I was out. They stung as they hit me but I kept my head down and the power on. I was running out of gas, but more fearful of what was coming, so I gave it even more power as the skies started to open up… and then I was almost on the parking lot. I had to grab a handful of brakes to slow the bike down for the turn as the rims were wet. I made the turn and made a bee-line for my car. The rain had slowed to a drizzle for the moment, so I took advantage. I pulled my key from my pocket, opened the passenger door, took off my glasses and helmet, opened the trunk and put my bike in and slid into the driver’s seat, dripping from sweat and rain. Chucker and Dave rolled in just as the lightning show started. Chuck was wetter than I was. They’d had it worse than I did by what looked like a long shot. I can only imagine trying to charge into that cross-headwind, into the rain. I was thankful for my choice.
And that was it, folks. We cleared the parking lot and headed for home as the skies opened up and the real rain began. It poured cats and dogs and we’re going to be talking about that one for years to come.
No harm, no foul.
An Excellent After-Ride Healthy Dinner That Takes Ten Minutes to Prep and Cook and Is Even Faster To Clean Up After…
On arriving home from the office, my wife was heading out the door to take my daughter to swim practice and my elder daughter was off galivanting about. I asked if there was a plan for dinner, to which she responded that I should have some leftover pizza after my ride. My buddy, Chuck and I were out for a little more than an hour-and-a-quarter and we put in 22 miles and some change and I was feeling pretty fantastic. I was hungry, though. Now, pizza and I are longtime friends. Best friends, really… but I’m tired of eating junkfood. So I was stuck with a dilema… what to eat?
I knew I had a package of individually wrapped salmon filets in the freezer – frozen solid. I thought, well what would happen if I just slapped a filet on the grill? I thought about how I’d make this work as I cut up some veggies for a salad. See, there’s a new fad out there wherein you place your steaks on the grill directly, do not pass go, from the freezer onto a hot grill. This sears the meat and seals in the juicy goodness before it can escape… or so they say.
I spread some butter over one side, then garlic salt (from a grinder) and pepper, and some Italian Herb seasoning… and slapped one for me and one for my younger daughter on the grill. A hot grill, 600 degrees F (315 C) and kept an eye on them. Three or four minutes, then flip (not quite thawed at first flip). Then a few minutes on the butter side, then flip once more for a minute or till flaky. As soon as the filets were firm but pliable, I pulled them. I dressed them with a salt and pepper again, then squeezed a quarter-lemon over them.
Friends, it was heavenly.
Ultra-simple, low calorie, high on flavor, simple goodness and about 600 calories for the meal… and the cleanup was two plates and a bowl (for the salad). I’ll have to get used to eating light like that again (I was hungry as a bear the next morning) but it’s a great arrow to have in the quiver when I’m pressed for a decent, healthy dinner.
My wife and I chose the tandem for Sunday’s ride. It had been at least a couple of months since we had it out – such is the nature of summer riding. My wife rides long miles during the week when I’m locked for time because of work, so I ride long on the weekends when I can get the miles in… which means we end up on single bikes until after the A-100.
We had a great route picked out and the weather was on the
warm hot side of spectacular. Another mostly sunny day with no wind to think of. We rolled out at 7:30 because the days are getting noticeably shorter now but we had a great group. Three tandems and three single bikes, and we were off an rolling in the warm, heavy early morning air. Diane and Jeff are one of the strongest tandem couples we have locally at the moment, so if we can simply hold their wheel, I’m happy. My riding buddy, Chuck just picked up a new Co-Motion gravel bike tandem that’s simply freaking fantastic (and light), they were on theirs. Then we had Matt, Mike and Chuck to round out the group on their singles.
I am finicky on our tandem. My wife and I don’t hold wheels well on the tandem. See, momentum is a funny thing with tandems… when you have it, you can go forever. When you lose it, it takes forever to build it back up, so you have to do everything you can to keep it. With two people pedaling in a pace-line, it’s not like I can simply adjust how hard I’m pedaling as I would on a single bike – that doesn’t work when my wife is laying down power, too. So you have to scrub speed with one of the brakes. Well, my wife likes to lay off her power when she feels the brake drag, so we lose twice the momentum, rather than simply scrubbing a little speed. On my part of the ledger on this, I’ve got serious issues with staying right up on somebody’s rear wheel to get the optimal draft. I get this, obviously, from single bikes but it doesn’t work the same with a tandem. I work on relaxing a little bit and staying back a good foot or two rather than try to maintain 6″ to 12″.
My wife and I stayed up front for just shy of the first 18 miles.
Generally smooth roads around the whole 45-mile route and my wife and I actually picked off a couple of City Limits signs, including one of my favorites in Durand, our second in a row on that stretch. The first is an interesting one. We take advantage of a decent descent followed by a nasty climb that we normally end up fading on. Yesterday, though, we powered down the hill and rode the momentum up the climb so we hit the false flat and easier pedaling – we barely slowed down and managed to climb the rest of the hill at 18-mph (we usually drop down to 10 to 12-mph) before hitting another downhill that the sign is at the end of. We powered down the hill topping 33-mph and stayed on the gas through the sign so we carried our momentum up another punchy climb before heading back downhill again. We worked the momentum perfectly through the rollers.
We had a straight, flat section for a couple of miles and that leads up to another short, shallow uphill – and this leads to one of my favorite City Limits signs that I fight for, no matter what. Normally, I like to build my speed up on the short climb, but that’s near impossible on the tandem – but we did maintain near 20-mph on the way up and then we put the hammer down as we crested. I could hear Mike shifting behind us – I knew he was coming, so I gave it everything I had and my wife matched me. Normally, I’m happy if I can hit 32 or 33 across the line, but with Mike closing in, we were spurred on and managed to take it all the way to 35-mph and pip Mike by inches as we charged across the line.
We took a bypass around a massive track crossing in Durand, then hit the homestretch. Sadly, we saw a massive plume of smoke on the horizon and as we closed in, we saw fire trucks and police cars stretched across the road about a mile from our house. Jess and I stopped while Diane & Jeff, Chuck and Libby, and Matt rolled through to see if they could get around. Mike and Chuck went the back way home… and just as I was getting ready to roll for home, a police SUV went by and blocked the road at the intersection just to our right so nobody else could get through. Rather than mess with first responders doing their job, we went back toward the police vehicle and went the long way around (I wanted the extra miles anyway).
That last five or six miles, we simply kept a decent pace and talked about the ride – how we did, how we felt, and so on. For me, I was really pleased with how we did after so long on the singles. I enjoyed the ride thoroughly and was exceedingly happy with how well we worked together. It was a perfect tandem ride. My wife had a lot of good to say as well. It was another glorious morning on the right side of the grass. We ended up with 49 miles @ 17.9-mph and a top speed of 34.7-mph.
That tandem may be an unruly, heavy beast, but I sure do love riding it with my wife.
I had it together Friday night as my daughters, wife and I packed my eldest daughter’s things into a friend’s borrowed van, her SUV and my SUV. I had it together Saturday morning as I sat and drank my coffee, writing a post for this blog. I had it together when we headed down and moved her things into her dorm room… I even kept it calm when I found out I had to wear a mask in the dorm. I kept it together when we helped her unpack and while I fixed her bed that was put together hastily and improperly prior to our arrival.
More importantly, mama bear kept it together marvelously. Miraculously.
We kept it together when we headed out to lunch at a phenomenal burger joint, Blazin Burgerz (their Blazin’ Cheesesteak is so good Congress would contemplate raising your taxes for the simple act of enjoying one). We even kept it together as we all played a game of video Euchre at the table.
And then it was time to leave. I kept it together through that. I’m excited for my daughter. She doesn’t know it but she’s got the world by the nuts. She can do whatever she wants – she’s vastly more capable than I was at her age and I turned out well. I’m excited to see what she chooses to do, so I had no reason to be sad…
My wife and I were returning the borrowed van, she in the van, me in my car, when an old favorite song popped up on Napster and I realized I wouldn’t be able to be right there for her to help her through times when things get a little sideways. That I would have to rely on faith to get me through. It all caught up to me, and it was good. I was also ready for a nap after that.
I didn’t take a nap, though. Chuck had been out buying a RV trailer that morning so he missed the morning group and hit me, knowing we were moving my daughter in, that he was available to ride. It was hot out, 91 degrees (33 C), with no wind and sunny. There are two ways to handle difficult times, and one of them isn’t taking a nap. I can work some program at it, and I can go for a ride. I chose both. I readied my bike and got dressed and met Chuck in his neighborhood.
We mostly took it easy and talked about things – Bella, Josie, my wife, and how everything went, and his new trailer, and current events.
We mainly just turned the cranks in the heat. There were a few sections we got after it, though.
My youngest had gone over to a friend’s and was staying the night so my wife and I headed out to dinner. I was in no mood to cook, anyway. We talked things over and came together, passing out compliments to one another about how the day was handled. It was a good way to end the day.
We fell asleep, my wife in my arms, on the couch. It was a good day – another in a long list of good that happens when an alcoholic chooses recovery.