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Monthly Archives: April 2022

My First Time Back on a Golf Course In Eight Years

My wife and I talked about taking the tandem out for a spin before I had to bowl yesterday, but instead I ended up doing a considerable amount of maintenance on the bike. I cleaned and lubed the bearings in the steering assembly, cleaned and lubed the bottom bracket bearings, and cleaned and lubed the seat posts – all trying to do away with an annoying tick we’d developed. I hit the issue with the shotgun approach. I’ll know how I did shortly…

The big news of the day for me is that today I’ll return to the golf course for the first time since I hung up my clubs after my dad passed away and I lost my best golfing buddy. It’s going to be a fitting return, with my dad’s old irons fitted for me (and re-gripped) and I’ll be golfing with the guy who helped get me into my career with the construction company I’ve been with for the last 25-years. That friendship probably deserves its own post. I’ve mentioned Dale a few times over the years in blog posts.

I’ve practiced quite a bit at the driving range and I’m ready to go… but that’ll be later this afternoon.

For this morning, my wife and I are heading out on the tandem for a quick ride with a couple of friends. Then we have to head straight over to my daughter’s tennis match to watch my kid. And sadly, I’m going to have to start getting my yard ready to mow. I’d guess I’ve got about a week before I really have to get out there, but time is getting short.

And so, without much further ado, I’m out.

Tandem Time with Libby and Chucker… and My Wife! On a Thursday?!

My youngest daughter is a bit of a sports star in her school – she’s quite amazing, really. Head and shoulders above where I was at her age. So, my wife and I headed over to the tennis courts to watch her match yesterday afternoon. We’d told Chuck that we would be joining him on our tandem, to which he countered with his wife joining us on their tandem as well. The match looked like it was going to run long, though so I texted my friend that we wouldn’t make it. My daughter turned up the heat and shut the visiting girl down 6-0, 6-0 (!) and the match finished shortly after 5:05, so I texted Chuck that we’d make it after all.

Now, our tandem has been making some horrendous clicky/clunky sounds so I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on. The bottom brackets are cleaned and lubed and should be good (though the issue could technically still reside there). I thought it was in the chains, though… the synch chain is pretty stretched and the drive chain is probably close to done as well – and they’re both a little rusty. I decided to hit them with a light chain lube and wipe them to see if I could get the rust off and also to see if one of the chains had a tight link in it, which would cause the noise we’ve experienced.

At first the bike was nice and quiet but it quickly devolved into its clicking again. I didn’t worry about it, though. We just rode on, enjoying our normal weekday loop with our wives on the back of our tandems… and the funny thing was, if we rode side-by-side when traffic wasn’t present, Chuck and I could talk while my wife and Chuck’s wife caught up… we had a blast.

We did a shortened loop to get home and get dinner going, but after going from probably not riding to a decent “just shy of 20-miles”, I was stoked we got what we did. If just getting a ride in wasn’t good enough, riding the tandems during the week was fantastic. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do a lot more of that (and I think that will become a regular occurrence with my wife working a few days a week now).

On pulling in the driveway, on a fluke, I decided to check the headset to make sure everything was tight… and it wasn’t. There wasn’t a lot of play in the steering assembly, but there was more than there should have been. I don’t know if that was the source of our trouble, but it definitely needed fixing – after dinner. And so it was, handled after we ate.

I’ll be fitting new chains on the bike some time today and I’ll take the cranks off and clean everything up while I’m at it, lubing everything liberally, and putting it all back together. I figure I’ll pull the seat posts and lube them as well. Hopefully by this afternoon we should have a quiet tandem for the weekend… more on that later.

It looks like the weather started turning for the better, about three weeks late, yesterday. Time will tell.

The Best Part of Being A Cyclist Part 2,487; Picking Summer Shorts at 50+

Getting ready for the summer season, I only have a couple of decent pairs of shorts. I’d picked up an exceptionally nice and comfortable pair of Lee Extreme Comfort shorts at Kohl’s last year that I like a lot and wore regularly… until the other day when my wife and I went out to eat at Wendy’s for lunch and the soda fountain machine spit orange syrup at me instead of in my cup. I was certain my shorts were ruined. My wife ordered a pair on the way home, then two more pair for good measure; Sonoma Goods for Life. I accidentally had my wife order 7″-long shorts instead of 9″ based on the photo.

Those are not the 7″ shorts. They’re the 9’s. You can imagine my surprise when I opened the package and saw what looked like, effectively, the men’s version of short shorts. I chuckled inside as I went into the bedroom to try them on. As you would imagine, they’re incredibly tight in the thighs… cyclist legs. Other than that, though, they fit pretty well and I exited the bedroom to model them for my daughter. They’re fairly high cut, but they’re the fashion lately, too.

And that’s exactly what my daughter pointed out.

My wife was skeptical when I tried them on for her later on, after she got home from work and I got back from the driving range… but my daughter fixed everything. My wife asked me to try on the 9″ pair I’d stained for contrast (believe it or not, at my wife’s urging, I soaked the stained shorts in Tide for a couple of hours, then washed them – the soda syrup stain came out. Entirely. Not a trace). My wife liked the longer pair, but my daughter said bluntly, “Dad, the longer shorts make you look about 20 years older. The normal shorts make you look younger. Go with that.” My wife agreed, hesitantly.

I took a walk over to one of our full-height mirrors and gave a look-see… and my legs looked phenomenal. Even with my extra winter weight this year. I mean fantastic. I was happily surprised.

And so this post was hatched in my melon; the best part of being a cyclist #2,487; your legs will look amazing…

Finally, A Decent Week on the Bike… And Some Bowling… And Golf… And a Couple of Naps… And the Single Biggest Contract of My Career. What a WEEK!

Well, we finally had a decent weekend. Actually, it was better than decent and loooong overdue. It’s going to be back to the cooler side of spring for us tomorrow and we’ve got rain most of today, but at least we had the weekend. And the fantastic weather was taken advantage of. I had to come to work for a rest.

My wife asked if we could ride the tandem Sunday – an ask I’m usually stoked about. I love riding the tandem with my wife. It’s a combination of things, really, and they’re all good.

Our Sunday tandem rides are always billed as “Sunday Funday”, meaning we’re aiming for an average speed in the neighborhood of 17 to 18-mph… and generally we’re pretty good at keeping to that, though every once in a while a real ride breaks out and we end up closer to 20-mph. Anyway, Sunday’s ride did not evolve into the latter. We had a wonderful time on a great 41-mile route. We had three tandems and four or five singles – and excellent group. And the weather was perfect. Sunny, warm and breezy.

We had our Sunday bowling (fun) league later that evening, so after we cleaned up and ate, it was time for a nap. I hate to waste nice days by taking a nap, but after Saturday’s most excellent 55-miler and tennis, I was toast. The nap was unavoidable – almost a requirement.

Sunday’s bowling league night was our last for the season for that league. We didn’t do great as a team, but we had a really good time together.

Monday was a brutal day at work. I hadn’t slept but a few winks the night before because I was working on securing the largest contract of my career – by almost double – and the negotiations were not going our way. It’s a monster of a job but there was a considerable amount of “we want you to do this for free” while they tried to trim our number at the same time. I actually told my counterpart that we were going to walk away from the job. I hurried home from work to hang out with my wife, needing a little bit of comfort after a brutal day. Unfortunately, she was way late getting out. Rather than wait around, pacing, I grabbed my golf clubs and put them in the car. I headed over to the driving range. Too crappy to enjoy riding, but not too crappy to hit a bucket.

Monday night was another restless one. I think I got three hours of sleep. I drank a lot of coffee Tuesday morning.

The negotiations turned positive when we met with the construction manager on the jobsite in the early afternoon. There was something lost in translation over the phone that I was able to fix when we were sitting across from each other and I ended up getting us all of the money we needed to do the job comfortably. It was awesome… and we ended up agreeing on terms before we left. It’s locked in. They’re happy and we’re happy, and we’re going to rock that job out for them. It’s the single biggest contract I’ve ever gotten in my career.

I headed home just a little early and got dinner ready with my wife. The Tuesday Night Club Ride was canceled due to cold, damp weather (it’s a theme around here lately), so we had a fantastic roast beef dinner and followed that with the final episode of Castle before turning in for the night.

I slept like a baby, all night long and woke up in a fantastic mood. I’ve got a lot to attend to this afternoon so there won’t be any cycling, but things start turning for the better tomorrow and into the weekend. This has been interesting, really. Normally, I’m ripping the miles by now, well on my way to mid-season shape. I’m way down on miles, but I’m not worried about it, either. The balance has turned away from cycling a little bit and other things have filled that space. Time will tell what happens for the rest of the year, but I’m actually content with how things are working out. Happy, even.

On Being Thankful for My Dad Passing His Athletic Genes to Me…

My wife pointed out last night that, when it comes to sports, I am truly a blessed man. My father passed on every athletic gene he had to my brothers and I. I’m likely the more well-rounded among us, being better than proficient at hockey, in-line skating, baseball, softball, tennis, running, golf, bowling and cycling. When it comes to golf and cycling, I’m in the upper 1 – 3% – or, I should say, when it came to golf. My brother, Chris has been in the US armed forces since 2002, so you know he’s fit. He’s also proficient at baseball, softball and golf. My brother, Joe is a teaching pro in tennis. He is, without question, excellent and can also play some mean baseball.

In any event, I ended up quitting golf when I couldn’t take my dad anymore. It broke my heart, quite literally. And, truth be told, it was easy to set my clubs aside after that. I had young kids and a wife, and we didn’t have the money for me to keep playing as I had been. I actually worked with a teaching pro for a couple of years. He ran a driving range and had a pro shop just a mile from my office, so every day at lunch I’d head over and hit a bucket of balls. Herb built my clubs with frequency-matched Rifle shafts, adding 1-1/2″ to each, then dialed in the loft and lie to match my upright stance (think Jim Furyk without the crazy loop at the top of the backswing). Then he taught me the proper way to use those clubs. I devoted quite a bit of time, money and effort into golf, and I got good. Shooting par at my favorite courses became fairly regular. I was deadly with my short irons, decent with my mid- and long irons, and could stripe a drive down the center of the fairway 310 yards out (my longest, with a tailwind, was 340-ish). My first eagle was on a 540 yard par five. Driver 310, 5-wood to the back of the green, and I drained a 40′ putt.

Well, I expected all of that would end when I hung up the clubs. I figured my natural draw that I’d worked so hard to develop, would go away, and I knew I’d lose a lot of distance should I ever pick the sport up again.

I tried a few years ago, but that was short-lived as the pain of not being able to go with my dad was still too great. I figured that was about it for me and golf.

Our COO and VP of Operations recently asked me to start taking part in industry golf outings for the company. I’d also been pressured by a bowling buddy to hit a links or two with him… so golfing, all of a sudden, was back in the picture and I had to figure out how to make peace with not being able to golf with my dad anymore.

That’s when I started looking into customizing his set of clubs to fit me… and they turned out wonderfully. I started swinging the day after I got them back (it’s always good to let the glue set up an extra day on new grips)… and have been astonished to find I didn’t lose much at all. I’m eight years older and have only swung the clubs three times in the last eight years… and golf is absolutely a perishable skill. I should be horrible but I’m absolutely striping the ball. Sure, I have to work on my aim a little bit (that’s clearly a bit off), but I’ve got a nice little draw on the ball and it’s going far.

So, when I saw my wife was going to get home late for work and the rain had cleared up, I decided to head over to the range to hit a bucket last evening. I did my normal progression through the clubs – short irons first, SW or PW, then odd numbered irons up to the 5, then a 7-wood, 5-wood and finally, the driver. I’m carrying about 225 to 235 with range balls (about 240 to 255 with a decent ball) on the driver, and my fairway metals are looking fair (I need some work there). The big deal, though, is my irons. I mishit one pitching wedge yesterday and thinned two 5-irons. Other than that, while my aim needs improvement, the rest of my iron shots were solid.

In fact, I can’t remember ever hitting my old irons that well. Which means those Big Bertha irons you see up there are almost as forgiving as Jesus.

Whatever the case, the important thing is I’ve made my peace with my dad’s passing by getting his old clubs fitted and using them. I can’t help but feel he’s up there looking down with a smile on his face.

And that’s as good as it gets.

The First Proper Ride of 2022, and It was a Doozy!

So, as I’ve made painfully clear over the last couple of months, this spring has been terrible in terms of weather. Normally, I’ll have somewhere between 600 and 1,000 miles for the month. I’m sitting on a paltry 375 with barely a week left in the month. Preposterous. It’s been so bad, even the usual guys who ride in the worst weather are straight-up depressed and have refused to ride in the crazy crap we’ve had.

All of that changed yesterday.

I had to schedule the ride a little later than normal to a) give it a chance to warm up and b) give it a chance to dry out. The weather report showed rain ending at 4 or 5am so I set the wheels roll time at 9. We picked up a few worms on our frames, but this turned out to be the right time. It was sunny, 50, and the temp was on the rise with a decent southerly wind. We rolled out a couple of minutes after 9 with a group of six.

We picked a route that was favorable for the wind but that meant eating a lot in the first 30 miles. That meant favorable conditions on the ride home, though. We picked an alternate route to split up some of the considerable headwind. It was bad enough even guys who never ride in the drops were down as low as possible to gain every possible advantage. It was bad enough McMike, once we got to the first stop of the day, asked how much headwind was left.

We struggled on, battling the wind for 28-miles before hitting our first substantial tailwind stretch that lasted for ten glorious miles. We simply flew down the road – five excellently matched veteran cyclists in a glorious single-file pace-line flying down the road north of 25-mph as the sun beat down on us. Battling the headwind was made worth it in that 10-mile stretch. We rotated flawlessly, as though we’d had half the season in our legs, guarding each other from the crosswinds, and pointing out the winter’s potholes… it was perfect.

And our average pace started ticking up with the help.

This was my longest ride of the year, by a lot – fifteen miles – and I was wondering if I would bonk spectacularly. There were a few times, trying to hide in crosswinds, that I questioned how much longer I’d be able to hang on… but the blowup never materialized. I just kept right at it, taking my lumps up front, then falling back for a rest.

With less than six miles left, we turned north and put the hammer down. We passed 19.6-mph for an average (31.5 km/h). We turned right with a crosswind and I expected the pace to slow a little… and it did till McMike got up front for the last mile and decided to stretch it out. The pace went from a calm 20-mph to 23. Jay, who’d just taken the last two miles, tapped out and slipped off the back. I was bound and determined to stay with Mike, though. 19.7-mph average. As we turned the corner for my driveway, I let off the gas and said my goodbyes. Chuck and McMike headed for their respective homes and Jay pulled up 30 seconds after I hit the driveway.

My average pace had dropped to 19.6 in that last couple of tenths, but I didn’t care. I was good and done.

But not quite done enough. After cleaning up and some lunch, I went over to the school tennis courts to hit with my daughter. And that was a bad idea. Mid-season I can pull that off, a long ride followed by some tennis with my kid(s). This early in the season, with nowhere near enough miles on my legs, not so much.

I woke up feeling like I was 70 (or my approximation of what 70 might feel like). Thankfully, it’ll be Sunday Funday on the tandem today, followed by hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range if the rain holds off, then bowling this evening.

As they say, “I’ll rest when I’m dead”. Then I add, so long as not resting doesn’t put me in the grave sooner. I’ll rest enough it doesn’t come to that.

Note to Self: Don’t Wait for the Proper Message to Be Perfectly Phrased to Be Willing To Change

I am a fan of Jordan Peterson, also of Richard Grannon. My wife can take a few minutes of Jordan, but as soon as he ham-handedly gets to a point she doesn’t like, she’s out. I understand where she’s coming from, but I’m not so afflicted. For instance, some people can’t accept the notion they’re “stupidly” bumbling about their relationships without keying in on the word “stupid” and shutting it down before getting to the good stuff in the message. I’ve always had good motives for how I’ve gone about things in our marriage, but there are some things I could have done a lot better…

Anyway, to the point. There are things Jordan Peterson says that I have to let pass under the bridge to get to the important points. For instance, he said in one of his lectures, paraphrasing, that here you are going about your life and your wife complains in good faith to you about something and you take offense to it. Here’s a person who is trying to help you get through the marriage less stupidly and you’re getting mad about her trying to help…

So, there’s a lot of stupid in there, right? That can be hard to take, but I see something more.

But the main point was life changing for me; my wife, while she may do so ham-handedly and clumsily, may actually have the best interest of the marriage at heart even if she tends to bring a bazooka to the party. What if I were to not accept the “attack” part of the negotiation but work with the deeper point my wife is trying to get at? What if I were actually able to articulate that? What if I, by rephrasing my wife’s point, by pointing out but discarding the anger, and looked at it as though my wife were trying to help me be a better husband? Why, that would completely change how we fight. Better, what if I stopped attacking my wife and instead tried to help her with a good-faith negotiation rather than the pulling out the battering ram and taking it to DEFCON 3 in all of an instant?

Another point Peterson made the same way was that we shouldn’t fight to win or to dominate our spouse, we should rather negotiate for peace so we can both win. If we fight to win, we may take the battle but we’ve just beaten our spouse who likely won’t take the defeat well and will likely think about how they can get even down the road. Worse, what if we’ve really verbally beaten our spouse in the process, I mean really taken them down and dominated them? How is that winning? The reality is, fighting like that is a really bad idea. It sure as hell isn’t love.

How much better would my marriage be if I learned to negotiate for peace instead of fight to win? If I’d have shut the video down for something I didn’t agree with, I’d have likely missed that.

Worse, being too picky about the messenger can also be a copout so we don’t have to look at ourselves seriously, and can instead continue to play the oppressed victim. Let that one percolate for a minute or two.

Friends, this is an exciting time for me – and the best part is it was completely unexpected.

Spring Has Finally Sprung! Well, At Least For A Minute. The Age Old Conundrum; 5200 or Venge?

Spring in Michigan is, to put it mildly, unpredictable. If you look at Tennessee or Kentucky, around late February things start to change. The temps bump up and they go through an unpredictable few weeks. By the time April rolls around, they’re comfortably in the 60s, 70 and even 80s.

In Michigan, it’s a veritable craps-shoot till May. It’ll be in the 50s one day, snowing the next, 70s two days later… and then there’s the rain. Oh, the rain! But there are good sides to that unpredictability as well. Yesterday had been shown as a rain-out all week long. The day before, just like magic, the first half of the day would be cold and rainy, but then, miracle of miracles, the wind would pick up and blow the clouds out and usher in the warmth from the south. The afternoon was glorious. Just below room temperature and sunny. Sadly, the wind wasn’t going to die – but you can’t win ’em all in April in Michigan. Originally I set up the Venge to roll. With that kind of beautiful weather, it’s almost a no-brainer. But something unknown pulled me to the 5200. I still can’t explain it, but I put the Venge back in its spot and readied the Trek.

Chuck and I rolled out earlier than normal. He picked me up at my place so the first mile was easy. Then we turned into the headwind and I immediately started laughing. 15-mph into a 20-mph headwind… do the math, it was ugly. North and south were easy and, eventually, east was going to be awesome, but there’s a lot of west in that first half of the loop. We had our first, brief, taste of tailwind in a little subdivision we hit to add an extra mile to the ride but it was really too short to wind it up.

We feasted on a steady diet of headwind and crosswind at the north/south sections but had a nice half-mile long stretch through West Hill road where 25-mph was easy. 28 took a little bit of effort.

After our now standard three loops through the two-mile loop subdivision, it was all fun all the way home. Heading through town we were keeping up with traffic at 30-mph, topping out at 33.3-mph (54-ish km/h) before heading south for home.

Even though it was a windy ride, being in the warmth and sunshine was a breath of fresh air. As is normally the case after a wonderful ride, I went to sleep last night with a smile on my face.

Finally! A (Kinda) Break in the Weather, and a (Kinda) Wonderful Afternoon on the Venge.

It was a gloriously sunny day, all day long. I mean beautiful. I’d been tearing down mental walls all day long as a part of the self-improvement kick I’ve been on and I was an emotional wreck. By the end of the afternoon I didn’t have anything left of the protection I’d built up without knowing I had. I had the thought, perhaps taking up this endeavor solo wasn’t such a good idea, but then I had a bit of a heart-to-heart with God and I decided to go for it. I called my wife and asked her to meet me for a chat and laid it all out. I held nothing back, and it was good.

My wife headed to our daughter’s tennis match and I went into the house to ready the Venge to meet Chuck.

By the time I walked out of the house, the temp had dropped about five degrees, the clouds had rolled in and it was almost looking like rain. What a difference 20 minutes makes.

Chuck was already at my driveway so I ran a couple of things in the house and we rolled out. We certainly weren’t burning any matches, even with a tailwind. We just settled in and cruised. Even though the weather had turned ugly, I found my peace in finally being outside with my riding buddy again.

We did our normal loop, then fought the headwind over to the tennis courts where we picked up the last of my daughter’s meet. I kissed my wife after my daughter’s match ended and Chuck and I rolled the long way home. Again, we weren’t killing it by any measure.

We pulled into my driveway about two seconds before it started spitting rain at us… and Chuck still had two miles to get home. Thankfully, the little bit of rain we got sputtered out quickly. It was never enough to even get the pavement wet.

And today is supposed to be ten degrees warmer and sunny when I get home. Thank GOD!!!

My Break From Back Pain Ending is Directly Related to a Lack of Cycling

I haven’t bothered riding much lately. The weather sucks and I’ve been into other things that have kept me happy and busy. First, I’ve been doing a lot of mental work that needed to be done – something to better myself. I’ve started this new thing called “centering prayer” at the suggestion of a buddy of mine who happens to be one of the best abuse counselors in the area. First, if you’ve never sat alone with your thoughts and just let them happen, Jesus is it interesting, but a little spooky. The first week was downright disconcerting. A lot of the things I legitimately blamed on my wife started with flaws of my own (a passage in the Big Book of AA comes to mind – something about “we invariably found that at some point in the past we made decisions based on self that later placed us in a position to be hurt”). F***. It’s been emotionally draining but in a really good way. I’ve learned more about myself in the last month than I had in the last ten years. The important aspect here is not what is “good” or “bad” about what I’ve learned, but what I can change. It’s good work, too, though mentally difficult. Opening my eyes to where I’ve been falling short has been a massive exercise of a different sort.

I’ve begun my return to golfing but that’s relied a lot on the weather as well. Also, my mother-in-law is staying with us while her husband, my wife’s stepdad, is recovering at a local senior home from back surgery. This has meant the trainer bikes are out in the garage (there’s only room for my wife’s Alias and my Venge in the house)… so we would have to traipse all the way out to the garage to get our bikes to hook them up to the trainer, then ride, then shower, then take the bikes back outside… let’s just say that’s a little more than my motivation and discipline can handle at the moment.

On the other hand, the weather is finally making a turn for the better starting today. And now we won’t have to battle the cold… but the rain. Sheesh. We’ll be dodging raindrops tomorrow and Friday.

Anyway, getting back to the issue at hand. As I’ve been taking time away from cycling my back has slowly degraded to the point I actually had to take an AdviNol for the pain last night. It’s been a long time since I had to go there – and I knew immediately what the problem was; I need to get my butt back on that bike to loosen stuff up!

And so I shall.

Yet another lesson in fitness; if you think being fit hurts, try the couch for a while. Now that’s pain!