I woke up at 4am Friday morning and got right to work. I do this so I can justify an early ride Friday morning. Depending on how soon the sun comes up, wheels will roll between 7 and 8 am (this late in the season, it’s definitely 8). Jess and I rolled out on the gravel bikes as it was way too cold for road bikes, for about an hour-and-a-half.
We laughed and had a wonderful time of it.
Saturday, we woke to cold-induced fog. It was so damned cold out, it was foggy. The dew clung to us as we rolled. I worried about that inevitable moment where the water penetrates the clothing and allows the cold a direct path to our skin but it never came. We ended up having quite the enjoyable time of it, too. I’d ride with friends, then pop over and put my hand on the small of my wife’s back to have a connection to her. I didn’t use the connection to help her up hills till the end of the ride. We both glowed all day about how much fun that ride was. We had a blast together – and my wife came up with a perfect way of washing the incidental dirt off the bikes before we took them in the house. She took her water bottle and squirted it at the standing dirt, rinsing it away. I’d never thought to do that, or I figured that would make cleanup worse, but it was perfect. All we had to do was wipe the bikes down later.
Sunday was a little warmer and with no fog. It was still cold but I managed to take off my glove a few times to take some photos. There were only four of us
crazy awesome enough to brave the cold starting temperature, but we had a fantastic time cruising around the dirt roads. As has become quite common, I’ve been riding a lot with my hand on Jessica’s back, whether to add extra wattage on a hill, or to just ride so we’re connected for a few minutes. Jess loves it so much, she’s taken to riding with her hand on my back as well – and now I know why she likes it so much!
While I suppose we’ll have to be careful because there could be some people who would say there isn’t supposed to be any of that on a bike ride, I see it a little more simply; the world could use a little more love in it. Not less.
My wife and I had three bike dates over the weekend… and they were awesome. If there’s no place for it on a bike ride, well, I’ll take my lumps for it.
100% worth it.
I didn’t want to risk frostbite to take a photo on our gravel ride yesterday, so… no photos. It was below freezing when we rolled out yesterday morning. And foggy. So, wet. Moist. It was one of those, “God, I hope I make it home without freezing to death, ’cause if I touch any part of my body and this water works through my clothing, I’m done in ten minutes” kinda rides.
It was, however, without much fuss whatsoever. It actually ended up being pretty nice. You know, once the fog lifted and we weren’t worried about being run down – even on dirt roads.
In the end, we were passed, in something like 26 miles, by exactly one vehicle. Say what I want about hating dirt because of all of the cleanup involved with the bikes, I do love the lack of traffic.
My wife and I have come up with a way of riding single bikes that’s almost as cool as date time on the tandem and I’m working on a new post about that. It’s rare to have the good fortune of having a wife who loves cycling as much as mine does and who can keep up with the fast crowd when she wants and I want to pass on my good fortune, because if I had a Dollar for every time I heard “I can’t ride with my wife. She’s too slow”, I’d be retired on a beach in Florida with my sister-in-law managing the fortune.
Anyway, we had a blast riding the dirt and got back in enough time we could take a nap before cleaning up a corner of the garage, grinding down 90% of the leaves in the yard (while my wife winterized our flower beds), re-ordering all of the golf clubs in the garage, taking out our in-window air conditioning unit for the winter… then going out on a date.
And today we get to do it all over again! Good times and noodle salad. Thanks God.
If you check out the self-help gurus on YouTube, most of them will tell you nice guys finish last because women can sense a lack of confidence in that niceness and will literally run the other way.
This isn’t untrue, but I think the notion is couched in misunderstanding.
My wife will be the first to tell you this nice guy will finish first. Allow me to explain.
My wife had what the self-help gurus say women want. I’m handsome but not too pretty, I’m capable, and I thought I treated her very well. I had complete faith that I was a good enough husband that, should my wife choose to cheat on me, she’d have to live alone with the choice because I’d be gone and it would be on her.
Well, I’d say I was above average, for certain, but there was a lot of room for improvement. I was cold, a little mean, a bit of a bore, a little angry, and not attentive to my wife’s needs. She got what I was willing to give her, but there’s a big difference between that and what she wanted or needed.
Then, earlier in the spring, I had my eyes opened to who I really was. I had a massive change of heart and my behavior toward my wife, kids, and even random people, began changing. It’s been a steady diet of progress, and I am unmistakably a nice guy. So much so, I actually started seeking advice on how to toughen up a little bit out of fear I’d run my wife out the door because I was either too suffocating or I gave her the impression I’d put up with anything. This is a flaw in me, folks. They happen.
Anyway, rather than just go about changing things, including how I treat and interact with my wife, I decided I’d talk to her first. Imagine that.
I brought it up, almost exactly how it was written in the previous (second to previous) paragraph. Matter of fact and to the point, though I tried to be careful.
My wife responded that there was a time where I was a little suffocating in this journey but I’d corrected much of that and what was left, the “nice guy”, was what she’d been looking for and there was no chance she’d run the other way from the new me.
I think, maybe, where this gets a little tricky for we men is that we’re less dimensional than women and while we have to dance a certain way in courtship, it doesn’t necessarily work that way once the ring is on the finger. Maybe it’s just that my wife was used to me one way for so long, this approach to me is such a vast improvement over such a short time that it’s exciting and fantastic and wonderful for her. Anyway, if anything, I’ve gotten vastly nicer and my wife has said in no uncertain terms (which is rare for the fairer sex), “Don’t change a thing, buddy. You’re doing great.”
I’m choosing to take her at her word. More later.
Golf and I have a long history. Some of it is glorious, some sad, and some just plain good. I started playing when I was seven or so and busted a neighbor’s window before I was ten. I really got into the game in my late teens and early 20s when I was doing all kinds of contortions to the club to get the face square at impact on my woods.
In my late 20s, for my career, I started taking lessons seriously. I learned how to play a course from the reds to the golds, the whites, blues and tips. I practiced my short game religiously and was hitting full pitching wedges in my backyard with regularity. I had a club in my hand six days a week and I got good.
As a little backstory, my dad was a highly sought after catcher in high school. He was heavily recruited and was told he had a clear path to the bigs… if he quit smoking. He wouldn’t, so his coach benched him and that was the end of his baseball career before it even started. My dad missed a ride to college and a chance at Major League Baseball because of “don’t tell me what to do”. This is the story of my life. My dad picked up golf and turned me on to the sport in my late childhood years. He passed his love of the sport on to me.
As I grew in my career, I was able to take off from work early on Fridays and take him out golfing. We hit the links together every week, all spring, summer and fall long, for years. His drinking-addled Alzheimer’s eventually made this weekly fun time impossible and I had to stop taking my dad out. It broke my heart. After he passed away in 2014, I went on a trip with a salesman I’d worked with for something like 17 years. It was a massively expensive trip, room included, to Treetops in the upper lower peninsula of Michigan. They have the most famous par-three course in the world on the resort. We played that and the two best eighteen hole standard courses on the property. And, as fun as it was, it broke my heart knowing I’d never walk a course with my dad again. It crushed my spirit and I put my clubs up in the garage. I thought, for good.
Until my eldest daughter asked me to teach her to play.
No way I was turning that down. I just picked it up again this year after an eight-year hiatus and I picked up almost exactly where I left off. I had my dad’s old set of irons extended to fit me (I’m about four inches taller than he was) and re-gripped. I used my old driver and his fairway metals to round out my set. I took my kid out to the range a few times and started hitting courses again, sparsely, with recovery friends.
Last weekend, down in Tennessee with my father-in-law, we hit the course he lives on for a couple of nine-hole rounds. I was crushing the ball. Not quite the 300+ yard drives of my younger days, but they were straight. And my irons were quite deadly.
I entered my scores into Swing U and when I checked my progress after that first day, it showed a six handicap.
Anything single-digit is quite outstanding, but when you’ve only played a few times in eight years, seeing a six staring back at me was vastly better than I’d dreamed possible.
I’ve not quite fully caught the golf bug, I have no plans to go back to how I used to play, but I’m back to having fun again. And now that I can hit the links with my father-in-law, I’m still golfing with a dad. And that’s good times and noodle salad.
How often does the average man talk with another man about intimate issues? Now, to be clear, I’m not necessarily talking about sex here. We’re not talking about bro-ing down over a few beers, either. In case you missed it, I don’t do the “beers” thing. This is more of a “How things are REALLY going” type of intimacy.
My wife, not knowing how much I talk to friends about intimate topics, presented me with a YouTube clip of Trevor Noah (not my favorite propaganda sensationalist) explaining, and often confusing, two different ways in which men seek out intimacy. Now, he starts out riffing about “a right to sex”, whatever that is. I tend to agree with Jordan Peterson’s approach that would look something like, “if a man cleans himself up into something presentable, he won’t have to worry about a right to sex, he’ll have all he wants”. The personal responsibility approach is where it’s at. Next, however, Noah wonders allowed if men really don’t want sex, as much as they do intimacy… and that’s where it gets messy before he takes it home to arrive somewhere good, decent and worthwhile. I’ll get there sooner.
In one example, he uses that guy who pays a prostitute to simply talk with him or to just hold him. This request stems from a lack of intimacy with a partner. Personally, I’ve never thought to pay a prostitute or a stripper to just talk with me or hold me when my wife was going through her “I’m going to withhold my love from you to punish you” phases – and they’d last weeks. I see that as a form of cheating, so I never went there. That form of intimacy can only come from my spouse… and today I would say that if I’m not getting that from my wife, there might be something I need to clean up so she’s willing to talk with me and hold me more. If I think I’m cleaned up enough for that, it’s time for a peaceful, quiet negotiation with a goal of more intimacy, holding and talking.
That might turn into a fight, though it would be a worthwhile fight to have before one turns to cheating or ends up with a conversation that concludes with “the marriage is over”. Now, if one doesn’t have a spouse or female companion from which to derive such pleasure, one should first go about cleaning oneself up enough to attract one. If, whilst in the process, one wishes for some of the good stuff, by all means, pay away. The important point here is the personal responsibility of this.
Then there’s a second kind of intimacy. The between two men intimacy. How often, and with how many other guys do I talk about intimate subjects? Well, up until about eight months ago, my wife had a point. I’d have to go back several years before I talked regularly with anyone other than my wife about intimate subjects. Since, I talk with many of my friends because I want to share with them something that made my life profoundly better. Immensely better. First, my sponsor, Pete. A few guys at bowling. My old sponsors (two of them), my old pre-marriage housemate, and about a half-dozen guys at meetings… in fact, one just last night… and my wife’s dad.
This is what my wife thought I might be missing the other night. She thought it would make a few things in me make sense if I was missing that form of intimacy. She was just trying to look out for me and bring up her own flaw of withholding her love and that closeness out of fear so she could get over and put an end to that.
It was a very tense conversation at first, but it was one of the more healing discussions we’ve had in our marriage. And, truth be told, that led to a massive breakthrough just this morning that will have to be for another day, after I’ve unpacked it and fully vetted the subject with Pete and my wife before a post can see the light of day.
Still, even though Trevor mucked the subject up something fierce, if it wasn’t for my wife and and that clip, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get to where I am just a short couple of days later.
The point is, I think he’s got a point. I’d embraced it long before I ever knew he had it… and while it may be more than the “guy hug with a double side pat”, it isn’t curling up with another dude and saying “hold me”, either. (3:16 in the clip). That just isn’t going to happen.
Maybe we can aim for something in the middle.
Jess and I were in shorts and short-sleeves yesterday afternoon/evening when we rolled out on the tandem. We talked about heading up to Lennon for the Tuesday night ride, but chose instead to ride just the two of us so we could hang out and talk. It was also appealing that we’d be home early to get dinner ready rather than pay an arm and a leg’s fee at a fast food joint for dinner. We’d had an intense discussion the evening prior and I think my wife wanted to be able to cruise… well, for the most part (I’ll get to that in a minute).
We headed for our old weekday haunt, the Jimmer Loop as it’s been named. The once-worst road in our county was repaved last week and our route is now a complete joy… because the second-worst road in our county was repaved earlier this summer as well. We only have about a quarter-mile of choppy pavement on the entire 20-mile route.
Unlike the evening before, we didn’t talk about anything heady; we’d worked it all out before we fell asleep, something that we’ve become quite good at and fond of.
Last evening’s ride was, as my wife put it, a fantastic date on a bike. We talked and laughed, we went for (and acquired) a QOM for my wife (we’re now tied for second on the segment), then we took it easy for a bit before putting some leg into the pedals, then we eased up and talked some more. All the while my wife would reach up and pat me on the hip and I’d reach back and squeeze her hand.
Friends, they like to say that, in relationships, nice guys finish last. I think they’re talking about dating because my wife disagrees vehemently… and I’ll stick with her on that. And, well, anywhere else. I’ll get into this more in a future post.
As for last night, we let summer slip away with a wonderful evening together.
Ah, Back on the Tandem Again! Early Fall Shows Up for a Minute… and One of Those Tense Tandem Talks.
I almost thought, for a minute, Jess wouldn’t make it home early enough that we could ride, so I prepped the gravel bike and started to roll a little before 5:00 pm. Rather than risk missing her, I shot her a quick text once I hit dirt (about 0.2 of a mile) that I was going to roll on my gravel bike. She texted back, almost immediately, that she was on her way. I turned around and texted her I’d wait and headed back for home. I pulled into the driveway and headed inside to prep her gravel bike and the tandem… obviously hoping for the tandem.
Jess got home in plenty of time for a short spin so we could warm up our legs after having not ridden since Tuesday.
We rolled out to shorts and short-sleeve weather, on the tandem, and it was glorious. We had less than an hour of light left, so we were quite limited for distance, but Jess had a big topic for discussion… that began with taking my inventory. For those not in the know or who are unfamiliar with Twelve-Step lingo, your wife says there’s something she’d like to talk to you about. She stares lovingly into your eyes and says, “You know what’s wrong with you?”… and proceeds to tell you, a large portion of the narrative is her own false evidence appearing real.
Let’s just say the protective emotional walls shot up instantly and I made a complete mess of a very difficult but necessary conversation. My wife didn’t help with delivery, either (though, in hindsight, she was probably petrified to even bring the topic up, so fear was a factor).
As it turned out, I jumped to a lot of conclusions and tried to shut the onslaught down by correcting the narrative she’d come up with. By the time we were halfway through our ride we were both attacking each other. If I’d held my tongue, rather than lashing out, I’d have gotten to the part where my wife took responsibility for her side. I think she just wanted make sure I knew what my side was so she could safely get to her side.
I literally prayed for help with the conversation while we were riding (and I’m sure Jess did, too).
Then, when the questions came, I started asking them. “What was the goal of this conversation?” “What did you hope to achieve?” “How do you see this conversation benefiting our marriage?”
Jess answered and that’s about when I saw the error of my Olympic-best conclusion jumping. It wasn’t at all what I thought was coming down the pike. She really was just trying to help the marriage, especially with acknowledging her side of things, her delivery simply needed work. When I really looked at my part, she took a really big risk in opening up and I reacted how you’d expect someone to react to an attack, but I filled in a lot of blanks with my own “false evidence (that) appeared real”.
At that point it was time to eat some humble pie… and that’s a dish best served warm. And ate it I did.
We paused just before we were done to have some dinner with our daughter. We were both pretty close to “okay” before we ate and picked up where we left off when our daughter headed for the shower, then to do her homework. It was a short talk and we had things sorted to a point where we were both good.
A long massage for my wife who was still suffering from her dad’s spare bed, and we were ready for an episode of Castle and sleep. I woke up once, but slept straight till the alarm. I meditated on everything this morning, the first two minutes centering on how I could have better jousted with Jess in the beginning of the conversation. This is toxic, and I knew it. I discarded that line of thought and concentrated on the solutions we’d talked about and on my part in the debacle.
This is where marital good happens and I’ll stay on that. The rest has a place in the garbage pail in my head.
I’ll have more to write about this later in the week because it was a very interesting topic…
My wife and I took our youngest daughter and her boyfriend to visit with my wife’s father and stepmom in Tennessee over the weekend. No bikes were taken, but I did take my golf clubs for a few short rounds with my father-in-law and we all brought our hiking shoes.
Tennessee is a fantastic state and “awesome” is a great word to describe our long weekend. I found out, with the help of “Swing U”, a golf GPS app, that I’m a 6 handicap, something my dad would have been immensely proud of. The hikes we went on were fantastic and we spent a lot of time with the kids and grandparents, but also taking a lot of photos of us.
Jess and I are healing and learning how to negotiate peace in our marriage – a process that isn’t always pretty. Fairly stated, I can be a pain in the butt and a little on the demanding side, but I’m making steady progress and I’m a vastly happier man – and I believe my wife would agree. Jess has her issues, of course, but the more I focus on them, the more difficult it is for me to focus on mine. This has become an intricate balancing act but I like to think I’m getting better at it – and we’re definitely better at talking things through without attacking each other so issues devolve into fights.
I feel safe in writing that we’re both vastly happier and our marriage is a much friendlier place.
The plan over the next couple of days will involve some cycling, thank goodness. The temps are supposed to hold until Wednesday morning so we’re planning on taking advantage of them while we can. I’ll put in a few miles this afternoon, hopefully with my wife on the tandem if she can get her office work done, but on the Trek if necessary. Then, the Tuesday night club ride tomorrow evening and we’re planning on taking the tandem.
Without question, this was the most enjoyable summer I’ve spent since long before I began writing this blog or turning a crank on a bicycle. My wife and I made our marriage a wonderful place to live starting in the early spring. We rode our tandem every chance we got and both learned to love the journey together. I decided at some point early in the season that I was going to let the old, aggressive cyclist in me that had to be fast all the time, die. I also stopped worrying so much about getting every mile I could in. Life has had its ups and downs, but was vastly more enjoyable than I could have hoped for when we started this wonderful experiment in early March.
My wife started a job, her first in a little more than two decades, and that brought with it a lot of change that I wasn’t prepared for. We had a lot of tense negotiations, but resentment and hurt feelings lost out in the process. I can tell you, that’s been a learning experience. Negotiations is the proper word, too. We learned how to stop fighting and doing damage to our marriage and chose to negotiate for true, meaningful peace in the marriage. Something profound that struck me was “you don’t do what’s right for you in a marriage, you do what’s right for the marriage“. Neither one of us thought like that much before. Now, it’s a main theme.
All the while, we almost ceased riding single bikes. Our tandem got the lion’s share of the miles, and it was good. We did the Sunrise Tour in Alpena together, and I suppose that was a huge win for the two of us. We spent a lot of time volunteering on the front end of that ride, but we also had a marvelous time on the tandem. It was our first tour on that bike. I’ll never forget that weekend. We worked together like we never had before – so well, we’ve been asked to come back and handle the registration on that and a few other tours.
We went on a cruise in July and really took to trying to hang with the A-Group on Tuesday nights. We didn’t make it far the first week, but we did much better each week after until we hit our personal best of 22.5-mph for the 29-mile loop.
On the fitness side, we could both use to run into a salad a little more often… okay, a lot more often, but we’ll get to that over the winter.
The main theme for the year was Jess and I falling in love again. On and off our tandem. Good times and noodle salad. Thanks, God. We needed it.
I’ve gotten a little fat and happy over the last several years and I was more than a little nervous about slamming the stem and flipping a 10 degree stem in addition, but I look my bike, as in the photo above, and I just can’t help but think, “That’s one beautiful bike!”
If you haven’t noticed, I love taking photos of my bike propped against “No Bikes Allowed” or “No Parking at Any Time” signs.
Before I get into this too deeply, the very definition of the anatomy of a super cool race bike begins with “It’s one you can ride”. We start there, because if I’d have put myself in an uncomfortable position, on any of my bikes, to the extent I can’t ride one efficiently, well that’d just be silly.
Beyond that, let’s get into the low-hanging fruit first: my saddle bag, or posterior man-satchel as they’re sometimes referred to. A saddle bag is “technically” against the rules, but we break the rules when it is necessary. When riding a 40-mile club ride with our buddies, we can stuff our spare tire kit in our back pocket. When you’re on a 400-mile multi-day tour, carrying all of that crap in your back pocket sucks – especially when you need space to store arm warmers and food because you’re riding a hundred miles a day with your buddies and the temperature will jump by as much as 30 degrees (F)… and you don’t have a damned team car to take your cool weather gear so that stuff has to be stowed in a pocket.
Next, we’ll go for that rearward facing blinkie. Not exactly de rigueur, but I like to be seen and the Garmin Varia is the best light on the market for that. Not only because we’ve had police drive up to us and compliment us on our choice of rear blinkie, but because it doubles as a radar.
So, complain if you will. I can take it. On both counts.
Next up, I’m going to ask you to disregard the poor staging of my Venge in the photos above. I know how to take a proper photo of a bicycle, I just enjoy the randomness of simply propping a bike up on a sign in a casual manner, rather than messing around with staging it to make sure the perfect length Presta valve stems are at 6:00 and the cranks are parallel to the ground or in line with the chainstays (whichever you prefer, but the latter obviously looks better – see below).
That said, let’s get down to the details of what makes a super-cool road bike super-cool!
- No rust
- No crud
- No dirt
- Excellent working order
- Shimano 105 or better groupset, or the Campagnolo or SRAM equivalent – and for those not in the know, matching a groupset is preferable (even between SRAM and Shimano which should work across lines up to 11-speed).
- Decent wheelset (carbon fiber isn’t necessary, but it doesn’t hurt)
- A modern threadless stem (with a carbon fiber fork) should have one 5mm spacer below and one above the stem (this is to ensure the carbon fiber isn’t crushed by tightening a stem to the fork)
- Stem should either follow the top tube or be as close to parallel as possible while still allowing for comfortable cycling (see above and below)
- Comfortable saddle with level one or two padding (carbon fiber is preferable, but not a requirement – it is a good way to save an easy quarter of a pound)
- Pedals should match secondary color of the bike, if at all possible (if not, black is the standard). Keep in mind, too much of the secondary color can get to “gaudy” in a hurry! Proceed with caution.
- Hoods, if tolerable and allowing for proper wrist alignment, should be parallel to the ground, but preferably have a 5 degree rise to allow for the aforementioned proper wrist alignment (see below)
- Black bar tape is standard, though colors can and should be incorporated where sensible and prudent without being gaudy.
- A decal or two can make a wonderful addition, as can be seen below; an A100 sticker on the seat tube just below the top tube and a Punisher skull on the downtube to remind one of their badassery when their tongue is dangling in close proximity to it because the ride is so damned fast, are perfect examples (see below):
Above, and also: A perfect representation of the 5 degree rise of a shifter lever hood on my Trek 5200.
And so there you have it, a super-cool bike and a bonus super-cool classic…
Ride hard, and your approximation of fast, my friends.