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This Love Story Has a Happy Beginning AND Ending on a Tandem…

“A tandem bicycle is a marriage maker… or a marriage breaker”. Doc Mike – 2017

My wife and I have been through some struggles in our marriage. I haven’t written about many of them here until after we found solutions. I don’t do whining and complaining. We have found a solution to our problems, though. We’ve found a way to love each other so thoroughly and completely that my heart actually skips a beat when I see her. It’s a beautiful thing.

We started riding the tandem more regularly during the pandemic. Why not?! Technically, even though our police would never have enforced it (we asked, the official answer was “no way in hell”, we later tested that answer and it held), we were only supposed to ride with members of our immediate family. Well, why not on the tandem?

We learned to ride that bike together – one of the rare, pure instances where we had to learn to work as a team in our marriage. We tried the other way. Or, maybe I should say I tried the other way and my wife let me bash my head against that rock. I used to pedal through my wife something fierce. If she was laying down 100 watts, I was pushing 300. I’d, predictably, run out of gas after about 25 miles and would become agitated. I’d get snippy with my wife and she’d just sit back there doing her thing and let me struggle.

Then, we started communicating. I mean really talking about stuff when we began “Sunday Fundays”. Sunday Funday became a way of saying, “Hey, we’re going to take it easy and shoot for an average pace between 17 & 18-mph” and it was awesome. At that pace, I could relax a little bit and go with the flow. I learned to stop pedaling through my wife and to work with her. She helped a ton on the hills and we cemented ourselves as a tandem couple over the last four months of this year (2022). We developed a way of communicating on the bike that made riding enjoyable for both of us. It’s been so good, we actually choose the tandem over the single bikes on other days of the week. We’ve even had the tandem out on Tuesday night.

We’ve become so much a tandem couple, we decided to make a change with our bike as well. For our Silver Anniversary, we ordered a 2022 Co-Motion Kalapuya Tandem gravel bike with an extra set of Rolf Prima road wheels so we can instantly switch between road and gravel. It’s Co-Motion’s second to the top of the line; only the Macchiato is higher in their order – but the Macchiato is a pure road bike. We wanted something we could take anywhere. Our tandem will be custom fit and silver (for our anniversary), with black on black decals and our wedding date on the top tube. It’s going to have mechanical Ultegra shifting with top of the line disc brakes… and it’ll be my Venge lighter than our current tandem (for which we’ve already found a new home). It’s going to have a Gates synchronizing belt and a 50/34 double with an 11-40 cassette. In other words, that thing will climb like a goat.

We bought our Co-Motion Periscope as a family bike but now that my kids are grown and they don’t like riding… and as much as my wife and I ride tandem now, the new rig only made sense – and it’s the perfect 25th Anniversary gift for the two of us.

Unfortunately, this story isn’t without its sad side. Brent, buddy, I’m sorry, pal. No fat bikes this year. As I’m sure you can see, though, the new tandem is the best fit for us.

Oh, and ours will have a flat captain’s stem and will be a little more slammed at the front end… obviously.

Our Story of Us: Part One. Don’t Wait For Your Spouse to Change to Clean Your Side of the Marriage…

There was a movie in the late 90s with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer that was about the most realistic look at a struggling marriage as I’ve ever seen called The Story of Us. My wife and I went to see it and cried a lot, vowing never to be like that again – we could relate to it. A lot.

That vow lasted for quite some time, but eventually our marriage filled with resentment. As I look back honestly, there was a lot of “you hurt me so I feel justified in hurting you back” that went on between us and neither was willing to talk about it.

Our recovery-based marriage counselor passed away shortly after his wife who he loved massively. They were both too young and everybody who knew them agreed he died of a broken heart.

He told me in our first private session, just he and I, that most of our issues were in my wife’s court to fix and that they would work on those issues and things would get much better. My wife had to believe that the bulk of the issues were mine, though, or she would stop working on hers out of resentment. [ED For now, I’ll gloss over how detrimental that was to me… or maybe let’s just say that what I did with that knowledge was what was detrimental to my wife and I. Either way, don’t take the above paragraph as me blaming my wife… more will be revealed. I’ll get to this in a later post]

I agreed to work on my stuff and to keep my mouth shut about my wife’s.

And it worked. Things got WAY better for about six years and we were quite happy together.

At some point, maybe four years ago, we reverted back to the old us. “The Story of Us” us. We survived in the marriage but we both struggled to keep our side of the street clean – which pretty much meant the whole damned street was a mess. The funny thing is, I’d be willing to bet you my lunch that we both thought we were doing a fair job on our own part and was justified in treating the other poorly because the other was not taking care of their side of the street. I know I thought that about my wife. And I know for a fact she thought that way about me – she’s said as much.

And that’s where we were at three months ago, now, just pulling into 25 years together. I wouldn’t have left my wife, but there were a few times I thought we might be headed that way and I didn’t like it. In fact, it felt like the marriage could break at any given time so we wouldn’t talk about anything that would rock the apple cart until we had a blowout of an argument.

I made a deal with God when I started in recovery that, if He would help relieve my desire to drink, I would give recovery everything I had. I kid you not, the next day I woke up free. And I lived up to my end, too. I thought, “Well, God, if you’ll do that for me with recovery, how about our marriage? If you’ll open my eyes and help me, I’ll give loving my wife everything I’ve got. Please help us”. This is paraphrasing, but close enough…

The next day, on the way to work, I got to thinking about all of the time I spend in the car – my commute is 40-ish minutes each way… and it occurred to me that I waste a lot of that listening to the same old news and same old commercials, day in and day out. I thought about listening to podcasts, maybe, instead. Then I remembered Jordan Peterson had something like 1,400 hours worth of content on YouTube. Now that had some value, and maybe I could learn to win an argument against my wife once in a while. Folks, I was literally hoping to learn how to fight with my wife more effectively. That’ll tell you all you need to know about how messed up I was.

To my surprise, Jordan Peterson didn’t teach me how fight better. I learned how to fight less and negotiate for a mutually beneficial peace with my wife, instead. A few days later, the opportunity presented itself to try out my new tactics when I went on an across-state road trip to see a concert with my wife. We started to fight but when negotiations were done an hour-ish later of the two-hour drive, we had our best night out in years.

We literally started to fall back in love again after that night.

I listened to more lectures and clips on line and things progressively improved until I stumbled on Richard Grannon and one of his lectures about narcissism. The first five minutes were all about my wife. The next five were all about me – and I had no clue up until that moment that I exhibited those tendencies.

That’s when things really got rolling. I’d started working with a prominent recovery counselor, a local guy and friend. Our daughters were best friends and our families have spent Halloween and New Years Eve together every year for decades. I’d asked him for a psychologist’s name to work with be he asked if I’d trust him to help me. We started working on the relationship right away.

I was just on the cusp of discovering how deep down the rabbit hole cleaning my side of the street was going to go. I will assure you, it’s big.

And I’ll leave that for part two.

Is Rapha’s Kit Worth the Money? The Answer May Surprise You. It Did Me.

First, you can always tell when someone is wearing a piece of Rapha kit. Their jerseys always stick out because they always look perfect – and the thing that really surprises me about their jerseys is that they look better than any other manufacturer on those of us who need to put in more miles and eat a little less. And yes, I do lump, for lack of a better word, myself into that category.

I’ve had a little bit of a resentment at Rapha for the longest time, though. Their kit is expensive, prohibitively so; and I justify throwing a lot of money at cycling and its related clothing.

Recently, however, they had a sale and all of a sudden, friends who’d never worn Rapha kit started showing up in jerseys and bibs. I investigated and found a midweight jersey I liked on sale for $55 US (sadly, the sale is over). Again, as I lump myself in with the “not exactly at mid-season cycling weight”, I ordered a Large.

So, I’ve always said you can tell a good jersey by how it doesn’t feel. When I’m on the road in my Rapha jersey, it’s so comfortable it just goes away – especially on long rides.

The fact is the core jersey that I picked up is worth every penny of the full sticker price of $75.

If you’ve always wondered, “is Rapha worth the price tag?”

Yep. Shockingly, it is.

I’m tapping out on the American economy for a minute; I’ve had enough.

Gas is $5.19 a gallon in my neck of the woods. Even though I’ve got a gas sipper of an SUV (I get 35 mpg out of my Chevrolet Equinox), what used to cost $52 a week as a fuel bill now runs $130. I pay an extra car payment every month while I’m supposed to celebrate that our governor getting ride of the tampon tax… which works out to about $0.28 per month in our house. In the meantime, what used to cost $6 or $7 at Subway (sub shop), now is pushing $11.

When gas hit $4 an hour everyone in the office started working from home one day a week. I just took it to two yesterday. My gas bill will drop to $65 a week. Unfortunately for the economy, I’m done participating to the tune of a 40% drop until further notice.

Now here’s the scary part; I can afford to work all five days at the office. I can’t imagine how scary it must be for those who can’t work from home but also can’t afford to put gas in their vehicle.

Hang on to your butts, folks. This one is going to sting.

As for our political class, you reap what you sow, folks. If this is what you voted for, well, you got it.

Our Silver Anniversary; 25 Years of Effort and Hard Work Paved the Way for the Bliss…

My wife are celebrating 25-years of marriage this weekend when we will renew our vows. I won’t lie, and my wife wouldn’t, either, the first 25 weren’t easy. We’ve had it all. Sickness and health, times of plenty and want, but we stuck to our vows. We didn’t give up. The way we were walking into our 25th at the turn of the year, God only knows if, or how, we would stay together. Let’s say our prospects were tenuous but plausible.

A miracle happened a few months ago, though. Through a series of chance events, we were able to make profound, massive changes to how we treated one another. We chose to forgive each other and change our ways and in doing so, we more than righted the ship.

We learned to negotiate for peace instead of fighting to shut the other down. We learned that all of the emotional barriers we’d built up over the decades could be completely demolished (there were a lot). More important, we made it safe for each other to lay waste to them.

On my end, this all came about because I asked my Higher Power, I call that HP God to keep it simple, Creator works, too… to show me who I really was. That prayer was answered, but I like to say, “Yeah, God, I asked to have my eyes opened, but Jesus!” I was shocked at what I saw. The changes had already begun, but the massive shift occurred immediately after I saw who I really was, from the perspective of my wife. What I saw changed me to my core. Much like in recovery when we say, “once you’re a pickle, you never get to be a cucumber again”, God changed me to a point I don’t think I could go back to the old me, even if I wanted, and I most definitely don’t. That change was awesome.

Today, my wife and I are working on “inseparable” in the healthiest, most glorious, fantastic version of the word… and I promised my wife the next 25 will be much better than the first. I can tell you without question, loving my wife without barriers is most incredible.

I told my wife it’s akin to feeling like you want to do a Rick Flair, “WOOOH!”… all the time.

Good times, noodle salad. It’s as good as it gets.

What Happened to My Hair On Fire 23-mph Average Rides?!

Normally, this time of year we’re starting to break into the 22 to 23-mph average range on our Tuesday night rides in Lennon. I only have one or two rides over 20-mph so far this season. In fact, not only is my average pace way down, so are my miles. I only logged 635 miles for all of May (normally between 900 and 1,100). Now, in fairness, the weather sucked most of May but there’s more to it than that.

I don’t know how much longer I’m going to stay on the fast crew – or how much effort I’m going to give it to stay there.

So, I ran into a bit of a rude awakening a few months ago. I asked my Higher Power for a glimpse at who I really was and I got it. The shocking problem was, I didn’t much like what I saw. Let’s say I was above average as a husband and father but there was a lot of room for improvement. I made some immediate changes. Chief among them was to make immediate amends to my wife and to completely turn around how I participated in our marriage. It’s been an amazing three months, since.

I’ve got more miles on the tandem with my wife that either of my road bikes (probably combined). See, one of the biggest problems I stumbled on is that I was astonishingly selfish. The more I looked at it, the uglier it got. I liken it to Vince Vaughn’s character in, I think, Couple’s Retreat when he says to John Favreau’s character that nobody wants to go to Applebee’s by themselves:

Friends, I can show you a guy who’s got two thumbs and doesn’t want to go to Applebee’s by himself; this guy.

All of a sudden – and I mean that, all of a sudden – I realized that I’m in a rare position where my wife is an excellent stoker and we’re plenty fast enough on our tandem, and I f***ing love Applebee’s. There wasn’t enough love in our love story and that needed to be rectified immediately.

I’ve never had as much fun on two wheels. Or off.

My wife and I are happier than we’ve ever been and we’re just scratching the surface. For the last twelve years, if someone asked, “Do you want to be fast or happy”? I literally chose fast. I’m not slow by any stretch, but I don’t want to be that guy anymore. I like the new me a lot better. And so does my wife. Oh, and my daughters!

Good times, noodle salad. It’s as good as it gets.

Two-A-Days on the Bike Are Back Again! And My Wife was My First Kiss on a Ferris Wheel – WOOHOO!

We had a sparse turnout for Saturday’s ride – my wife and eldest daughter were on a trip to the salon and I was going to have to cut it short to get back so I could take my daughter to work. Just McMike, Chucker and me… but that’s a fairly potent group. We rolled out at 7:30 and took the pace up immediately. There were only a few passing clouds in the sky and barely a breeze. It was awesome – and we had all of the “headwind” in the first half of the ride.

It was a heck of a ride, too. McMike is a thin, but tall guy so he’s a little tough to draft off of in the width department, but he’s great in the height department, even if he’s still flexible enough in his 70s to ride as flat as a tour pro. When I started my Garmin, I had dawdled for a mile or so and began with a silly-low average but it ticked up in a hurry. I went from a 14-mph average to a 19.2 when I pulled into the gas station at the halfway point (well, halfway for me, not Chuck and Mike).

I never thought for a second I’d take it easy on the way back. I was on the proverbial gas straight out of the stop. I wanted a 20 average when I pulled in the driveway, but didn’t exactly have my hopes up. I’m still “feeling” a little fat and I haven’t exactly been hammering it this year.

But I flew. I was hitting 23 to 24-mph on the flats and held the pace as best as my fat ass could on the hills. It felt awesome to get the lead out.

My average started ticking up. 19.5 the first time I looked. 19.7, 19.8 with six miles to the driveway. I didn’t let up. Now I was thinking about burning up adrenaline. With stress at work because there’s a lot of it, there’s some extra… but thank God, my relationship with my wife has never been better, so there actually might be a subtractive factor in the case of adrenaline. My heart actually feels good… I wish I could explain it better, but it’s freaking outstanding. So I pushed it.

I pulled into the driveway with a 20.2 average but got Strava’d and dropped to a 20.1.

After cleaning up and some breakfast, I cut the grass and tended to some things around the house and went shopping for a couple of things for “date night” dinner. When my got home we took the tandem in to the shop to handle a tick that I just can’t locate. Driving me NUTS! Anyway, after that, I prepped some sweet potatoes and green beans for our dinner – I had our ribeye steaks marinating for hours.

My wife and I went out for another 11-3/4 easy miles before dinner and talked the whole time. I’ve been such an ass about pace for so long, she apologized for wanting to ride so slow. That hurts, because Jess worrying about not being fast enough is all because I’d been a jerk. I let her know I loved her and she was safe and that old me had been put in a cage somewhere where he belonged (paraphrasing).

After our most excellent ride, I cooked up a spectacular steak dinner and we had a fantastic time with our youngest; her plans had fallen through with her boyfriend so we put date night on hold to try to lift her spirits a little. And, with the carnival in town, offered to take her to get an elephant ear (for me) and fried oreos (for my wife and daughter). After we ate our treats, my daughter’s boyfriend showed up and they took off, so I asked my wife to ride the Ferris Wheel. As I’m typically petrified of heights, Ferris Wheels aren’t my thing, but I rolled with it anyway… and I wanted my wife to be my first kiss at the top.

It was better than I’d built up in my melon. What a day.

Early Work Traded for a Bike Ride with My Wife.

I was up at 4 am, punching away at keyboard keys to get quotes and much needed paperwork done. I blasted through a bunch before 7 am.

I got the tandem ready and shaved and dressed to be out the door for the wheels to roll at 7:30.

My buddy, Mike was not feeling it and almost turned around after eight miles but we ended up convincing him to stick it out, in return we’d take the pace down a bit.

The rest of the ride was fantastic. There’s something about being given permission to enjoy a moderate pace.

We ended up with 34 excellent miles before I had to get back to work.

You know? I actually worked harder being able to sneak that ride in. I got a day’s work done before lunch.

Good times and noodle salad indeed.

Sadly, we’re taking the tandem in to have that click looked at. I’ve tried everything I can think of and I think it’s due to runout in the crankset. That’s WAY over my pay grade.

After 25 Years of Marriage, I Finally Learned How to Work on Solutions with My Wife, Rather than Fight with Her…

My wife and I used to go for maximum carnage when we got into a fight. Sometimes it was downright brutal (verbally, of course, never physically). Neither of us had a filter and our main goal was to shut the other up (or down) and win. We didn’t get in a lot of fights, but when we did, they were explosive.

All of that changed when I saw two videos of Jordan Peterson discussing how to do the least possible damage when in an argument or debate, then negotiate for peace so both can be happy with the outcome. I combined the two and the next time my wife and I started down the argument path, I changed tactics.

The difference has been nothing short of astonishing. My wife and I went from putting up with each other in our marriage to something that is so remarkable, it rises above anything we hoped was even possible. There have been vast changes in other areas, of course, but the changes started with how we fought.

Now, in both of the links I’m about to provide, the information is not delivered perfectly. A perfect delivery wasn’t a requirement for me to embrace the idea that my wife and I could have peace where there was once conflict. The benefit outweighed any differences I might have had with the delivery of the information.

I’ll write more about this later, but if you take the information contained in these two clips and work them into what used to be fights with your spouse, I hope you’ll be as amazed at the improved outcomes as my wife and I are.

Then this one:

As the Storm Is Forced This Way and That By the High and Low Fronts, It’s Blown By the Wind and Split By a Mountain…

I was the storm. Forced this way or that by the high and low fronts, at the mercy of the prevailing winds, even split in two by the mountains as I raced across the valley. I was always in some form of being pushed or pulled by whatever force it was that acted against me.

Then, after decades of recovery, a friend led the way for God to show me a level of love and commitment, of good and decency, of compassion and joy I never knew was there. All I had to do was strip down all of my protective walls I’d built up over the years to truly experience it. It has changed me so profoundly, I can’t go back to who I once was.

With my defensive barriers down, my emotions ran unchecked. The highs were amazing, but there were lows, and they were low. I’ve spent a couple of months trying to figure out how to enjoy having those emotions without the barriers, but also without the crazy swings. When you’re used to walling yourself off, it’s not easy to live unchecked. But I have, and my wife and I saved our marriage in the process. I’ve turned to praying and deep meditation to understand where I’m at – and to bring myself back to center, to God. It hasn’t been easy sticking with that as the storm clouds build up and the storm of life starts picking up steam.

That friend reminded me last night, when I called after everything went all cockeyed, that I’d forgotten a most important piece of the puzzle; when God is at the center, I’m not the storm anymore. I haven’t been for some time now.

I am the mountain.

All that’s needed now is to let the storm blow around me.