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Amidst the Chaos, A Wonderful Weekend Of Happiness, Freedom, Peace and Cycling

Even when life gets difficult, recovery lights the way. With 201,000 miles on it, my Equinox is finally starting to nickle and dime us to death. It’s been paid off for a year and some change so we’re in that trap; is it better to fix everything that’s going wrong and not have a payment, or just pony up and buy a new vehicle? Either way, it’s been the best vehicle I’ve ever owned, by a long shot.

The hard part is, it still runs like a top.

Anyway, enough of that doom and gloom, crap. We’re experiencing some of the best cycling weather in years, we just had our first cookout of the year, and other than my once outrageously reliable Chevy Equinox, life is fantastic. Whatever we end up doing, this too shall pass.

Friday afternoon was a quick, and I do mean quick, ride with my wife just to get our miles in before our dinner party. We only logged 19-3/4 miles and made it back with just enough time to shower up and I ran to the convenience store for a bag of ice. Our friends showed up shortly after I got back.

Saturday was a perfect day for a long ride but we didn’t have many takers show up. My wife and I rolled out alone and picked up Phill and Brad along the way. That ride had a bit of everything. Slow miles, mid-range, and we even got into some speed every now and again. I pulled into the driveway with an enjoyable 100 km.

Sunday’s have been deemed “Sunday Funday” for a month and a week now. Rather than push the pace, we just go out and have fun riding with friends. My wife and I have been taking the tandem out the last five Sundays in a row and we’re enjoying it more than in the past. First, we’re working together better, and second, when I don’t have to worry about pushing the pace to keep up, I don’t worry about working so hard – so I’m not fighting against my wife with every pedal stroke. We’re still working through some communication issues that come with noob tandem riders, but those communication errors make up about 5% of a given ride. In other words, they’re minimal (and usually funny).Yesterday’s ride fit that norm – 95% great, 5% working on the communication skills. We rolled out to sunshine and a barely there breeze and temps in the low 60’s – perfect cycling weather. We warmed up in a hurry, though. I hadn’t noticed but we crept up from an easy 18-19-mph to 21-1/2. I’d changed the nose angle on my saddle a little and I put a different saddle on for my wife (at her request) and we were both having a much better time producing power. In fact, we had to dial it back a time or two to keep it “Sunday Funday” pace. We even added miles on – about six at the half-way point.We stopped in Flushing and had a much needed Coke.

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We rolled for home, shedding riders as we went. Phill took off first, then Big Joe, and that left Jeff & Diane on Diane’s tandem and Dave. We kept an easy-ish clip the rest of the way home and I let our friends know I’d cut watermelon up and had it waiting in the refrigerator.We pulled into the driveway with exactly 46.57 miles… and this is important because I found out a few hours later that if that had been 47.07 miles, I’d have stopped exactly at 1,000 miles for the month. Instead, 999.5. Crime in Italy, Chuck. I was also 9 miles short on my 250 mile goal for the week. I thought about heading back out after I cut the grass, but thought better of it for once. I’ll top 1,000 for the month today and add to that total in Lennon tomorrow evening (we’ve got a spectacular forecast all the way through the weekend). I simply didn’t need the miles.

Later, after dropping my daughter at a friend’s house, we worked through those communication issues I mentioned earlier. We had some big laughs and sorted a lot out. I didn’t have any noodle salad for dinner last night, but did have a tasty pizza. Hey, I just had the thought maybe I should change “good times and noodle salad” to “good times and pizza”.

Noodle salad is good, for sure… but pizza, now that’s happiness and freedom on a plate.

Without Recovery: Fear, Pain, Misery. With Recovery: Happiness, Freedom, Joy, Peace. Rocket Science It Ain’t.

It’s been a while since I broke from cycling for a good, old-fashioned, relentlessly positive recovery post…

We in recovery want for every alcoholic in anguish and misery to experience the peace, serenity and happiness that comes with continuous recovery. That we’ve found in recovery.

We want it so bad, if we could take all of the knowledge we have in our melon and cram it into someone else’s so they could instantly understand down to their baby toes how good recovery is, we’d do it without hesitation. Even if doing so would cost us some of our happiness because we usually have some to spare.

I do…

And just so you can know the joy I feel of what it’s like to be free.

Jesus, does it feel good. Give it a try. What have you got to lose? A little fear, pain and misery? Why would anyone want to hold onto that?

We don’t want to get you to conform to our way of life because of some dogmatic, sycophantic desire to have a follower. We try to pass on to others what worked for us because it actually worked.

There’s a lot of negativity in this world. We can use all the positive we can get.

We in Alcoholics Anonymous, as hamhanded as we can be at times, are simply trying to spread some happiness to a group of people who badly need it.

So maybe next time you run into one of us who is a bit awkward at trying to pass on what worked for them you’ll remember why they’re doing it and not worry so much about how. And maybe you can cut them a little slack. What they’re attempting is good. They’re just not very good at it yet.

My name is Jim and I used to be an alcoholic, but I’ve recovered, just for today, and my only desire here is to freely give what was so freely gave to me… because it’s really, really good. A lot of people could use some good… and I have some to spare.

Now, about cycling…

One Fine Memorial Day Ride And The Simple Joy In Using Every Gear You’ve Got.

I rode with some my wife and a couple of friends Memorial Day morning. We chose a route that’s normally exceptionally busy with traffic, but we hit a perfect storm of quiet this weekend. First, with COVIDcation and stay at home, that knocked down the traffic substantially. Second, the “up north” of the lower peninsula was opened up late last week so people flocked up to escape. Traffic wasn’t non-existent, but it was as light as I’ve ever seen for that route – and it’s a fun route.

We had a chance of rain in the morning, but it was one of those, “Okay, it’s going to be 90° (32 C), I hope it rains a little” days. We rolled out at 8 am with sunshine and a light headwind. It was 70 (21 C) and spectacular. We started out on the slow side but picked up the pace as we went, up and over rollers, never too easy but I wasn’t ever in a position where I questioned my own sanity, either. It was just a fun, nice ride.  Chuck, the guy up front in the photo below, took the first seven miles up front and I took the next seven and when I dropped back, Chuck was next in line to take another pull… so I said to my normal riding buddy, Chuck, “There’s no free lunch today, buddy”.  Five miles later he took the cue and took us to the buffet at the Golden Coral.  I don’t know how long he was up front, but it was loooooooooooonnnnnnnngggg.

22 miles in, the ride gets fun. We were greeted with a sign that warns of a steep 8% descent. The second I crested I decided to see how fast I could pedal down the hill. I hammered through every gear I had – the last I looked at the computer it read 44.8-mph and I simply didn’t want to pedal any faster. After looking the ride up, I only managed 0.2-mph faster that last bit down the hill, but I found out the fun way exactly what my top end speed is in my biggest gear (50/11). I think I wore a smile on my face for the next hour.

At 24 miles we turned into Kensington Metro-park. Kensington is fantastically beautiful. Nature preserves, a huge lake, a golf course, and more hills than you can shake a stick at – some you actually have to climb. On the way up the big one, I shifted to my last gear, the 34/28, the little granny… Did I have to use the granny gear? Not really, but with that last shift, no matter what happened the rest of the ride, I’d used every gear I had.

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We wound around the park trail after it left the park – they have a speed limit that I could only honor if I were pushing my bike. I would have to kick my own ass for riding 10-mph unless it was up a fair hill. We stopped at a gas station to pick up a couple of Coke’s and take a breather. It was starting to heat up. After finishing our drinks, we headed over to the pickle ball courts so Chuck could say hi to his wife – and we made it just in time for an A-10 Warthog flyover.  It was spectacular.

Shortly after, we headed for home with a slight tailwind.  The closer we got, the faster we went until my wife took the reigns and took a six mile turn between 22 & 30-mph on her aero bars.  It was an awesome pull.  I took over from there and took us home.  We pulled into the parking lot with just under an 18-mph average.  53.8 miles in 3 hours.  It was as good as it gets.

Recovery from Addiction: How Bad Do You Want It?

Bluntly put, sobriety isn’t enough. Sober up a drunken horse thief, what do you have?

A horse thief.

My sponsor helped sober up a drunken loser, but I wanted more than sober. I wanted freedom. I wanted to recover from alcoholism.

Wouldn’t you want the package deal, complete with the reverse country song where you get the pickup truck, the house, your dog, wife, and kids back? I’d have just settled for “happy”, but the package deal sounded pretty good, too.

I love nothing more than to listen to people new to recovery tell me about how they don’t “like” this aspect of recovery or that. I mean really, why work all of the steps? They’re probably not all necessary, anyway. They’re only suggestions. Better, having been sober for all of twenty days, you know that you don’t need all of that hooey anyway, right? Why bother with an inventory or making amends? Amends are so 1900’s, anyway? Isn’t the whole “Higher Power” thing a little old?

When I run into this person, I just say, OKAY, smile and nod and watch them struggle and relapse. Over and over again. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him think.

You couldn’t tell me anything until I was ready to listen. Maybe the next time they’ll be ready to do whatever it takes to recover. Or maybe they’ll die before they get the chance. Or worse, maybe they’ll hurt someone else and end up locked away. The life of an addict sucks that way, but it usually sucks a lot worse for the innocent bystander.

Maybe there’s a simpler way?

I can remember like it was yesterday… decades ago – I may have had seven months, maybe eight. My new sponsor and I were talking one night after a meeting. Out of the blue he says, “Hey, when you park your car, do you pull into a spot nose first or do you back in?”

I responded that I pull in nose first.

He said, “Starting tomorrow, I want you to back into every parking spot you can for the next month. I’ll tell you why at the end of the month.”

I looked at him like he was bat-shit crazy, but I shrugged my shoulders and said, “OKAY”. And for the next month after that night, to the day, I backed into every parking space I could. And at the end of that month I asked him why.

He said, “I wanted to see how willing you were to do whatever it takes to stay sober because if you weren’t willing to do something as simple as back a car into a parking space, you’d never get through the hard parts of fixing the wreckage of your past.”

Guess who made it through the tough parts of fixing the wreckage of his past? Guess who then went on to struggle through building a life for himself, getting to a point he’s so happy he can hardly believe it some days? He’s got two thumbs and looks like this guy.

So go ahead, you know best anyway, right? Skip the parts you don’t like and muddle through the parts you don’t mind half-heartedly. I’m sure everything will work out fine anyway. You probably know better than those crazy old farts who wrote the Big Book anyway.

Good luck with that.

I don’t blame anyone for trying to do it their way. Even better for those who find happiness. I wasn’t smart enough, or maybe honest enough, to figure it out on my own. Whatever it was, I needed some structure and help… a path to walk.

Having tried that line myself and failed, maybe I can save a noob a few decades of failure and angst. Just do what it says in the f’in’ book. Get a decade or two under your belt and get yourself happy. Then decide what works and what doesn’t. At least if you get to that point, if you find you were wrong, you can go back to what worked.

That’s the easiest, softest way I know. At least the easiest, softest way I know that actually works.

Based on real evidence, too. Not the “it’s evidence because we tell you it’s evidence” kind of evidence.

In fact, and I’ve never done this so I could be entirely wrong (I doubt it, but it’s possible), next time someone says “evidence based recovery”, ask them to see the evidence. I will be doing that from now on because I want to see the saucer eyes.

Meh, knowing my luck, I’ll run into the one person who is prepared for that. Chuckle.

If You’re an Avid Enthusiast Cyclist, It’s Time to Take Razor to Leg…

My friends, for the avid enthusiast cyclist, if you haven’t already, it’s time to shed the winter fur and take a razor to the legs.  My wife prefers I go all year fur-free, and I happily oblige.

For those who didn’t know already, glistening guns are absolutely more aerodynamic – scientifically proven in a wind tunnel.  Shaving the guns is worth between two and four free seconds a mile.  That may not sound all too impressive, but that works out to between 200 and 320 free seconds over 100 miles.  Now, either you save three to six minutes or that’s watts you don’t have to produce to keep up.  Don’t stop reading just yet, though!  There’s more to this than just shave your legs to be like the rest of the sheep.

I messed up when I shaved my legs the first time – I listened to the damned internet before properly investigating whether or not I should even bother.

So here’s “the rest of the story”.  I was going to start riding with a group – my first club ride – and I didn’t want to look like a noob.  Everything on the web back then said you gotta shave the guns – and this was before Specialized tested shaved legs in their wind tunnel.  It was treated as a right of passage, almost.  It even made the rules.  I bought into the online hype and quietly, without telling my wife, went to town.  Now, I had some hairy legs back then.  Not quite yeti, but pretty freaking close.  I even had to regularly trim that leg hair with a set of clippers when it got too long and unruly.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too much a shock for my wife the first time she crawled into bed and was like, “Hey, wait a minute“…  God bless her, she loved my newly shorn legs and I’ve never looked back.  But…

Upon discussing my new, sparkling guns with the owner of the local shop, he chuckled and said it was completely unnecessary as only racers bother.  I had to scrape my jaw up off the asphalt with a shovel – I must have looked pretty funny because I was wearing one hell of an incredulous look on my face.  I said, “But the internet”… and just let it trail off.

With that out of the way, there’s a pecking order of who shaves and who doesn’t – and this is important so you don’t show up for the wrong group with the wrong legs!

Roadies:  Shave.
Gravel Roadies: Yea or neigh.
Mountain bikers:  Don’t shave.
Triathletes:  Shave, without question. Including eyebrows, ears, nose holes… possibly eyelashes…  I’m just kidding.  Just the legs will do, but you’re thinking about the eyebrows, aren’t you?  I know.

Now, there’s a pecking order to that as well, because many of us cross lines into different genres of cycling.  You defer to shaving.  For instance, if you’re a mountain biker who occasionally rides a gravel bike, you’re okay with hairy legs.  On the other hand, if you’re a mountain biker who occasionally plays a roadie, you shave.  If you’re a triathlete dabbling in the other genres, think about investing in Nair… or see if you can be their CEO.  The point is, if you will ride, even occasionally, a shaving bike, you shave.  Or you’d better be able to lay down the watts so others are in awe at your fabulousness.

So, folks, the truth is you really don’t have to shave your legs if you’re a dude.  On the other hand, I’ll never go back.  Once you’ve ridden in a group for a while, you’ll pick out hairy guys in a pack almost instantly because they stick out like a sore, hairy thumb… and nine times in ten, that identifier tips you off to keep an extra watchful eye on how that person rides because they’re often new or not used to riding in a pack.  Or they’re the one whose wheel you want to ride.

So, shave your guns or don’t.  You will work a lot harder if you don’t.  It’s science.  And physics.  And rocket science.  Or something.

UPDATE:  As you will see in the comments section, there is a technicality in terms of what “Guns” are.  In weightlifting, guns are the arms – that which is used to pump iron.  In cycling, the “guns” are the legs – what you use to turn the pedals.  Just to be clear.

Would Life Be As Good If I I Didn’t Have to Walk Through Hell to Get Here?

This is a question I’ve been contemplating quite a bit lately; would life mean as much today if I hadn’t had to take a stroll through hell to get here, first?

I wake up in the morning and I can’t help but be thankful for the day before.  I think about work a little bit, check my email messages, think about coming home and seeing my wife and kids, think about a funny aspect of my ride the night before (Monday’s, for example, was a fun ride but I felt a little like Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story because I had to layer up against the cold)… and all of a sudden, I’m thinking about just how good it is to be me and I can’t help but smile.

Every now and again, that morphs into, would I be this happy if I didn’t have to go through the hell of addiction first?  Would I even have the capability to recognize what I have as fantastic if I hadn’t been so low?  Better, without AA’s recovery program, would I be able to even grasp how truly beautiful my life is, let alone enjoy it?

See, here’s the cool part; my life isn’t all that awesome.  I have to go to work every day, just like the vast majority of us.  I have to pay the mortgage, we’re on a budget being a single-income family, work would be stressful if I let it get to me (and sometimes I do), we live in a small-ish old home (though I do have a spare room for my bikes, which is really cool)… see, there are things that aren’t perfect, or that could be improved upon, maybe, but I’m still exceedingly happy with what I have.

Now, most people would try to convince themselves they shouldn’t be as happy as this, and that would mess up that most excellent, “I’m grateful for what I do have” vibe.  I’m not most people…

This gets interesting when I look at the overall meaning of the bad things I’ve gone through in life – including a rape in college (oh yes), addiction, arrests, a trial in which I was looking at a lot more than a stint in the county jail, followed ultimately by my recovery.  All of the bad that I lived through, and there was a lot, makes all of today’s good better.

The simple answer to the question, why am I so grateful for what I have, is always the same.  Who cares?!  All that matters is “I am“.  The full answer is much deeper, richer.  When I seek to label things that happen to me as “bad”, I’m really doing myself a disservice because the bad makes the good, better.  Another way to look at it, the bad ends up making all the work worth the effort.

In the end, I’ll take my awesome life as I get it.  It’s all a matter of perspective – and for that, I am grateful.  Again.

A Bicycle was Invented as Transportation. 200 Years Later, It’s Still Just Riding a Bike, Only Better.

The bicycle is still used as transportation – a human being on a bicycle is one impressively efficient machine – but there’s an enjoyable nature to the bicycle that just shouldn’t be missed…

Pull up to the start of a long bike ride, or better, a bike tour, and you won’t find a frown in the crowd (well, maybe one, though I’ve never seen one).  Ride along and the happy mood of the people you’re with should be a welcome surprise the uninitiated.  Like anything in life, a bike ride is not always perfect.  There are personalities to navigate, and this must be done in a state of stress on one’s body.  Therefore, at the end of a day, when it’s all over it’s handshakes, hi-fives and laughs… if required, apologies and forgiveness.  I’ve made my fair share boneheaded mistakes and I’ve made my amends promptly, whilst said crow was still warm.  I’ve forgiven my fair share, as well.  The unity of the group is always more important than petty squabbles that happen in the middle of a long ride when nerves are taxed to begin with.

Friends, what happens on a long ride or a tour is what should happen everywhere in life.  We should only be so lucky.  Just a thought.

You Know What Sucks? Part 62,195

I have this thing about how many miles I put on my bikes over the course of a year.  This may seem extreme to normal folk, but I like to be right around 8,000 miles overall (6,000 outdoor miles) for the year.  This isn’t an easy task when one has a job, but it’s certainly not impossible.  I did it last year.

Then the Wuhan, China coronavirus COVID-19 swept in and I expected March’s total mileage to take a serious hit.  Far worse, we’re looking at almost a three week layoff (without pay for me, which is another big hit) if things don’t change.  The first day of the layoff, Tuesday, I was sweating bullets.  How would this work itself out?!  How would I provide for the family?!

That SUCKS.

Then I remembered that which is most important:  God is everything or God is nothing.  At that point, I started thinking positively again.

Fortunately, though, my wife and I have a little nest egg tucked away for just this sort of occasion, with enough cash I could easily withstand a month, maybe two, without having to get off the couch.  We have this little nest egg because when ex-drinkers sober up, we’re taught that it’s wise to save up some money for just in case… and the only reason we don’t have enough cash for four months is we decided to pay cash up front for my eldest daughter’s Invisiline “braces” so we could get a credit for the youngest’s.

So that’s meant I have been, and will continue to be able to, spend an inordinate amount of time on my bikes.  March started out as a mediocre month and with four days left in the month, I’ve smashed last March… and I’ve got nothing but time for the next two weeks.  Starting Monday, I won’t be getting paid so I have no problem whatsoever riding whenever the mood strikes me.

It’ll be like being retired for a couple of weeks, and that sounds good to me.

Some people wonder “why sober up”?

Because my life’s become so good, drinking stopped being a temptation twenty years ago.  People don’t understand being clean because they can’t see beyond their addiction.  If they could see what life had in store for them, quitting would be an afterthought.

And that most definitely doesn’t suck.

Why Alcoholics Anonymous Works Where All Else Fails… and Also Why It Fails; Part Three of Many.

Part Three in this series is going to be fun.  Part One is (here), Part Two is (here).  I’m going to get into why AA fails for the abundant folks who can’t (or won’t) grasp this simple program.  For those who won’t, this will be an uncomfortable journey.

While Alcoholics Anonymous is simple, it isn’t easy.  We are asked to grapple with thoughts, emotions, actions, and the ramifications of those actions – all while accepting that we are egocentric, which must be squashed immediately – and with the hope that once we do, we’ll be free of addiction’s grip.  We call this our return to sanity.  Millions have experienced this exhilaration, indeed, it isn’t to be missed.

The problem is, the work sucks.  It’s hard.  And who would want to do that $#!+ anyway?!  Normal people don’t go through all that crap!  We even have to give up righteous indignation if we’re to truly be happy. It means ceasing to place blame, pointing the focus squarely on the person we see when we look in a mirror. Most of us can’t even look ourselves in the eyes in a mirror when we first waltz through the door – not without bursting into tears.  Try it – and don’t give me one of those bullshit quick glances – really look in the mirror and look into your soul.  That’s it.

In the scheme of things, though, is it really all that bad when one considers we’re battling a disease?  I’d never complain about my lot contrasted with that of a cancer patient.  Now, imagine being able to look in that mirror and be happy with who you are, with your flaws and imperfections being ground into the backdrop by the good you do – by the person you’ve become.  Imagine contentment, being glad just for another day like the last one.  That’s what you have to look forward to if you’re willing to work for it.

In the end it boils down to one simple idea:  AA doesn’t work for those who aren’t willing to work at it.  Alcoholics Anonymous is an active program of recovery that takes constant work and effort for as long as one chooses to stick around.  Simply put, if you’re not willing to do the work, you’re not ready yet.  Come back when you don’t have any options left and you’re willing.

Once you’ve hit “F*** it”, it’ll work like a charm.  I’ve never see a person fail who’s thoroughly followed the path – and I’ve seen a $#!+-ton of failure.

Covid-19 and How You Know Government Should Be Kept on a VERY Short Leash…

Michigan’s Governor (and a whole slew of other politicians with D’s and R’s after their name) suggested recently that we should replace handshakes with fist and elbow bumps.

Where do those same people suggest you sneeze (or in this case, cough)?

Your elbow.

Just remember, folks, politician is the second oldest profession.  Right after prostitute.  Anyone who puts their faith or hope in politicians will be profoundly disappointed… or happy and profoundly ignorant.