I rolled the Trek out Thursday morning, for one last hurrah. It had rained the night before, so the dirt roads would have simply meant having to clean the gravel bikes for the fifth time this week. Crime in Italy, Chuck, no thanks!
Unfortunately, everyone else showed up with their gravel bikes, (according to Diane, the dirt wasn’t so bad)… The situation was a mess, and I almost switched bikes, but that would have meant switching shoes and over-shoes as well and with temps near freezing outside, I didn’t want anyone to have to wait on me. I just stuck with the road bike and figured I’d pull most of the ride… they would need it heading back north. Our route had us heading west, then south and with a wind out of the north, we were going to eat it for much of the third quarter of the ride.
I took the first three miles up front, keeping it at an easy 17-1/2 mph pace – easy for me, anyway. I peeled off the front and let everyone else have a mile or two, plus most of the tailwind. I was going to get my gravy when we turned around to head home. We stopped at our usual gas station for a quick pit stop and rolled out before we got too cold standing around. I took the next three miles, dead into the wind. I was aiming for a good speed for the gravel bikes, so chose 17-1/2-mph as my target. Two miles into the pull, it was sucking. I kept looking up to see where the road sign signified the intersection we’d be turning at. Finally, over a last little hill, it came into sight.
We turned east, and I signaled off the front. We had five miles before my next three-mile turn into the headwind so I took the opportunity to rest up – riding the Trek matched up next to three gravel bikes is not “like” cheating, it is cheating.
I was ready when we headed north again. With the nicest pavement we ever see for three miles, I dialed it up to around 18 and just pushed for home. The wind was picking up a little so this turn was a little harder. No hill for a climber, though. After three miles east, we were home. 28-1/2 miles and one of the better Thanksgiving rides I’ve ever done.
I thought a lot during the course of that ride, about how lucky I was to not only have a great race bike, but to have a fantastic second race bike. At this point it isn’t fair to simply call it a rain bike – I use it for a lot more than that – and my word was it nice to get out on a light, agile road bike after spending the last month on the gravel bike. Don’t get me wrong, I love the gravel bike, but nothing beats the raw speed of a great road bike.
Fortunately, after an epic eat down at my sister’s and brother-in-law’s house, I’m putting in some great miles for this time of year. We’re back into the cold again, but it’s not so bad we can’t ride… and I’m in the process of learning how to leave leftovers again. Something I’ve gotten away from – and my midsection shows it.
I think it’s fitting, this last day of “Gratitude Month”, I write something about the person I’m most grateful for, my wife. She puts up with a lot to have loved me this long (24 years together, 22 married)…
As I go, one of the toughest but, by far, the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given pertaining to marriage is to keep the focus on me when it comes to negative interactions with my wife. This goes back to the old Biblical concept of not worrying about the splinter in my neighbor’s eye, but the stick in mine.
When things aren’t going well in our marriage, from little things all the way up to huge issues, I try to keep the focus on me. It’s too easy to focus on my wife’s faults in issues. To be distracted by what I think she’s doing wrong… Even when my wife is at fault, rather than concentrate on her flaws, I try to look at how I can be a better me to bring her back.
This is not easy. F***, is it hard. But it works. Every time, without fail.
I don’t have to be a door mat to anyone, but do I want to be right, or happy. That’s not a question, and it’s very rare you get to be both.
A marriage counselor told me the easiest way I’ve ever heard to keep this in perspective, years ago…
He said, “Jim, if not for your wife’s flaws, she’d have picked a better man.”
My wife and I started the weekend, Friday afternoon, drifting apart, on two separate rafts. Every time I wanted to point the finger of blame for our drift, I remembered that saying and looked at what I could bring to the situation to improve things. By the time Saturday rolled around, we were on the same raft and laughing together. It was as simple as, rather than sitting on the couch, watching Michigan crush Indiana, I went to the apple orchard and shopping for dinner supplies with my wife. By the time we walked into the grocery store, we were on the same raft again.
I could have been right. Happy is much better.
Recover hard, my friends.
My friends, I’m a bit of a chicken sandwich aficionado.
I know my chicken sammiches. I’m also partial to the spicy chicken sammiches.
I’ll just get right to it. It’s not worth stabbing someone, but I’m here to tell you, folks, that’s one tasty chicken sandwich.
It ranks right up at the top of my list. Definitely worth the hype. And the long lines.
The fondness I have for my Specialized Venge is well known on this page. Enough, that should be the only reference needed.
That’s one gorgeous piece of 15-1/2 pound plastic, carbon fiber sheet, epoxy, aluminum and titanium. I hand-picked every part that went on the bike, and until yesterday, the only original parts left were the frame, fork and chainrings.
The one thing that drove me a little batty, from day one, mind you, was the brushed aluminum chainrings. When you look at that otherwise immaculate photo above, where do your eyes go? The chainrings. They stick out like a sore thumb! Day One, August 2013:
Now, it’d be awful shallow of me to change the chainrings only for their color. Heavens to Murgatroyd, no!
On the other hand, were I to also rectify the chainring size, dropping from a 52/36 combo to a 50/34… well, then it makes all the sense in the world!
And now I can run my Venge on a 50/34, 11-28 drivetrain which means I go from struggling on a 15% grade to struggling on a 25-ish% grade. I see plenty of the former, not many of the latter, at all.
I also dropped some weight, but not enough to write home about.
With a special deal from Jenson, I got away with the chainrings for a little more than a song, and considering how fast they discontinue chainrings, better to have them now, than not.
It took all of fifteen minutes to strip off the old, clean the bike where towels normally couldn’t go, and put the new on. I can tell you this, it was so fast, I won’t mind taking them off for my yearly cleaning in the future.
Sadly, the Venge is put up till spring, but I’ll be able to do a lot more with it next season.
The first years in recovery weren’t easy for me. At first, the excitement of finally breaking King Alcohol’s grip got me through but I soon understood a lot more work lay ahead. There were days I was wracked with fear. How was this going to work out? How could it work out? After everything I did, why did I get to be saved?
I kept coming back, though. No matter what, I didn’t quit quitting. If my ass would have fallen off, I’d have put it in a bag and taken it to a meeting so someone could show me how they put theirs back on. That’s how it works.
Eventually, and commensurate with the amount of work I was willing to put into it, the pink clouds dissipated and the sunshine hit my face. It is glorious, that feeling, and not to be missed.
The best part? I’m remembering all of this through the benefit of hindsight. Back then, I thought I was doing pretty well (with the exception of those fear-filled days and nights. Those pretty much sucked).
Today, life is so good, I’m so filled with gratitude, that all I want is to have another today, just like yesterday. If I’m that fortunate, I’ll consider myself a blessed guy. This is the miracle sobriety brings when a person works for it. I am not special, not even a little bit. This happens every time, without fail. It’s promised to everyone.
I thank God on a daily basis that it came to be for me. This joy and contentment I get to feel isn’t overly exuberant – it’s not a flash in the pan. It’s a calm, relaxed, enthusiastic, fun joy.
In terms of cycling, it isn’t a screaming descent or an arduous climb… it’s a series of rollers where each downhill is just enough to get me to the top of the next peak with a little effort. (If you’ve ridden the Horsey Hundred in Kentucky, you know exactly what I mean)
It’s something all I can hope for is to be able to pass it on to someone else, because this is worth quitting for. I imagine this is exactly what I wanted, only better, when I asked God to help me by relieving me of my desire to drink. I promised I’d give sobriety everything I had if God (as I understood God at the time) would help me.
I lived up to my end of the bargain. God over-performed.
Happy Thanksgiving my friends. I hope you have a lot to be thankful for and you get to enjoy your Holiday. If you’re not quite there yet, keep coming back and working at it. With some work and humility, you’ll get there and you’ll bask in the freedom.
For everyone outside of the USA, if nobody’s wished for something for you to be grateful for today, let me be the first.
There are reports emerging, in which people are claiming that the quip, “okay Boomer” is ageist.
Actually, the quip isn’t ageist. It’s funny as hell, and that’s the “why” behind the contortions to make this a slur against age. It’s not.
The claim that something is ageist, sexist, racist, or any other “ist” there is, when that something clearly is not, is the last, desperate argument of a scoundrel.
Got that, Boomer?
Keeping an eye on the Weather Channel all day long, it looked like we were going to ride a razor’s edge trying to fit in one more night ride before the weather turned poor. All day long, the rain line jockeyed between 6 and 7 pm… and then, around 3 in the afternoon, the line was pushed back to 8 pm.
Chuck and I had been texting back and forth all day long. I shot a quick text to Jonathan that we were riding at 5 – a little earlier than usual, just to make sure we wouldn’t get wet. The text between Jonathan didn’t mention “rain” or “wet” or even cloudy… that poor guy has absolutely the WORST luck when it comes to having to choose to ride in the rain or inside on the trainer over the last three months. I wasn’t about to tempt fate last night.
We started out fast and stayed fast until I ran out of gas around 14 miles in. I was starting to get hungry. We sat up for a minute but picked the pace back up again (my fault) as we headed for our next turn… and then, muck. It looked like the grater had gone through, maybe a day earlier. The mud on the road was an inch, to six inches deep (15 cm). We made it about 50 yards – I almost fell over twice – and decided to turn around and head back on the road we’d been on. That cut a bunch of miles off our ride, though, so we talked about how to add on at the end, on paved roads.
The pace on the dirt was between 16 & 20-mph, but picked up to north of 20 on the pavement. We were cruising heading west, but when we turned to head home, I found out why; the wind had picked up and was pushing us. When we headed back the other way, it was a bull-rush right in the face. I thought I was doing pretty well at about 18-mph, but Chuck came by and took the pace back up over 20 – and I was perfectly fine with that three bikes back.
We ended up pulling into the driveway with 23-1/2 miles and just a shade better than a 16-mph pace… and yet another occasion to clean the gravel bike. It was mucked up, but good. I even had to pull the cassette.
Well, there won’t be any riding outdoors today as there’s a rain storm parked over the State, but we’ll be out on the paved roads tomorrow morning. Friday, too.
And then, winter.