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The Sunday Night “Easy Does It” Bowling League… Finally, A Breakthrough

Friday’s league night wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t great, either… I’ve been languishing at or slightly below my 177 average – usually one or two good games and a bad game that drags everything down over the last few weeks. I’ve really had to grind to get the decent scores, too. To tell the truth, I expected the new bowling balls would “take” a little easier that they have. Never mind I completely changed everything about how I hold and throw a ball down the lane three weeks ago, I just thought things would fall into place. Not exactly so. Until Sunday night during recovery league.

That was my breakthrough night.

My first game was less than impressive but not atrocious. My wife was right on my heels and threw a really nice game and Jon, my sponsee, threw a great one to buoy us to a team win. I ended up with a 158 but had to grind just to get that. My new spare ball bailed me out a lot. I made several adjustments on starting board and target board but nothing really worked – I had to be right on the money to get the ball near the pocket.

On the first ball in the second of three games I made a slight two-board adjustment (two right in my feet and two right in my aim) and exploded the pins with a spectacular strike. It was like every pin pushed to the back collection area in an instant… the ball hit the pocket and BOOM! No messengers, just carnage. Sit down.

I spared the next two frames, missing my target board by an inch high, then went on a five strike tear. I could hit my target and the ball would tuck in perfectly to the pocket. If I missed too far left, I’d be in the dry and the ball would correct its line and hammer the pocket. If I missed a little right, I’d hit the heavy oil and the ball would slide all the way into the pocket… it was perfect. I finished that game with a strike/spare and a 213.

Then the third game.

With confidence from the second game (and a little hope that I’d finally figured the new ball out), I lit $#!+ up with three strikes in the first four frames. That last strike in the fourth was sketchy, though. Lucky. So I moved a couple of boards right and that definitely wasn’t the answer. Too much oil for the ball to get back to the pocket. I ended up with three spares in a row, but they were easy spares to pick up with my new plastic spare ball. I was sitting on a 126 heading into the 6th and had spared in the 7th. I stepped up for the eighth and took a deep breath and released it… relaxing, I started my approach deliberately slow, swinging back high, I let the ball do its thing. I struck in the 8th with a perfect, booming pocket hit. And another perfect shot in the 9th – a no-doubter from the second I released the ball.

Going into the 10th, I was sitting on a good score but I pushed out any thoughts about potential score combinations to stay focused. Another deep breath and release, my deliberately slow approach, high backswing, perfect release and follow-through, and my Hammer Scorpion rolled perfectly over my target board. A perfect slide, grab and bend by the ball and it worked straight at the pocket as if it had eyes, and BOOM! No messengers, the pins exploded to the back. A turkey (three strikes in a row). And a fourth. This one was a little sketchy – the ball hung up on the release, just a split second and I missed my target board to the right, but only by two boards – I was right in the heavy oil so the ball slid all the way down the lane and still hammered the pocket. My final shot for a five in a row perfect tenth was another no-doubter. I even gave a little kick at the end as the pins exploded in a thunderous crack and fell into the collection area. A 236 and I finished the night with a 607 actual.

And that was the feel I was looking for when I decided to purchase new equipment a few weeks ago. It wasn’t that I couldn’t miss, it’s that if I did miss, I missed in the right places. The spares came easy and the strike shots were strong and consistent. Oh, was it spectacular.

And that wasn’t even the cherry on top!

I’ve been trying to get my wife to come back to the Sunday night team for years. My teammates wanted her back, my teammate’s wife (who was on the team for years) wanted her to come back… and she resisted. Partly, I’m sure, because I can get a little intense when I bowl. Well, we recently had one of the guys on our team quit and that left us with a vacant spot and my wife agreed to give it a try again. She’s been out each of the last two nights, bowled excellently (especially this last Sunday) and we had a lot of laughs. It’s been great to have her back, really. That I was able to bowl with my wife on the team again, that was the cherry on top of a great night.

Two January Rides in a Row… And the Latest on My Mountain Bike!

My riding buddy, Chuck just bought a new Salsa fatty a couple of weeks ago. It’s a full carbon race rig with many of the bells and whistles… and tires fat enough they sound like a mudbogging truck going down the road. He just got the tubeless setup sorted out at the shop and he wanted to ride it Thursday night. We’ve got some unbearably cold weather coming up so he was itching to get it outside before we were relegated to the trainers for the next week or more.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t as enthusiastic.

Even though everything in my melon screamed trainer, I prepped my mountain bike for duty when I got home. Oh, how I wanted to skip that ride, but I knew Chuck’s usual test ride average worked out to about 9-mph so I figured it would be a nice, easy jaunt around our normal paved road loop. Even the sketchy couple of miles didn’t seem like they would be a big deal with my 2″ mtb tires.

And so, begrudgingly, I met Chuck at the end of my driveway and we rolled out into the wind, what little breeze there was. Please keep in mind here, I was planning on an easy ride, maybe 10 to 12-mph because Chuck’s on a fat bike for God’s sake. His tires are something like three inches wider than mine… I expected to be able to hammer him into the ground.

Well, to keep it simple, what I expected and what I got were two very different things. Chuck had maxed out the tire pressure and was riding like somebody (other than me) was chasing him. Within the first three miles we were knocking on a 15-mph average and we were still there after the first mile of sketchy subdivision. After the sub we headed north, into the wind again for a half-mile before turning west, Chuck was absolutely hammering it into the wind and just before we were about to turn I ran out of want to and said, “Alright, that’s about enough of that”. I had to check to make sure we didn’t have a herd of buffalo trying to run us down or something. One mile West and a quick northerly section and we were cruising into the second section of sketchy road – that my mountain bike tires handled excellently – not even a sway in the slush.

Chuck asked if I wanted to do a second lap of the subdivision, adding another 2 miles or so. I flipped him the bird. But laughed and agreed to the extra miles. We took it fairly easy through the subdivision, but once out on a surface road, the pace heated up again. Anything south was fast. And we kept the gas on all the way home.

After I cleaned up, I checked out the stats for the ride and saw my estimated average power… an unbelievable 181 watts for more than an hour-twenty and just shy of 20 miles.

I wore a smile the rest of the evening, and it was good.

No such luck this weekend. We’re currently sitting about ten degrees below my cutoff of 20 F (or -HOLYSHIT in Celsius) for a temperature. I’ll be, unquestionably, on the trainer… well, there’s a chance for a ride tomorrow afternoon but I’m going to need a big change in “want to” to get out there.

I actually rode OUTSIDE… in January! Another glorious day on two wheels… well, kinda!

I will resist the urge for hyperbole in the face of the age of hyperbole, and simply say it’s been a fairly rough January. In the first thirteen days of the month I’ve ridden outdoors just once. Now, to be fair, there have been two other days I could have ridden outdoors but a lack of a desire to be cold for an hour and a half injected a little sanity into the whole mix. I opted for the trainer instead.

Yesterday, however, presented one of those rare Michigan January days above freezing, with little wind, and decent roads… well, semi-decent as we found out the hard way. Chucker had been bugging me for two days to join him so I kinda felt locked into it, so after I got home at 4, I suited up and readied the gravel bike and got dressed. Unfortunately, I underdressed a tad. If I’d have had a neck gaiter, I’d have been perfect.

We rolled out around 4:30 and started with a fairly brisk pace averaging an easy 15-mph for the first mile. It went down from there, and I was ecstatic about that. It was one of those “out for a walk but on two wheels” rides and that was right up my alley. I’d taken a couple of days off after some solid trainer efforts, so the easy pace and a breath of fresh air was just what I needed.

Even though the temperature was solidly above freezing all day, we did run into some trouble. Our first subdivision in our loop is always a little sketchy after the first snow but the first quarter-mile was melted as far as we could see, so we gave it a go. It wasn’t until we hit the first turn in the road that $#!+ got hectic in a hurry. The slush wasn’t terribly deep, it was just enough that you’d fall and bust your melon protector if your handling wasn’t perfect. I dialed the speed way back through that little stretch of road.

Another three miles later, entering the second sub on our normal loop, the first stretch was great as far as we could see, so we followed our normal route. It wasn’t until we turned that the roads turned into an unpassable mess. It was so bad I did the “unclip one foot and Fred Flintstone it” through much of the next mile. The roads had never been so much as scraped since the last snow. One false move through there and you were cooked. So I went slow enough I couldn’t make a false move. A little bit of a wet ass later and we were through the worst of it and out on normal roads again.

The ride home, after the sketchiness, was fantastic. We laughed about current events, about fat bikes (Chucker just bought one – I know, Brent, it’s just a matter of time now), supply chain issues (and I mean literal supply “chain” issues, like the lack there of if you’re trying to get a hold of a 10-speed chain or cassette for your steed)… it was just a great time. I almost didn’t even mind the cold.

Anyway, we shortened up the route to skip a second lap through the snow and slush and I pulled into the driveway with 17-1/2 wonderful, easy miles on the gravel bike.

And Chuck’s already texted to see if I want another go of it tonight. It’ll be the last call for a while – it gets really cold again tonight. I’ll have to think about this one… that trainer sure was looking tempting after the slush from last night.

Welcome to Recovery! A Beginners Guide to Making It (This Time).

If you’ve already grown tired with the incessant self help commercials, the get fit fast diet, the drop weight with our exercise equipment barrage that begins about two minutes before the ball drops on the new year, but you’re nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of knitting grannies on rocking chairs because you’ve finally sworn off alcohol and drugs, fear not. Read on.

If you know someone who’s finally quit and they’re as described above, please send them the link to this post.

Now, with the perfunctory hoo-hah out of the way, let’s get right to the good stuff.

More recovery anniversaries begin on or about the first of the year than any other few weeks of the whole year. It’s an easy place to muster up the will and energy to finally swear off booze (and/or drugs). The problem is what comes next.

Most will last a week, maybe two, on sheer adrenaline and willpower. We grow weak over time, though, without something to help keep us progressing. The pull of the escape from everything we’ve been hiding from over the years wears one’s resolve down with surprising efficiency. If you’ve recently quit, you’ll be dealing with this shortly. And if your next thought after reading that last sentence is, “Not me, not this time. I’m dedicated, motivated and I will not give up”, you need this post even more urgently than most. Your time to test that is coming sooner than everyone else still scared out of their wits to have given up their shield. You’ll see.

I’ve seen hundreds walk back out the door within a week or three of uttering that very sentiment. Sadly, this is not an exaggeration. If you’ve been around long enough. The key is to make it from that point where you have to recover to the point you want it. There is a very large fissure betwixt the two and a skinny suspension bridge to walk on to get to the other side. It’s got handrails, this bridge, but they’re not much more than dental floss. It’s a balancing act, for sure.

Now, there’s an easy way and a hard way to do this. The hard way is go it alone with willpower as your guide. You’ve got a one in a few hundred chance of making it a year like that. You’ll have a one in a thousand chance of making it to five years… and if you make it to five, you’ll have a one in two chance of making it to ten. I know one friend who did this. He’s got more than 37 years. Just one.

Then there’s the middle of the road way. Give a recovery program a try and find religion and skip the program. I know a few who went this way and went on to successful, happy lives. Well, one isn’t entirely happy, but I pray for him that maybe he finds it. He’s close. The key here is that religion gives us something to work on in our lives that can be fixed – us. If you’re hoping other people, things and situations around you will change to facilitate your recovery, skip the drama and go to the nearest bar and do some more testing and experimentation… and come back when you’re really ready to sober up. It just doesn’t work like that.

And that leads us to the easy way. Get involved in the recovery community. Whether Twelve Step or not, get involved. It’s harder to fall off the wagon from the middle than it is sitting on the edge. Go to meetings, work some steps – surround yourself with recovering people. Be a part of. I personally know thousands of people who have made it this way. And by made it, I mean people who lead happy, joyous and free lives and who help others attain what they’ve found.

The trick to making it from needing to recover to wanting to recover is getting involved.

Recover hard, my friends. This $#!+ is worth it.

I have a life a rich man can’t buy and a poor man can’t steal…

A friend, whose wife will lose her battle with cancer soon, said at a meeting through sobs, “I have a life a rich man can’t buy and a poor man can’t steal”.

They’ve been married 56 years.

Recover hard, my friends. It’s worth it, and the good stuff never lasts long enough.

A Great Friend of Michigan Cycling Passed Away

My wife just got an email that Dick Allen passed away just before Christmas at the age of 88.

DALMAC, our yearly trek from Lansing to Mackinaw City carries his name… the Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw bike ride.

I never met the man, but I had a lot of great laughs and memories because he wanted to prove to a fellow politician he could ride his bike from Lansing to Mackinaw City and that bikes needed to be on the roads (not sidewalks, ahem) because there weren’t enough sidewalks for a person to get there.

50 years later and we attract riders from all over the country and a couple of other nations who make the trip to Michigan to join us.

He and the local club put on one heckuva great ride. He’ll be missed, but fondly remembered.

Heading Into New Year Celebrations for the Recovering Person… and Rule Number One

I was going to take the day off writing today, but a topic hit me that I couldn’t shake, no matter how hard I tried. This means only one thing: someone needs this post. It might only be one person on the whole freaking planet, but I’ll guarantee-freaking-tee you, it will get to the right person.

I’ve seen this work too many times to question it. I just do as I’m told and get it done.

So, we’re getting into the silly season where we recovering folk can struggle. Never mind that we got lit for all form of big and small reasons, the New Year is cause for concern for a massive part of our population.

Here’s my tip to stay safe, sober and happy:

Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Even if your ass falls off. And, in the event it does, put it in a paper bag and take it to a meeting. Someone will be able to show you how they put theirs back on.

If you’re hit with even a small urge to use, call someone and talk about it. Meet that person for lunch, dinner or a meeting.

Don’t try to go it alone. Lean on your friends for help. Not just for your sake, you’ll help them at the same time. Trust me. You don’t ever have to go through what you did to get here again. Just don’t use. And, should you want to become an old-timer, add to “don’t use”, “don’t die”.

Recover hard, my friends. Living a happy life is worth the effort.

A Merry Recovery Christmas to All!

The Holidays can be tough, my friends. Lots of emotions, lots of angst, lots of room to be thirsty…

They can also be glorious. Time spent with family and friends, additional meetings for those of us in recovery, a period of remembering that which matters most in Christmas: it’s a time of healing, forgiveness and renewed hope in something vastly bigger than we are.

This is my 29th sober Christmas. My first was spent in a treatment center. I had nothing. I had nowhere to go. I belonged exactly where I was, because God’s grace saved me in that treatment center. He reached down and touched my right on my heart and I could feel Him say, “it’ll be okay”. And it has been. I’ve come a long way.

Friends, in this Christmas season, I was reminded that I am still a selfish, self-centered man. I have gotten so much better over the years, but every once in a while, my eyes are opened to the fact that I still have a lot that has to be done. To be able to see this is a blessing, even if it comes with a sting… and has been the case since that first sober Christmas, I will figure my through it. When it’s all boiled down, I am the only person on this planet I can change. I can choose to look at others and the wrongs they do, but ultimately I’m only doing myself a disservice, because by carrying that resentment I’m distracting myself from what I can do to be a better me.

I will figure this out, and my wife and I will look back on this year in another 29 (or so I hope, that’ll put me at 80) and say, “Wow, look how far we’ve come”.

Merry Christmas. Don’t get thirsty, my friends. Get better. There are bigger fish to fry while we’re figuring out just how good life can be.

Christmas Holiday Tips for Those in Recovery Dealing with Virtue-Signaling Family Members

Folks, the silly season is in full swing! We’ve got variants, masks, mandates, vaccines, attitudes and frayed nerves and family… what could go wrong when you drop a recovering alcoholic or addict in there?!

In these trying and troubled times™, we have to remember we’re all in this together©!

If you’ve had it “up to here” with over-blown, silly clichés, masks, mandates, and virtue-signaling, we have to get a little radical to get through the hoopla of Christmas parties sane, happy and above all else, sober.

My first big tip is “don’t participate” when the rhetoric gets cranked up. Look, someone is bound to broach the political or religious boundary when the conversation gets going. The hardest thing I have passing up is a softball with a perfect arc that you can just wait on and crush. Take the “omicron variant”. Someone will bring up that it’s 70 times more contagious in the hopes of stoking fear because they watch too much CNN. I like to say that I see the contagiousness of the new variant as a positive. The new variant is more contagious, sure, but it’s also vastly less deadly. Omicron will push out the more deadly Delta variant, so we’re actually several steps closer to the new Covid virus being “the common cold” and going back to full normal. This is a perfectly logical and reasonable response based on reality and science.

There’s one problem with that: you’ll open up a can of worms that can’t be shut because you’re not demonstrating proper fealty at the alter of Covid Panic™. Even though the scientific soundness of that response can’t be disputed with what we know about the new variant, those invested fear merchants can’t allow sanity to stand. You will be opening yourself up to name-calling the likes of which you won’t be prepared for.

Better would be the simple, “Look, let’s not get into the politics of a virus, please. Not at a Holiday dinner. We’ve had enough of that. Can’t we just have a nice time together?”

If that’s met with derision, and it likely will be, then we move to, “I’ve tried to be reasonable here. If you want to take this further, we can. I was just hoping to avoid the hot-button argument topics. We’ve had enough of that shoved at us to last a decade.”

If that doesn’t work, go with “Omicron is a good thing” as detailed above, and sit back and watch jaws drop.

Dealing with family members is often really trying for we in recovery. The less we can participate in the ugliness, the better. Try being being a light of good cheer, ignoring those who lead with negativity. Look at it as your reaction is being “fished” for. Try not taking the bait. This is often easier said than done (I speak from experience).

Finally, remember these things when dealing with an ugly situation over the holidays:

Recovery comes first. We don’t have to be mean about it, but we always protect our recovery. If a situation brings us too close to a craving, leave that situation and get your ass to a meeting where you’ll find friends. And yes, you can leave because you knew to leave yourself a way out before you put yourself in a potentially stressful situation to begin with. Second, go to your meetings, then schedule a few extra over the Holiday weeks if you can.

Family is what it is, my friends. Try not to read too much into it and enjoy it the best you can. For those times you can’t, get the hell out and find some friends in recovery. Chances are, there are more than a few going through the same things you are. At the very least, you’ll have a few good stories to tell over coffee.

Testing My Specialized Venge – Or, How To Make Your Road Bike Feel Like New Again!

So, last night was a little weird. We had 30-mph winds and it was a wonderful 60 degrees, but with the wind whipping like that, and the temperature falling faster the popular opinion of another Covid lockdown, Chuck and I decided to take a night off. Humorously enough, I actually called him back and told him I’d changed my mind, that I’d ride after all, and he told me I was freaking nuts.

And so I was faced with a few choices. I opted right off the bat, not to ride. Then I decided not to ride the Trek on the trainer. Then I got to looking at the Venge after I did some tinkering on my wife’s gravel bike… I haven’t so much as sat on the bike since I got it back from getting new bottom bracket bearings installed. I gave the tires a quick squeeze, they were close enough, then rolled up my right pant-leg and pushed that beautiful steed, fresh with a brand new chain, new 11/28 cassette, new 50/34 chainrings, new rear derailleur, and new shifter cables and housings out the door… and I took it for a quick spin to check the settings and see how the bike shifted.

The derailleur was great shifting up the cassette but slow going back down so I gave it a quick adjustment and… beautiful, quick, easy shifting. Silent perfection. My Venge didn’t feel like new again, it was better than new. I’ve had a better handlebar, better crankset, upgraded shifters and derailleurs, and vastly superior wheels put on the bike since I first brought it home.

The important items were the shifting quality, which was incredible with new cables, housings and a new rear derailleur, then that the crank was smooth again with the new bottom bracket bearings.

I’m stoked for next season already. My Venge is back and better than new.

You’ll have to picture it, but this is me smiling.