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In my DALMAC write-ups I didn’t delve too deeply into the most important aspect of doing that ride. On that particular weekend, you’ve got 2,000 cyclists stretched across Michigan’s north and south country roads with one goal: Make it to Mackinaw City. Our group, a main core of seven cyclists this year, is a mash-up of cyclists from all over that, to describe us apart from cycling, would look like you picked us out of a hat. The main core of the group has shifted over the years but a few main riders keep the group together. We’ve got a podiatrist from the west side of the state, a few retirees, a construction management guy, a woman who works for the Canadian government (she couldn’t make it this year because COVID – they’ve got Canada locked up tighter than Madonna’s chastity belt – wait, maybe that’s a bad example…), a bike shop owner, an HVAC technician, a farmer, an IT tech who heads a major university’s staff… we’re all over the map.
You put us in a pace-line, though, and you know instantly the one thing we all have in common; we’re cyclists.
Todd met Sue on the road, who we picked up out on the road because we were fast enough to keep their interests up. Mike was a straggler who was picked up on the road roughly about when I joined the gang. Dave was a part of the core group for quite a while. Phill and Brad, too. Chad knew Doug… JoAnn knew Dave and Cricket and Cheryl knew JoAnn… Chuck, Mike and Matt are the nucleus of the group.
For the most part, we’re fairly evenly matched. When we’re pointed north on Labor Day weekend, something magical happens. Political differences, economic status, gender… all of the crap they use to group people and keep them divided is left in the parking lot of the MSU campus and we roll out, headed north with the sole goal of helping each other get to Mackinaw City, 377 miles away (500 miles away for some, every five years), as quickly as possible.
Along the way, we ride together, we eat together, help each other with mechanical problems, laugh together, and we don’t worry about much more than how fast we’ll get up the wall at the end of Day Three and what kind of ice cream we’re having after dinner – and when it’s all said and done, we even help some of our friends get home. My wife and I regularly give a couple of friends a lift.
For a weekend, people from a broad spectrum, wealthy and meager, cats and dogs, republicans and democrats, men and women, we act like good and decent people should for four (or five) days; we concentrate on that which is most important: having fun together.
Each and every year, at some point while heading home with my wife, I have to work through the sad realization that the weekend is over and it’s back to normal for everyone. After feeling through that, I eventually come to the happy awareness that we’ll be doing it again next year and that the memories we made this year will keep me warm through the winter and motivated to train through the spring and summer… so come next Labor Day weekend, I’ll be ready to go again, to go play with my friends on the country roads and along the lake shore of Pure Michigan. Come join us. Wheels roll at 8am.
Somebody get me Tim Allen…
My Idea of a Perfect Day In Recovery Isn’t Exactly What Many Might Think – And It’s Definitely Not All That Sexy.
I’m fortunate enough to work from home one day a week. Wednesday. Technically, I’m at the office about 6:10 am, but I’ve got a meeting at a job just 14 miles from home at 9, so rather than drive all the way back to the office after the meeting, I work in my home office for the rest of the day. Yesterday was particularly awesome. And by awesome, I mean hard. I fixed my estimating software with tech support, wrangled a few jobs, worked on some estimates and, with the exception of a nice lunch hour, was busy an hour-and-a-half after I’d normally leave the office.
That lunch hour was special, though. My wife is running for the local school board so she’s always busy lately. While she was on the phone, I got her gravel bike out of the bike room… it’s been put away wet so many times the rear brake cable was frozen inside the housing. It was so bad, I had to cut the cable and housing up by the handlebar to get the cable out of the shifter. Worst I’ve ever seen. Now, for most this would mean dropping the bike off at the shop. Mechanical disc brakes, new cable and housing, internally routed.
I won’t lie, I put the repair off almost a week because I was nervous about running that cable housing through the frame. In the end, after a few different tricks failed, I got it through the little opening down by the bottom bracket with some luck and a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Once the housing was through, the rest of the repair was pretty straightforward. Not exactly easy, but I did a very nice job. Now her “other” gravel bike (she has two currently) is good to go, 100%. Then it was back to work, right up until I threw my leg over my top tube just before 5.
I almost didn’t bother with the bike ride. I know, I know, but it was a little chilly (low 60°), windy, gray and cloudy… it wasn’t exactly a day suited for an enjoyable ride. That’s exactly what I got out of it, though. I took the Venge for a two-mile spin to check out the saddle position and decided I needed to change it a bit after getting back to the house. I put on a vest and moved my Garmin and Varia taillight to the Trek and took that for the rest of my ride. I let the tailwind push me and picked an easy gear for the headwind. It should have been a junk mile ride but I had a fantastic time. I was smiling when I pulled into the driveway. Never would have seen that ride coming. Not in those conditions.
Then, with my wife at a board meeting and my kids at swimming practice, I cleaned up and picked up pizza for supper. Eating was a little quiet and lonely, but as soon as I was done, I had to hustle out the door to make my Tuesday night meeting.
Best meeting I’ve been to in months. For those in the program, you know those superficial meetings where people talk about anything but recovery? Like anyone gives a shit about how difficult their life is because the groomer didn’t cut the dog’s hair right, or the lesson someone learned in humility because the pool guy messed up the pool’s pH at the second home in California, but they were able to control themselves and didn’t yell at owner (no kidding, I actually sat through this a few years ago – I actually laughed out loud at the “humility, living life on life’s terms” part).
No, last night’s meeting was one of those where you really get down to what’s going on and how to get through life on life’s terms, both from a noob’s perspective, and then from a seasoned AA’s perspective, and finally from the perspective of someone who’d relapsed after 42 years of recovery. We talked about what mattered. It was one of those meetings where everyone walks out feeling better about their recovery than when they walked in, no matter where we are on the path.
I left shortly after the meeting and was asleep by 9:30, and I did fall asleep with a smile on my face.
My friends, true peace, contentment and happiness – the best recovery has to offer – isn’t about enjoying the huge victories and the big leaps in progress. It isn’t about winning the lottery. It’s about finding, appreciating and making the most of the good in normal day-to-day life.
Yesterday wasn’t spectacular because I hit a homerun. Yesterday was spectacular because I saw the good in everything life gave me, from the moment I woke up till the second I fell asleep. If you want to slow time down, so at the end of 30 years you’re not saying “Where did it go?”, but “Wow, what a ride! What’s next?!”, this is my secret: Do the next right thing at any given moment, then find a way to enjoy that moment for what it is.
It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. It just takes practice. Lots of it.
My real favorite ride is normally “the one I’m currently on”… however I really do have a few favorites. Those rides that simply put a smile on my face, every time I get to put rubber to pavement. Tuesday night is one. I can ride that route – hell, I’ve ridden that route – a hundred times and never get bored. I actually did the math, it’s somewhere between 192 and 208. Give or take.
There’s one special route that my wife and I ride, though… one special road. We ride it over and over again…
It has some long, easy up where you just settle into a little gear and spin your way up…
Twisty, technical winding roads – more turns than you can shake a stick at… some straight shot descents…
Some challenging up, if I’m… erm… up for it…
And one badass straight shot descent. There are no photos of that one. I hit 50-mph yesterday, gravity only. I didn’t even try.
The loop that my wife and I are currently riding has it all. Including my wife. And that’s as good as it gets, my friends. Good times and noodle salad.
Life is short. Bikes are cool. Ride ’em hard or ride ’em easy. Just make sure to ride ’em. Puts a smile on my face every time.
There comes with cycling, a virtually indescribable joy in being a part of a solid pace-line, speeding down a winding road so fast cars have a tough time keeping up. I “train” only so I can be a part of that. I don’t care about Strava accolades, KOM’s, PR’s, or beating other people… for me, it’s just about being a part of the group. The speed and intricacy of it is my definition of fun.
We prepped to roll out Thursday night coming off a record event the week before. Conditions were perfect last week. This week, less desirable – better temp, more of a breeze… but we had a larger, faster group with some serious heavy hitters from Tuesday Night in Lennon. With the fantastic weather and 0% chance of rain, I picked the Venge for this ride.
Craig and I led the group out in a double pace-line. We had a big group, but it splintered quickly under a rubber-band effect and unfortunately, with a few new guys in the group, we missed a couple of regroup points. We did manage to hit a couple, though, one a few minutes before this photo was taken by a friend and regular in our group who was stuck attending a graduation party (don’t worry, Gov., social distancing was being practiced – well, ish). Coming out of the Lake Shannon loop, we were pushing, unbelievably, a 22-mph average (35-kmh). 20-mph is fast for the ride. 21 is crazy and was our record just last week.
Coming over a major hill that I PR’ed on last week, I PR’ed again (by a lot) but still got dropped and the group rolled right through the regroup point so four of us, rather than try to chase down a group we were never going to catch, cut a hard mile of the out-and-back portion of the course off and waited atop a hill that was going to hammer the lead group. We simply stopped, took a second to catch our breath, take a drink and waited for them to appear on the way up an ugly 6% climb.
Sure enough, once we caught a glimpse of them we started rolling and took the lead as they latched on. From that point on, we stayed together, sharing the headwind ride back. I’d dropped from 22-mph down to 21.6, but the average climbed as much of the headwind was actually slightly downhill. We turned right to a crosswind and hammered down the road. Our average passed 22-mph by a tenth as we closed in on the last climb.
I, having spent way too much time up front early on while the group was sorting itself out, was completely spent. As we rounded the corner to start the climb, I flicked off the front and didn’t bother latching on at the back. I was popped and I just didn’t have a desire to try to keep up. I didn’t care about the average or the record. I eased my way up in the granny gear and lumbered down the back toward the City Limits sign and the end of our most excellent ride.
Even chilling up the last hill I beat last week’s average by six or seven tenths of a mile-an-hour.
It was all laughs back in the parking lot as we loaded our toys and headed home. Another record breaking Thursday night… and I can feel it today! I’ll be looking forward to a slow evening ride a little later. I have no doubt, with excellent weather for the weekend, we’ll put together a fun, long ride for Saturday.
After having leftover pizza for dinner, I’m pretty sure I fell asleep with a smile on my face. I surely woke up smiling.
Due to anonymity issues, I have to be very careful with this post. For that reason, this will appear a little vague. If you’ve read one post of mine, I like to be descriptive to a fault, because being clear helps newcomers. Sadly, I simply can’t be perfectly clear about the “who and where”. I’ll be all over the “what and why”, though, as is par for the course.
I stumbled into a very special group of old-timers when I moved north of my native Brighton – Howell zip code as a young lad. They were Flint’s “rat pack” in sobriety, the same as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop in Hollywood. My sponsor, for a short but influential time before his death, was “Frank Sinatra”. He was such a good sponsor and man, he’s still talked about fondly and regularly a decade after his death. If you ever talk about a legacy, especially for a person in recovery, that’s as good as it can possibly get for just a normal, everyday person. My sponsor could make anyone feel instantly better about being themselves just by greeting them. It was an amazing talent and use of an enormous heart. He loved every lost soul who ever walked into an AA meeting and he was going to do his level best to make sure they felt welcome and knew that he was there for them if they decided to stick around.
We had “Dean Martin” over to the house, Friday night. I’d say he was Sammy (my favorite), but Peter is unquestionably Sammy. Dean was a close second favorite for me because I drank like him and related to his sense of humor. That quality my sponsor had, rubbed off on Ian. Ian, almost by chance and luck, had a huge influence on my wife and was a big part of her life growing up. My current sponsor, Greg, is “Joey Bishop”. Roger is “Peter Lawford”.
And so here we were, having a small dinner party (very small, so it could be held outdoors, socially distanced, because Ian and his wife are of that age that Covid-19 ravages). Ian’s been sober 44 years. I was five when he put a plug in the jug for good, 17 years before my sobriety date.
And so we group of sober friends and family ate together, vegetarians and balanced eaters alike, and it was wonderful. We all laughed. Ian, my wife and Ian’s wife cried. And in the course, Ian brought up how well he thought we were doing, and how happy we appeared. He related that back to his life and success, and we both related that back to our working a program of recovery.
And that brings us ’round to the main point of this post.
Within recovery, I am a decent example of a good human being. I’m not great, yet, I think I might need that 17 more years to touch that, but I’ll keep trying to get there. I have a chance to get there because I know one very important point down to my baby toes; sobriety and recovery aren’t an on-again, off-again experience. I don’t get to the good benefits by straddling the fence, one foot in recovery, the other in addiction and on a banana peel. And there exists a simple explanation for this truth…
In recovery, there is a progression to health that is very clear and if one hopes for the full benefits afforded by recovery, none of that progression can be skipped. It’s cumulative. First, we work the steps to become free of the grips of addiction. Once free, and with a basic knowledge of “how it works”, we go on to practice those steps and principles in all our affairs. As life continues, we lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows – helping others becomes a part of our life. Helping others naturally helps us grow in the steps and principles and life improves. It doesn’t get easier, of course. There are trials and tribulations, but we handle them better than we ever could, because the steps and principles we’ve been working for years have become second nature. We intuitively handle situations that once left us baffled, cursing the universe for having shit on us one more time. Now we roll over those issues as if they’re minor speed bumps. We have to slow the momentum a minute so we don’t bottom out the car, but we absolutely keep rolling. And life continues to get better.
Before you know it, you don’t need meetings anymore – if you’re so blessed, you keep going simply to see how good life can get and to help others get to the same place you’ve been for years. And this gets to my sponsor’s legacy. This will be Ian’s legacy, and Peter’s… and Greg’s and Roger’s.
And if I keep it up, possibly mine.
With on-again, off-again sobriety I can never fully release myself from the grips of alcoholism and addiction. I can’t recover. If I can’t get out of that fly-paper, I can’t move on to the next part of the progression so I never really get to the sunshine of recovery. I’m held back. Retarded from the growth necessary to help friends and fellows – because you’ve gotta have something to give away to be able to freely give it. If I can’t get there, I’m blocked off from the really good stuff.
I keep coming back because I want to see just how good “good” can get. Without recovery, all I’m capable of is “meh”. That’s just not good enough – it hasn’t been for a long time. Good times and noodle salad isn’t arrived at by chance. We have to work for it.
The weather report couldn’t be right, I thought. Light breeze out of the northwest, 60° at the start, a high of 76° (15 & 24 C respectively), and abundant sunshine. We get some decent weather in Michigan, but that’s asking a lot for a peninsula.
The weather report was even better when I woke up. No wind for the first few hours, then a gentle northwest breeze picking up as the day went on.
We rolled out with a goal for a 75 miler for my wife and Mike. Chuck and I had a loftier goal of 100.
Without gushing on, it was one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. We didn’t see our first clouds till 10:58 am.
We had an 18.8-mph average when that photo was taken. I was thoroughly pleased with how Mike and my wife were riding. Mrs. Bgddy did require a 5-hour Enery at the 45-mile mark, though.
By the way, if you ever find yourself struggling, throw down a 5-hour Energy and hold onto your butt.
I think, in the whole 100 mile ride, we had less than seven miles of questionable road conditions. Not sketchy, by any stretch, just “less than ideal”.
Chuck and I split off from my wife and Mike near the 68 mile mark and headed north to add on what we needed to make our century. Our pace picked up. Into the wind we were better than 20-mph and cruising. I’d chosen the Venge for the day and with the new wheels and my old saddle back in place, the bike is simply spectacular. We stopped in town at a Subway for lunch and took our food to a picnic table out back on the Flint river.
After a much needed break we rolled out again and picked up on our pace. Our average slowly ticked up from 18.8 to 19.2, where it stayed.
Chuck and I said our thank yous and goodbyes and I rolled into the driveway with 101.4 miles… a perfect (meaning laughable) cycling tan and a smile that I wore the rest of the day.
After cutting some grass, I went and played some tennis with my girls (though I was a little slow moving). We had a simple (late) dinner and I was out for the count. I even managed to sleep in (!).
Just 43 miles planned for today, Sunday Funday on the tandem again. And it’s my wife and my 23rd wedding anniversary.
Good times and noodle salad. There’s no place I’d rather be.
Day 10 has gotta be a montage from our final road trip of the year for my buddy, Chuck’s birthday. It was cold, but a LOT of fun. Good times and noodle salad, my friends.