Annie, Are You OK?


I’m feeling very angsty. There is a cloud over me and I can’t outsmart it. I know the cloud is dumb and incapable of strategy but it keeps finding me, no matter how many hours I spend on my bike. It finds me even in my dreams.

Sometimes I give up the care that it is there, because I know that clouds will sometimes form, despite my protests, and that they will travel with the wind, and that the wind is always consistent in its pressing, pushing the cloud as it pushes me, but this wind is in my face, not so hard that I can’t breath, but enough to be annoying. I wish it would go away. But this wind is committed to something, and I can’t make sense of its persistence. I tell it that it is just a cloud, that no one cares about it, that no one likes it, that all of us would prefer that it not block out the sun, but it just dangles there and makes no offer to its intention.

I mentioned it to my friend the other day during a phone call. He too, was confounded by its resolve. I wonder what it could want with you, he asked?  Maybe my luck has begun to run thin, I suggest, maybe the winds no longer find me in their favor, maybe a lesson is to be learned. But what lesson? What have I done wrong? Everything I have done benefited the other first, and I have never put myself in the front of the line. How does this cloud see it fit to rain on me and never let me dry, not for a second?

Let us examine this, he says. A cloud is temporary, for one. And so is the sun, one could argue, burning the way it does. And a cloud can blot out the sun, yes it can, but only until the sun dries it up. The sun will always beat a cloud.

Yes, that helps. Thank you, I say. But I long for the sun to take control a little quicker, and the winds to change more rapidly, because I feel that not only is my head wet, and my feet tired from walking against it, but my heart too, is giving up. Sometimes I feel like my heart is simply tacking and gibing against a sea that hides a rogue wave destined to take it deep down to its cold sand, and bury it beneath the tow.


No, he says. The cloud, the wind, the sea, they are there to remind you of YOU! 

The Slow Leak


Well, that girlfriend thing is over. Deep down, there was something fundamentally incompatible about us, to paraphrase someone else who worded it better than I could have. I was accused of walking away too easily, but I'm pretty certain that when a book ends, there aren't extra chapters lying around for me to find. And sequels almost never deliver.

There was a slow drip from the roof that I ignored but knew would bring the whole house crashing down someday. Afterwards, I looked at the carnage and didn't wonder "What the fuck?" I looked at it and I thought "Oh, so that was what that drip was all about."

Sometimes you recognize the drip before the house has even been built. Keep building? I say yes. Enjoy the sun while you can; maybe it won't rain for a while yet.

But if you had asked me in the beginning if I thought it could last forever, I would have told you that I thought it might. I always hope it might. The first question is "what happened?" I broke up with her, I think.  She broke up with me, I think. Maybe I broke up with her a little a couple of weeks in advance, and then she broke up with me a little the week before the break-up-actual, and then we broke up semi-consensually. Those are the murky details that form the fact.

I want love, and love was not what I was finding. That can't possibly make me the bad guy. If the relationship turns out to be a carnation, it doesn't suddenly blossom into a rose by gritting your teeth.

SO,

I live in the northeast, and I obviously did not take my normal trip out of the country this year, as I probably should have.  I chose the worst winter to stay in Dodge, and now it's March, which means it's almost April, and I should probably just sit this out.

So I read to pass the days. Madame Bovary was an indulgent surprise. However, (and I get that no love will ever satisfy her, and therefore even her romance with death was an agonizing failure), but I think suicide as a closing is cheap, both in reality and fiction. I had no sympathy for the character.

I'll never get through anything by Dostoevsky, but I'll keep trying. Crime novels go down like Cheez-It's. Bukowski, Carver, Eggers, and Baudelaire salt the quick reads that don't necessarily leave me staring at the wall once they're over, but have so many twists that I'm compelled to chase them. "Book Thief" was great, and "The Fault In Our Stars" was a winner, although it's unlikely that any teenager in this generation is that articulate and clever.

I'm possibly repeating myself, but riding my bike, whenever possible, has been my net. I'll keep doing that until there is more sunshine than "oyster colored suns," and I'll parlay my ongoing bet that compatibility, fundamental compatibility, awaits me.

And I'll fish some more.



Little trip up North


I started a wee little trip a couple of weeks ago. On a whim again, and not much planned. I figured to start in Lake Placid and climb Whiteface, which a friend told me I should climb, so I did. From there, I went east to Middlebury (VT) for no particular reason, then North Conway (NH) to ride the Kancamagus Highway, then to Portland (ME) and then Portsmouth (NH) and now I’m in Gloucester (MA). And I’m sick. For the first time in about three years I am sick and it’s fucking horrible. I think I overdid it.

Wait, why such a short trip? You usually go longer and the locales are…uh, cooler.

I know, it’s because I have a girlfriend now. She is very real and I like this girl very much and she makes me not want to be away from her for very long. I’ve always said that traveling for me was only going to be satisfying unless it wasn’t. And I’ll tell you that this trip has been kind of flavorless outside of the biking bits.  Now I would love for her to travel with me, but she’s not been on a bike (although she is a voracious runner and yoga-er) so good seeds there and we will see. If she picks it up, great, if not, great.

She knows me pretty well and she knows how susceptible I am to the cabin fever. If I can get her on a bike and she loves it, and she quits her job, then we are all back in business.

If not, still great. I can ride my bike anywhere and if I have someone to come home to who understands and appreciates me; then trust me, that beats being alone in anyplace in this world you could dream up.


What do you do when you aren’t biking?

I prepare to bike and I repair from the bike. Planning rides in towns you have never been to can be exhausting because you don’t want it to suck and you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. My bikes are always dirty and in need of a clean and lube. My kits are always dirty and in need of a wash.

Then I have to suss out the next location. Which, oversimplified, involves looking at a map and just…winging it. I look for mountains or national parks and I use the googleman and strava and other cycling sites. This can take hours.

Then, once I get a location, I have to scope out hotels which have to be kind of near the good biking and at least a favorable to very good rating on tripadvisor. I can’t stay in a shit hotel. I’m 41.

Sometimes, there are no hotels available near the spot I spent hours picking out, so I start again. And I have another beer.

Then, I have to figure out where to eat, which can be a real pain in the ass. Sometimes I have a hankering for something and it can’t be had. So I’ll phone it in and hit a chain restaurant, if there are any. I don’t feel pretty about it, but sometimes I just gotta.

Do you get lonely or is all just rockstar moments?

Traveling alone is rough duty. One the one hand I eat, sleep, fart, and wake when and where I want. On the other I have no one to talk to outside of the bartender, the hotel staff, and some friends by text. Sometimes homeless dudes and old drunks, like the old drunks who start at 10 in the AM, can nail a solid conversation down like you would not believe.

The biking parts, well, I prefer them alone anyway, so yes, those are mostly rockstar moments, although I would jam on having someone with me sometimes.

I skipped to the end, so can you sum it all up for me?

Do what you want until what you wanted isn’t what you want anymore and then do what you want again. Repeat as needed.

Top of Whiteface Mountain, New York

Lighthouse near Portland, ME

Typical hotel room with shit drying everywhere, in Portsmouth NH

About 20 miles south of Portland, ME

Make your rights more right.


What a glorious day; maybe the finest of this summer.  I had hoped only to comment on how glorious it was, and that's still the plan, but with one caveat; I learned immediately after dismounting my bike this evening that my college housemate had passed away in his sleep. That's all the details I could glean from my friends. Yesterday he was picking blueberries with his family and then he just went to sleep and did not see the morning. 

Can't be. Crazy. Unfair. Too soon. Not him. I don't understand. Once past those thoughts, my own sense of vulnerability backhands me hard, and I take good account of how it makes me feel, because I want to remember it. Because I know that this feeling passes with time, and I want to remind myself, over and over again, of the certain emotions it puts onto the field.

I want to tell the people I love that I love them. I want to tell the people that I didn't communicate well enough why I lacked the skill, to apologize for inadequate awareness, or for not caring at the depth they needed. I want to reach out to anyone and everyone. Essentially, I want to right all the wrongs, and I want to make the rights more right.

Maybe it was coincidence that today I felt every moment on my bike with just a little extra seasoning. The air was sweet and the roads were perfect and the traffic was nowhere. I had no pain, not anywhere. I felt above myself, disconnected but in no way disassociated. I listen to music on my rides, but today I put the buds away.

I floated. Cyclists will joke and tell you that they could not feel their legs, that they just sent out power on every revolution, that they never felt as if an effort was made. I will confirm; that is no joke, although it is not everyday either. It is a form of mojo that, sometimes mysteriously and frustratingly, ebbs and flows. Sometimes it never ebbs.

I'm not so spiritual to believe that something propelled me today, but I do believe that there was good reason that my eyes were wider than normal.

You really can just.... not wake up. That's not me trying to sell you, and that's not me calling on cliches to make a point. There is always a reason that you just cease to be, of course, but there is nothing anymore that could convince me that it isn't just a matter of drawing the short straw.

So, with this truth, how do you navigate? Ideally, you remember that this time is the time to enjoy. The intrinsic value of life is that you possess it. That'll clam up the nihilists for good. (For more on this: here)

Tell someone you love that you love them. Right now.

In loving memory of Christopher Choi. 





Shut Up Brain

Location: West Chester, PA (Home)
I know that you know that cycling is therapy. I somehow slipped into a bit of a coma the last couple of days, maybe it's just re-adjustment and maybe I'm tired or maybe I just have to realize that every once in a while my testosterone levels slip and I have my man-flow. For whatever reason, I did not feel like waking up the last few days. The therapy is failing me.

I dip into many wells of inspiration when I feel like this. I start a couple of books, see how far they get me. I throw some useless shit in the garbage. I go to bed early or I stay up late scouting a possible long term stay in Italy for the next trip. I watch movies, but they disappoint, in general. I don't read movie reviews because I find most people who write reviews to be pretty specifically pissed off about something other than the movie, and I don't like being guided by stupid, angry people. So picking a movie is lottery fare.

I watch some bike races. None of it stirs me as it usually does. I'll make myself a nice meal and pour a heavy glass of wine, knowing full well the glass is useless, it's just the middleman between me and that bottle. And all three of us know that bottle is getting kicked.

I got a new job this week, down in DC. I still don't know if I want it. It's a conundrum I find myself in often; I want to be creative and involved, but I don't want to be obliged. I made this commitment to myself three years ago to chase only those joyful pursuits, and to straight-arm anything else from getting into my bubble.

I'm just stressed, a bit, I guess. The truth is I deal most excellently with stress, in fact, I strive in it's face. I am efficient, calculating, and viciously determined in my battle with it, but if I see it is a fight I cant possibly win, I haul ass the other direction. That's called self-preservation.

I climbed onto my bike this afternoon, despite not wanting to do so. Historically, I get over myself at around mile 20 and all is good again. The natural pain-killers kick in right about at that point, and even fat old guys flipping me the bird from pickups (or Miata's, or work Vans) still elicit a wave and a fuck-you smile.

But today, at exactly mile 32.6, as I was cresting a hill, I began to cry. It would not be my first time shedding a tear on my bike, but this one came from nowhere in particular. It ended as quickly and as fiercely as it started. It was maybe 10 seconds long, but it made me stop peddling. And then it made me laugh, because "what the fuck was that?"

And the next 28 miles? I felt light as a feather.

Pain is normal on a bike. Euphoria is common but not consistent. I never know what kind of day I am going to have, despite putting almost the same things into my body on a daily basis. Today, some nugget of sadness needed to get purged, and though I didn't know it, it was only properly fermented until that exact moment in my ride. I was helpless, really.

These are the things that keep me getting back on my bike, day after day, despite rain or wind or cold, because I know that without my bike and me on top of it, melding with it, right there completely and attached to everything around me, that there is no other more effective way of getting my body to stage a completely welcome coup d'etat on my brain.

All hail the new King!




Give It Away Now

Location: West Chester, PA

I left New Zealand. Spent a week in Maui. Maui without a girlfriend/lover/wife/fill-in-the-blank is like turkey with no gravy. Unreal moist turkey with just the right amount of salt, but still, the gravy makes it. I needed that week as a book end though. I had Pina Colada's and cheeseburgers and rode almost everyday and saw whales, plowed through two books, and had my fill of steel guitars and tiki torches. 

What I was most excited to come home to though, was a brand new Ridley Excalibur bike courtesy of Michelin tires. You might remember that I entered a video contest back in October to win a $7,000 (plus or minus) bike that I was going to give to charity if I won.

It was not my best video of all time, because I did it late one night when I stumbled upon the contest and entered it haphazardly (half-assedly.) Once it was up though, that was it.

And I don't know if you can win and lose at the same time, but I think I did it. Despite having the most votes, ultimately the decision was up to Michelin to pick the winning steed. I knew that from the beginning, and of course they had every right to exercise it.

But the notification that I did not win didn’t sit well with me. Not because I don’t like to lose, because I lose at plenty of stuff, like rat races and most recently, bicycle video contests. My video was very different from the winning one, and so they wanted something more upbeat; I accepted.  

And while I have been taught to be gracious when both winning and losing, I felt I should speak up. A lot of people had invested a lot of time and effort into the voting process, including myself. I had spreadsheets that counted daily votes and projected final votes. I knew exactly how many votes I needed based on my average and versus the others averages. I went full retard, because when I care, I care 200%. 

I waited a week or so, and then I could not contain it. I wrote an email. I admit that I threw a little weight around. I wasn't being a sore loser, I was being a strategist. I had nothing to lose by creating a stink. After all, it wasn't me who would benefit from it if it worked, but a kid, maybe many kids if the charity chose to auction it off and use that money to benefit all of them. 

Two days later I got this from Ralph Cronin of Michelin: “I think what you were trying to do was awesome, donating the bike. What size frame, handlebar, crank etc. Let me try to make this up to you.”

They were going to make good, and they did just that. They sent it to my local bike shop, paid to have it built up, and it is beautiful. 

I'm not clear why this occurred to me, to enter this contest, and then later, the decision to pass the spoils along to someone who couldn't possibly afford it. It just occurred to me, and it felt right, and I have to tell you, I love a happy ending. 

I can't leave it at that without thanking Ridley, Shimano, and especially Michelin for stepping up for a good cause. Now, go out and buy their stuff. And thanks for voting. 

Most of all, I'm just glad to have a positive story to report. They happen everyday, I assure you, but they rarely get a spotlight. 

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