Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Fork In The Road...Literally!!!!

When I woke up this morning the sun was shining through our bedroom window.  A couple of springtime birds sang in the tree branches just outside and I was, on this rare occasion, actually covered by a blanket.  Eileen likes to “burrito” herself in the bed covers so when I wake up with more than just a blanket label stretched over the back corner of one shoulder, it’s a good thing.  Sadly though, the sweet tweeting from the morning branches scratched at the back of my eye sockets like a whistle blown directly into my ear hole.  As sleep slipped away and my eyes twitched open, I became acutely aware that I had a headache.  A nasty throbbing headache.  I once dated a girl in high school who loved to drone on, without ever breathing in it seemed, and I would sit and listen and try my damndest to look interested, all the while brewing up a brain ache that could very nearly cause the demise of a few much needed synapses.  It was not that bad, the headache, but it was close. 

I don’t know where it came from, or why I had it, but I did know that I had commitments that would not be sympathetic to my morning misery, so I got up, showered, got dressed and got busy.  I almost never take pills (I hate the idea…another story, another time) but did manage to swallow a couple of Tylenol.  The love of my life and truest happiness, the bed cover stealing blanket burrito, keeps some on hand. Pretty soon I was off and on my way to work.  The headache substantially subsided for most of the morning hours but by 1pm or so it was back.  I went home, sat in my office chair, and tried hard to just be still. 

In the back of my mind a nagging sensation began to work its way forward, much like a child relentlessly tugging at his mother’s skirt in search of attention. “Get on your bike and ride” was all I could think about.  I wanted to ride but did not feel up to it.  My legs ached for that familiar reward that only cycling can give to a pair of legs.  I wanted to go to yoga, which was still about an hour way and was considering, at the very least, that possibility when the sensation to ride became more intense. 

In my life I have learned to trust my “spidey senses.”  When I get a strong feeling about something, and ignore it, I usually end up in regret.  While I'm not partial to superstition or unscientific claims of mental acuity, I have learned that “intuition,” if focused through the lens of experience has definitely served its purpose.  Almost automatically, I stood up and began to get dressed in my cycling clothes.  I have a yoga mat in a bag that slings over my shoulder so that I can ride to yoga class, and so after taking the bike off the hook I slowly, and rather gingerly walked out our long gravel drive to the road, saddled up, clipped in and pedaled off.

It’s funny, you know, how just a simple decision to surrender to our own need for exercise can have such an immediate impact on ones state of wellbeing.  I found myself pedaling in the wrong direction, heading north instead of south, deciding to take a longer, round-about way to yoga class.  In just a few short miles, maybe five or six, I had forgotten about the headache.  I felt strong and fast and was surprised to see my average speed up a little above normal. I pedaled with a sense of real fluidity and breathed quietly and calmly. 

Just after the halfway point I turned south toward Turlock, California and my yoga class.  Geer Road is a busy, two lane, country highway and supports quite a lot of trucking.  There is plenty of shoulder room and it’s really a pretty good spot to ride fast.  Not too long afterward I happened to look directly ahead and spotted a fork in the road.  Not a split or change in direction, but an actual fork, like you would stick into a carrot… kind of fork.  As I spun past it I (of course) was reminded of Yogi Berra’s famous nonsensical quote, “When you get to a fork in the road...take it!”  I laughed to myself and momentarily pondered the idea that I should have stopped and picked up the fork and taken it with me, just to follow, Yogi’s advice.  A few more revolutions down Geer Road and again I considered going back and getting the fork.  On other trips, I have found money, a gold necklace, a shamrock, car keys and other things but had yet to pick up any table utensils.  Out loud I said, “Screw it!” slowed down, turned around and headed back to the fork in the road.  The sense that one must turn back is familiar to me.  It’s a bit obsessive, probably, but so what!  It’s a little like, no its exactly like the feeling you get when you drive away from your house and it occurs to you that you have left the lights on, or the garage door up, and it eats at you as you get further and further away until you curse aloud, flip a U-turn and go back, if for any reason, just to stop the badgering voices in your head from sounding off……no?...I’m the only one…..?

I felt good, and I felt happy.  The headache was gone, I was a little sweaty (gross I know) and the other aches and pains I had been feeling had disappeared.  At the road side, out of the way of traffic, I unclipped and stopped as I got my first close-up look at the flattened scarred and essentially mangled bit of highway wonderfulness.  It occurred to me as I bent over to scavenge my newest treasure, not only had I found the proverbial “fork in the road,” but had actually turned a corner in my own life.  It used to be that cycling hurt like hell.  It used to be that riding my bicycle caused serious discomfort and pain, both during and afterward.  While cycling will forever present major physical hurdles and body aches, the likes of which I have yet to discover, it will never be the same kind or type of pain that it once was.  Cycling many miles has become a relief and a release from what might be going on with the current version of me.  Yoga too, as outrageously challenging as it is, has provided me with instruction and real life applications to apply to my physical and mental self.  The rest of today has been headache free.  On my ride home, after yoga, I again began to think about the fork I had found in the road.  It’s just junk, really, and I will through it away, but what it came to represent this afternoon for me is not.  Change has come for me in the last 8-9 months because of a real change in my decision process, and in the ultimate direction my physical health was taking.  Tonight, I had the opportunity to listen to a friend of mine give a presentation on food and what we eat.  She gave a lot of great information about clean eating, but the one thing she said has also stuck in my brain today.  She said, “eat what’s made on a plant, not in a plant.”  I like that one.  It’s cute and catchy and will serve as a great ‘signpost’ the next time I come to a “fork in the road” and need to make a decision for my health.
I'm glad I listened to my “spidey senses” today.  I feel relieved that I did not surrender to the headache and go to bed, which was my original intention when I arrived at home earlier in the day.  It would have been easy to do, and in past circumstances it’s the choice I would have made.  I'm pleased that I had such a great ride, and a meaningful yoga practice.  I'm grateful that I chose, when it actually came time to choose, that when I found that beat-up, run-over, fork in the road, I took it. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Rabbit Hole-in my head...

Last night Eileen and I went to a play.  One of our local theater companies in Modesto put on a rendition of “The Rabbit Hole” in a small and intimate basement theater setting.  I want to be honest and say that, while I went willingly, generally speaking theater is not my thing.  Two of our friends, both wonderful young people and excellent musicians in their own right had invited us to see the play they were both featured in.  While I truly had little interest in the play itself, my main reason for going was to support and encourage our friends, which for me, is one of the many threads in the fabric of my personal makeup that I find is important to maintain.

The Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, is essentially about the process of grief.  A young married couple loses a child in an accident.  The play centers around the parents and their struggle to find a path toward healing.  I knew what the play was about before I got there, but was ill prepared for the intensity of the experience as my two young friends acted out a story that no parent should ever have to know in real life. 
I want to let you in on a little secret.  I am really just a big “wuss.”  While, at least I’ve been told, I can be somewhat intimidating, once someone gets to know me well they find that I am as pliable as play dough.  I have the emotional fortitude of an 8 year old.  My love of Sci-Fi, Action Adventure, etc is something that I have developed over the years as a wonderful thick-skinned suit of armor that protects me from the emotional turmoil I experience in romantic and tragic genres of entertainment.  When, on the rare occasion, I watch a “sad” movie I experience the all-too-real sensation of being caught up in a whirlpool of emotion.  I can watch it happening as my mind and feelings are drug around the perimeter, circling ever closer to the funnel.  My eyes well up, my nose runs and my head begins to spin with all the self imagined variations of personal connections one might feel in conjunction with what is happening on screen.  Before I can do anything about it I am reduced to a blubbering mess of hot tears and tattered emotions. It’s bad enough when I am by myself, but put me in a room full of people and whatever self control I may have imagined I would be able to muster simply vanishes at the first sign of theatrical tragedy.
Back to last night, and the Rabbit Hole.  We have all experienced loss in one way or another.  It’s not my intention to diminish that in anyway, hear on this page, but it’s not what I want to focus on.  What I was unprepared for was not so much the subject matter of the play, but the experience of watching suffering transmitted through people I care about.  I did not realize that the line between pretend suffering and real suffering would become so blurred in the course of a single evening.  I sort-of forgot that those fine young actors I was watching were not really in the situation they were acting out.  I experienced such a deep sense of empathy toward them that I often found myself desperately looking for a place off to the side of the room at which to focus my gaze.  By making a conscious effort to slow my breathing I could “break” my attention long enough to regain a little composure. 
It’s a strange sensation, being so emotional.  I don’t like it.  In real life emergency situations I’m the guy you want around.  Time slows for me at these times and I always think clearly and easily.  No matter how horrific or heartbreaking a situation I have found myself in, I have always been grateful for the ability to calmly problem solve, aid victims, and work my way to safety and security.  Maybe that’s why I don’t like crying at a show.  Perhaps I'm afraid that my perceived weakness will eat away at, or erode, my own sense of invulnerability when I need it to be there.  Maybe I'm wound to tight, or maybe I’m not wrapped tightly enough.   I don’t know for sure.  I do know that after last night’s “Rabbit Hole” adventure that I am tired.  My eye sockets still carry the weight of a good cry, and my head is a little swimmy. 
Truly, I was pretty damned impressed.  The basement, hard seats and simple set blended into the acting and faded way.  Perhaps the most impressive aspect was that, despite the small budget, the performance was huge.  Initially I went in with the preconceived idea that the next two hours were going to drag by, but the reality was that it went by so quickly that at the end, I wasn’t sure it was over.  I won’t forget that evening for a while.  It was magical with Eileen’s company and, even though I sniffled and cried like a baby, she was just as happy to leave with me as she was to arrive.  I am a fortunate man to have such a lovely woman, and such talented friends. Hopefully the next play has some space aliens and monsters in it….something a tough guy like me can get into….

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Gnashing Of Teeth

My Friend Michele (a hippy who spells her name with one “L”) got me thinking about mountain lions.  This powerful predator roams the Americas, where it is also known as a puma, cougar, and catamount. This big cat of many names is also found in many habitats, from Florida swamps to Canadian forests.  It’s a pretty awe inspiring animal, and I love the looks of the thing, but like so many good looking things, it can be very dangerous. (hehe)

As a teenager I loved to backpack.  Moving to the United States at such a young age (13) was one of the greatest benefits of my life.  My childhood years in Sydney were spent glued to the goggle box (Aussie slang for the TV) watching the Wonderful World of Disney, and Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom which essentially defined my impression of America and how I would perceive this great country as I began to mature.  The specials about the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges only served to inspire my imagination.  When my family immigrated to the USA it was no wonder, upon arriving in California’s Central Valley, that I headed straight for the mountains at my very first opportunity.
That first opportunity came in the form a church youth group I joined.  They had a backpacking tradition, a two week sojourn into the real back country, often above tree line.  It’s hard for me to believe that a young Australian boy would begin to truly discover himself, so far from home, but I did. On my first trip (of which there would be many) on my first night, myself and a few friends set up camp some distance from the main group, too cool and much too groovy to “hang out” with the other so-called losers.  Kumbaya was not in our Black Sabbath/Blue Oyster Cult repertoire.  Late at night and many cigarettes later, we began to toss small rocks at a short tree stump some distance away, flanked in shadows of darkness.  One of the group noticed that it somewhat resembled the shape of a large cat.  We laughed at him and observed how our friend also resembled an anatomical body part also named after a small house cat.  A few minutes later, that dark tree stump stood onto all- fours, snarled, and bounded away.  As we four brave lads bolted back to the main group and the safety of all those "losers," my mind immediately flashed on the image of Marlin Perkins, observing ferocious wild life from the safety of a helicopter, while his poor friend Jim, the camera man ever in danger, stalked their prey on the ground.  I suddenly felt like Jim.  I wanted a helicopter.

Years later, I applied for and got a job with a company called U.S. Windpower.  The company was a forerunner in wind turbine technology.  My job title was “Windsmith.” It was my duty to climb the turbines to repair and service them.  I loved the title and loved the job.  It was dangerous and fun, which as a newlywed in my mid to late twenties, was what I lived for.  Our territory was the brown grassy hills of the Altamont Pass, the dividing range that straddles the San Andreas Fault line and separates the valley and all those Bay Area commuters from their jobs and their homes.  The weather there can be extreme.  High heat to freezing cold, punctuated by high winds and sprinting grass fires.  We would sometimes spot mountain lions not far from a wind turbine we were repairing.  I used to think us rather observant, picking out a lion in the fawn colored waist high grasses, but it soon occurred to me the mountain lions had spotted us long before we even thought to look for them.  One day, after unhooking my safety belt from the climbing ladder, I stepped away from a wind turbine close-by the tailgate of my service truck.  Tossing my belt into the truck bed, I shifted toward the driver’s side as I rounded the back of the vehicle.  At the front, on the same side, a rather thick looking mountain lion hind quarters, rear and tail disappeared around the bumper. 

In my life I have found that dark profanity has the almost spiritual quality of allowing one to think and act rapidly in certain situations.  It’s an almost automatic and involuntary reflex, like the need to fart in a crowded elevator.  This time was no exception.  I managed a simultaneous cursing streak and rapid retreat back up the climb ladder, albeit without my belt.  I re-lived a long ago familiar feeling, like when you are a kid, laying awake in bed,  and you are dead certain that if you stick a hand outside the safe boundaries of the covers, something with teeth will remove it for you.
Last year, on vacation with Eileen in Sequim Washington, I decided to go for a hike.  I had not yet begun to lose the weight and was a very pudgy and heavy man.  It did not stop me from taking challenges though so after a little research I settled on a 13 mile portion of the Olympic Coast Trail.  On the day of the hike, loaded with drink and trail mix, I located the trail head sign (all it said was “Trail Head”), turned on the headphones and stepped out.  The hike was fantastic, but I was not prepared for the distance.  Sometime, between my youth and late forties, some son-uva-bitch stretched a mile into a much longer and harder length to cover on foot than it used to be.  But, the forest was green, the mountains were gorgeous and for the most part ( as long as I ignored the massive blisters that grew in my overloaded and crushed feet) I was pretty happy.

When (many hours later) I finally arrived at my destination, the town of Port Angeles, I was truly beat up and worn out.  I don’t think I could have managed another step forward if Barry Manilow himself was offering free piano lessons.  There, at the Port Angeles trail head, was a welcome park bench waiting for me onto which I collapsed.  After catching my breath, and trying to decide if I dare remove my shoes to take a look at my mutilated feet, I noticed a large sign board.  On the sign board, in thick red letters were the following words.  “CAUTION:  DO NOT HIKE ALONE!  MOUNTAIN LIONS!”
Again, I cursed and swore aloud.  It did no good.  It would have been nice to see that sign at the beginning of that hike.  After just waddling my meaty self though some of the darkest and deepest forest on the west coast, I felt like a tasty fat pastry that had just been rolled unnoticed across a table at a weight watchers meeting. 
When cycling now, especially in the foothills, I am admittedly a little nervous about what may be lurking in the tan and sun washed fields I pass.  Aside from the occasional toothless redneck or crack head, the real danger lays in what one can’t see or hear.  I pay closer attention at river crossings and wooded areas.  I am reminded afresh to buy some damn animal mace or pepper spray.  It should work if it isn’t swallowed whole in the first bite.

Happy Cycling!

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Compass, My Passion.

“Do you know, where you’re going to…do you know the things that life is showing you….where are you going to….do you know?”   Diana Ross’ theme from the movie “Mahogany” (besides hinting at my age) hints at the notion that maybe, just maybe, we have some kind of built in compass that provides us with an inherent internal guidance system.  The song suggests that if we do not like the direction our lives are taking, we have but to change our heading and follow a different path.

When I was learning to fly a few years back, I was introduced to a navigational aid called an ADF or Automatic  Direction Finder.  It’s an instrument mounted in the cockpit of an airplane, or boat for that matter, with  compass headings printed around an index card and a needle in the middle that picks up a desired radio frequency.  To fly or travel toward the broadcast signal, you turn your craft until the needle lines up and you are on your way.  A bit oversimplified, but again, the idea being that if your course is not the one you want, you have but to make a simple correction before continuing forward. 
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life was just this easy?  Unfortunately our personal destinations, be they romantic, professional or otherwise are mostly hidden from us.  We begin our journeys with a preconceived vision of what our successful completion will look and feel like, but when we get there it’s often nothing like what we thought it would be, either better or worse.  Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote, “Life is a journey, not a destination,” is almost as much a warning to the brave as it is a truism.
I have, at times, in my own journey felt as though I’ve been stumbling about in a fog.  Busily and aggressively stumbling, actively seeking, yet stumbling still.  Like a blind man in a dark cave, reaching for walls that are not there, grasping for that reassuring feedback that I'm not alone and am, at the very least, heading in the right direction.  Even horses get to wear ‘blinders’ on the sides of their eyes to keep them trotting along in the desired direction.  How many times I have wanted for that Automatic Direction Finder to steer a true or better heading.  How many times I would have settled for one of those magic eight ball novelties.  Shaking a simple “yes” or “no” on that floating dice would have helped a great deal, accurate or not. 
Many times, it’s true, that it was not a compass I was lacking at all, but “compass-ion.”  Acting in selfishness, not malicious selfishness but that nearly invisible selfishness that comes with its own set of ‘blinders’ so that you are not distracted by what’s around you, to the degree that by only focusing on myself I failed to see the opportunity around me.  My “passion” sometimes only included me alone in my decision making processes.

I like the word “compassion.”  It’s been described as co-suffering.  That definition is too hard to just walk past and ignore. The older I become, the more convinced I am that it is in fact the opposite of “selfishness.”  To follow a compass, whose dial is indexed not in references of North, South, East and West, but in degrees of passion is a far better instrument to trust with our life path. 
There are so many things to be passionate and com-passionate about.  With every turn toward compassion, every course correction in the direction of concern for one another, the better we become at receiving those signals that guide and shape who we eventually become.  It’s really amazing to me that like the fog that sometimes has enshrouded my own hopes and dreams, how quickly selfishness dissipated into nothingness when I took my ‘blinders’ off to the world around me.  Experience has shown me, sometimes over and over again, that by simply pausing momentarily to observe the needs, wants, hopes and dreams of others, my own destinations beacon becomes loud and clear. 
Cycling has been (sorry about this one) a rather “circular” journey for me.  As a young teenager I was an avid cyclist and loved every single sweaty pedal stroke.  Then, for reasons I cannot justify but can drop nicely into the “selfishness” box, I put riding aside.  For thirty years, literally, I dreamed of cycling but never said a word.  I could find no signal to follow, no nifty little arrow to guide me back to something I loved so much, and no one to trust enough to reach out too.  It was in loving another that it came back to me.  It’s a lesson I have not forgotten.  By keeping my blinders off, others have been inspired to follow.  Needs have been met, hope has been given and kindness extended… in many directions.  Answers have been found, goals achieved and new motives set in place.  All I had to do, and it seems so simple, was to stop clawing and scratching my way in the darkness, stop peering through the fog of my own self centered ambition… and have a little look around.  
Compassion….Wiki defines it as “…the understanding or empathy for the suffering of others. It is regarded as a fundamental part of human love, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism —foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.”  I can think of no other beacon I would rather have guide me through life, the pursuit of happiness….and the open road.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Poison - Death Wish Diet Food

Even before I began cycling, I knew that my eating habits had to change.  Although I have been a vegetarian for nearly 20 yrs, it didn’t stop me from filling the supposed empty spaces with all manner of goodies.  In fact, I actually told myself that it didn’t matter what I looked like as long as I remained vegetarian.  The beginning of my “food conversion” came with the documentary, “Supersize Me.”  The problem was, I didn’t and don’t eat fast food and haven’t for a long time so I was able to view it from my armchair and not feel too convicted.  It grossed me out, but from a distance.
Soon after I saw another documentary titled, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.”  This time I squirmed in my seat.  Eileen and I bought a Juicer and started to walk.  Cycling was not far away.  I knew that I was in trouble and action soon followed.
What got me really and truly finally focused on my food intake was the investment I had in mileage.  Once I felt that burn in the thighs and the hurt in my ass, the reality of my physical condition slapped me hard and full on in the face.  I immediately knew I did not want to “undo” any good I might have just done, so I started to pay close attention to what I was eating.  Suddenly I was looking at the world through different eyes.  The eyes that once bought food that “looked good” were no longer in charge.  The belly that wanted warm and cozy more than good and healthy was no longer driving the bus.
Every time I got on the bike, especially at first, my knees drove into the fat of my overhanging paunch.  It was perhaps the most uncomfortable thing I have ever experienced.  I thought about it every time I ate.  It was like each rotation at the bottom bracket was a punch to the gut, one I deserved, for what I had done to myself.  Mile after mile I grimaced and took it, tears and all, and swore not to give up. 
Now, many miles later, it’s a different experience.  My belly has not disappeared, but damn it, it’s getting there.  The miles of self inflicted torture are far behind and I can focus on being a real cyclist, with all the goals and rewards that come with it.
Tonight, I found myself at Wal-mart.  The cool, expensive new steering gear I just installed in my Bronco is leaking and I needed some power steering fluid to tide me by until another “new” one arrives.  I parked in the parking lot on my way home from a great yoga class and hustled in to get what I needed.  Remember those “new eyes” I’ve been looking through?  Tonight I was reminded about something I’ve been thinking about in the last few months.  It seems so obvious to me, I really don’t know how I missed it.
We are poisoning ourselves,  seriously!  When I say we, I mean all of us, everywhere.  We are voluntarily killing ourselves with utter and absolute dangerous poison.  The shit I used to eat would kill a wild animal.  Even the regular old grocery store is loaded with processed products that can only be described as “death wish diet” food.  (I just thought of that so that one’s mine!!!!)  Pizza Rolls…I loved Pizza Rolls.  You couldn’t get me to put one of those nasty little grease bombs in my mouth now if you held and gun to my head.  I must have been out of my mind. I pretty much stayed away from soda, but even the thought of it now causes me to feel weak in the knees. 
I'm no expert on nutrition.  If I was, I would never have become the monstrously fat prick I once was.  If I had any inkling at all, that I would have to pedal my blubbery existence over 5000 miles to burn off even half of it, I would never have eaten all that I did.  The idea of a frozen cheese pizza or a frozen burrito now makes me experience real feelings of personal regret.  I'm worried about food now on a whole new level.  I don’t know near enough about nutrition and food to outright blame what we eat on the horrible diseases and physical issues that plague our nation…..but I suspect.  Tonight in Wal-mart I saw a rather stereotypical woman in one of those zippy cart things.  Now before you consider me an insensitive asshole, I do recognize that there are legitimate medical reasons for needing one of those, and I admit that I don’t know the woman I saw tonight, nor could I pick her out of a line-up of zippy cart pilots if my life depended on it.  That said, this is what I saw standing behind her waiting to get past her in the isle I was on.  There she was, the zippy cart straining along like a termite towing a telephone pole, basket and all full of soda, chips, candy frozen crap and all manner of TV food.  I thought to myself, “lady…you must be trying to kill yourself.”  She had taken more junk food off the shelves than I, at my worst, could even begin to imagine eating.  “Death Wish Diet Food.”  I hope it wasn’t all for her.  I hope she was hosting a birthday party at a 17th century orphanage. I hope…… 
There are three types of people who I never want to be.  The “just saved” at a mega church Christian who suddenly wants everyone to love Jesus just like they do, the 30 year smoker who just quit and now wants to spend his free time up in every other smokers business, and the newly found health nut, out to save the world from their fat, useless and wicked ways.  However, I fear I may be hovering close to the line on the last one.  Unlike the first, the change in me is real, tangible and measureable.  The enemy is real, tangible and measureable.  I do not want to poison myself any longer, and I can honestly say, I don’t want you to either.
 My news and personal discovery is nothing new.  I have seen most of the documentaries on Netflix now and have managed to “nut myself up” pretty good.  I admit that I have some confusion about what is truly bad for you, or good for you, or the benefits of ‘organic’ foods verses the benefits of food engineered by science.  Honestly…I don’t know who to trust, but I do know this.  I don’t have to eat things that are clearly designed to get me wanting more.  I don’t have to eat food to change my attitude or how I feel.  I don’t have to eat to fight nighttime boredom.  I don’t have to eat junk.  I don’t need three sandwiches when one will do.  I can eat a salad without feeling like I'm missing out on something.  I don’t have to buy food at stores where my health is not a primary concern.  I did notice tonight that the healthy, for the most part, do not hang out at Wal-mart.  Stepping into a store like that is like suddenly shifting one’s life into slow motion.  You can hurry in, but you can’t hurry around.  The store, like an unhealthy body, has arteries that a literally clogged with slow moving, weary looking blobs of fat that wander from isle to isle in an ever slower moving search for the plastic and the useless.  I might not go back….unless I need power steering fluid late at night again…or something of a convenient nature.  The Death Wish Food Diet.  I no longer want to be on it.  I have someone to live for now, besides myself, and I don’t want her to be miserable with a man to sick to love her like she deserves.
I want to finish by apologizing.  Not to you the reader, and not to anyone else I know, but to me.  I'm truly sorry for things I made me eat, and the volume in which I ate it.  I honestly didn’t know the path I was on and were it would lead me if continued to follow it, until I was already well on down the road.  I won’t do it again.  I apologize.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Keeping silent.  I admit, it’s not something I'm good at.  I suffer from an access of personality, and it’s often difficult to keep still and quiet in meetings and so on. I can feel my insides vibrating with energy, and the longer I am forced to participate in stillness more anxious I become.  I'm happiest entertaining, being the center of attention, goofing off or just being flat-out busy.

However, as much company as my own turmoil can be, I do seek the rejuvenating power of quiet time.  Not total silence, mind you, that would be too creepy.  Sensory deprivation is never the goal, but shielding oneself from the external distractions of everyday life is.  When we work out our muscles, we need sleep to heal and repair, but silence or quiet time is like sleep for the brain. One of the few truly useful things my mother has imparted to me is a rhyme.  I'm sure you’ve heard it:
A wise old owl sat in an oak
The more he saw, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard
Now wasn’t he a wise old bird! 

Knowing when to keep silent is at times an elusive art form, at least for me.  Some folks seem to be gifted with the ability to keep their mouth shut at the right time and place, while others seem cursed to never speak their minds.  There are many reasons for people being afraid to give voice to the things that impact them on a personal level.  Abusive relationships will do that to a person, often without realizing its happening.  Waiting for the “right time” or a softer moment often never comes, and we begin the practice of bottling things way deep inside….of course….there is only so much room in a bottle.  Once you put something in practice, you are on the road to habit.  Also, some people are just not built that way.  The beautifully minded ones of special conscience, the non combative are by nature peaceful and not aggressive.  I believe they are truly more evolved and are more heroic in my view than their counterparts. 

However, until the world rotates itself into a state of total peace and harmony, some of us have to speak up.  As for me, I am unfettered by the softer approach.  The ridiculous and unfair seem to be everywhere.  My bullshit filter is sharply focused, perhaps too focused, often coloring across the lines into impatience.   Those who know me well will laugh at that last sentence; I’m sure feeling that “often” is not strong enough a word.  I'm ok with it though.   

Over the last few years I have learned to make friends with myself, and am ever aware of the need to marry silence and patience.  It took some doing, let me tell you.  Trying to get a terminally impatient man to be at ease with himself is like trying to teach good people skills to a DMV clerk.  What I learned, what I have put into practice has had an impact in other areas of my life as well.   

One afternoon in my workshop, building an engine, I found I needed to build a custom bracket for a non-stock alternator.   The new bracket did not quite fit between one part and another, and after many trips to the grinder I was getting more than frustrated.  The radio was screaming in the background and my own sense of self imposed pressure was taking over.  The more I ground off, the more my beautifully crafted new alternator bracket became brutalized.  Out loud, as the total mayhem of my own design close in, I screamed, “there’s no f#^%ing room!”  Like a missile, the bracket left my hand and buried itself deep inside the radio.  Silence followed.  The silence was so dark and cool I could hear my heart beating in my head.  I dropped my hands to my side and stood with my fists clenched.  Tears were near the surface. I was stunned to realize how wound up I had become.  What had begun as a pleasurable and happy afternoon in my workshop had turned into a thunderstorm inside my head.  “There’s no F#*^%ing room,” ricocheted around inside my head like a rifle bullet in a metal box. 

I rather rapidly understood, standing on the cool cement floor, that it wasn’t the alternator bracket that needed some grinding down,  it was me.  My mind was full of noise and impatience, leaving not room at all for the calm and attention I needed to finish the job.  I let go the tension in my fists and breathed in a fresh breath, or two, or three… 

Outside my shop, against the front wall, is a small garden bench.  I got it from who-knows-where, but I don’t sit in it often enough.  Leaning back on its hard wooden slats, I slowly calmed down.  I’ve never been a violent man, but will admit to a few private little temper tantrums in my lifetime.  They have never ended with the desired result, and nothing has ever fixed itself because of one.  Once long ago, while fixing a Jaguar engine in the freezing cold and splitting my icy knuckles on steel, I threw a wrench out of my garage.  It bounced off my driveway, sailed across the street and went through the neighbor’s car side window.  A sobering and expensive outburst.  If it wasn’t for the incredibly good nature of my neighbor, who took great delight at my sad and sorrowful explanation and apology at his front door, it could have been much worse. 

This time, sitting quietly on garden bench, outside my workshop, I had nearly forgotten the alternator bracket and was now acutely aware of myself.  The truth of the answer was more obvious than the nose on my face, which is rather obvious.  I had known what needed to be done to fix the problem, but did not want to listen to my own intuition.  I was trying to make something that looked good fit where it didn’t belong.  In retrospect, it’s not the first time I’ve made that mistake.  If had just taken the time to stop, look and quiet my own thoughts I would still have been happily working.  The noisy radio had not been helping, and although that particular radio would sing no more, it wasn’t its fault.  After long moments in the sun and silent afternoon air, I was able to rise again to face the task at hand. 

Silence is our friend.  It’s not something to hide from.  It’s not punishment and it’s not the absence of entertainment or fun.  Silence is not loneliness.  So often the two are presented in the negative, hand in hand, but they are far from similar.  Silence, or quiet, is the home of patience.  It is the foundation of inspiration, of art and focus.  Silence is the shutter of the mind’s eye.  In silence, looking inward, one can see more clearly outward.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I Miss Good Stuff...

It seems that in my life certain things are destined to be repeated.  It’s a little like the movie “Ground Hog Day,” where Bill Murray’s character is forced to relive the day over until he changes his attitude.  It’s a fun movie and a good metaphor.  In my life however, it’s not a state of mind that needs changing, it’s the physical world.
More often than not, when I purchase something and take it home, excited to open and play with whatever I just bought, I find that the item is either defective or broken.  This situation, in my own experience, has been taken to the extreme.  It doesn’t matter at all if the particular item is an expensive sound system component, an automotive part or a cheap Wal-Mart impulse buy.  I buy it, go home, open it….and its crap. Broken, useless, disappointing, not-functioning crap.
The phenomenon does not appear to be restricted to the item’s country of origin.   I’ve come to learn that an overpaid over-educated American can assemble something just as ‘bass-ackwards’ and cock-handed as the youngest sweat shop employee.  I think some people go about their daily assembly and testing jobs like they screw…with their minds on something else entirely.
I have even tried something I don’t really want to admit.  It implies a level of superstition on my part, but I honestly didn’t approach it that way.  I have…..when standing in front of a store shelf loaded with boxes of my targeted purchase….actually taken a box that sits two or three items back on the shelf.  I’ve done it more times than I can count.  I even peer over my own shoulder like I’m stealing it, afraid someone will see my obvious insecurity.  As I said, I'm not superstitious in the tiniest way.  It is more of an attempt to ‘beat the odds’ by trying to eliminate the nearly unavoidable trip to back to the store, the long, mind numbing wait at the return desk with all the criminals trying to return silly crap they spent their cash on when food was a priority…and without their “my dog ate it…the washing machine ate it…I thought I had it” receipt.  By the way…why do all the three toed slowpokes who work behind the return desk look the same?  Is it just me?  Has anyone else notice this?
Anyhow, this practice of not buying the “first on the shelf” item has had some success.  I don’t want to conceed that I may in some small part feel that the first item is somehow tarnished in some way in that every other bell end has had his fingers in the box already messin’ with the gear inside, but maybe I do.  This does in fact raise my next question:  If you go to a store, find the item you want, notice that the box has been opened, is crumpled, damaged or otherwise tampered with, and you buy it anyway…..then you are playing Russian Roulette with your time and money.  Only a Bonander of the first order would take that purchase home.  You might as well go out to the parking lot, get in your car, drive to another parking stall nearby and take that busted piece of garbage back inside the store.  Enjoy your long, smelly wait at Mouth Breather Central with all the other returnees.
Thankfully online purchases have not been nearly as much of a problem.  Of course I realize the item is no different in any way to the one I might find in a store, but somehow, inexplicably, Amazon and eBay seem to have a line on sending things that actually work when you take them out of the box.  Of course there have been exceptions….but not remotely as many. 
My own theory, and it’s just a theory, is that we are the victims of very poor quality much more than we could realize.  Even the “I don’t care” attitude of many behind-the-counter front line employees leaves us frazzled and sad.  Today’s products are often, though not always, slowly thought out and quickly made.  They are really “designed” to fail within a short life span.  In contrast, a stark example of this is my grandfather’s tools.  In my tool box are some wrenches that belonged to my grandfather, Jack.  Nearly a century old, they are straight, clean-edged, beautifully crafted and true.  By comparison, my expensive set of wrenches are chipped, strained, widened out and in some cases, bent.  I bet Grandpa didn’t have to go back to the store to replace a new item.  I bet, just out of shear embarrassment, the store would have come to him.  I miss Grandpa and I miss good stuff.  I hate that in order to buy something of quality and long life, you must mortgage an extremity, sacrifice the family cat and backyard boogie a rain dance in your knickers on a full moon.  Don’t pretend you haven’t…I’m not the only one….am I?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Lions Den

Sadly today on the news is a story about a young woman who was mauled to death by a lion.  She worked at a private zoo in California.  Apparently, “Investigators believe the 5-year-old male African lion used a paw to lift a partially open door that was meant to keep him in a cage and out of the enclosure while Hanson  (the young woman) cleaned (the enclosure).” The lion rushed the young woman, breaking her neck.  Sherriff’s Deputies had to shoot the lion to get it off the dead girl’s corpse.

I cannot begin to fathom the sadness her family must be feeling at this moment, nor would I even presume to guess at the series of events that lead to such a violent and tragic end, but it did bring up memories, feelings and questions for me on the subject of wild animals.
I’ve never enjoyed the zoo.  To me it’s like paying to visit an immaculate classic auto stored in a junk yard, or a Steinway Grand in an empty church....they just doesn’t belong there.  I guess I can understand the notion that without zoos and animal sanctuaries the populous would never have the opportunity to view these creatures first hand in their “natural habitat,”… but it’s not natural…not really.  I also completely understand and admire the ambition, motivation and passion that specialists in the field have dedicated their lives too, in study and in conservation.  But still I wonder if the purpose of a zoo isn’t in fact self defeating.  I think one could argue that a zoologist might very well place a higher value on the life of an animal than even a human life…but would he agree to sit out his own days in a cage or “natural habitat?”  The very thing we as a society want to eliminate, animal cruelty, is on display for the price of admission and a bag of peanuts.  Like so many things in our lives today, the contradiction is secretly obvious.
When I was about 14 yrs old my family and neighbors became entertained by our whispered suspicion of the man who lived across the street.  His house was always dark.  Blue tarps lined the windows.  An old brown Monte Carlo sat three legged in the driveway propped up by a jack stand at one corner, waiting for brake parts that never came.  When he arrived home at night he would habitually wrestle with the task of opening the screen door without putting down his armloads of grocery bags. Rumor and conjecture was the neighborhood game, but no one was even close to the truth hidden behind those blue tarps.
One Saturday morning we were alerted to police activity across the street.  We all stood on our lawns like spectators at a race, still in our dressing gowns, trying to catch a glimpse of the quiet man’s face as he was lead out of his home in hand cuffs.  Several animal control vehicles lined the street and multiple agencies were on scene.  Eventually the plywood garage door was dismantled (it had been screwed shut) and removed.  A massive, and I mean massive, crocodile was removed from a makeshift enclosure, its jaws bound with yellow polyester rope and its feet duct-taped to its body.  It was carried out by policemen and animal control officers. 
I will never forget the crocodile man’s face, his cheeks streaked with tears.  He was held by his elbows on either side by law enforcement, his head was back on his neck with his face in the air.  He was screaming in the very same way someone might receive the devastating news of a lost one and trembled as though he faced his own execution.  He was not in fear for himself though…..he was worried about his crocodile.  He called it “Baby” and cried out for the neighborhood that he was sorry.  “I'm sorry Baby..I’m sorry!”  His personal anguish was both unsettling and frightening.
I get chills when I think about it but it does underline just how connected people, animals and our fascination with them can be.  The crocodile guy was clearly a danger to himself and the community.  He followed not even one protocol to support an animal like that, but his passion was all consuming.  I guess that’s the lure with the creatures of the wild.  We identify our inner strengths with their metaphysical qualities.  We align their mystical attributes as crutches for our own weaknesses and failings. They can and do cast a spell on us that makes us want to love and connect with them in a way that often leads to danger and tragedy, both for humans and for the wild animals.  A lion is no more a domesticated pet than a humpback whale.  I would rather spend a little hard earned money, or a great deal of effort to properly and safely wittness a lion in Africa, a penguin on Ice, or a whale in the ocean than loose the majesty, respect and sense of wonder by easily walking through a concrete animal prison in any local city.
We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form. ~William Ralph Inge, Outspoken Essays, 1922

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Solutions (your busted crap)

I guess I’ve always been about solutions.  I hate (yes hate) the unresolved.  I'm sure it’s both a positive and negative part of my personality.  I enjoy it…problem solving…and don’t always mind when I have to dig a little deeper or spend a little more time repairing something.    I am often asked to fix cars, houses, electronics, all types of off- the -wall oddities and, more often than not, that which lands on my doorstep has been deemed irreparable, too expensive to repair or has already been in the hands of some overconfident under-skilled bohemian who has only made matters worse.  The rewards are often deeply personal, artistic and even sometimes come with a financial reward.  There are, however, exceptions.

Some time ago, a “friend” came to the door with a car problem.  It was a simple check engine light issue that required the replacement of a sensor.  The sensor was about $150.  I was asked repeatedly if I could just “patch it up” cheaply.  I explained that “patch it up” was not an option available.  I also recommend repairing the issue as soon as possible because leaving it would raise other more costly concerns.  Of course the repair was not made, the car continued to be driven, then a few months later it was back in my driveway with a more serious and costly problem.  This example is just one in a thousand.  The variables may differ but the story is always essentially the same.
Why do people feel that it’s ok to ask for help and advice, ignore it, then return with a bigger problem in hand, shoulders shrugged as if to say, “yeah I know you said that would happen but I couldn’t get around to it.  How much will this cost me?  Is there a cheap “patch it up” option?
Why do people feel that it’s ok to go to someone like me and say, “Hey man, I totally spent my money on useless plastic bullshit, and now my important stuff doesn’t work.  Can you help me out?  I don’t have much money.  I'm really in a bind man…you’re a good guy…all your stuff works….cant you take your one day off and crawl around the wrecking yard and find me a cheap part.  I’ll be at home playing video games…call me when it’s done.”  I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. 
I know what you’re thinking.  Why don’t I tell them to pound salt? Why don’t I tell them to take a flying screw at a rolling donut?  In the last few years of my life I have begun to do exactly that.  I used to think it was my duty.  I used to think it was my lot in life to be there for people when they asked for help, no matter the personal cost.  What good are all these talents if I don’t put them to use, I wondered? 
I have learned that there are a great many people in the world who will simply take advantage.  I wanted to deny that revelation to myself for a long time, even at the cost of my own sense of value or self esteem.  I never wanted to believe that someone would rather their own problem cost ME more than THEM.    I don’t think I’ve become cynical, but I have grown up a little.  I recognize that there are people, really nice friendly people, who have no problem throwing their hands in the air and crying for help when something they could have prevented happens. 
Accidents happen, and I get that.  Situations arise.  Money is tight all around and that’s all a part of it.  Yes, I am very fortunate to be able to understand the workings of most things, fabricate parts from most materials etc…but there-in lies what I’m getting at.  When I go to someone for assistance with something I cannot do, I LISTEN.  Recently, I’ve been on a yoga journey.  I am not a yoga instructor.  I have no desire to be a yoga instructor.  I must rely on the professional opinion and help from those who have invested in the time and tools to learn to help fat, inflexible A-types like me.  If I ignore my yoga instructors, I will be injured or worse.  I must pay attention; do what is recommended and put into practice what I have learned. 
In my shop are tools.  Tools I have invested in over decades of practice, learning and effort.  My hands are capable, but they are calloused, hard and worn from doing what I love to do.  I have arrived at a point in my life where I see myself as having true value.  Not in a vain, silly, obnoxious way, but in the sense that I possess a skill set that is dying out.  There just aren’t that many people like me left.  I have often been referred to as a “renaissance man.”  That’s great…and to be honest I kind of like it in an embarrassing sort of way, but not too many decades back folks like me where the norm.   If you find yourself in need of assistance from one such as myself, try to remember that they can do that which you do not have the skill to accomplish on your own.  Try to keep in mind that it is their kindness of character that motivates them to put aside their own time to help you back to functionality.  They are often more skilled, more experienced and more forgiving than the “professional” you do not want to pay.
 Their hourly rate? Proper respect, common courtesy and genuine appreciation.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Once I put a feather in the ground and tried to grow a chicken

When I was a boy, my dad had a great saying he would use when I responded to a parental inquiry with “well…I thought I did!” He would unfailingly reply, “Thought put a feather in the ground and thought he’d grow a chicken.”  I loved that saying.  It made me think.  As an adult looking back I know fully what he meant.  He wanted honesty, not an attempt at misdirection.  Thought put a feather in the ground and thought he’d grow a chicken.

I think of that little mental scratch tally often.  It’s logged in my brain with many others.  As a child I can remember really mulling that one over, alone in my thoughts, at first visualizing a man burying a feather with fowl  hopes.  I admit I even tried it.  I did not grow a chicken, at least, not in the time frame my short attention span could wait for one to grow.  Another time, sitting on my haunches playing in the back yard with a tiny spade, my dad asked what I was doing.  I answered plainly that I was digging a hole.  He replied with, “well don’t go too deep.  I don’t want the bloody Chinese climbing out.”  That little number changed my thought process immediately.  Of course I started to dig faster.  I tried to guess whether I would come though at a hole in the sky, looking down on a Chinese town, or if I would pop up somewhere at ground level. 

Later at the age or five or maybe six, my dad drove a 1969 Chrysler Valiant.  In the center of the dash was a mono speaker for the AM radio, covered by a grill, held on with a center screw.  While waiting in the car alone one day in a parking lot I noticed that the screw was loose and sticking up a little.  I started to fool around with it, twisting left and right with tiny fingers.  When dad got back in the car he took one look at what I was doing and said, “hey!  Don’t play with that.”  I tried to explain that it was loose but he would not listen.  “That’s the center screw for the whole car.  If you pull it out all the parts on the car will fall off on the road!”   I was horrified.  I begged to tighten it but he just smiled and said to leave it alone.  For weeks, that center screw held my terrified attention as it vibrated loosely in its place on the dashboard.  Every bump in the road filled my imagination with scenarios of a disintegrating automobile, the entire family out on the roadway scrambling for loose car parts before they were scattered by passing tires.

Looking back on those memories I can only smile.  Dad still likes to spout the ridiculous, but I'm not nearly as gullible.  It’s amazing to think how literally a mind can take something that we later grow up to know as fantasy.  Thought put a feather in the ground and thought he’d grow a chicken.  It’s hilarious really, but how very seriously I readily I took it as fact.  The parallels in society today are staggering. How many of us take the stories of our youth, the fantastic fantasies designed to impart some moral imperative or value and assign real life hope and personal truth.  I know very well that I cannot grow a chicken, not matter how much I would like it to be true.  I know that if I dig a hole there is little danger in the “bloody Chinese” climbing out.  And I know that it would take more than a loose speaker grill to stop a Valiant…maybe not much more…but still.  In the same way I know the silliness of many of the other stories of my childhood.  What a hold they have had on my imagination, hope and personal truth. 

There is joy in understanding.  There is freedom in thought.  As a small boy, eyes wide and mind ready, even a father’s sense of humor appeared to speak the truth about my tiny universe as I knew it.  I can remember one afternoon, while washing the Valiant with dad, bringing up the question of the loose screw.  He looked at me with some surprise and smiled again.  “You do know I was just pullin ya leg mate,” and went back to washing the car.  Wow,  I was relieved.  I was relieved because I understood a thing.  It was obvious.  I wondered at how I had not seen it before.  Of course he was joking.  Of course a tiny screw in the center of the dash does not hold the entire car together.  Of course you can’t put the entire collection of earth’s animals two by two on a wooden boat…….Hey!  Wait a minute!....

The Crackhead

This last summer I was starting to make some real progress.  Hills were rounding out a little, and where once a head wind would hush me to a stop, I was able now to pedal through.  One particular morning early I set out for the town of Snelling.  Its a little over thirty miles away, the majority of which is a long straight road to the east and the rising sun.  About half way along I began to take notice of my own rhythm, my cadence and my breathing.  I was beginning to relax into the saddle and sometimes my legs even pedaled without conscious effort.
It was an incredible morning. No traffic. It was one of those days where the temperature is perfect.  Neither to hot or too cold...almost unnoticeable.  I let myself think that I was actually doing well.  I looked at the ground, the roadway, and the passing gravel.  It seemed that it was moving beneath me a little faster.  I had no aches, no nagging discomforts.  Again I dared to allow a moment of pride. A sense of accomplishment, speed and the notion that I was finally just maybe getting the hang of it all.

Not a moment after that thought hung in my third eye, there was a rattling sound behind me. Within a second or two, a guy on a rusty old Walmart mountain bike whizzed past me like I was standing still.  He was sitting upright riding no-hands wearing nasty soiled jeans.  His shirt was off, tied around his head by the sleeves like a white trash bandanna.  He was mumbling to himself in that one special way that Meth addicts are known to do.  His arms flung to his chest and sides without reason or purpose, seemingly in defiance of his own need for balance.  His knees where wide and it appear that he pedaled from his heels.   I'm not even really sure if he notice me.  Did he see me?  He gave no indication save for the fact that he had passed me by.  For a few moments I could hear him jaw and mumble to himself as he rode off in the distance.  I was tempted to pace him from behind, to see if I could determine how fast he was going, but it was no use.  In my mind I had a mental image of a group of Olympic cyclists, hauling their collective asses down a course, only to be passed by in a flash by this spectacular character.  If it wasn't for the absurdity and hilarity of the situation, the self doubt that started to wedge its way into my consciousness would have found purchase. I began to laugh out loud, quietly at first, then without control.  My laughing fit affected my breathing and rhythm which dissolved somewhere on the road behind me. 

I think of that crackhead often and ponder where he was off to in such a hurry. I'm sure I'm better off not knowing the answer, but I wonder just the same.  It has occurred to me that perhaps he didn't know either..but it doesn't really matter.  That particular dude, with his arms an legs going in all directions, and his totally crap bicycle did me a favor.  It made me remember to keep it real.  While I may in fact be improving there is not yet cause or reason for a self appreciation party.  I hope he is OK.  I hope he will find his path to health and happiness.  I hope I see him again.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mariposa: the road to humility.

By the time I'd lost aout 30-35 pounds I was intent on covering one serious long distance ride before the end of summer, 2012.  I had already done the distance, but only on the flat lands and knew with some fear that hills and hill climbing were in my near future.  I looked on a map, one I had been tracing routes into with a highlighter, and spotted Mariposa.  I committed mentally to the challenge but knew the only way to cement the idea was to say it out loud as an intention.
This little mind game of mine has always been a tool I have used to motivate myself, as I would rather die trying than face the embarressment of not following through.
Several times already I had enlisted the help of my dad, whose interest in cycling I inherited, to go to a place some distance away and wait for me.  This way, I was sure not to turn back or give up. 
This time, with trepidation, I sent him off to Mariposa..(in reality he would leave sometime later than I,  would pass me on the road somewhere and arrive at the destination ahead of time to wait for me.  Lunch, gas, and my safe arrival have been his reward.  His company and help have been mine.) and set of in the cool morning air.  The ride was wonderful and suprisingly easy for the first 60 miles or so over smooth country backroads and rolling hills to the small roadside community of Catheys Valley.  The last 26 miles were quite different.  Two 2000 ft climbs, one after the other stood between me and Mariposa.  I shifted down low and start the first major uphill climb.  Quickly I questioned my own sanity and judgment.  My legs burned, my lungs ached and by the time I was nearing the apex I had been reduced to pedaling about 200 yards at a time, stop for 30 seconds, another 200 yards and another stop.  By the time I reached the final rapid decent into Mariposa and my waiting father I had learned a few things.  For my amazing bicycle and its own technical excellence, great admiration.  The hills in general, new found respect.  For my own sense of accomplishment, humility...but though it all, I could not get the damn smile off my face!!!!

The rebuild.

I thought I would start with just a few pictures of the rebuild of Eileens brothers bicycle.  I wish I could have known Jimmy, and its not strange to me that I felt in a sense a small connection with him as I worked in my workshop for hours, rebuilding his old Schwinn Caliente 10 speed road bike.  It was rusted and damaged, from years of storage, but a little TLC and 47 yrs of know how breathed new life into this second time around, pride and joy.  Thank you Eileen, and thank you Jimmy.

Carbon black paint and pearl white frame, some custom graphics and a lot of scrubbing and polishing!  It rode great and inspired me to push my self.  My furthest ride on it was 60 miles, before the new bicycle.  Look after it James !!