Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hello My Friend

 I am a pretty good musician and had I not reached beyond my local surroundings I probably could have played for life. I was in a band from Ft. Pierce that was the toast of a one horse town. Then one fateful night, while trying to get gig's in Tallahassee, I ambled in to Bullwinkles and saw "John Kurzweg and The Night". I stood slack jawed as his band put on a demonstration of what a real band should sound and look like. The chasm between what we could do and what they did was vast.

Growing pains drove me from my home town in 87 and I ended up back in Tallahassee. My first week in town I saw him again in Finales doing a crazy solo act on acoustic guitar. He played with a drum machine and beat his guitar like a drum in the spaces where the playing stopped. I made a promise to myself that he and I would play together some day, but he was living in Jacksonville. I was a nobody that couldn't get arrested, much less land a gig with a former Atlantic recording artist. I formed a band with other outcasts and we we began to do gigs under the moniker of "The Reign". We had a devoted following that always came to see us. Our dance floor was packed every night. I was bitter that my life wasn't going according to my plan. I had an awful ego problem and a huge chip on my shoulder. I was at the top of my game as a musician and at the bottom of my humanity.

One night while playing "Gimmie Shelter" at the Flamingo Cafe, I looked up and saw John in front of me. As the solo approached I lifted the guitar off of my band mates neck and handed it to him. What took place after he started playing was a transcendent moment in my life as a musician. We traded lines on the remaining vocals and when the song ended we took a break. John and I exchanged small talk and he left the club. After that I fired and hired three other guitarists trying to get that feeling. Finally John agreed to fill in for a few weeks until we could find someone to fit. My anger and ego put him off  and a few months we parted again.

Over the following years I had two or three other bands and I tried to get John in all of them. Finally in 94 I convinced him to sit in with my new band "Radio Bikini" and he stayed for five years. He never officially joined the band. I was married and had children and playing with John and Dale softened some of my edge. Through all his time playing clubs he had a day job as a home recording engineer and producer. He recorded a band called "Creed" in his living room and the rest of that story is too big for this page and not mine to tell. He became a multi platinum producer and worked with some of the best musicians in the business. I became a part time musician, then later quit playing to manage "socialburn" "No Address" and "Go Radio". The next six years were a roller coaster as I found myself again working with John this time as the producer of the bands I managed. There was tension, good times, big hits and crushing lows. John's life took him to Santa Fe where his career settled down his marriage ended. We were both left with huge wounds no one really understood except he and I. It was then that we became the great friends we are today. John and I would spend hours on the phone discussing the merits of Grand Funk, Muse, every band, singer, drummer and guitarist imaginable. We talked like Nam vets about our days in the thick of the music business.

John's band from the eighties "Slapstick" did a reunion show at The Moon and it was a huge event. He looked happier and more at home on stage than ever and I felt just like I did when I saw him in 84. They decided to make it an annual event and this year John wanted to do a show of his originals at The Mockingbird Cafe. He asked Dale (the ambassador of joy, and bass player from Radio Bikini) and I to back him up.

For five glorious days I was a musician again. We practiced for hours, but we didn't have the time to get the show up to the standards. We did our best, but in the end we had to wing it. The show sold out and the place was filled with John's fans, our friends and family. It was a great shinning moment I never dared hope for, having been on the bench for so long. In the end it was a good night and I think everyone there got their moneys worth. For me it was a dream come true and I was reminded again how lucky I am to have a friend with such talent, but also the grace to lift me back up to the stage. I have no words to express  my gratitude. If you were there I hope you felt the magic and overlooked the imperfection. If you weren't there, dare I say, you missed something pretty special.

A week and thirty hours went into that gig but it really represented a lifetime of friendship.


Friday, December 9, 2011

My Midnight Confession

Bless me blogger for I have sinned. It has been a month my last bloggfession. I have taken the trail in vain twenty two times. I have used abusive language to fellow cyclers ....well ...a shit load. I have lusted after obstacles and had unprotecteded affairs with logs I had no business jumping. I have convented trails with rocks and skinnies and logs (oh my!). I have ridden with my fork locked out for an entire Cadillac night ride. I have denied light to a friend riding a step up in the dark. I have laughed at others when they rode off trail. I have failed to ride when the weather permitted. I have blamed my bike and tires for mistakes that were clearly caused by my bad braking and cornering. I have swung vines into riders behind me. I have been racist toward any and all "STRIPES"! I have half wheeled Paul Lawrence and Dave Norman (two men in dire need of skills and nick names). I have done the Higher Ground ride three times.

I am not sorry for my sins and I plan on committing more of these offences and many others.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fileds of Gold

I am still grinning (and coughing up dirt) from the cross race. I got a really good start (that's me top left). It's good when it's open class. The fast guys love being behind base racers on mountain bikes with slow motors and questionable skills. I stunk up the first few corners and made some dudes grunt and skateboard push behind me. I was laughing so hard I almost couldn't feel my heart exploding, on the first open section.

I had a simple strategy; stay with the big man as long as possible. The course favored MTB's but the soft climbs, crazy wind and stampede dust, tore me a new one. On the second lap run up, big man demanded I come around him. I am scared of him, so I did what I was told, and ran from him like a sorority girl in a slasher flick.

 I (kind of) got away from him, but on the final lap he hunted me down like a dog, and got with in spitting distance, in last few corners. Ever the sportsman, I called him a "some bitch" when I realized he was back on my bumper and mentally gave up. Then I heard a grunt and thought the big man crashed. I knew it was a gift (from Deity of choice) and ran for the finish like my Irish arse was on fire. I edged him out for umpteenth place. Turns out the Big One did not crash, he just bobbled and did what has been dubbed by the gallery as; "The Dab Heard Round The World, or By The Three Guys Standing There". 

Great day all around and as always, the best part is when your race is over and you get to heckle the rest of the riders. If anyone says CX racing is not fun, slap them open handed and leave a big red print on them, so they know they are stupid.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Do You Remember?

The human capacity to forget should never be discounted. It is the motivating factor for all great come backs. It is also the death knell for people that can't or don't want to improve.

I have been complaining about my local trails. I have had the white boy blues since I got back from the rock laden obstacle courses of "The Lig" in Pennsylvania. The short version is; I haven't been entertained enough, so I have had a little attitude (shocker!).

Last week we had another cyclist fall to a stroke. I went to visit him and I remembered not being able to write, having balance and speech problems and worst of all, watching the clock on crew ride nights (remember those?) and thinking; Ya they are turning their lights on. Big Chris is probably yelling at them. Now they are bombing the roller coaster on Caddy. Man those guys are probably laughing on their tailgates. It's very easy to forget, especially when it ain't no fun to remember.

I was yelling at my boys the other night about something really important like: dirty towels on the floor or cleaning their rooms. My oldest boy (we call him Captain Positive) can put a good spin on anything. He has been that way since he was a kid. A buddy of his lost a big brother last week, while being the DD for his friends. The driver that hit and killed him blew twice the limit. I have never seen that look on my sons face when he talked about it, or had to watch him experience a loss this close to home. Needless to say, no one has been leaving the house without knowing they are loved and getting a hug.

Like so many of us, I had completely forgotten to be thankful for my gifts. I probably won't institute any behavior changes, hardly anyone does. I probably won't magically become a better person, but as I rode through a clearing last night on my bike, I looked up at an autumn sky. The stars were just coming out and the moon was bright as a light at eight O'clock. In that silent moment the voice of the cynic inside me shut the hell up and I thought of those parents without their first born. I thought about Brian laying in bed dreaming about what I was doing.

And I remembered.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Running Up that Hill

My first ever guest blogger, submitted for your perusal, a testament to what my maniac cousins and friends do for kicks. Pete is one of my favorite people in Ligonier. He is super intense, highly educated and knows more music fun facts than anyone I have ever met. Oh yeah and the dude is fearless on a bike. Enjoy .....W.B.Z.N.

Winter would not go lightly. We were two weeks past the Vernal Equinox and it had snowed each of the past three days. Most of the locals were vexed about this. Our only question was: Mountain bikes or cross-country skis? Since the valley had no snow accumulation, we chose the former. Sunday afternoon, about 2:00…On the way up the mountain, the elevation rises about 1,500 feet. We started to see some light snow cover as Homer the Odyssean van strained to reach the summit. We passed into a conspicuously different scene just before we plateaued at the AT&T towers. Rat and I shot each other incredulous looks, as we observed the completely snow-covered land. “Oh, shit,” we either said or thought in unison. We’ve been riding together for 10 years now, on average two to three times a week from April through October. A little quick math tells me that we’ve made this trip over 500 times! As we rolled south on Summit Road we debated whether to turn back and get the skis. Once we arrived at the Warming Hut and saw ski tracks on the first trails, we resumed our deliberations. Rat said we should give the bikes a shot and I agreed. However, since the snow was confined to the mountaintop, the road had not been plowed. Homer is nearing its 10th birthday, approaching 180,000 miles, I have a symbiotic relationship with this vehicle that has gotten me through ice, snow, and mud countless times. Yeah, I’ve overestimated its capabilities more than once. But that’s what AAA is for, eh? We did a few fish tails as we headed for Wolf Rocks and pulled off twice to let oncoming vehicles pass. I was not about to slide off into a ditch and have to get towed on the third day of April. We continued to debate the merits of skiing vs. riding, but we agreed that under the enticing white layer of fresh snow lurked a wet mess, sure to adhere to our slats. The end of Summit Road forms a nexus with Linn Run Road. As we turned west I remember saying, “We could ski this easily.” Pulling into the Wolf Rocks parking lot, we saw two other vehicles. No bike racks. Hikers? Skiers? A Jeep Cherokee had Iraqi Freedom license plates. Homer sports bumper stickers that plead, “War is Not the Answer”, “Let There be Peace on Earth”, “Stay Human”, and “War doesn’t determine who is right – only who is left”. My bike helmet quotes King, “Wars are Poor Chisels for Carving Peaceful Tomorrows”. Later, we would encounter them on the trail, three guys in kilts (on a 38° day) and a woman. So off we went. The snow was 6-7” deep in the woods and somewhat less on the trail. We developed a “shoot for the rocks” riding strategy to keep from spinning our tires in the white stuff. Rat was far more adept at snow riding than me. At the intersection of the Wolf Rocks Loop and Spruce Flats, we stopped and I let some air out of the tires. Something about more surface area. It mattered little. I was tired already, and we had only been riding for 20 minutes. So, on we went to the Wolf Rocks Loop, a trail that has been my nemesis since I first rode it back in 2000. It careens and cavorts, stymies and stultifies. It is a glorious track whose vistas usually afford its visitors late afternoon sun. On this day, it afforded more snow. And I scuffled, like an old man with all his worldly belongings on his back. Rat, bastard that he is, seemed to revel in the challenge. I seemed to spend as much time pushing my bike as I did riding it. I’d start getting squirrelly in a snow pile and veer left off the trail. When I tried to saddle up again, the rear tire would spin in futility, and I’d have to push my steed to the next rock, where I could get a fresh start. And I kept hitting the inside of my left calf on the pedal, resulting in a nasty hematoma (of sorts). Shortly thereafter, I’d veer left again and repeat the frustration. At one point, I grabbed the frame of my beloved bike and considered the unthinkable: I wanted to throw it in disgust. I have never, ever had such a thought through all the rides that featured endos where I landed on my head, got torn up by briar's all too happy to sample my blood, broke my wrist trying a trick on a log reserved for far younger and more capable riders, knocked my wind out by failing to land a jump properly, yada, yada, yada…But this had become too much. After ascending a really rocky hill, I got the hang of it and rode for a couple of minutes unimpeded. Then, rolling down a hill that sports a large plastic drain pipe at the bottom, I imagined that I would crash…and crash I did, but in a wondrously soft pile of snow to the left of the trail. I picked up the perfectly wet Spring snow, fashioned a softball-sized snowball, and hurled it up the hill at Rat. I missed. He just looked at me as if to say, “C’mon, ride your bike.” So I did. And we made it to the top of the Loop, where we always rest our tired carcasses against the wooden trail signs. Then off we went on the easier (imagine having ridden from 6 to 12 on a clock face, then descending 12 to 6) side of the Wolf. Somehow, it got harder. When, at last we reach the crossroads, I had very little left in the tank and told Rat this. He says, “Maybe that’s your problem,” pointing to my flat back tire. We’ll never know when it went flat, but it must have exacerbated my toils. So down in the snow we knelt with CO2 cylinders – the first one spat gas and failed to fill the tube. The next three that we produced from our CamelPaks were spent. We tried the hand pump. Much effort with little inflation. I reluctantly agreed that I’d have to walk the bike back – the same section that took 20 minutes (normally 10 at most) on the way out. So, I run with the bike, holding the handlebars, lifting the front tire over pointy rocks and roots, very nearly approximating the riding experience, but cognizant of the fact that I’m completely drenched in sweat from the ride/push of the last 90 minutes and if I don’t haul ass my body temp is going to continue to plunge. I actually stay ahead of Rat for most of the hyper-hike, and we reach Home(r) at last. The kilted warriors offer Rat some kind of elixir in a plastic water bottle. Turns out to be Balmore 12 year old Scotch. I marvel at our turn of fortune. Several minutes ago, all I could think was that fate had soured on me. Now, I swig a dram lustily. This is kickass Scotch and all is right with the world. I take my pack off and see that the outer pouch is unzipped. Oh, fuck. I frantically search the outer perimeter of the van and abruptly announce, “Uh, I don’t have my keys.” Rat queries me about where I put them and I counter, “Where I always put them, but they’re not there.” All is wrong with the world. So, off I went, back to the spot where we (tried to) changed the tube. I leave my pack (and water source) behind, wearing only a short sleeve wick away shirt, a long-sleeve synthetic shirt, and a nylon vest. I have my phone, but no hat and my hair is soaked. I run my hand thru my hair to rid it of moisture. I negotiate the rocks, roots, and, oh yeah, the freaking snow. My shoes have rubber soles with a metal clip in the middle, but I manage not to crash as I approach the crossroads: No keys. Then it dawns on me. You must have lost them when you crashed on that hill. Now, this was a desperate man’s gambit. I knew that I would have to run/hike another 15-20 minutes to find keys that may have been jettisoned from my pack. And, if I were extraordinarily fortunate to find the lost item, I would still have a 30 minute hike back. So, I proceeded to alternately encourage myself and fairly scourge my sorry 52.7 year old person. “This is crazy,” I said to myself. “But you don’t want to call Barbara and tell her to bring the spare keys, you shithead.” And on and on. It was hard. Really hard. I felt like it might be a really pointless physical effort and then it would really suck having to hump it back on the rocks, roots, and snow and, yeah, I was probably going to get hurt. But on I trod. Though, contrary to all earlier reportage, I was not alone. I pleaded my case to Jesus, Mary, The Holy Spirit, and, of course, St. Anthony. I qualified all these prayers by saying, “I know I’ll be alright, the keys are not THAT important,” sort of a way of hedging my bet. I didn’t want the Gods/angels to think that my concerns were of a high priority. But I believed. And, miraculously, the keys were on that hillside, just above a big indentation in the snow. I whooped for joy, picked them up, and held them in my hands the whole way back, paranoid that if I put them in the pocket of my shorts they’d find a way to escape again. The run/hike back was exhilarating in a way. I experienced runner’s high (endorphin release) for the 2nd time that day, what I would later refer to as a “double orgasm ride”. I employed a strategy that has worked for me when climbing really gnarly hills. I looked only just beyond my feet as I clambered o’er the trail. This has served me well when ascending Laurel Mountain on Route 30, when climbing Rt. 271 above Waterford to the 2,743’ mark, and even the hellacious Donegal hill on Rt. 711 south. You just focus on the next part of the climb, rather than scoping the all-too-daunting massiveness of your challenge. It worked. I made it back to the lot, but not without summoning pretty much every molecule of intestinal fortitude and something else that I’ll call “Murphy Jam”. Rat was rubbing his hands together above a fire that he conjured up, using the glue from his patch kit and some kindling he found under the pines. We would live to ride again. As we drove back across Summit Road I slumped over the wheel, exhausted, diminished, depleted, but somehow incredibly proud that I had summoned not only physical reserves, but spiritual reserves, to overcome a heavy weight. I learned that I know my body well and I trusted my gut, which has always served me well. I now clip my keys onto my pack, and ride with the knowledge that if things go badly, I’ve always got Samaritan spirits on the trail of life to lead me back to Home(r)… “My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet…” – Robt. Dylan

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Could Live Here

Sorry I have been derailed. I know I owe you all a post on my Pennsylvania odyssey. I have a guest blog (from Pete Repeaty) a thug from " The Lig" I want to post too.

Right now I am wrestling some dilemmac forces. Bear with me. I WILL BE BACK.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Brothers In Arms (part duex)

"I am sure there is a hot tub time machine around here somewhere."

The old ski lodge had a cool, budget feel to it. Signs of low coffers were subtle, but everywhere. Painted floors that showed traffic patina. Rust stained bathrooms, and the antique ski lift all added to the "we've had better times" vibe. Still, it had a low pressure, everyman, ski resort feel. If I skied, I would be here with the rest of the cast of "Meatballs". The lady at the counter didn't laugh, and my brother Jim was quick to ad something like:

"Don't pay attention to him, he does that."

She immediately laughed and I wandered off. My brothers Jim and Davey have transitioned into cute, funny, older guys and I am still in that awkward tweener state somewhere between "used to be cool" and middle age crisis. Clearly, she was in their demographic and my jokes would be useless here. 

We met our guides and went to the first warm up zip line.

 Now I should say (for the sake of full disclosure) I have always been the action sports dude in my family. I fully expected to talk Jimmy through the fear. Turns out he was fine and I was pretty much freaking the whole zippidy do line day.

The fact that the girl totally loved Jimmy and Davey and pretty much treated me like a scared ten year old only dumped salt in it.

We had a legit good time. Not one ruffled feather in the whole flocking day. We got home and I made an awful dinner, which my brothers ate and then lied about how great it was. Jimmy's married to an Italian woman (who of course can really cook) so it was hard for him. Davey stabs at, and adds weird things to his food when he doesn't like it. When he continued to reach for the maple syrup, I knew the pasta prima scara was bad. After all our differences, and all our wacky history, that can only be classified as love, or they were to tired to care.

It was nice to have a good memory that we will have forever. No matter what happens in the future any one of us will be able to say;

"Remember that time we went on the zip line?"

That is what life is about. If you don't make good memories, no one will do it for you. We done good brothers.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Brothers In Arms

I don't know what it is about fine hotels (Deity of choice knows I have not stayed in many) but I sleep like a baby in them. The A/C gets set to Shackelton, you have more pillows than Jeanie has in her bottle, man that is living. Davey and I woke up around seven, he with a Guinness hangover, me as hungry as a bear. The Elan breakfast buffet was not great but at least it was really expensive, and the tea was awful. Let that be a lesson to you: The Waffle House will not win any culinary awards, but it is good and consistent (arteries be damned).

We headed north on 85 to Spartansburg , and finally turned inland, headed for the mountains. I was finally on vacation. Junkyards filled with classic American metal, hot rod shops around every corner, cabins on hills in the distance and dropping temps made me breathe deep and turn up the Pandora. My head was spinning like a light house beacon as I explored the fantasy of living in the country. Brother Jimmy was checking on our progress and making sure that we didn't go missing in the wilderness, but even that would have been fine with me, nothing is better than a driving a country road on a nice day. We winded through the Pisgah National Forrest on the snake of a road 221 becomes in the mountains, descended into Linville and arrived at my brother Jimmy's house.

My brother Jimmy is a powerhouse of energy. He is a magician of a V.W. mechanic, can play nearly anything with strings, sings like a banshee and has dedicated his life to the Catholic Church. He and I have not always had a rosy relationship. It is our similarities that divide us more than our differences. Two people that have charged opinions and the nuclear energy to defend them, will often butt heads. I have taken great delight in provoking him and he counters with passive aggressive tactics that he never owns up to. There is a strange competitive undercurrent to nearly all we do and say, that makes it tiresome for us both. Who is more at fault is any ones guess, but it suffices to say it is a chore for both of us to endure the other. Still I have to say Jimmy has been a good brother to me. He kept my cars on the road for years, and used to come to the biker bars I played in as a kid, to make sure I was okay. All things must be measured in equal and I know we both carry more fault than either will ever admit. It is a family tradition that will last the ages.

We arrived at his house in the late afternoon and took the tour of his retirement digs (currently under renovation). We had tea and dinner and settled in for a night of cards and stories of the family. Whenever I get around people from my family, I grill them for answers about my Father and Mother. There is a lot of mystery that may never be solved, but each time I learn something new. It is these moments I live for, when no one is trying to prove anything, defend anyone or settle some ancient grudge that (as my ole Mum used to say) was stuck in their craw. We played rummy deep into the night and then, as our clan always does, we went from spirited talk to asleep on our feet in seconds. We all retreated for rest.

We awoke to steady drizzle and the thoughts I had of riding this beautiful areas trails, started to look dismal. I got an early start and headed up to Beech Mountain to find a bike shop and some advice. I arrived to more rain, a "closed" sign and realized it was Monday, a day most shops from here to Mars are closed. I searched my phone for a shop in Boone, called to find them open, set the NAV to the addy and headed off. Now in my head I am thinking fifteen miles is not that far, and I had no idea that my NAV (nick named Su Su) can be a sadistic bitch. She sent me up and down a road that Tour De France organizers wouldn't dare send elite cyclists to. I had some guy riding my ass the entire ride (because after all I am a Floridiot, the most hated of all N.C. invaders).

I found the shop and the requisite dismissive rat that worked there.

"Oh you are from Florida....ya well here's a map of a trail I take my girlfriend on....that might be good for you."

"Thanks man, I was hoping for some more stuff like I rode in Brevard, you know like, Sycamore and Dupont..."

His expression and tone never changed and all the trails he mentioned were 45 minutes to an hour away. I am starting to get the feeling this is not going to work out between us and we may need to see other people. I thank him and head back down to Jimmy's house.

On the way way down the mountain I see a sign for the longest zip line on the east coast and I get the idea it may be nice for Davie, Jim and I to do something we can all do. It would be really nice to create some memories together for a change. I pitch it to them like Robin Williams on crack, and (HOLY CRAP!) they agree to go. A phone call is made, an appointment is booked and as we head back up the hill, the sun comes out, proving to me without doubt, that (Deity of choice) approves.

More later.......


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Long Ride

My guidance system was set to the coordinates of Dauset to ride solo. This trail and I have had our differences. The first time I rode it was an epic fall trip with the Worm, Curl, Lil Ball and Cliffbar. The next two were soaked with rain, plagued by mud and ended with us getting lost and bonked. I had to face my foe, and doing it solo made me all the more nervous. I have been avoiding solo rides at home, and this trail is in the middle of nowhere. 

I can not say that I had a great ride. I can not say I hated my ride. I can only say it was a completely new sensation and that I am glad for it. I did get lost and I did find my way out. I did ride Huff and Puff twice and I am sure that my heart rate never went below 165bpm. If it was from being out of my element or the relentless climbing, I will never know. All I can tell you is; I never saw another rider and for the first time in years, I felt like a new rider again. When I returned to the parking lot the sky was nearly dark, I was tired, hungry, and smiling. It was time to head to the Chateau Elan' and to hear me Ole' Bother Davie sing some Irish tunes.

My brother Davey is loved by all, everywhere he goes. He has the enthusiasm of a child and he greets every day with wonder and excitement. This quality is unaffected by reality or circumstance. He has been playing the same songs for years and neither he nor anyone else, ever tires of them. He is unfazed by any audience or venue and plays his sets as though they were his last act on this earth. I always marvel at how he loves to perform, and I am sad to say it is a quality I lost long ago. Being in the audience and watching makes me wish I could return to the days I enjoyed bars and the people in them. I do miss performing, but after (an estimated) 3000 plus gigs, over thirty years, I lost the taste for the form. I watch as people enter the room and Davie wins them over. A table of rich women in their twenties sit right up front and ignore him while drinking cosmos. One is wearing a sash that says: "Bride".  They are not pretty and I suspect time they will not improve them, but they look like they will have money forever judging from the Coach bags, Rolex watches, and large diamonds on their ring fingers. Davie does not engage them, but instead stares through and around them as he smiles, tells stories and introduces the next song. He mentions that he usually plays this song at weddings, but thinks it might be good. The girls swing in their chairs and face Davie for the first time as he sings: "You Say Nothing At All" by Alison Kruass. The women move their mouths to the words and never turn away from Davie for the rest of the set. He repeats this process with another loud table by playing "Patty Won't Be At Work Today" by The Dubliners. He has succeeded in getting the room on his side. I shake my head and laugh.

I am tired and since my new medical parameters prevent alcohol, I retreat to the room. Tomorrow we ride to North Carolina, to visit our brother Jimmy in Land Harbour. I drift off into a dreamless sleep, after a great first day.

More later....


Monday, September 19, 2011

Workin Them Angels

Near as I can figure I am on my fifth life. Mock punches from the void. My sins and my trophies are bigger than they should be, for such a bush league player. So make your own calls on why I am still here.

I have grown tired of the doom game. I have never really been a dark guy, and I gotta tell ya, it's exhausting. No wonder those goth kids move so slow. I am tired of looking back and I am tired of worrying about what is to come. I can't articulate what it means, but I think I am starting to figure it out. I don't want to make it a slogan, a bumper sticker or fortune cookie tripe, so I will just try to hang onto the vibe and let the rest fall to the way side.

I feel good today. I'm going to go ride. I have a century posted on the watchtower in case something good is creating a dust trail on the edge of the realm. Other than that, I plan on living vicariously through my sons and riding my bike.

Demon fear
Demon doubt
get thee behind me
I cast you out


Friday, September 16, 2011

Chasing Pavements

The Tom Brown race has become my fitness barometer. It starts looming on my horizon in May and lurks between my conscious and subconscious like a spy. It  whispers cryptic messages to me as I ride, sleep and try to get through days. I hated the obligation until I was unable to ride last year and like most things when you lose them, it's value became crystal clear.

Leading up to the race I had lured myself into a false sense of bravado. I really thought I was getting fast. Then the BC crew read me the news on a medium pace ride. I fell off the back back like a drunk tourist on a cruise ship and watched in desperation as the wake trailed off into the night. I gave up and posted a desperate blog, thinking I had no chance. I did a few rides solo and picked out some lines and got back to basics. A week before the event things started coming into focus and I had a couple good rides. I knew I had no chance of placing but maybe I wouldn't be last.

The night before the race I crashed on the section of Caddy that I had been obsessing about most. This led to a long night of play, rewind and play again dreams, that robbed me of sleep. I woke up two seconds after my head hit the pillow in a frantic hurry that I could not extinguish.

I got to Tom Brown early but, I just couldn't find a place where the death fidgets would go away. I finally gave in and started warming up (an hour before my wave). On the line I was really jacked up and on the edge of needing defibrillation. A hand hit my shoulder as I staked out my starting spot. Jauncho's smiling face is next to me with (WHAT?) Bike Shop Joey in full Lycra. I hear laughing, indecipherable words, my name and more laughter. I look up to see Big Worm and crew pointing and giving me shit in full cry for all to hear. I realize everything is going to be fine, as I begin laughing uncontrollably.

(side bar) *I had asked the crew not to be encouraging but to pummel me with insults and venom on race day, a detail my damaged little noodle had forgotten till this very second.*

The gun goes off and I get a great start. There are a few really aggressive guys vying for the three foot opening we are approaching at about twenty two miles an hour, five abreast. I blink, hit the brakes, and two squeak by me. I'm fifth into the woods and I settle in and to watch the typical horror show that is the 40-49 beginner class. These guys are all fast but I swear they must never ride dirt. I would not be surprised at all to look up and see a guy in a matching day glow kit, riding at the speed of sound, with a white cane stretched out in front of him. If I wasn't so out of breath I would laugh. We hit the first multi use trail climb and (what a surprise) I go from first to tenth in the first half of the hill. I make it into the woods without losing anymore spots. I get through the tough sections of Caddy upright, despite a few near misses.

On the gravel climb to Tom Brown it is clear I am not going to be able to pace up to anyone, so I go into conservation mode. At the top of the climb, Big Worm and crew are shouting insults (as requested) and it makes me feel better going back to the woods. Once in TB the pack stretches out and I get picked off by a few more riders in and out of my class. I let them all by uncontested. At the BMX track I am considering all the great reasons I should never ride a bike again. I hear screaming. I hear my name. Is it the drill Sergeant from "Full Metal Jacket"? No, it is Big Jim spitting fire and demanding that I do not let him out run me up the hill, to the end of lap one. I am in agony as he screams in my face and I don't have enough air to howl with laughter, so I just pedal harder. I come by the BC crew tents (and the start/finish line) and I am greeted by what can only be described as a blood thirsty mob screaming insults that would make Don Rickles weep for humanity. Red Dragon flips a bird in my face. Men, women and their children yell in slow motion. They curse my family back ten generations. They are going to murder my children. It is as if the villagers that wanted Frankensteins death, are at the bike race. I am laughing as I go by, not at the insults, but at the confused expressions of people (that don't know the BC tribe) recoiling in abject terror. From this moment on, I am having a great time.

My first lap was respectable and on pace with riders much better than me. My second lap is an exercise in survival. I crawl on the climbs and get sloppy on the tight single track. I roll through the finish (in front of eight truly pathetic excuses for MTB racers, who should never darken the door of another event) in 18th place.

Monday felt like New Years Day. It felt like I had slayed a dragon and that I could push hard on rides again. The demon fear had been laid to rest. For the first time in a year I was not defined by some crap hand of genetic cards. I wasn't the "stroke guy" anymore. I was, as I have always been, a slow old guy in a beginner race. Mt. Everest (for better or worse) is where ever you place and climb it. Thank You (Deity of choice) for the great day.

I tacked my race number up in the garage. I know right where it is. I see it every time I pull in on my bike or in my car. Soon it will be just another piece of paper marking a hurdle in distant memory. I'm looking forward to that.


Friday, September 9, 2011


I haven't slept for three days.

My taint feels like someone hit it with a sledgehammer.

I have spent $150 on bike repairs this week.

My legs hurt.

I have tried three different tire/tube combo's and two different Camelbacks.

I can't get enough water into my body.

People I normally like are now the enemy.

Must be race week.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011


OK it wasn't intentional. As my ole Dad used to say "don't sell the farm!". Well I sold the farm last week after a crap ride. Yesterday I had my best lap of Tom Brown since my return. It's a funny little coinky dink that it happened on race week. I am thinking I may not get last.

My back is doing some kind of lumbar altered states routine, but that's getting better. It follows tradition that I suffer some bizarre aliment on race week so I figure it is a harbinger of good.

I gotta find a line through the rough part of Cadillac, but other than that I am pretty sure I can do two laps.

Stay tuned sports fans.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Fool On The Hill

Decline is a gradual thing. A vine that starts small and then inexplicably takes over the side of the house. In my head, I still think I am a happening guy. I'm a drummer, a skateboarder, surfer, etc. I put on my denim leisure suit and strut through my day to a disco soundtrack. The sound of laughter fades in from the rear, until it envelopes the entire sound stage. I get a glimpse of myself (sans denial goggles) and realize I am a walking cliche of what once was, or may have never been, cool. I am invisible to the opposite sex, and the target of mockery.

Well that the was the scene I watched, and the dialogue I heard, as I played back the dailies from yesterdays drama. Lets start at the beginning...

Paul is receiving unsolicited (is there any other kind?) advice from me about cornering and braking. He made a little bobble and his nerves were messing with his technique. I'm nervous that I'm going to get dropped on what Big Worm had sold as a chill recon of the race loop. After a few more helpful tips, Paul grabs some brakes and lets me go by. Moto Jason is showing me the front half of his bike on every corner. There is an unspoken tension that I imagine horses feel right before a stampede. At the top of Cadillac, before the first downhill, I am right where I want to be, behind Big Jim and Worm. This is the only section in town that I consider myself an "A" rider. In between the two sections I ride well are some technical climbs and some washed out, tight corners that make my gas light come on. I hang on almost to the last gazebo before I have to give in and let Steve A and Moto Jason, go by. It takes a while for Paul to catch me, but he does and I get out of his way too. The rest of the ride is a series of regroups where the boys dutifully sit up and wait for me. Out of pride and obligation, I squeeze out two laps, but any thoughts of racing are dashed.

We all expect to get old and to lose something in the process of aging. Somewhere in the back of our minds we know it is coming. It doesn't prepare you for the actual event or knowing things will never be the same. People frequently tell me I am lucky: doctors, relatives, co-workers, and my long suffering wife. A thirty eight year old lawyer, with the same condition as me, died a week before I had my incident. There were also a lot of people who didn't have strokes, and I would rather be on that team. I never wrote on my life list that I wanted to be the luckiest stroke/PFO survivor. Forgive my ingratitude, I am working on it.

It has been exactly one year and ten days since my stroke. I wrote a few half hearted attempts at putting a brave face forward and left them in and around the virtual waste bin. Facebook had a one of my posts from one year ago, in the margin of my page today, and it read:

"It is all I can do not to suit up and go ride today. I am trying to be patient. I am ready for the next step. I really just want to ride. Go get some dirt for me!"

There were endless replies of support. I was embarrassed at how quickly I forget. Even though I woke up with my face, right arm and legs numb this morning, I realize as I write this, I am lucky. I still have a lot to learn about my new parameters. I hate seeing my friends ride away, but watching from the woods is better than wondering what they are doing from the couch. Forgive my greed, my denial is strong. I hope to find some grace in all this, but like everything else, I am slower than most.


Friday, July 29, 2011


I have a lot on my mind this fine morning. There is a lot on the scale that needs to be reckoned with. I am trying to make my way through the world and not let the cynical prick that lives in my head, come out and talk. He is a Bastard and only remembers the things that hurt me. Sometimes he serves me well, but it is best if he stays locked down.

I don't want to hate people. People that speed to stop signs. People that eat yogurt and steer with their knees. People that kill cyclists that I know. It is hard to see the other side. It is the most human thing to do, but God help me, it is so very hard.

I don't want to be afraid on my bike. It is my church, my therapist, my one place where the internal dialogue goes quiet. The worst days on the bike are better for my soul than the good days I do not ride. It is always good to go ride, but now I ride with a ghost. Every time a car passes I feel the chill of his death. I think of sons living with no father. Every time I ease onto a road with no bike lanes, I have fear I have never had before. I have never been a victim of discrimination, this is all new. Twelve years I have been riding, but I feel the hate now. Even when they don't yell, crowd, beep their horns or give me the stink eye, I feel it. I know they are not bad people. They are just angry about their own ghosts. They are letting their cynical bastard drive.

It is no coincidence that I am commuting this week. Because I am alive and can ride a bike, I feel as though I should. I should ride as much as I can. I should ride on the road with my fears, with my hate, with those that hate me. I am going to ride because that is the only thing I can do that feels productive. It's my road too. I paid my share, and then some.

Tomorrow, lets ride.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I will admit I romanticized my memory of commuting. To be fair my old ride was three miles and my current commute is five. I distinctly remember it being an easy ride, and it was almost entirely on trail.

Now I must be in actual traffic. The same traffic that I can barely stand in my car with the A/C and my Jeff Buckley Pandora station, at just the right volume. The Tazo Awake brewed to perfection in an aluminium cup resting snugly in my holder. I scream at the top of my lungs for people to stay in their lane, to go, to stop, as they approach stop signs, at salt flat speed. Ya! That's how I feel in my F*+^%$# car!

Oh! I forgot what it's like to be out of the saddle, grunting up a climb, when you are barely awake. To have that heavy pack smoldering on your back. The joy of sucking exhaust from the tip of a Suburban, driven by woman on the phone, waiting to turn right, parked in the bike lane. The sphincter tightening sprint down Park Ave. Most of all, I forgot the judgemental stares of the smokers outside the basement entrance to my office (really a converted storage closet...but hey it's a corner and has three windows!).

The worst part is the laundry. I usually wear jeans a few times before I wash them and twice on dress shirts. I hate doing laundry. I edit audio on a computer in an office that's kept at whale hunting temps all day. Pit stains are not a problem. After the 25 minute jaunt to work by bike, you sweat for about a half hour after you change, and all the clothes require cleaning, EVERYDAY! I use twice as many bike clothes, since I am still doing the same after work rides. That means I hit the end of my clothes in two days. You have to get everything together the night before because being late on a bike means being REALLY late. Nothing makes the smokers happier to see you in the clown suit, than the additional bonus of getting to glance at their watch, raise their eye brows and ask if you are off that day.

I do enjoy it. It's nice to have ten miles in at the beginning of group rides. At this point the benefit is not apparent, but I feel different. I love looking at houses. I love that dawn patrol feeling. Yes, I love riding in traffic. I can't explain it. It's a rush. Something is wrong with if you didn't know.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Secret Of Life

When I bought my first bike (twelve years ago this week) I tried to commute everyday. I used Fern Trail as my route. On dark mornings I held a Dewalt flashlight and later Velcro'd it to the bars. I wore surf baggies, hiking boots and cotton T's. I will never forget how hard core I felt, pumping out 30 miles a week.

What a life saving habit cycling has turned out to be. Since those halcyon days, I have bought eleven bikes (for my family and I) and became a junky. I took my kids out, walking behind them at first, then riding in the granny gear for years. My oldest gave it up early (after realizing he couldn't stand the sound of my advice) and is now a swimmer. My youngest has the bug and now drops his old man on a regular basis.

After getting lapped by the entire cycling community at the Dirty Thirty dirt crit last night, I figure its time I merge into traffic again. Number one sons car blew up and he and I are sharing my car. He needs to swim early and get to his lifeguard gig so I tossed him the keys and I will be commuting until further notice.

Even though I got my ass whipped last night, it was my first five day week with ten hours of saddle time. I was really shocked how slow I was last night and to be honest, it took a while to shake it. It is always better to think you suck and find out you are fast. Thinking you are in shape and getting rocked, is a little tougher to choke down. Still, I am going to call this week a victory. I have only been back on the bike four months, and I never thought I'd ever get back to where I am now.

Point it down the trail or road, throw a leg over, and turn the pedals. Say something supportive when you come around on the right.


Friday, July 22, 2011

For Everyman

This will be the fifth time I have tried to write a blog about Dave Baton. As others have said, we were not very good friends, but strangely I have had several heavy conversations with him. We shared a love for cycling, we both did low voltage stereo wiring, and we were both Fathers trying to raise sons. We talked a lot about the challenges of raising boys, of when to be heavy handed and when to do nothing (by far the biggest challenge all fathers face). I always seemed to run into him when he was on a peak or deep in a valley, and as such, our talks were weighted with the problems of life.

In the last few years he had really seemed to be in a good place. I never saw him without Jake in tow. If he was with Jake he was smiling, because seeing your kid do what you love, is one of life's great gifts.

After all my health issues, he followed my Facebook page and always seemed to know what was up with me. He had a blunt sense of humor and once asked me point blank if, I was going to live. I howled with laughter, for one of first times since I was out of the hospital. He was my kind of dude. I have a weakness for people that are incapable of bullshit and Dave was the king of that mentality. Some people are put off by that and it's not fun to be on the receiving end, but I always dug his intensity and honesty. The more blunt he was with people the more he made me laugh. That was just Dave.

I can't accurately comment on his life, or what it was like to be his friend, but I can say this: I was always happy to see him, and he was always seemed happy to see me. On the last Munson Monday ride, I extended my hand to him and said "there he is the legend!" He smiled, stuck out his hand and said: "I always read about your rides on Facebook, now I'm finally on one." He was proud to tell us all that Jake had been riding well. He never stopped smiling the whole time we talked.

The next day he was gone. When I found out Jake was with him when he died, my heart broke. I just can't imagine how much that little guy is hurting. I wish I could do something grand for Dave's memory and for Jake, but the hell of it is, we are helpless, except to begin the grieving.

Tuesday night my son and I saddled up and rode from our house, an hour after getting the news. Every time a car went by my shoulders hunched. We had to ride, it was literally all we could do. Had it been one of us, Dave probably would have raised hell when he heard the news, but I promise you, he would still ride.

See you at the finish bro.


Monday, July 18, 2011


Back in the in nineties I quit drinking for five years. I didn't have a drop. I realized the sauce was not my friend and not only got on, but bought, painted and drove the wagon. All went well for a long time. I didn't even drink at my wedding. Then one night I had a real beer. I had been going through the motions (with the near beer kind) and it was all fine till the McCoy went down my Irish gullet. My whole body Grand Malled in one exquisite seizure of recognition. All though I never went back to my "hey I wonder where my car is?" status, my days as a non alcohol devotee had ended. The O'Doul's would never heal my wounds again. It is one thing to abstain when you have never indulged, and quite another to taste the nectar and repent.

Dieting has been a similar exercise for me. I am fine once I find a thing I can eat and lose weight. The novelty and receding pounds distract you from the fact that you haven't eaten anything good in months. Then (quite innocently) you go to a Mexican restaurant with friends after a ride. That alchemy of Mariachi, Americanized, cheesy Eden hits your buds (which have been languishing in solitary at Gitmo) and you are officially F*#^+D! You will catch your reflection while you make your next salad and wonder if Tolstoy ever witnessed such misery.

And so kiddies this is the point I am zooming in on. Can one go back to his goat herd after a great vacation in Gomorrah? Time will tell. Jauncho had a burger. I had Mexican food. Who will return to the monastery, and put on the hair shirt first? What does it mean when Big Jim Slade tells you to eat a hamburger while he sheds 20 pounds in five weeks?

It is how we perform at the bottom of the curve that determines our eventual altitude.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Make this go on forever

June has been a hell of a month. My #1 son departed for, and returned from, France. How did he become so smart and well adjusted? #2 is tending a very productive veggie garden, working sporadically at Zone5, and heads off to Summer Jazz Camp next week. I have dug my way out of the pit at work, and I am riding pretty good considering. My head is up.

I have been employing a relaxation technique before I fall asleep. The result has been spectacular, prophetic, technicolor, trips to neon oceans, where I surf for hours, or nose wheelie vintage skateboards, down black top ribbons, for miles.

I pray to all that is benevolent, this is a new chapter and maybe my period of heavy testing has passed. Please forgive me if I guard my chips and back away from the table. Battle has left me scared and vigilant.

My life, like my riding, is not that pretty. I hit obstacles hard. I don't care if my chain rattles, I just want to be rolling when it's over.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Going To The Country

I stole this pic from the Rev. Everything he needs for four days is on that bike. If you don't think that is cool, leave my blog and never come back. That is some Kung Fu, ninja, Mad Max, Daniel Boone, coolness.

I have always thought that real men should be able to cook and camp, neither of which I know how to do. I gotta do something about that.

Rev, you dakine bra!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Right as Rain

She was singing and I don't mean softly, or in a meek fashion. She was singing up to heaven, hands and voice raised for all to hear. It was dark and about 5:45 AM. The guy parked next to me grunted and groaned and acted like he was on his way to the gallows. Yes, I recognized the symptoms, I invented them.

"What is she going on about?"

He said to no one, and continued fumbling with his bike strapped on a rack.


I said, as I walked between the cars and with in a foot of him.

I know something about the subject though, I must confess I have never felt absolved of anything I would consider a true sin. I have been reborn many times physically, emotionally and musically. I have been back from the depths of places I never thought I would escape. I have pulled off things I had no business accomplishing, and I have fallen short of things well within my reach. She was singing for salvation and for me, and even though the music was for her headphones only, I new the tune.

Today I was David, and Goliath was 68 miles of road. The cancer charity Ride-4-Hope was the only cause that could make me saddle up for such foolishness. My buddy Big Worm, formulated a plan for me and I decided two nights before, to sign up and figure the rest out later. That is how I came to be standing in a dirt parking lot, before dawn, wearing sunglasses, while laughing at the grouch that couldn't appreciate good, authentic, free Gospel (at this ungodly hour).

The boys trickled in one by one and we rolled out at six thirty. Before long the pace settled in around 20-23 Mph, and we began passing folks that were riding at a more conversational pace. We rolled passed a woman with a triathlon set up and she said loud enough for everyone to hear:

"We will see them on the side of the road later... don't worry."

Big Worm shot her a glance and as is his character, said nothing with words, but volumes with his expression. Not being one to waste a clay pigeon, I took aim.

"No we won't!"

I said as I passed her.

"Just because you have funny bars on your bike doesn't mean you know everything!"

She opened her maw, like she was going to catch flies for the next ninety miles. And just like that, the spirit moved in my body and I was my old self again, whacking the hive and killing the silence, for all hoping to have a quiet morning ride.

We rolled along at a quick pace but I was feeling fine and even worked up front on a climb. By the time we got to Monticello (the splitting point for the Hundred milers and the Hundred kilometer-ers) I called my girl and told her all was well and I was going to keep going. This was my projected bail out point (if my neck or any of my other feeble parts were feeling rough) and Mama W.B. was on stand by to evac me. Mr. Fightclub, his son, nephew (all towering examples of genetic bigness) and I, took the left and veered away from the safety of our B.C. bros and headed west.

M.F.C.'s crew and I followed in behind some guy in his fifties who proceeded to light the pace up for about four miles. I told him I could pull for a while just as our next turn came up. I pulled and then M.F.C.'s nephew went up front, all the while the pace was pretty fast. We dropped the older guy, but a young man (name escapes me) rode with us for a while putting in some big pulls, until he too disappeared off the back. With in eight miles of the finish, other metric riders began catching us and all was festive as we rolled back into town. I decided to sprint for a yellow sign, while smirking at F.C. and his nephew when out of nowhere I heard laughing on my left. I watched as Don Davis (printing his real name, because I hate him) snatched my glory and my sign as everyone laughed.

It was remarkable how unremarkable I felt when I rolled though the finish line. I didn't want to talk to anyone and found a quiet corner to drink a Gatorade. I loaded up my car and decided to roll out before the boys got back from the hundred miler. Some things are better left unsaid and I drove home, had a swim and went to lunch with my girl and Lil W.B. (number one son is in France).

It was a good day on the bike, I couldn't have dreamed of having, even a month ago. It is proof to all that wish to see, that there is always hope. The easiest way to redemption, is to ride to it, on a bicycle.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Devils and Dust

I suppose I should be angry,
I suppose I should be sad,
but after all is said and done,
the crash wasn't that bad

The newly baptized and the old angry zealots turned out to testify at the Chapel Munson. There wasn't a free pew in the house, and you couldn't take a breath without ruffling another sinners coat. It was obvious to me that there would be fire in the sermon and I wasn't disappointed.

I can't explain it but I have been feeling really good. Good, despite baffling my doctors and not being able to feel my right arm after a month. Good on the bike, good in my life. I have a new mantra and it goes something like this:

I am thankful for feeling good and I will do all I can (today) to take advantage of it. I do not expect to feel good tomorrow. I will try not to live in fear. When I feel bad, I will rest and hope for the best. Today I will ride.

So with that, I showed up at Munson, caffeinated and ready to go for broke. Jauncho smiles like a politician theses days. He lives safe in the knowledge that he has put in a herculean effort to become a new man. We picked on him when he was the fat kid and now he has a lot of quiet, venom in his blood.

You can read his blog for the play by play, all I can say is this: Homey is running better than ever, but even after I crashed and killed myself to get back on with the pack, I had gas in the tank.

To be continued......


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Typical Reaction

I like to bandy about flowery words. I love to take the licence with all things dramatic. In this case I will just say: I rode bikes with my friends and LWB, and it was grand. I thank you (Deity of choice) for letting me come to the well once more.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cruel To Be Kind

Lil W.B. and I have been riding Red Bug for three straight days. He used to hate this trail because it was hard, but now he likes it because its hard. Go figure. The first day we rode out there I noticed I was grinning and then it hit me, I love roots. Say what you want (pro or con) about the newly groomed trails in town, no human can come up with obstacles better than Ma nature.

There are some sections out there that you think of way before you get to them. That nagging doubt creeps in: what if I don't get over that step up? When you clean one of those roots, logs or wash outs you feel like you have done something special. Flowing clay and berms will never give you that kind of pay off (not that there is anything wrong with that).

If you can come up with a better feeling than clearing a tough part of trail and hearing a guy behind you tank it, I am all ears. After all mountain biking is not supposed to be a clean, smooth, activity. What drew me to this sport most of all was that I fell, almost every time I rode, for my first year. I will never forget the time I made it clean over the three tough climbs on the old Cadillac trail. I love all the new trail improvements, but I miss the feeling of a new tree or log crossing the trail after a storm, and committing to trying to get over it with no idea how it would turn out.

This weekend you have a chance to race on one of the last all natural, no silicone, trails in town. Sure the other ones are curvy, compliant, and their hair is perfect, but I always like a girl that fights back. Red Bug is the woman that will make you pay before you get the kiss.

I can't race this weekend, but I will be out there yelling at all my friends and laughing at the slobs learning what "skill" actually means.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Save It For Later

This just in, I am feeling a lot better. I even rode a couple times this week. I am wondering if I have a note from my Doctor (saying how feeble I am) if I can race first timer.

Could Jauncho (skinny boy) make his flyweight race debut?

See Ya'll at the race next Sunday.


Monday, April 25, 2011

(un)Comfortably Numb

It was a great ride. My flow was finally coming back. Gone was the obsessive braking and the jangly cornering. I was finally riding faster and smoother, a combo pack not seen since my return. L.W.B. was not up for the ride and I was enjoying being alone and stopping to see the lake, at my favorite over looks. The nagging voices from the last month, the doubts, the over thinking, were finally melting away as I forgot the bike beneath me and found something resembling a center. Whenever things come together, and I am on the verge of delight, the McCortian, Irish warning light starts to blink on my dash.

On the way back into Tom Brown I became aware of a dull numbness in my right leg. The new trail improvements lower the need to get out of the saddle, so I chalked it all up to needing to stand on the pedals. On Blairstone I really started feeling tired. I lowered the pace and settled in for the climb back to the hood.

Easter with the In Laws was good. We watched the little ones look for eggs. Everyone (but me) had cake and ice cream. Just as I was reaching the edge of my tiredness we headed home. An uneventful dinner drifted unceremoniously by and soon I was by myself in the kitchen, lit only by the dim white of my lap top. As I typed out a vapid review of my great day, my cheek began to feel a little tingly. Nothing alarming just enough to notice. I am hyper aware of all ticks and changes (post stroke) and as this development occurred, I immediately started talking myself out of any bad possibilities. I decided to give in to sleep.

This morning I woke up rested, got dressed turned on the news, and lost feeling in my right arm and left cheek. It felt exactly like it was asleep, right before the blood rushes back in with life. The punchline in my case is, I never got the payoff of the feeling returning. I have a bizarre cold limb that responds to touch but has the added bonus of phantom chills and faint pins and needles.

After seven hours at T.M.H. with "I'm trying not to look like you are going to die" expressions of the fine heath care providers, and an MRI with dye, I am home. The diagnosis? Hemipalegic Migraine. I had a little preview of this thrill ride about a month after my heart surgery....(I can't recommend it in good conscience). It feels just like a stroke (to the uninitiated) and carries all the same fear, without the brain damage. Good times. There is nothing like a karmic bitch slap to get you back into a "live in the now" mentality. They say the numbness will go away in one to five days. The only upside is, I never went into to full blown "oh shit I'm going to die" mode.

Some things you don't want to get good at, and this was in that category. See ya out there when my arm wakes up.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thursdays Child

I am working on something that I may or may not post. A romantic look back at a period of my youth that introduced me to tragedy. It could go over like a fart in church so like my riding, I will have to take it easy till my mojo returns.

On the riding front, I have been doing a lot of it and mostly badly. One week ago today I crashed on a leafy corner at Tom Brown. I went into the corner too hot, braked (broke?) badly and went down hard on my left side. I jacked up my shoulder, hip and ribs. Since then I have started over. I had the squeaky brake rotor replaced, put on some tires with more knobs. I spent the next week riding slowly and thinking of things I haven't in years. I went out and rode sections with LWB over and over, till I knew exactly where the lines were. It has revitalized my way of thinking. We frequently go out and ride things several times now. It is a good exercise, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, I joined the Worm on "Joe's" road ride. I was sweating it like a race. All day long I looked for great reasons to get out of it, but dammit, it was the big mans birthday. Like always he sensed my nervousness, got me on his wheel and pulled me to safety on the sprint. After that I felt loose and more confident. It turned out to be the ride that broke my bad streak. I didn't want to do the ride and it was exactly what I needed.

Try new stuff. Hang in there when it sucks. Sooner or later all slumps end.


Sunday, April 3, 2011


Bicycles are delicate things. Even the ones made for rough terrain, need constant attention and upkeep. They are fine tuned and expensive and like old cars, they rarely run right. If you love them you learn to deal with the knocks and creeks.

There are many different types of cyclists but my favorite type is the ignoring kind. They ride in the rain. They ride if their clothes are dirty. Their bikes rarely work well but they never seem to mind. They are more likely to wear non cycling material because they don't care what you think.

Then there is my group. This group hears everything. The group that worries about failing parts. We see every little thing the bike is doing and we can't ignore it. We look at the weather. We make sure all the laundry is done. We arrive early.

I am not the same cyclist I once was. I have been reminded what I felt like when I first started. The sounds of the woods. The wind. That feeling of being anxious to get out there. My fitness is at an all time low and I hate to hold up rides, but even when I am riding terribly, I am glad to be there.

I am starting to think the rough days are the best. I am starting to see that the days you ride really well are rare, and unless you enjoy the tough time, the good time has no meaning.

I will be able to stay on group rides soon, but if I go off the back, don't worry. I am just earning my reward.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Out Of Nothing

I forgot to take my meds tonight, so sleep eludes. Nothing is troubling me, I have no complaints (other than the one and only log that was removed from Munson). When I lay down and start thinking of emails I want to write, or things I shouldn't have said, its the same as seeing a "check oil" light on your dash. Oh ya the pills, I forgot them again.

My life has been full of firsts since my stroke. It started when I ran across Park Ave to avoid on coming maniacs. The thought clicked that it was the first time I had run since the "incident". After that I started noticing all kinds of firsts and this gave me comfort and gratitude. It is better if you log a first after doing it subconsciously. Recognising a first (before you do it) adds a little more weight. The firsts are still coming: First ride from the house to the trail. First ride by myself. First Vineyard Loop. I hope to one day stumble through life again, without logging little hurdles, but I doubt it will happen.

There have been some great "lasts" as well. My last call from the great people at Shands. My last dose of coumadin. My last blood test. My last visit to the cardiologist. All little reminders that the bad weather has past and the soldiering on has begun.

I think I got more out of this test than I bargained for. Not all of it good, not all of it bad, none of it as revelatory as I had hoped. If I have learned anything it isn't something I can put into words. It is not something I can take credit for. If it has changed me is it a subtle thing that I can not detect. Maybe it will aid in my evolution later, like some latent virus that I need for stronger immunity. All I can say is this: some things that used to be a big concern, are not registering on my radar. Some things that weren't on my radar, now beep back like the voice of God. I rarely feel urgency, unless I am preparing gear for a ride.

Maybe there is a message after all.