Influence

My purpose in life is to Help Others Win.

If I’m not influencing someone in some positive way I get bored, and this is what has happened to my riding.  I’ve grown a bit bored.  I’m still riding, but not nearly as inspired.  In fact, I received an e-mail this week from one of you noting that my posts have dropped off and wondering if I was doing ok!  I’m muddling through but it hasn’t been easy.

“Leadership is Influence.”

– John Maxwell

This last week was interesting though.  I got the opportunity…well, FOUR opportunities actually, to help some friends win.  Four times I rode with a buddy whom, for one reason or another, had stopped riding, or needed someone to ride with them to keep them going.

  • Scott and I last rode together two years ago.  He introduced me to what has become one of my favorite routes.  Unfortunately, Scott’s holding down two jobs and has a wife and four kids – busy guy!
  • Steve and I have talked about riding together, but Steve doesn’t have a road bike and the schedules never seem to match up.
  • I learned that Ron was a rider because my daughter takes horseback riding lessons from his daughter.  I was spotted passing their house one day (on the route learned from Scott). Then I saw his bike, dust-covered and cob-webbed, hanging in his garage.  Ron’s wife invited me to contact him and “encourage” him to get started again (of course I did!).
  • Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 1.39.49 AMRiding with Dave was a complete act of providence.  He’s a client of our company and in the process of scheduling a testimonial video I mentioned riding and he invited me to bring my bike to the shoot.  What would you do?  Of COURSE I brought my bike and we had a great ride together (I then drove three hours home and rode with Ron)!

All of the guys had the same basic concerns… They weren’t ready for any great distance.  They would go to slow and “hold me up”.  They hadn’t ridden in so long, they would probably just frustrate me.

What a great joy to be able to ride with these guys!

In each case we took an easy pace and just enjoyed the time together.  Each trip was about 15 miles long, and completed in an hour (which was faster than most thought they would be riding).  We talked about what got us started on the bike and the value riding adds to life.  The added value for me was the opportunity to fulfill my purpose again.

“The people who influence you are the people who believe in you.”

– Henry Drummond

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Rite of Passage, part 2

In preparing for the Tri-State Tour Century Ride I established three priorities:

  1. Don’t ride alone.  The potential for getting lost in Chicago was high and highly undesirable.
  2. Pace yourself.  100 miles is farther than I’ve ever ridden and I don’t want to waste myself early.
  3. Shut off the GPS and get lots of pictures.  There is no way the battery in my phone was going to last the entire day running GPS and Mapping My Ride.  So, forego the detailed analysis of the ride and get plenty of pictures.  The added bonus of pictures is that they force you to look around and (theoretically) enjoy the ride.

So, how did I do?  Let’s find out shall we?

Don’t Ride Alone.

Everybody getting geared up for the big ride.

Everybody getting geared up for the big ride.

I went into this ride absolutely clueless.  I had a vague notion of the path of travel from the 3+ years we had lived in Lake County, North of Chicago, but had no idea now many riders would be going, or who any of them might be.  I knew I didn’t want to get into a situation where I would be lost and alone somewhere in Chicago.  Maps and notes were provided with an emergency phone number, so the organizers were aware of my concerns.  I suppose more than anything I wanted to be sure to meet some new people.  You know me…I need people.

It turned out that 37 of us were registered for the ride.  Hmmm…an odd number. Guess who was the only “single” riding out with the group?  No problem.  I enjoy a good social challenge.  I quickly fell in with the middle of the pack and met Andrew, a police office with the Hammond department and we easily rode together the 18 miles to the first SAG stop in downtown Chicago.  We joined up with Aaron, Tom, Eric, and another gentleman as we rode the next 21 miles through the North side into the suburbs.  39 miles in and I was feeling great!  As a group we were keeping a good pace, chatting about anything and everything, learning one another’s story, and getting it done!  We were all really enjoying the ride.

Cannot believe I rode at least 6 miles on this tire.

Cannot believe I rode at least 6 miles on this tire.

About 6 miles out of SAG stop #2 we were stopped at a light and Andrew tells me to check out my rear tire.  It was all bubbled up and about to let go!  We all checked it out and found three locations were the the rubber and threads had been compromised.  I was out of the group.  They offered to stay with me until the mobile SAG could get there to replace the tire, but when we learned it was “going to be a while” before the rescuers came, I thanked them all for a great ride and sent them on their way.  We exchanged numbers to see if I might catch up to them, but that was my day for riding with this great group of guys.  The rest of my day was spent alone, watching closely for the road markers and orange streamers that marked the remaining 40 miles to Kenosha, WI.  Thank God for the paper maps and keynotes because on two occasions I was off course in totally unknown territory.  Both times I got back on track with minimal loss of time and energy.

My Pit Crew at work (Rob Layton)

My Pit Crew at work (Rob Layton)

At this point I  want to thank Rob Layton, Director of Bicycle Illinois and the Tri-state Tour.  Not only did he provide turn-by-turn notes and maps of 100 miles through three states and across urban streets, bike trails, and rural roads, but he checked every inch up to the day before the ride and provided amazing support.  Every SAG had plenty of food, bathrooms and supportive volunteers.  When I called the emergency number and gave my location Rob knew exactly where I was and came right away.  He even replaced the tire for me, allowing me some recovery time.  Rob was DEFINITELY faster in changing the tire then I would have been. Thanks Rob.  Awesome job and fantastic ride!

Pace Yourself

I was doing really well until the tire change. The morning weather was spectacular – about 65 degrees when we set off.  We had started pretty easily through the potholes and traffic lights of Hammond and the South side.  The Lake Shore pedestrian trail was a mess with traffic that kept our pace under 15 mph most of the time.  City riding on the North side was less congested, but traffic lights kept us from getting too crazy.  All this was good in the fact that it kept energy consumption to a minimum.  As I said, the first 45 miles were really pretty easy.  I’m not sure I had even broken a sweat!

However, after my 40 minutes on the side of the road I knew the sweepers couldn’t be far behind me and I didn’t want to ride into the finish with them as my companions.  More than that, I wanted to catch up to my boys and see if we couldn’t finish this thing together.  So I set off at a pretty good clip.  I have no idea what my speeds were (I was saving phone battery, so no MapMyRide on this day), but I was on a bike trail so I kicked it up a few notches and was soon in my steady breathing pattern for a good 18 mph or so (which is a pretty good cruising speed for me).  I short-stopped SAG #3 and  cruised into SAG #4 feeling a bit tired, but no aches or pains and my hydration was good.

In the end I missed the boys in Kenosha, WI, by less than 10 minutes and that felt great!  I had made up about 30 minutes over the course of about 40 miles.  The guys weren’t exactly crushing it, but it was good to know that my efforts had caught me up.  At least the sweepers were never seen and I do know that several people were pulling in behind me as I was leaving each SAG.

Of course, there are only 85 miles between Hammond, IN, and Kenosha, WI.  My Century ride was not yet accomplished.  The Century demanded an additional loop through town to hit the mark.  As I pulled in to SAG #5 to the applause of my wife (Thank you Mary) and an unknown lady she had met while waiting for me, I saw that Eric the Young was still there!  As was one of my guys.  All congratulated me on (almost) catching them!  But my ride wasn’t over and I loudly asked, “Who wants to finish the Century?”  Eric the Young promptly stepped up to the challenge as well as two new friends, Lyndsey and Dierdre.

Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride.  Here I am with Lyndsy, Dierdra, and Eric "The Young" on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI.  At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride. Here I am with Lyndsy, Dierdra, and Eric “The Young” on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI. At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

The pace was easy as we made our priority finishing this Century Ride.  It was a first for all of us and from the first pedal strokes we all knew…we were in this thing together. What a great privilege to finish the day with these new friends.  We made our way north from the High School, then West to the stoney shore of Lake Michigan.  We stopped to look around and get a few pictures, then made our way south through town, admiring the lake shore homes and scenery of rural Wisconsin.  In the end we celebrated our Rite of Passage together!  It was awesome to know that although I may never meet these great people again, we will always share this one moment.  What an awesome…awesome thing!

Shut off the GPS and Get Lots of Pictures

Well… I DID shut off the GPS, and amazingly my phone battery lasted all day! Unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of pictures.  The ride didn’t really allow for it.  The roads South of Chicago were madly in need of repair.  They were terribly and to let go of the handlebars for even a moment was sheer craziness.  Downtown was far too busy for pictures, and by the time we got to Lake County I was hustling to catch up.

I DO have to tell you about one picture I missed, but will never forget.  When rounding a bend on the southern end of the Lake Shore path (right about the area of The Loop) we ran into and through the Chicago “Biggest Loser” 15k walk/run.  There were THOUSANDS of bright orange t-shirts, filled with people who were/were NOT happy to be there, and were/were NOT happy that four guys on bicycles were riding into their sea of humanity.  It was CRAZY, and there was NO WAY I was gonna get ANY pictures of this moment!  HA!

What few pictures I did get I will share with you though…

Pre-ride meeting where I realized I was the only single rider.

Pre-ride meeting where I realized I was the only single rider.

St. Michael's Catholic Church, where Andrew and his family attend.

St. Michael’s Catholic Church, where Andrew and his family attend.

First Glimpse of Downtown Chicago, "My Kinda Town!

First Glimpse of Downtown Chicago, “My Kinda Town!

SAG #1 in Downtown on the Marina.

SAG #1 in Downtown on the Marina.

All were in awe at the simplicity and ingenuity embodied in the Peanut Butter Gun...

All were in awe at the simplicity and ingenuity embodied in the Peanut Butter Gun…

The Marina.  People seemed a bit curious about us.

The Marina. People seemed a bit curious about us.

Beautiful paved trails in Lake County, IL

Beautiful paved trails in Lake County, IL.

Feeling good at Sag #2!

Feeling good at Sag #2!

The path into Wisconsin...FINALLY!

The path into Wisconsin…FINALLY!

I asked if anyone wanted to finish the Century and heard, "We do!" This is where I first met Lyndsey (front) and Dierdre (back)!

I asked if anyone wanted to finish the Century and heard, “We do!” This is where I first met Lyndsey (front) and Dierdre (back)!

Here we are, hitting the 100 mile marker!

Here we are, hitting the 100 mile marker!

It was truly a great day in so many ways and affirms my commitment to cycling, not just as a means toward fitness, but as a social device.  It really is a great way to meet new and fascinating people.  People you may never see again, but with whom you share something special; a moment, a passion, a way of life.  I love this, and I will forever…

Enjoy the Ride!

Rite of Passage

Sociologists will tell you that cultures are defined in some way by their Rites of Passage…

A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person’s transition from one status to another.

In 1988, after a year of surviving many things and growing up, I was recognized into the Cadet Wing of the United States Air Force Academy.

In 1988, after a year of surviving many things and growing up, I was recognized into the Cadet Wing of the United States Air Force Academy.

For the professional athlete it may be that first live television interview.  For the student it may be the turning of the tassel or donning of the hood.  For Christians it may be Baptism, for the Jew it may be the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.  For the runner it is the 5K, half and/or full marathon.  For the Native American Indian it was the first hunt.  For the U.S. Marine it is the Crucible.  In all cases the person who enters the event is different from the person who emerges.  Rites of Passage change us.

I’ve had a few Rites of Passage in my life; my first shave (what boy can forget his mother’s words at his first shave, “It’ll only grow back darker and thicker!  Don’t cut yourself!”), getting my driver’s license, my first date, Recognition at the US Air Force Academy, earning my Master’s Degree.  All of them changed me in some way.

The cyclist’s Rite of Passage would seem to be The Century Ride.

100 miles ridden in a single day.  Your typical weekend or neighborhood rider can’t do it.  It demonstrates a level of commitment to the sport in time and training.  Depending on your level of training a Century Ride can take 5 to 9 hours.  Most people cannot fathom sitting on a bicycle seat for that period of time.  Well, based on the responses I get anyway…

Century Sticker

It really is quite amazing how far you can travel in 100 miles.  In my case the ride began in Hammond, IN and finished with an 18 mile loop around and through Kenosha, WI.  It was aptly named, “The Tri-State Tour,” and was a well organized event sponsored by Bicycle Illinois (www.bicycleillinois.com).

I’ll get into the specifics of the ride in part 2 of this post, but for now just let me say that I had a GREAT day!

All the major components of a GREAT ride were present…

  • The weather was phenomenal! Mid-70s with sunshine and just enough clouds to keep it interesting.  We had a bit of a wind off the lake, but it was easily manageable.
  • The setting was ever changing, multi-faceted and fascinating.  We rode urban streets, suburban neighborhoods, beach front and wooded bike paths.  It was metropolitan, it was rural, it was exciting!
  • Stories abound.  There was a lot happening and while I couldn’t record every moment there is plenty I will never forget!
  • The planning and support from ride volunteers was amazing.  More on this later, but let’s just say I am so glad for the SAG vehicle.
  • I made new friends.  With only 37 total riders (and knowing no one before the ride) my choice was simple, either make new friends or ride alone and risk getting lost.  My decision was made within the first 1/4 mile of the ride.

    Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride.  Here I am with Lyndsy, Diedra, (me) and Eric "The Young" on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI.  At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

    Meeting people is always a highlight of any Event Ride. Here I am with Lyndsy, Diedra, and Eric “The Young” on the Lakefront in Kenosha, WI. At this point we are about 3 miles short of the first Century Ride for each of us.

All told I put in about 109 miles on Sunday in a little over 7 hours of riding.  Nope, I couldn’t have done a whole lot more.  I experienced some phenomenal cramping on the way home and later that night.  But I am very proud to say that I did it… I DID IT!

Now I’m looking for new and greater challenges.

That’s the thing with Rites of Passage, they tell us we can do more… BE more than previously imagined.  I now know I can ride the Century.  What’s next?  I’m considering the RAGBRAI for next year.  Perhaps a major ride in Pennsylvania with my friend Greg Petersheim, or Arkansas with my Brother-in-law Jeremy.  I don’t know, but my boundaries are now wider than they were, and that is really fun to think about!

What Rites of Passage have you accomplished?  What epic ride have you enjoyed?  Whatever the answer (and Please… share your answers with us), my hope for you is that you…

Enjoy the Ride!

The Greatest Gift

Two years ago my life was changed in a major way.

WHA?!?!? What's Steve doing here?

I was given the opportunity to borrow a road bike by my neighbor Steve MacDonald. (Read all about it in my post, My Ride)  I’m not sure how to adequately describe all that is encapsulated in the 1,800 miles I’ve put on it since.

That bike has birthed a passion in me; it is alternately a place of solace, peace and rest, as well as a place of pain, fatigue and whatever it is that does not kill me but only makes me stronger.  I’ve grown a lot on that bike and I’ve come to love it.

The bike has never been mine.

When Steve first loaned it to me I told him I didn’t have the money to buy it.  His reply, “I’m not selling it.  I just want you to ride it.”  And I have!  Just this past weekend I literally rode the second set of tires off the bike.  Steve’s only asked to ride it once and when I ask him if I can pay for the bike he simply replies, “It’s not for sale.”

This past Spring he let me get the bike fitted to me.  (Yep, I posted about that too, read A Bicycle Fit for Me!)  That has changed and energized my riding.  Now, even more of the component parts of the bike belong to me.  But Steve was excited to see it.

Guess what… the bike BECAME mine today!

My Bike!

Tonight Steve walked down his driveway to ask how my first Century Ride had gone over the weekend.  I told him it went very well, and the bike handled it all beautifully.  I shared a couple highlights and then Steve looked at me and utterly blew my mind!  “I’ve been thinking about it and I think you should have the bike.”  That’s what he said!  I was stunned and didn’t know how to respond.  I said, I couldn’t do that, he had money in the bike and Steve simply said, “I can see that you love the bike. I think you should have it.  You can’t out give God.”  For my part I told Steve that I had heard that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but I didn’t know He owns the bicycles as well.

I have been greatly blessed!

I still can’t really believe that the bike is mine.  Steve is looking for a new bike and more than anything I really would like to ride with him.  Of course, he’ll have some new carbon fiber bike and I’ll have my trusty 2009, Aluminum, Trek Alpha with the carbon forks… and I’ll be loving every minute of it!  Why?  Because it is mine!

Completing the Century in Kenosha, WIIn the next few days I will be posting my blog about my first Century Ride, the Tri-State Tour (see my Bucket List page for a brief overview).  Until next time I’ll be out on MY new bike…

Enjoying the ride!

A Recipe for Soul Food

Some things are just good for the soul…

ImageLike the BBQ ribs I cooked on the grill Sunday night.  Oh boy, falling off the bone.  The corn on the cobb, pasta salad, and s’mores just topped it all off!  All food, in my humble opinion, should please the palate and fill the stomach.  Sometimes good food and great company becomes an experience that truly enriches you.  That’s why they call it “Soul Food.”

Ah, but this isn’t a blog about food is it?  It’s about cycling, and tonight I had a ride that was food for my soul.  Want the recipe?  Ok, here you go.

A recipe for a ride that feeds your soul.

Start with 1 Respected Friend

IMG_4868

Eric Smith is a great combination of wisdom, humility and laughter. I always walk away from time with Eric encouraged and enriched.

It helps that he has a great house in the country and, rumor has it, a pool that is open for swimming to those with VIP passes… or cute children.  Thank God for cute children eh?

Add 1 Unridden path

IMG_4862

To be perfectly honest I’ve grown a little bored with my cycling in recent days.  So I’ve stepped off my well-beaten paths into some new territory North and West.  Unfortunately that means crossing a four lane highway.  Fortunately Eric lives on the other side of the tracks (literally, he really does), so he can be my guide.

Tonights track took us north, into unexplored territory for me.  Now my curiosity is piqued.  I want to ride all the way to Michigan!  We’ll see if I can do it.  I know this, it will be a beautiful ride. That, and I better invest in some dog spray.  There are some MAMMOTH dogs out there!

Gently fold in 15 Easy Miles

Road conditions weren't always the best (can't believe I was wishing for chip & seal at times), but the hills were rolling, traffic was light, and the view was spectacular!

The road conditions weren’t always the best (can’t believe I was wishing for chip & seal at times), but the hills were rolling, traffic was light, and the view was spectacular!

The rains have everything very green and suddenly we live in a world of 75F (23C) days and 50F (10C) nights!  I’m not sure I broke a sweat today.  That makes laundry a little easier.  (You… probably didn’t want to know that did you?)

Add 2 Fascinated Burros

IMG_4866These guys were hilarious!  Our ride was a basic Out-and-Back endeavor so we passed them twice. On the way out they watched us pass, curiosity on their faces.  On the way back I stopped to get their picture because they turned to face us in obvious fascination.  When they saw us stop they began to posture, snort, run around and stop to make sure we were looking at their machismo.  I must say it was comical if not impressive.

I never did get their names.  Please…post possible (and acceptable) names in the response section below! (This should be good)

Mix well…

Put all these together in a bowl of rolling farm land, 10′ tall corn and 4′ tall beans, sprawling horse farms, fishing ponds and… GOATS and you’ve got a ride that nourishes the soul.

IMG_4859

Ah yes, don’t forget the icing on the cake…

IMG_4869A dog that happily welcomes you back with his pull toy in his mouth, a wagging tail, and the light of pure joy in his eyes.  Yes my friends, it was a great ride, thoroughly enjoyed.  And Eric’s parting statement to me was, “Call me anytime.”  Oh yeah, no problem there, I’ll always call, so long as I can…

Enjoy the Ride.

Morphin…

Sometimes I feel like I’m caught in the spin cycle; going around and around and around.

A couple weeks ago I lamented our Summer weather pattern in Indiana (see my post entitled, and in Today’s Weather…), and yes, it continues.  I’ve been trying to get into a rhythm of riding 3-4 times a week.  However… the storms are in a pattern of hitting us just about every night.  Now, before this degenerates into (more) moaning about the weather let me move forward.  Today, the storms went NORTH and I hurried home to change my clothes and hit the road!

With visions of 30-40 miles, or hill climbing, in my head I walked in the door only to remember that tonight was the scheduled community ride on the bike paths through our area!  Daddy had a decision to make…quickly; a) offer an alternative to the eldest daughter and fulfill my desire, or b) follow through on what I had promised and take the opportunity to invest in my eldest.  Not much of a choice really, I offered Gracie ice cream tomorrow night so I could go on my ride tonight!

NO…I didn’t!  I’m not a moron! I took my second, and ONLY, option!  Besides, I wouldn’t actually WRITE about taking option A if I had.  C’mon!  Give a guy SOME credit!

Yep, the plans changed.

That solitary 35 miles turned into an 8.5 mile ride with two lovely ladies.  Originally it was supposed to be just me and Grace.  She’s my 11 year old with a budding interest in riding with her dad.  I’m trying to do all i can to nurture that interest short of buying the $780 Cyclocross bike (recently reduced to $550) she so strongly desires.  That’s part of why these little rides are so important…they are an investment!  She asked if her soul-sister Katie might join us to which I answered, “of course!”  Thirty minutes later there are three bikes in the drive, tires fully inflated, helmets strapped on and we are off to the trails!

We had a lovely ride.  The girls followed my directions in learning how to ride with traffic on the trails.  We explored places they had never been before and they climbed their first out-of-the-neighborhood hill.  I was very proud of them and encouraged them on!

Mid-way water fountains are the Bomb!  (Do the kids today still use that phrase?)

Mid-way water fountains are the Bomb! (Do the kids today still use that phrase?)

The girls recognized our locations after a while, choruses of “I know where we are,” rang out from time to time.  What I cherished the most were those moments they saw things one can only discover from a bike.  The trees, creeks, critters, etc. one cannot see from the comfort of the car.  I think my smile gave me away.

The plan for a bike ride morphed into a Daddy-Daughter(s) date.

Seriously!  Does ANYONE belt out One Direction tunes better than a pair of 11 year old girls?  "That's what makes you Beautiful!"

Seriously! Does ANYONE belt out One Direction tunes better than a pair of 11 year old girls? “That’s what makes you Beautiful!”

Is there any better way to cap off a strenuous ride then dinner at Moe’s Southwest Grill?  I think NOT!  I found myself playing chauffer to two giddy girls belting out One Direction’s “That’s What Makes You Beautiful.”  With the top down on the ‘vert I did gather some amused gazes, and I WAS quick to point out the girls hidden in the back seat to explain my choice of music at such high volume.  They sang and I laughed… and mused at the charm of this moment as a dad.  In a dad kind of way this was awesome!

The plan for a Daddy-Daughter(s) date morphed into a sleep over.

I love Katie.  She isn’t my kid, but she is my kid’s soul-sister, of that there is no doubt.  She is respectful, she is obedient, and she knows we love her.  I sincerely hope these two little nut-jobs spend the rest of their lives together in some way.  They are good for each other.

Yeah... this was all staged.

Yeah… this was all staged.

Even now they are in Gracie’s bed doing whatever it is that 11-year old girls do that makes them giggle then go silent when dad knocks on the door.  I want to encourage that sisterhood at every turn.  Truly, what IS the most important thing in life if not those relationships that nurture us (and allow us to nurture them) for a lifetime?

Life is just like a good ride.

You never know what’s gonna happen until to you just get on and get going.  If you do that you will see things you may have never seen otherwise and might never see again.  It’s a chance to invest in yourself and others.  And the life long relationships you are blessed with along the way make every hill, head wind, tumble and tough day worth it in the end.

Today was a good day to be a dad.

I’m so glad I tossed the plans and took the ride.  I hope you have a ride like I did…SOON!  Please, tell me (us) all about it!  Until then…

Enjoy the ride!

FYI... this is the look you get when you say something silly like, "Let's go another 6 miles!"

FYI… this is the look you get when you say something silly like, “Let’s go another 6 miles!”

Me and My Shadow

My ShadowI am often transfixed by my shadow.

I know that sounds a bit self-obsessed, but I do.  I find myself watching the road as it glides under the rhythmic pedal strokes.  Each time a single phrase flashes to the forefront of my memory, “Adam, you’re carrying a lot of weight.” Said by just about anyone this would be an awkward, perhaps even offensive statement, but the person who said it was speaking bold truth into my life.  That truth forever changed me.

Five years ago I rode the sofa…a lot.

Big AdamI was grossly overweight and stiff, lazy, stressed, and to the point of trying to rationalize how my obesity was ok.  I couldn’t stand to see pictures of myself, yet I was trying to project an image of a guy who was happy.  In reality I was dying inside.  All that was brought to light with this simple truth, clearly stated, from a daring friend with a heart of pure platinum (which as we all know is BETTER than gold!).

I don’t ride the sofa anymore, now I ride a bike!

A Better MeThat’s the beauty of the shadow.  I’m still overweight, but the shadow says, “You’re making progress!”  I still have stress, but the shadow says, “Not right now you don’t!”  I’m not lazy anymore, and the shadow cheers for me, “Keep striving for better things!”  I marvel at my shadow for it speaks to me of progress, victory and hope!  Life isn’t perfect, but when I’m stressed or struggling those who know me best all say the same thing, “Hop on the bike and hit the road!”  Cycling is becoming a part of my identity.  That shadow is who I am supposed to be – the true me!

So the next time you’re riding take a look at your shadow.

Get caught up in the beauty of your riding, that’s you and your bike!  Working together to make you better!  Thank the Good Lord for the people who cheer you on, for whom life is worth living!  Relish the opportunity to get away and hit the road.  Celebrate YOU, and never forget to…

…Enjoy the Ride!

Some Days are Like That

I woke up in a foul mood on Saturday.

Some days are like that.  My back was sore and I couldn’t sleep…on a morning when sleeping in was a possibility.  So I got up to do all that I had to do: a) skim coat the walls downstairs, b) mow the lawn (I hate mowing), and c) get in a ride before the rain came back.  I made breakfast for my girls and attacked the walls.  That went pretty well and the day began to warm up, so I decided to hit the bike before I mowed the lawn.  I figured I would rather give my best energy to riding rather then mowing.  (Who would agree to that?)  So about three o’clock I clipped in and took off down the road for a 30 mile ride.

Ever have one of those rides where it just doesn’t “feel right?”

Almost immediately I could sense that this could be a tough ride.  I just couldn’t quite sit right, I wasn’t comfortable.  I couldn’t get my right foot clipped in.  I found myself struggling into mile 3… THREE!  MapMyRide was all screwed up so I wasn’t being recorded.  I seriously thought about turning around, mowing the lawn, and just laying around for the rest of the evening.

Typical Rural Indiana RideBUT… that’s not what we do is it?  No, every rider I know tells themselves the exact same thing, “Just keep peddling.”  So I did, and the miles slid by.  The route I took starts with some good hills (for Indiana) and then flattens out in farm country.  The wind was generally in my favor and around mile 10 I started feeling a bit more relaxed and began to (moderately) enjoy the ride.  I noticed the deepening green of the grass, smell of the farms I passed along the way (I’ll let you determine whether or not that was enjoyable), and chuckled as the livestock quizzically watched me pass by.  I always wonder what is going through their mind.  What I imagine is often quite comical.

Things can change in a moment.

After crossing the steel bridge and ascending the hill I took the curve to the right and saw two horseback riders in the distance.  Robin and Katie StarksThis made me smile as I knew I would try to get a picture.  My girls love horses and, while I don’t ride them (my last ride was years ago on a horse named “Thunder” and that didn’t go so well), I do enjoy them.  The riders were gracious in stopping long enough for me to fumble around with my iPhone and get their picture.  We chatted a bit before I realized that I know these riders!  They are my friends Robin and Katie Stark!  We didn’t recognize each other in our helmets and (varieties of) riding gear!  That was great for a laugh and really changed the whole ride for me.  I’m not sure what it was, but something about being discovered on the road, and talking with them about the beautiful day for a ride (on horses or bicycles) infused me with energy.  The remaining 17 miles were really quite grand!

Cycling is a lot like life isn’t it?

Some days you get up and within a few hours… or minutes… you just want to turn around and call it quits.  But you know a couple things from experience; a) you can’t go back, you have to just keep going, and b) you never know what grand meeting might lay just around the bend.  Something always changes the day, the week, month or season of life.  The sun breaks the clouds and shines down upon you, a blessing arrives in the mail, a person pops into your day and says, “Hi!”  You would never discover that catalyst for change if you had given up and gone home.

In life, as in cycling, you have to “just keep pedaling.”

You never know what you may discover around the next bend or over the next hill.  You never know who will arrive to change your day, your month, your life.  You’ve got to just… keep… pedaling.  Until next time my friends, keep pedaling and…

Enjoy the ride!

A Day of Firsts

Cycling is like life…

…you never know what you’re truly getting yourself into.  Today was a great example!  The boys and I decided on a leisurely ride downtown.  It was a bit chilly, but the sun was shining and all indicators were that this was gonna be a pretty standard hour spent with friends, kicking back, taking it easy, and just enjoying the moments. (Insert knowing chuckle here)  Ah life…you are such the comedian.

The day was defined by “Firsts.”  Brand new experiences!  Adventures!  “Hooray,” right?  I’ll let you determine that for yourself.  Here is my list of Firsts from today.

First Ride with Austin.  “This is my son Austin.  We call him, ‘Lance Armstrong.'”  These were the first words out of Ryan’s mouth when he and George and “Lance Armstrong” rolled up in front of my house.  Austin’s a great guy, don’t get me wrong, but he’s also young, and thin, and good-looking, and thin…  Why couldn’t he be old and fat and slow?  (I’ll let you figure it out)  Austin did a great job hanging with us for the first 17 miles.  Then we never saw him again…after he disappeared over the horizon. (It really was great to ride with you Austin.  Let’s do it again sometime.)

First Ride Through Knee-Deep Water.  Today was Earth Day!  Happy birthday Earth!  (I think that’s why we celebrate Earth Day right?)  So, we took a ride through the wetlands…well named as it turns out.  We first ran across water that was 1 inch deep.  We giggled as the water splashed through the spokes.  We laughed the second time too.  The third time was a bit more serious, but hey, we were committed.  We couldn’t turn back now…right?  Then we faced a minor lake.  George said something I didn’t think I would ever hear on a bike, “Hey!  This water has current!”  Lance…uh, I mean Austin, led the way and I’m not kidding, it looked like he was sinking!  Advisable…no.  Hilarious…yes!  Do it again…you betcha! (Might find warmer water next time though.)

First Ride Through the Hood.  We stopped for coffee and the opportunity to wring out our socks in downtown and gave Ryan the lead for the ride home.  I should have known we were in trouble about the time he yelled, “I’m turning here,” over his shoulder.  I’m not sure where he was going, but shortly after finding the ice cream truck we were obviously lost.  And in one of the most scenic parts of town! Who knew there were gravel roads in the heart of Fort Wayne?  Who knew that many people wanted to ride my bike?  Really creepy people…

First Flat Tire.  Somewhere between the gravel, broken glass, potholes and metal shards in the road I lost the rear tire.  Luckily I had everything I needed to change it out: spare tube (check), tire levers (check), buddies who know what they were doing (check).  It was a tremendous learning experience and quite comical.  I’m pretty sure it was the best “First Flat” experience possible.

First Pick-up.  About 4 miles later we realized we had forgotten something at the unexpected SAG stop.  We never checked the inside of the tire to see if whatever punctured the tube might still be in there.  Evidently… it was.  Since I don’t have space for a PAIR of replacement tubes my day was done, 1.5 miles short of my self-imposed 20 mile minimum ride.  It’s a lonely walk when the guys ride off to get the car to come pick you up.  Thanks George.

First Ride on the Mountain Bike.  The perfect way to end this adventure awaited me at home in the form of my 11 year old daughter waiting on the front porch with her riding helmet on and bike ready to go!  She ran and got my running shoes, we pulled out the Mountain Bike, and off we went for a few miles together.  Now, to be totally honest, this wasn’t my first ride on the Mountain Bike this year, that was back in January when we had a couple days of unseasonable weather   However, it was so enjoyable I had to find some way to fit it into this blog. 

In all of this I am reminded that life has its up and downs.

Just about the time you think you know what you’re getting into you realize you don’t!  Every trip is different, unique and, in some way, one-of-a-kind.  You have to be flexible; being prepared is a bonus, but you can’t plan for everything.  Look around.  Laugh whenever possible.  Be forever thankful for your friends.  Cherish the moments with those you love, and most of all…

…Enjoy the Ride!