To Pacify..

Here is how I feel today

In our microwave society, a pacifier is the ultimate symbol of our desired state of ideals. The burst of contentment it provides to a wailing child is abrupt and absolute, it captures and distracts, albeit it temporarily. It takes away the object of a child’s desire, that thing that prompted the crying in the first place. We constantly live life actively or passively pacifying, this is evident in the numerous addictions we all carry, some big, others small, no one is free, everyone has something calling their name, something they are running from, and in many ways running back to. We distracts, comforts, quiets the things that trouble us… We pacify our needs.

Unfortunately, distractions are just that – distractions, merely transient captors of desire, respite from yearnings that cannot quenched. What it gives never quite goes deep enough, it only caresses when a good scratching is needed. The one resistor to this pacification is the voice of the Heart, logic and rational win over the brain and the mind but the heart sits in silent rebellion, waiting, like Samson in the chains of the philistines, it bids its time, waiting for the opportunity to push down the pillars and return you to reality.

Recently, I have been in a deep state of pacification, chained to a cubicle, a three walled cell which is bigger than my previous cell. I continue to journey up the ladder of cooperate ladder but down this narrow dark hallway like a cow led to the slaughter room. My heart calls, begging me to snap out of it, but now I am good at ignoring it, besides my brain yells much louder. I have put my heart in a dark room and not gone back for some time, and for some time it has let me be but the ambush has been sprung – like waves of old Negro spiritual floating over a southern night, it calls for liberty, it cry’s for freedom, it cry’s for adventure.

Unlike many people, I know what I want to do, where I want to be, and what is stopping me (my good old friend fear.) The bottom line is my heart is about to make a break for it, it will either be let out of the jail or it will be broken trying to do so.

 

Walking the Talk

the saying “be careful what you wish for” has become cliche but as with all things cliche they are usually true. If you follow my blog you know I constantly wrestle and sometimes romanticize change, wishing for it and trying to juxtapose it with our need and fear for it. 

  
Well change is on the horizon for me and not surprising it brings in its wake anxiety and dare I say fear… Fear is something so primal, yet It separats the called from the chosen. As is a customary, a long or hard ride, for me,separates the perceived from the real, climbing up rockygap road, my mind a mine kaleidoscope of thoughts, I look up at I’m at th the top, it was not particularly any easier to get up it but after riding it a score of times it is now familiar. I’m no longer afraid of it, all that needs done is stepping in the water. 

  
My all time favorite quote is by JFK: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat”. 

Backyard Adventure: Riding the GAP from Pittsburgh to Cumberland…

If only I had a dollar for every adventure I wish I could go on, my mind alway inundated with sketches of forrays into exotic locals: hikes in the Inca, ski trips out west and beyond, trail blazing on a mountain bike in Africa. All the while gems languish a stone throw from my reality, year after year I see people run these same rivers that flow through my backyard carving out the Appalachian mountain range, I see families, the old, young, novice and experienced ride the C&O and Great Alleghany Pass… This year I choose to stay local …

 

Ron, Brian, Mandela, Jimmy… The Fantastic Four

Three friends and I shuttles to Pittsburgh and rode approx 150 miles back home (Cumberland). Feasting like kings and sleeping like fins. 

Thanks to my disdain for long winded narratives of especially uneventful and long rides reports, enjoy the pics and commentary of the trip. 

   

Giant TCX, burrowed panniers,Rei Dome tent(used not once hence just extra weight). Total setup weight= I didn’t really care … heavy.   

  

CSX train in Cumberland, got to know these guys intimately on this trip. They ran about every 15mins in Connelsville PA. 

Ron and I enroute to shuttle at Canal place … departure time 8:00am, time of picture 8:07am

  

hour and a half ride to Pittsburgh with 15mins stop at Starbucks in Somerset

  

Lunch before wheels up at the Irish pub on South Street.

  

Shepards stew, not the lightest mean pre 65mile ride

  
  

Hot Metal bridge back downtown Pittsburgh to Mile 0

  

Rocking the Stunner Shades on this trip

    
    
  

Brian, Jimmy, Ron and yours truly.

  

the Yellow Panniers on Brian’s bike was the star of the trip… brightened my day whenever i looked at it

     
    

Heading out if Pittsburgh… Now the adventure really begins

     
    

 

The Round House

  
    

First Flat

 

Mckeesport … here we come

  

  

maintaining a 15-17mph speed…we paid for it later

the bugs at this location were vicious, that dude had just ridden from VA and if he noticed the bugs he did not show it. it took all i had to stand still and take this pic

 

we ditched the campsite at Adalade, wss not the greatest setup, no Trees for the Hamicks and more importantly, no restaurants… rode 3 miles to Cornelville, ditched the El anelis too for Italian Oven… great call

  

We washed off in the river, some washing more than others and retreated to the lean too at the entrance to town to setup camp for the night. Total: 65ish miles, 6ish hours, no bike computers on this trip

Motel 6 setup for me and Brian. slept a total of 45mins, I was so uncomfortable

the Ritz Carlton for Ron snd Jimmy, their snores meant they slept well despite what they say

Day 2: we had a really loose plan to ride as far as we felt like, there was a chance we would spend the night at Meyersdale but I think we all knew if we got that close to home, we were going the whole way. 

  

ready to roll.

    

connelsville cabos… duh right? 🙂

    
  

heading to breakfast 24miles away at Ohiopyle

 
  

       

  

bridge across the Yough River. I can smell breakfast

  
    
    
    
  

FINALLY…

 
 

dont you just love that jersey and the African team even more… i do!

  
    
    
 
 

The canopy was beautiful… this stretch would be amazing in the Fall

  
    
  

we will be going downhill in about 10 miles

  

 

we smell home… dinner at crabby pigs here we come

  

  

  

museam at Meyersdale Train station

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

   

   

Into the savage tunnel

   

    
   
  

Cobbled streets of Cumberland… Home alas/at last. 

Trail notes: the only way you could take this many pictures is when the trail is going uphill most of the time. I welcomed the opportunity to slow down and shoot, when going downhill, I didn’t get a single picture. I 
I think two days and one night is perfect for this lenght, I would however go up to Pittsburgh the night before or head out much earlier on the first day. We did not start riding till 1:30… That’s pretty late even for Ron

All in all, an excellent trip, personalities and abilities were complimentary and a great time was had by all. Now to the next adventure, thanks for stopping by. 

Yup riding in the motherland again…

Shrieks and yells jerk my attention from my Garmin’s read-out of 28mph on the flats, I look up and there is Yakub the Polish diplomat trying to get the attention of the taxi driver who can obviously see us but still tries to cut in front of the group. Yakub then does something faciniting and funny, he raises his hand in the air, five fingers spread out (like a high five), this is the national flip-off sign, it’s usually done with the phrase WAKA. I have never met a foreigner who knows about that or even does it, it was for me and the driver hilarious. This was about the third time a cacophonous chorus had erupted from our foursome on a peppy escortion around the capital city of Abuja, Nigeria. The city’s topography is primarily flat with granite hills rising out of the horizon in every direction, like centurions guarding the planes. The ring leader was Luca again, who I have ridden with on previous trips, he showed up with a TT bike so I knew it was going to be a sufferfest kind of day. 

This sight meant it was going to be a long hard day

 IB, the resident godfather of Nigerian cycling also made a showing on his brand new Cervelo S5. I was going to bring along my Specialized Tarmac on this trip but decided not to, I had a lot of business lined up on this trip and had no idea how much riding I could get in. I therefore settled for some wheels to replace my busted one on my old Giant TCX I already left here 2 years ago. As usual, I got the “that’s what you are going to ride” look… from the group, I’m now used to it with this crowd…and most other crowds, these guys were riding top of the line race machines, I’m usually very secure in myself but I must admit I was a little ashamed of the bike. The saving grace is I’m usually able to keep up with those guys with their F1 carbon et al.

 

Check out the Peuguot Pickup… that things probably 30yrs old

  

No paint to designate lanes in a 3 lane highway…makes for some hairy driving

 

 The ride started with short loop from Maitama into Wuse 2 and back, naturally it began at 6:30, the most appropriate confluence between temperature and light (it’s not too hot that you want ride naked and lit enough to ride without a chase car). The city was already mostly awake, a remarkable ensemble of birds greets a listening ear, the temperate climate is conducive for a great variety of birds. Watching the streets slowly come alive, I notice how the primary source of livelihood for a lot of these early rising pedestrian are things most westerners take for granted: that air compressor sitting unused in your garage, that feeds the tire guy’s (vulcanizer) family, he sets up by the side of the road and does all tire related repairs for motorists, the antic Singer sewing machine your mother left you is the mobile tailor’s (Duma-Duma) tool of trade; with his portable sewing machine on his head, he logs 20 miles daily around the city calling out for work, Dumas fix any rips, make adjustments and even see complete outfits in minutes…the Michael Kors of the poor.  The list goes on to include the water guy (Mai Ruwa) who pushes the largest wheelbarrow you ever saw loaded with 50 liter gallons and selling water, those who pick fruit from trees and walk around town selling them. These craftsmen stop, crane their necks, observe the spectacle of spandex clad men as we speed by on a most unusual locomotive they must think. 

 

These guys go around looking for jobs mowing… they mow fields with just a weedwacker

  

Trash guy AKA babam Bola…stop at your house and take care if your trash for a price. thry also salvage for recyclables

  

Bala, the human troll

  

Magnet picks up metal as he walks around. st the end of the day he sells whatever he “attracts”

  

selling hot food

  

Roadside roasted corn and pear… top quality carbs if you ask me

 

 Also interesting was the reactions of pedestrians and motorists for to the spectacle I assume we were. I came to the conclusion that Nigerians are a people for whom nothing is too unusual to see or believe, this might sterm from their hybrid religious disposition an practices ; it is common for people to say they have experienced the supernatural like seeing a human being turn into a goat or knowing someone  whose mother inlay took out her womb, tie it up and stash it somewhere so she stays barren and they are completely believed by the audience, everyone knows a witch and every misfortune was perpetuated by one. Even with a strong Christian and Muslim presence in the country there still is patronization of indigenous oracles and religions pre dating them, there is a strong believe and appreciation for the spiritual world, realms westerners consider fairytale, delusional voodoo crap.  I say this because most times as we flew by people, we only got a “that’s interesting” look that did not linger very long (an interested glance and a return to the hustle at hand) not the expected fanfare we see on TV. There was really no chasing of our bikes by village children, or Entire towns shutting down to go look at the foreigners on iron horses… I’m sure some of this is because we were in a big city, the capital at that but the most I could get from the faces of children who looked a little longer was a ” men I sure would love to try that” expression, then they went back to their own hustle of selling peanuts, water or even fuel (black market). 

 

Thats thr fuel queue on the right, not traffic hold up

 

 The pace was punishing as we got on the Kubwa express way, sometimes touching 30mph and this was not on a downhill stretch, for a mountain rider albeit a very fat one (no hyperbole there) with approximately 300 total miles ridden this year, I was feeling the pace and avoiding the front like the plague. That early on a Saturday morning, the roads were not choked full of cars running at -as fast as your engine and load would let you- speed. I could already see the maturity in my riding, usually I can’t wait to get to the front and show how to pull a train at Mach 1 albeit for 4 miles before exploding, I already gave myself a pep talk citing as examples the numerous flat-landers who come to the Appalachian mountains and try to show off to some hairy-legged locals because they head 20mph average group rides where they’re from – Different specialization of your leg muscles, because you are fast on the fasts does not mean you would be when the tarmac points upwards and vise versa…I think fast twitch vs slow twitch…who cares you show off, you usually fall off. 

 

For how close Abuja is to the arid desert north, it is a very green and fertile land.

 

 Luca was doing all the work and a mighty fine job he was doing, I figure as with most diplomats he has to be very cautious with everything and It seemed he never felt comfortable sitting on anyone’s wheel, just my thought for all I know he could have Tritophobia (disease exclusive to triathletes where they feel they will get penalized for drafting so they ride very awkwardly in groups… I know you know what I’m talking about). I’m still feeling relatively fresh and finally get on the front to motor our multinational gang onwards and get rid of some nervous energy most of the time though I sat in a tuck and got pulled along at 24mph. The traffic circles AKA roundabouts as we ex British colonies call them are tricky to navigate, the chase car does its best to block rearward traffic but given that the circle is fed by 4 junctions, only one entry point can be blocked and then it’s really an “every man for himself” kind of situation. 

Forgive my digressive writing style, my brain is a lot faster than my pen; I have mixed feelings about riding in a 3rd world country with a chase car. You definitely feel a lot safer, safer from traffic where there is no speed limits,places you wrestle with jalopies going at 70mph as well as the vagabond goat on the interstate. Riding with a chase car however usually involves running lights, bullying other cars and putting you on a pedestal. Iris almost like you see yourself higher than these people, they can stay in line but because I can afford to I will go around. I feel people who would have waved and smiled only look and picture you as some ambassador or something, some unattainable standard,and instead of inspiring you end up solidifying sentiments of glass ceilings and complexes. It’s a love/hate relationship for me with chase cars, you will most likely arrive home alive but it serves as a cocoon, a glove shielding you from the environment, you might as well have ridden on a spinner with the heater turned on high to simulate the African heat… But I digress

We regroup outside the circle with three and not four men… No chase car either.


Luca chooses to keep riding, figuring IB would bridge across shortly, it’s probably embassy protocol to not stay idle without security for more than 2 minutes… Ok I’m just milking this now… surprisingly, the pace did not lighten, we kept on riding tempo and rotating at that. Every once in a while we would look back for IB but he never showed, after about 5 miles we finally and thankfully pulled off on the side of the road to wait. 10 minutes later, our comrade pulls up in the front seat of the car, bike in the trunk. This was the first ride he had ridden on that bike (2015 Cervelo S5) since it was built up, cable stretch and loosen bolts resulted in a sliding seat mast and inadequate shifting.

 

waiting for our lost friend

  

how many mechanics does it take to adjust a derailear

 
The solution was for IB to stay on the big ring while we stop at a friends house to get some tools. The break did little good as, my legs started complaining once we set off again. 

This is a good place to stop for now, I will conclude the report tomorrow. If you have not read my previous reports on riding in Nigeria, do so and leave a comment I would love to know what you think.  Thanks for stopping by

Spring… Again…

As spring arrives, so do many awesome blog posts and pictures; proses of returning blossoms, chirps, single track and adventures planned. All things I happily welcome and rely on to atune me to the new season. However, we fail or choose not to remember the dog-days of summer, those days when the Mercury climbs over 85 and humidity above 65 percent, days in which we longinly look to POW days of carving “S’es” in the white fluffy stuff. How easily we forget. 

The point of this is not to be a “downer”, it just that this year, the budding leaves and returning sparrows break my heart a little bit. Recently, a situation in which I was faithless worked out in a such a way that God’s faithfulness was unquestionable, the solution was like the inevitability of Spring; no matter how bad winter was someday blades of grass will again bask in the noon sun and birds will sip nectar from the open flower petals. This begs the question, why do I continues to doubt, the spring days with its scents, the summer days when the earth yields the greatest hero dirt and the fall days with the majesty of the trees fully dressed is on display. I forget the cycle of life and the ruler who orchestrated it all. 

she's also ready for Spring.
So I look forward to the captivating tales of adventures and maladventures, the pictures of carpeted rolling hills, warming streams and melting mountain tops and the prompting of the Holy Spirit gently whispering… This too will pass…

Point of no return…

Too late to turn back now….


when skiing with friends much better than me, we always come to the point where the blue and black diamond trails no longer satisfy them, the logical next step in a double black or glade skiing. I am forced to decide to take the plunge and thread the needle; though the trees or ride in between and over the mine field of knee high moguls. Many times 15 yards down the steep I can abort, hike back up, ski across to a tamer trail, or gracelessly exit the glades (there have been cases where I took off my skis and hiked to the button to the amusement of onlookers. However, there is always the point of no return, that point where it is impossible to hike back to the top or pizza it to the bottom.Where you must muster all your courage and go for it.  It is at times like these that we come face to face with our inner strength. In these times we realize that no one else matters but us and what we think aboutourselves and our effort. At such times, due to the inability to guarantee success the most important thing is effort; doing the best we can to achieve our set goal. 

wipeout and we will laugh.


Many times, a difficult trails runs right under the lift line, so if you wipe out you end up being entertainment for everyone. This stops many people from attempting runs they would like to try, businesses they would like to open, vocations they would like to answer. You would be surprised by how many adults who do not know how to ride a bicycle but are afraid of what people would say or think when they see them practice. When you reach that point of no return, survival sits higher on your scale of preference as compared to avoiding embarrassment. 

Your Turn !!


Sitting on the ski lift at White Tail ski resort for some winderful springish skiing, I realize I am slowly inching towards that point of no return in my personal life. It feels exciting and scary, I can’t stay where I am but making the move somewhere else is daunting and scary. Soon it will be too late to turn back. I would love to nail this run but there’s also a good chance of a wipeout. 

Let’s go…

Walk of Life

The 10 mile hike I did Sunday was remarkable reminiscent of my life so far. The Childhood phase; a bouquet of wonder, hope, optimism and adventure. Young adulthood: discovery, boredom, confusion and experimentation. Full on adulthood brings about a “Settling-in” and reaping of the fruits of decisions made. Quite pungent for just a 10 mile hike I know but in these parts, it doesn’t take much for the deep things of life to unravel as you walk.

 

Being December, I would rather be bundled up, strapped to a waxy pair of wood and fiberglass, surrendering myself to the pull of gravity and carving S-turns on a mountain face. However, given that the temperature was 52 degrees with nary a snowflake on the ground, Hotrod and I decided to head out for a hike. 17 mile trail is a popular one in Savage river state forest, straddling the ridge on Big Savage Mountain, one in the chain that runs from Garrett County through Allegheny Maryland. From the trail head, you get a good view of Negro mountain and the adorning windmills. I have a love/ hate relationship with windmills; they provide great compositional contrast at closer range but present an eyesore when you can see more than 5 on a mountain top, pardon the digression.

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The first 3 miles were very enjoyable, we walked and caught up on family and Christmassy stuff, we stopped and tried to evaluate the amount of noise pollution claimed to be created by said windmills. We checked out trees with some sort of tumorous growth and hypothesized on possible etiology. We got off trail a couple times from laughing and not paying attention, we ran to a hunter on his way home after an unsuccessful outing (nice T/C omega stainless steel muzzleloader with camo stock)…Childhood

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By mile 5, it had become apparent to us that this was a “dead-man walk”; the trail had no openings, vistas or overlooks. The timber was small and numerous akin to waking through a bamboo plantation. Why then is this trail so popular I wondered? The only thing I saw besides consecutive selfies of my boots was a mole that swiftly bee-lined for the nearest hole, even all the birds must already be working on their tan down south. The saving grace was the cut out for the Pennsylvania power line that gave respite to our march… Young Adulthood

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We soldiered on for another 300 yards or so and decided to break for lunch and decide our next course of action. We could either keep on going and hope the hike gets a little more interesting or pull the plug and retrace our steps (and hope the hike gets more interesting). Decisions was made, calories had been burnt, wives appeased (temporary exile of 2 grumpy guys who can’t ski or bike due to the weather) now it was time to accept that we probably would have been better served going for a bike ride, albeit a flat and windswept one. We decided to accept the consequence of our actions and salvage the walk as best we could… Adulthood

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At the end of the day, after taking stock, this is chucked into the “oh well” bin. The key is that you go out and do something; this hike could very well have turned out to be an epic one, one to be returned to every year. Alas, such is life.

Often, I mourn childhood, wishing a return to the days of infinite optimism and a vivid short term memory, when failures are quickly forgotten as well as victories, but on days like these, the failures also make triumph that much more precious and the quest for them insatiable. On this day, we were the victors and the vanquished.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

The Unknown

Sitting on the steps of my driveway, the  Fall chill sipping past my soft shell jacket, my skin and nose bask in the crisp aroma of tired leaves, the atmosphere saturated with the smell of fall, and the sun – missing in action. It was decision time: do I go on this ride or not? You see, every once in a while, especially post riding hiatus comprising of full on absence from the saddle, I decide on some big exploratory ride the theme (slow and long) where I attempt to go off lots of unbeaten paths and explore roads I have never been on before. It so happens that somehow on those rides I end up riding some variation of the rides I already know, I never really get lost, I stay constrained in my curiosity and always stay within the buffer of the familiar.

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What do we fear in the unknown? Is it trepidation of mental and physical anguish we might experience in discovering it, or the effort required in embracing and mastering it, maybe its just the awareness of our nakedness and ignorance made glaringly apparent in a state of not knowing. I think in my case, my fear is that I might not be able to afford the cost of the venture. Due to the significant topographical fluctuations in elevation (climbing) around Cumberland, I would have to climb and/or decend a couple thousand feet before I even reach uncharted territory, when finally on virgin territory the further I go the more worried I become: I worry about how climbing lies ahead, am I going to get lost and have to backtrack, what about getting back home? I am going to have to do all that climbing to get back home (this conversation set to the Banjo ridden soundtrack of Deliverance as I go deep into Appalachia). The fear of running out of energy is so immense I inevitably end up doing a variation of the ride I already know.

On Saturday though, I mounted and headed towards the limits of my familiarity, I got to the cross road of decision where I could turn left and head towards Centerville and back home or I could head towards Everitt, towards more struggles with gravity, towards adventure. I chose the latter. I rode all the way to Bedford PA, through a cathedral of changing colors and Fall foliage, the scrubs signaled their welcome to old man winter with bright shades or green, yellow and amber, the maple trees displayed every shade of orange occasionally liberating a confetti of spent leaves as the wind demanded, I coasted on the downhills ignoring my Garmin, I drank of the beauty and searched for a deeper meaning of all this. I dug deep looking for a palpable connection between this awe and my inadequate comprehension of God’s magnificence, constantly failing, my attention wrestled away by a vibrant shrub or a cammo-clad youngster stretching his bow.

Thanks to inadequate planning, I ran out of food was cold, worried and my butt and legs hurt. There comes a point in ever Century ride when it is no longer as much fun, you just turn the cranks in order to get to that 100mile marker. In many aspects of my life I feel that’s where I am: like I just rode past the 75mile marker and the views are beginning to look the same, the company the same since mile 1 and conversation is running thin, in my ride of life, change is imperative but I remain clueless as to its initiation. I was tired but I somehow knew I was going to make it, the hardest part had been done, I had gotten on and started riding, I had made that turn and had been rewarded for it.

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I recently heard “Fear is the fruit of forgetfulness” when we forget all the other times we have taken the leap of faith and God has brought us through it builds our faith and debunks fear. Another I heard is “Faith is not the opposite of Fear…Love is” when we finally comprehend the love God has for us, and how much he has done and is willing to do for us, we gain perspective and faith and loose fear. You know, I think even those we think are brave like the Nomad and Vagabond need to ask themselves if deep down they are actually afraid of stability, assurance and calling a place home. In the Bible my favorite passage about fear is 1John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”.

After 70 miles and 6k ft of climbing, I arrive home, toes numb, shoulders locked, ears and face numb but a smile frozen in place. It was difficult, it was lonely, it was hard ….. But it was New!

In the Eyes of the Beholder…

In the Eyes of the Beholder.

 

Lately, I have been pondering the limits of morality as it applies to different people in different circumstances. What sets the boundaries beyond which we call a morality timeout? Who draws the lines where it is too far to cross? Are we governed by some universal meter, religious, social, or political ideologies and are these standards universally applicable? Are our personal morals universal or do we reserve the right to adjust them depending on out physical location and social circumstance? Really, think about that… Do We?

I just came back from Nigeria where the economy is doing great with $510 billion in GDP, ranked 26th in the world (the fastest growing economy in Africa) but also a country where the great troughs of poverty can still be see. It is still a place where uncertainty in the areas of food, shelter and security is commonplace alas tell me a place where those concerns do not exist. Someone supposedly credible explained to me: Nigeria has two economic streams, the legal/transparent stream, and the Shady stream. He claims the legal stream puts Nigeria not so much better than any other African country in terms of economic viability and growth but the illegal really boosts the economy and provides people with the resources required to drive economic growth (the reliability of this statement is a topic for another day). Now when I say Illegal, I do not mean stealing and tax frauds and extremes like that though those things do exist and are commonplace. In this case I mean markups on prices which both parties know is going on, gratuities given and received that reach up and above the 20percent expected in western cultures (actually American culture), bribes, kickbacks, unprofessional gifts etc. These things done because it’s the way it has always been done, because it is the grease that lubricates business and gives you a better chance of getting the next contract. It is a means of spreading the wealth in a country where the socioeconomic stratification is so wide and distribution of wealth and resources so uneven and restricted to the one percenters’.

Now if one looks at the world through a “Black and White” lens where there are no grey-zones, if we judge the world through the standards set by the bible without discernment, if we are rigid in journeying through the rigors and messiness called life, we might relegate such practices as illegal with no possible excuses to justify them. However we fail to take into consideration that only God judges the Heart and rewards according to what our actions deserve (Jer 17:10). Now I know some might see this as me justifying such behaviors but like many other quandaries, I find myself the amphibian; born of the land and of the sea, able to live both lives and torn by the dichotomy that exists thereof. Pondering this situation whilst trying to reconcile the prevalence of “off the book side businesses” almost everybody I know in Nigeria does,(a banker gets a N15,000 appreciation for fast-tracking someone’s application, an Oil company man gets $50,000 for choosing this contractor over another) there is the unspoken rule that one good turn deserves another. I asked a friend where he draws the moral line, I said I want to be financially comfortable, I want to contribute to society, to my country, I want to give and I want to receive but I don’t want to steal, so help me see how what people are doing is not stealing.

A quote from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath summarizes his response: How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him – he has known a fear beyond every other.

People do what they must to survive. A system in which surviving requires, some rules be bent, truths warped, actions taken with the normalizing clause “as long as you are not hurting anybody.” Well at the end of the day, we are hurting someone by marking up the price, by selling a good for twice its actual cost, someone is paying for the greed that has been trickled down the system, the price being paid is not always in money but in opportunity, in dreams, and the most costly of all in hope and faith. Usually people are okay if the only people they are hurting is the government because the general feeling is they do not care for us, they plunder and loot us, but in the end hurting the government gets richer and the people poorer.

I will not pretend I know the answer to this conundrum because its a system where you need to stay alive in order to change, and to stay alive you might need to reevaluate your moral boundaries and any adjustment of your moral boundaries puts you in same group as the rest (no small or big thief… a thief is a thief). Here we need strength and wisdom … Strength, Wisdom and Gratitude that God does not just judge the works of out hands but sees the inner things of our hearts.

 

Nigeria Ride Report Day 3

This is my third day of riding on my trip to Nigeria. catch up on Day 1 & Day 2.

Today the jetlag has full on caught up to me and is reeking havos on my mind and body. In order to again experience the safety of a chase car, the assurance of a third eye looking out for your back, I did the right thing and set my alarm clock for 5:05 and another for 5:15 so I could be at the meetup point when the Italian confab came through. The first alarm being the warning alarm got the mandatory snooze response and the second one to actually rouse my disgruntal self got the shut up response. As a result of both alarms getting the snooze salute and when I finally came to it was a mad dash to get to the meeting place.
Arriving about 10mins late, I was thinking/hoping for whatever reason (ran over and empty rickshaw (keke napap), had to take care of number 1 or 2 on the side of the interstate (trust me it happens… regularly))  Luca and Fedrico and the chase car would be late, but alas it was not to be. So solo I struck out my destiny in my land, my life and bike on a platter, flesh and metal for the taking. There was trepidation but adventure. I crawled up Ivan Ikoku road and right onto Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) road (by the way for more interesting commentary on Nigeria I would highly recommend googling the people these roads are named after, Its amazing how some people destroy the country and still get monuments put up in their names, I leave it at that). About 150yards to the end of the road there the British style (blues circle with white arrow) sign denoting Expressway (Interstate for the Yanks), here we go I think to myself.
I pull a wide right hander into the road taking care to stake my claim to some portion or tarmac but being careful not to go so wide as to encourage oncoming traffic to overtake this “craze man wai think say hin be oyibo” (crazyperson who thinks he is a foreigner) on the right side of the road. Let me try to explain my observations about the transportation system in Abuja:

 

KeKe Napep (Rickshaw)

KeKe Napep (Rickshaw)

cattle on the side of the road again

cattle on the side of the road again

Yellow Fever texting while controlling traffic

Yellow Fever texting while controlling traffic

On the left is a herd of cattle and their Fulani shepard

On the left is a herd of cattle and their Fulani shepard

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Speed limit of the road I was riding a bicycle on

Speed limit of the road I was riding a bicycle on

Pedestrian on Expressway

Pedestrian on Expressway

• Everyone is entitled to the road: I saw regular cars, trucks, cranes, pedestrians, garbage pushers, Fulani cattle men (with herd of cattle grazing on the median while cars zoom by at 100kmph), motorcycles and rickshaws (awesome for motor pacing… I actually outsprinted one)… any form of transportation capable of generating forward…or backward motion is on the express way.
• The only time speed does not win is when there are Sirens and a convoy of some political bigshot coming by, in which case speed actually wins because those convoys do not hit the brakes for anyone. I saw 1996 VW Golfs (seemingly nations preffered car for taxi) bully and jostle for position with brand new Toyota Camrys, If I am going faster than you, you either get out of the way while I am still 100 feet away or I’m getting around you via any means possible (your left, right, over you…don’t care). So many times I heard cars screech to a full stop when the come upon a car 50kmph faster only to find there was no way to get aroung and had to impale the brakes… some other muscle besides those in my legs got a serious workout from “puckering intervals”.
• Cutting people off…. Whats that? I was not sure if drivers due to the fact that cyclist are not common place, underestimate the speed we are capable of generating or can’t quite judge the speed a bicycle is travelling at. I am coming up to an exit (because I am riding on the interstate you know), my head is constantly on the swivel as I want to clear the off ramp before one of the cars attempts to get off, I am moving at a respectable clip 25/27mph, I will clear it in 3 seconds if the car behind needs only back off 2-3mph, I can cross safely and he can be on his way but without fail he guns it and tries to go around me and unto the off ramp, being that I am aware that this is the most common car/bike accident (“The Right Hander”) I inevitably  grab a hand full of breaks coming to an almost stop in the middle of an off ramp and the car comes around as well as the other cars behind him all the while giving me the stink eye…craze man they must think. Guess what happens a few yards ahead with the other cars getting on that direction of the express way come in, Yup… The saving grace in riding the highways of Abuja is that there are not that many exits so I had to deal with 5 or 6 of these on most rides.
The Best Part
So I take the off ramp heading towards the Central District; a fast growing section of the city, a mismatch of office building, monuments, hotels, corner shops and such, my intended route was towards the Transcorp Hilton (Favorite for the Oyibos looking to pick up local girls and a classier pad to lodge while in the capital city). To get there I had to traverse a stretch of road closedto one lane, this was part of the route te rode on Day 2, this section was slightly uphill and I could see the dome of the building sticking out in the horizon, a picturesque view which I thought was the National Mosque (Probably the most beautiful building in the whole city, the dome covered with real gold). Riding no handed I reach in my jersey and pull out my camera to capture the scene unfolding beyond the hill ahead.. a wonderful composition I thought. Stop! Stop There I say! Came the shouts from across the street, I look to see a smallish guy in navy blue camoflague, automatic riffle pointed at me, to his right 2 other guys pointing MP4s cumbersome in their arms with extra magazines ducked taped together earn my full attention. While I hurriedly guide the bike to a halt I can see in the eyes of his colleague, a trigger happiness, tension in his body, the surge of adrenaline evident in his carriage. I’m thinking to myself; be it a misunderstanding or not Dead is Dead… there is no coming back from Dead to right a misunderstanding… I stop the bike thankful the canterlever brakes have not chosen this moment to betray me and welcome a high caliber slug through one of the vents of my helmet. I shoot both hands high in the air, camera dangling from my right hang, my Jersey front rises no gut allowed to escape (at least I would die looking good without a beer gut sticking out I reckon).
A quick exchange occurs between my captors in Hausa (a language familiar to me since I went to high school in a state that primarily spoke Hausa) its been a while but I was already beginning to remember some of what I knew. He told them I was taking a picture and I think I saw them relax a bit, immediately I start racking my brain; what building is this? Why is taking a picture a problem, I knew this was not the presidential Villa AKA Aso Rock, there were no embassies close by either so where could this place be? I definitely did not miss any signs discouraging taking pictures. The soldier was asking me to identify myself as he confisticates my Camera, I look at his ID but the stream of sweat lubricating my eyes made it impossible to read anything , I look to the uniform and see the acronym DSS… means nothing to me.
The Irony of this whole crazyness is that when I hit the button to take the picture, my camera grumbled that there was no memory card so I actually did not take a picture. Mr Commando one took my camera and had a hard time even turning it on, my attempts to guide him towards the general direction of the power button were met with contradicting scolds and stern looks (Step back, don’t move, who are you, shut up, how do you turn this on, don’t move)  like I was about to detnate this explosive device I had. I guess Boko Haram now wears spandex and carries explosives in their camera. Lets just say I was detained for about 20mins meaninglessly, my information was collected on a piece of paper which I am sure will be condemned to the abiss of meaningless nick nacks left on the window seal when pockets are emptied pre laudry. I was warned that this was a restricted area and any Nigerian would know that pictures are not allowed here (My inquiry into why there was not a sign posted saying that was ignored) I guess its actually in our genetic code rendering that unnecessary. The only reason I was let go was I figured at this point I had no rights to these people and my best chance of being sent on my way was cooperating and playing a fool.

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Abuja National Assembly… Same road I was on when stopped

 

National Mosque

National Mosque

I later on found out that the building I was trying to take a picture of was the Abuja National Assembly building, and the building right next to it where I got stopped is the Department of Secret Services (DSS), they used to be know as the Secret Security Services but just recently changed their name, that was why I did not recognize them.
I chucked this all to “Part of the Nigerian experience” and kept on rolling, I pushed hard on the Transcorp Hilton road section knowing there is a Strava segment there (I know…every ride has to be part-race). On the Lifecamp to Gwarinpa express way I saw a man on the side of the expressway taking a shower as in full on naked taking a shower with a bucket, turned off at the zone 4 exit where the yellow fever (police officer who control traffic… Their standard uniform in a yellow shirt and black plants and more times than not they are chilling under a tree while traffic backs up) waved me on, I coast done zone 5 to zone to and back to my parents home all the while ushered and buoyed by eyes experiencing a night not too often or more likely not before seen.*

All things considered, it was actually a pleasant ride, pictures were limited due to technical issues but I was also not face deep in my handlebars trying to keep up with speedy skinny Italians trying to ride the rubber of their wheels.

Final Installation coming up…