God loves cyclocross 

Every couple months I get to talk to my good friend AD, we go way back to a rainy day on a basketball court, sometimes I make the call and other times he does, the instigator never really has any bearings on the tone, level or strength of our connection. We are brother be it at home or abroad, we pick up right where we left up the last time we spoke. I dare say that is the sign of good friendship one formed through years bonding and numerous days lounging in campus dormitories gnawing on 2 day old pizza. I have had other friends, more sophisticated, more ambitious, ones who make me feel like if I keeping nurturing the relationship I will be on the front page of the NY Times before I know it. The latter group however is short on long-suffering (pun intended), a couple weeks of being incommunicado and you are dropped from the speed dial setting. 

  
What does this all have to do with cyclocross or God you say? Well hear, hear: The trustee cyclocross bike is in my opinion the most loyal of the never ending genres under which bikes are classified these days, they go as fast as your legs will propel them, keep up with any roadbike, all the while looking as good as the parts you hang on them.  Cross bikes are willing to be the winter bike and venture into any terrain your heart desires. The cyclocross mirrors how we feel inside; the dirtbag who would rather have panniers, fat tires, a flask and a destination with no plans on how to get there or the wannabe racer with 60mm deep wheels, you can dress a cross bike to be the embodiment of your current or desired mental state. 

  
 I just reactivated my Giant TCX. I put on some 28cc tires, new bottle cages and bar tape. The first ride was akin to a conversation with your high school sweetheart at the class reunion, awkward and forced, trying to find a conversational angle that skirts the elephant in the room. The sensation of speed was subpar, I searched for that feeling of riding a wild horse, the lurking aggression apparent in a race bike, the twitchiness of a steep head angle apt to respond to input from your pinky. I put in more effort try to coax that same feeling out of the aluminum frame to no avail, stood up and mashed the pedal, hoping to rouse the slumbering Cheeta within… No dice. Then something happened… I gave up. 

   

  
 I relaxed into a slow cadence, sat up and looked around, I soaked in every bump usually absorbed by the compliance of carbon strands, felt the tingling in my hands from my fingers up to my neck, the 28cc tires took the edge off but the frame stayed live.  On the decents, the relaxed geometry seemed to curve around the contours of the road and I thought … Hey this reminds me of God! We constantly chase speed, upgrading to the latest and greatest all the while relegating our first love to hang in the basement, with only the occasional call up when the fast bike is in the shop or the weather is bad. The cross bike never complains, always reliable, always willing. Romans 8:35 says what shall separate us from the love of God, not trouble or hardship or persecution or famine… 

As always it is hard for me to juxtapose the premise of a need for speed and one to look up and smell the roses on the bike just as in life. God can help me see through the fog and one of the ways he does it is through a 5 year old aluminum  cyclocross bike. 

Thanks for stopping by…

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Get off the front. 



sourse: paketabike.wordpress.com



The first time I did the Seagull Century was my first time riding with thousands of other riders in the same event. The riders came in all shapes, sizes and configurations and the whole mass was most organic, riders jived and bounced in response to one another and the staccato of gear shifts rattling through the peloton was most surreal. Riders came in a myriad of categories : the “pro-isk” guys with matching kits, shaved legs, riding $6000 bikes and shooing any peasant mortal who dared to sit on their wheel, there’s the strongman type with leg hair the lenght of James Hardins beard and leg muscles the size of a babies head, the tri guys in their singlets and bikinis seemingly poured over their aero bars sucking some unnaturally colored fluid from their strawed sippy cup . It was a concuction of various styles, sizes and abilities. The group I want to talk about though is the tandem group; two riders (captain and stoker)on the same bike. On a flat route, there are few things better to sit behind than a tandem: ample windshielding and the speed of a freight train. 

On said ride, I was at the tail of a 10 man paceline being dragged along pretty speedily by a tandem. For 10 miles these guys did not get off the front, they just drilled it, they never flicked the elbow (universal symbol for someone else to take a pull) or drop the pace to give others a hint “time for someone else to come kiss the wind”, no… they just punched a big gap in the atmosphere for the rest of us wheelsuckers to slip through. By mile 12 though, their legs were obviously done, train after train started passing us and a few riders abandoned ship and jumped on faster wagons. Tandem guys still would not get off the front, all they needed to do was let someone else pull but it seemed like they wanted the glory or maybe they did not know how to get off the front…

I finally pulled the ripcord and joined another train. Just as I passed the former engine, I saw them put in a dig to grap onto the tail of the new ship but their legs were too far gone. They were left to face the coastal wind by their lonesome (thanks, see you later)  the glory of 10 miles but a faint memory now. 

Rightly or not, all I could think was ” there lies the fruits of pride“.  

Last Saturday, I found myself in a sipping of the same chalice. My delivery of the neighbors dog poop to their door step resulted in a serious but not unexpected confrontation. Many unkind words were said and absurd threats exchanged. After the show was over, and hormonal level rebalanced, a feeling of guilt and exhaustion replaced those of bravado and machismo. I told myself my behavior was justified, it had to be done, I had to stand up for myself, I could not look weak, I had to pull my weight. The thought of walking over to the same door I dropped a shovel load of dog crap at to apologized seemed too far a step to take. I would look weak, they would feel their threats got to me. 

Goldie encouraged me to do it and I did. I walked to that door, knocked, apologized and struck my arm out to seal the deal of reconciliation and forgiveness. The whole experience was so uplifting it was akin to that you get when leaving the slopes after 8hrs of powder skiing. 

Like Tandem guys, prides keeps you in front making you value more what people think about you than really addressing the true you. I believe my 2 biggest nemesis are Pride and Fear, fruits of the same vibe that must be overcome by love. 

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!

Solitude

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What is it about solitude that seems primeaval to men (maybe women also but I know it is to men)? To sit alone with your thought shared only with a canopy of trees and fellowship of the wilderness, to dialogue with the emptiness and dwell in its stillness. Tossing around in a minimalist shelter we wrestling with demons and ideas that exist only in our mind and most times to reemerge into civililization either the victor or the vanquished.

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Solitude seems to offer a gift in one hand and a curse in the other, it seems to give you refuge from the root-cause and affords you a place to hide from yourself. I have many times in solitude sought out reasons and epiphanies for quandaries and conundrums, many times I have sat gazing into a vast opening of celestial foliage and rolling hills half expecting an audible voice to  help decipher the enigmas that plague me… I however know better Audible voices usually are a gift to those lacking in faith, my lot is the conversation that comes from within and my cross is to hear, believe and accept it (Romans 8:16 The spirit bears witness with my spirit…). You know I realized that those who enjoy solitude the most are those who truly are laden with the least emotional baggage… those who are content to wander and not shackled to/by expectations, moores and the status-quo. Professionally I have come across people who know that where they are today is where they are going to be all things remaining equal in the next 10years, they do not seek advancement, challenges, ruffles and are ok with autopiloting through the ever rotating droidery of a routine monotonous job, and you know what that’s ok because those of us who are not cogs sometimes envy that…. We envy that liberty… We long to be rolling stones… In solitude we seek to sort through the dichotomy of desire and destiny.

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So we seek solitude, we hike the trails less travelled, spring for the most primitive sites, go on weekdays to avoid the weekend crowd, we are on a quest nut not quite sure what we seek, we deeply inhale the morning mist filling our lungs and subconsciously hoping to drown the voices that remind us what lurks behind the maple and sycamore tree, what calls to be untangled across the tarmac that leads to the concrete jungle.

Alas I have always misunderstood solitude… I always thought is was where I found the answers, I thought it was where all things are made clear and the writings are visible in the sky or the air or the water. I now realize solitude mostly is where I find the right questions, where the mind is silent long enough to let God speak, it is where I can look outwards for a change and transcend the inconsequential. When solitude is entered void of distractions: no part time mountain biking or checking out this swimming hole or going bouldering, if we would walk, talk and most importantly listen we just might hear something.

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Let’s Go Outside Together Kido…

It felt like a swift jerk of the head, like a certain realization, an untangling of an enigma. The incredible vista spoke of how small I am in the scheme of things but also how much in the center of it I am, it was beauty so amazing so intoxicating it felt palpable, I could have sat there parked by the side of the road and drank of that beauty till dusk. I speak of the day I discovered my love for the outdoors, my love for the view you get from snow dusted peaks, the view of rolling hills, farm lands, meadows and bluffs, the nostalgic calm that comes from driving (preferably riding) 2 lane country roads where you see more animals than people: It was a fall day in late September and I was enroute to visit family in Baltimore, I had loathe this terrible former industrial city Cumberland in which I reside for its lack of infrastructure, lack of modern skyscrapers, busy downtowns, people bustling a city ablaze with life and activity so as I happily sped down the road anticipating my reunion with the concrete jungle I have for so long been used to and found synonymous with development and forward thinking. I got to a crest called Sidling Hill where the road had to be cut through the Appalachian mountain and “boy was that a view”! The view was so commanding I had to park my car on the side of the road step out and look, I thought to myself this is definitely magazine front page material. The orchestra of color; yellows, reds, amber, greens, ridges upon ridges casting successive shadows deepening the shade of blue on the mountains as far as the eye can see, the crisp cool breeze licking around the chicks and ears announcing the approach of winter and there in that awe I felt a bit of sadness. Why have I never noticed this before…Why have I never stopped to smell the roses?

The biggest thing my sister has tried to teach me with raising my now 11 month old daughter Adaeze (ZayZay) is “observe before you act”.

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As hard as this is to practice, I find that when outdoors I have no choice but to observe, the outdoors saturates the mind and senses with a barrage of activity that I can not anticipate or process for Adaeze this is because I am also doing the same thing she is doing “Processing”… that new sound, that flower, a black squirrel …. Hey Adaeze that is a Daisy (as she stands unassisted and oblivious to the fact that she is because she is so mentally engaged)… a Dandelion… that’s Yellow…say Y-e-l-l-o-w…Ops! I’m standing by myself and she quickly lowers her center of gravity by getting on her knees. Talking to her and teaching her when outdoors does not seem so awkward while outdoors, I don’t feel like I have to amuse her and make incomprehensible sounds just to make her laugh I feel I get empowered to speak to her like a being capable of on some level comprehending what I am saying.

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I think internally all humans are primed to have an affinity for freedom, admiration for something that is wild, something free, uninterrupted and uninhibited by human manipulation. I believe this is why nary a person could gaze into the wild canyon or a waterfall and not feel a sense of happiness, a sense of peace. In an infant I believe exists the intersection between purity and adventure, unmarred by the evil in this word and open to experiences, eager to learn, who better to teach than we parents what better to teach than those things we are passionate about. Adaeze is trying to walk now, she can stand unassisted and could take 2 steps before falling but if you hold her hand she can go all day I call this Assisted Walking (AW). When doing AW with her indoors she seems to exhibit a task oriented mindset… let’s get from the kitchen to the living room as fast as possible… on the other hand when outside every step seems more deliberate, looking at where she puts her feet, looks at where she puts het foot, study the kid next to the car… study that yellow car and how it differs from the silver one…. In her eyes I can see learning take place; I see mental calculation and acknowledgment of commons and constants… Those two must be the same thing, just a different color… that dog is alive like me just different… it’s not inanimate like that desk but it’s not alive like Dada or Mama or Tre…. she practices her pointing, a new skill she just learnt and that in a way seems like an invitation to me to come into her world and talk…. That ZayZay is an Oak Tree…That, that’s an Acorn….oh that one it’s a Squirrel.

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For a long time I felt the concessions I had to make after Adaeze came were great; loss or reduction from riding 5000miles a year to just 1000 (projected), fewer than 5 annual overnight back packing/skiing trip and loss of the weekend long runs. Now we do quick 10mile bike rides on the tow path with her watching life fly by in her bicycle trailer head crowned by oversize bike helmet, and run 5ks’ with her in the stroller looking up at me when the pace drops and me telling her “you can come push your chubby butt up this hill and let’s see how fast you go”.

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The latest adventure was a family hike up the Maryland Heights a trail in Harpers Ferry West Virginia with about 100ft elevation gain which I did with her on my shoulder going up and her asleep in my arms coming down (I forgot her backpack child carrier). On the drive back we stopped at the overlook and gazed on the awesomeness of Sliding hill the site of my first date with that gorgeous lady Mother Nature and I could sense an impartation a transfer of love, of desire, reverence and appreciation a handing down of passion.

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I never stopped to smell the roses because no one showed me how, is that not what parenting is about, leading, guiding, helping and doing better those things that our parents maybe did not do so great. Ultimately I feel in Nature/outdoors we hear and feel God.
Connect with your little trailblazer outdoors……

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