Is This Heaven? No, its Port Gamble.

The year was 1993, I had just went out and purchased my second mountain bike with my graduation money.  In 1988 My first mountain bike was purchased under duress.  My dad told my brother and I that if we wanted the cool bmx bike with the checkered handlebar pad then we were purchasing it on our own.  Whereas if we wanted to purchase a mountain bike he would split the cost with us.  In 1988 in Douglas Wyoming there were hardly any mountain bikes and I was 13 years old.  I had $130, the bmx bikes were $150, and the mountain bikes…$260.  So I could wait until my Shopper advertising paper route wages netted $20 more, or I could get the mountain bike that day.

So my brother and I walked out of “The Bike Stop” in Casper, Wyoming with matching “Shogun: Prairie Breaker I” mountain bikes; his was red, mine blue.  I was not okay with it until my best friend at the time, Brandon, got on it and rode it.  He thought it was cool, so I decided it was okay.  That and the fact that I live 7 miles outside of town on a windy highway.  Having gears in Wyoming is always a good idea.  It was not the neon colored Diamondback mountain bikes that I saw in the magazines, but it was cool nonetheless.

Back to 1993, I was heading off to college and I had been nursing my Prairie Breaker for a few years.  I decided to go and buy a Bridgestone MB-5, rigid in the front, rigid in the back.  I purchased a mountain bike to get around the campus at South Dakota State (go Jack’s).  After getting to school I realized that there would be no actual mountain biking to do there.  I got used to jumping curbs, playing parking lot tag, and trying to convince myself that the bump in the middle of campus would suffice as a mountain.

I would be lying if I said that my transfer to Black Hills State did not have something to do with mountain biking and rock climbing.  I made some of my best friends at South Dakota State, but the mountains were calling me back.  In Spearfish I found some friends that like to ride and I started to explore the logging trails around the area.  It was there that a dream emerged, wouldn’t it be great if I could live someplace where the mountain biking was right outside the door of my house.

I didn’t like road biking at all, and still don’t.  I am not a fan of gym’s either, so I decided that if I was going to try to stay in shape that having mountain biking right outside my door would be perfect.  When I went home the summer after my first year at BHSU (go Yellow Jackets!) I bought my first aluminum front suspension bike, a Chrome Univega with a Judy fork.  Now I was ready to really mountain bike!

Many things have happened from then until now, but the dream was always the same.  When I moved to Sioux Falls I thought the dream was dead.  I actually went out and bought a (wait for it…..) road bike.  There was a bike path from my house to the church that I was working at and I thought this would be a good step for me.  After about a year I traded it to a friend on my for my first full suspension bike.  I just could not become a road biker, with all due respect to those of you that read this who are.

When I got the job here in Washington I thought that I might be able to actually put my mountain bike to the test and get my body back into condition.  Little did I know that my dream would finally be realized.  There is a tree farm/wilderness area about 2 miles from my house that has miles and miles of logging roads and single track.  Since I hate road riding I just leave my mountain bike in my old suburban and drive there three sometimes four times a week and get a ride in.  Sometimes our dreams do come true.

Breakdancing, Basketball, and Other Distractions

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The son that you see on the front page of my blog has been known to say some very interesting things.  As you might be able to tell by the picture he seems to have a lot going on in his head.  Unfortunately when it comes to playing basketball that is not a good thing necessarily.  As a guy who has coached a lot of sports in my 20 adult years I stand on the sidelines trying to figure out if I am the parent that applauds my child no matter what he does, or whether I am the parent that will be yelling at my son to please “PAY ATTENTION”.

As I know my parents read this blog I have to mention my youth little league experience if not for them for myself so that I can understand my child better.  It was 1985 and break dancing was all the craze.  Young Bart Lesco has spent his t.v. time watching “Beat Street” and “Breakin’ 2: Electric Bugaloo” on his parents new VHS player.  Since VHS was not cheap or easily accessible we had to rent it from our local video rental store.  Bart’s older cousin Cory was becoming quite the break dancer, carrying around his ghetto blaster and his refrigerator box.  For those of you that don’t know the cardboard is a ready dance floor when all you have is pavement.  Bart wanted to be like Cory.

I had just returned from a vacation in which my parents took me to my first baseball game in St. Louis.  A game that defined for my brother and I who our teams were going to be for the next 10 years while waiting for our beloved Rockies; the Cardinals and the Dodgers.  What young Bart remembers most though is seeing the break dancers set up their cardboard on the cobblestone in old St. Louis.

All of this brings me back to right field, RIGHT FIELD.  For those of you who played little league, right field was reserved for the kid that could not pay enough attention to be of any benefit to the game.  I like to think that is was because of my boredom that I was breakdancing, but the reality is probably that I was put in right field because I was breakdancing.  Doing “The Human Wave” and “The Robot” are not terribly helpful in catching fly balls.  Please ask my parents if you want verification on this.

This brings me back to watching my sons basketball game last night and getting frustrated by my son hopping and dancing down the floor on one foot.  I was getting so frustrated by his lack of focus I wanted to run out onto the court and hold his head turning it from side to side so as to follow the balls path.  I told him one time that they call the game basket”ball” and base”ball” because the game is about THE BALL.  Incidentally I was not the only parent on the sideline feeling this way.  We had a support group right there on the sidelines.

On the trip home from the game I asked my son why he was dancing around on one leg and here is what he said “well it is one of two options:  either my leg was bothering me, or there was no reason at all”.  As we were listening to the radio he hears the word “widow” and asks what that means.  I said that it is someone who has lost their spouse.  At this point he responds “dad I have an idea, I think that people that become widow need to just go out and get another spouse”.  Sometimes I wonder that my son can walk at all with all the thoughts that are around to trip him up.

Does Your Bike Ride Include Handing Someone Their Leg Back?

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When two ruts converge on the trails you have a choice, you can either try to jump over the convergence, try to stop, or plant that front tire and go flying.  I would not say that I made a choice, I neglected to realize that at some point these two ruts were going to run together.  Now I was sitting on one side of the converged rut down the trail about 10 yards (a distance I covered in the air, not on the ground).  My leg however was still with the bike, Casey was standing next to it trying to determine the appropriate course of action to take in this circumstance.  He chose to bring me my leg, which is probably not something that he thought he would be doing that day.  I laughed after I realized that I was not injured,

As I am sitting in my prosthetist’s (say that word out loud, its not as easy as you think) I was contemplating my activity choices.  I have snapped my leg playing ultimate frisbee, air soft, hiking, football, softball, and several other sports over the last 20 years.  I have never snapped my leg mountain biking that I can recall.  This might sound humorous, or nauseating depending on your point of view, but I cannot count the amount of times that I have heard the crackling sound of carbon fibers tell me that my day was done.  I remember laying in my hospital room at the age of 16 and thinking that my life would never be the same.  I am not one to quote movie’s for blog posts, and especially Harry Potter, but there is a great scene at the end of “The Goblet of Fire” in which Hermione turns to Harry and say’s “nothing is going to be the same anymore is it?” and Harry say’s with a smirk “no, its not”.

I know that I did not quote a great piece of literature there, or even a movie that is considered a classic, but it was the smirk that caught my attention.  The acceptance, and almost embrace of a new reality, that made me think of all of the scripture that tells me to not look at trials as life stoppers.  I told my prosthetist (have you said it out loud yet) that I thought I might need to just stick to mountain biking.  He, like many in the profession told me that I should not limit myself just because I have a prosthetic leg.  In my mind I was thinking “if you only knew what I have done and attempted to do with one leg in my life”, but I let that comment go because I knew that he meant well.

I am not a small man, I snap legs partly because I try to be active, and partly because of my weight.  Not that I am fat, I am just big.  So when I came to the conclusion that maybe I should stick to mountain biking, that did not seem like a consolation as much as a matter of focus.  I enjoy mountain biking more than all other activities and contrary to logic I seem to break myself less when I do it.

However….

I still don’t like to be reminded that I have a limitation because of my leg.  I am 38 years old and I have tried to help many people in my life realize that they can overcome the trials in their lives.  But I still don’t like to be told that I am limited.  I would like to think that I have embraced the new reality of my life without the bottom part of my right leg, but I have my moments.  There was a moment when I was 18 years old when I realized that I was either going to live beside the road where the motorcycle accident happened for the rest of my life, or I was going to move forward because I still hopefully had most of my life ahead of me.  I know too many people that are still sitting beside the road.

The picture that is at the beginning of this post is one of my favorites, that is my bachelor party.  No drinking, no strippers, no cigars.  My brother asked me what I wanted to do and I told him I wanted to go mountain biking.  Thank you to all of my mountain biking partners who over the years have heard me complain about being too out of shape to keep up.  Who have tolerated moving a little slower in order to accommodate a guy who loves to bike, but falls apart on the trail from time to time.

Get in My Box, and Stay There!

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I am frustrated. 

I have been spending my life building boxes for people to get inside of, and they keep escaping.  Either they escape or they try to define the shape of the box for me.  No matter how much packing tape I use, no matter the material that the box is made of, they keep trying to escape or reshape.  Its to the point now that I am starting to think that I have two options:

  1. investigate stronger materials in which to hold the people that I am putting in boxes
  2. stop putting people in boxes

Before anyone calls the cops and tell them to come by my house and look for boxes in my garage with people in them I should tell you that I am talking about existential boxes or rather boxes in my mind.  I have for year tried to define people in order to simplify my view of them, only to find out that people are more complex than I am willing to give them credit for.  I have stuck my foot in my mouth repeatedly based on my assessment of someone.  I have repeatedly avoided people or befriended people based on my assessments.

I repeatedly tell myself not to create boxes, but something in me tells me I just need to be a better box builder.  Maybe I should make them bigger to accommodate more stuff.  The problem with any box is that it will be made up of my own experiences and my own observations and not the reality of the person’s life that I am trying to define.

A Cold Ride with a Happy Ending

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This morning I was greeted by a cold and foggy morning which angered me greatly.  I had spent the last week running around so much that I actually wanted to have a day at home to do nothing but hang out with my family and go on a bike ride.  That last sentence may seem odd to some, and not so odd to others.  I love my family but I am not a home-body really; I like to be going.  Our house is not that big and there are 6 of us so finding places to spread out had become important to me lately.

The reason I was angry this morning is because a cold, damp, foggy morning does not sing to me when it comes to getting on my mountain bike.  My wife told me that I should either go now or this afternoon, maybe.  Days seem to get away from us anymore, and with the sun setting at around 4:30; time is of the essence.  I eventually layered up and headed out to my garage to gather my biking pack.  Just stepping out into the garage made me think again, but there is power in getting dressed.  Putting on my bike shorts and gloves helps me to gather momentum; as it turns out very necessary momentum.

It was cold, I actually thought about shedding my helmet for a stocking cap as I pulled up to the parking lot.  Considering that I never wore a helmet until I was around 19 years old you would have thought that I would have went with the stocking cap.  I went with the helmet knowing that I would be warming up as soon as I started peddling.  Pulling my bike out of my suburban I was greeted by a large German Shepherd that had just finished taking his owner on a walk.  I usually share these trails with horse back riders, dog walkers, and hikers.

As I took off on the fire road I started to warm up I quickly forgot my previous argument with the cold; my argument now was with my lungs, and my legs. The cool fog weaving through the trees reminds me of why my wife requires that I carry bear spray.  Even though I never see anything larger than a chipmunk on the trails, I still have the feeling that I am being watched.  These woods are a little more dark than the woods I grew up around in Wyoming.

I usually stay on the fire roads when I bike by myself so I don’t get myself in trouble on the single track with no one to help out.  I used to bike with my dog Harvey so as to scare the bears away (or attract them if I am to believe the guy I talked to on the trail a couple years ago) but he is having a hard time keeping up as a twelve year old Australian Shepherd with a bum foot.  I think Harvey is okay with the arrangement, he always wants to go and then when I take off downhill he looks as though hi is cursing me.

About two thirds of the way up the mountain I started to notice that the fog was letting up and the sky was getting brighter.  By the time I finished the last hard push to the first summit I was able to greet the sun.  I actually said “hello sun”.  In the same place last week I thought I was alone so I took the time to relieve myself right next to the trail and was surprised by someone coming around the corner.  Thankfully it was a guy, and I yelled “I thought I was alone!”  I am not very eloquent on the trail.

Upon summited the very top of the mountain I noticed a tree stump that provided a great vantage point on all that surrounded it.  I stripped off my pack, my helmet, and my fleece and stood on top of the stump to absorb the sun and the scenery.  In front of me was the Olympics in all their glory.  Behind me was a forest with its center piece being a Douglas Fir tree that is twice the size of all the others trees around it.  I call it “Grandpa” and have made my kids hike to it just to say we have been to the biggest tree in Kitsap County (unconfirmed).

The whole time I was up on this tree stump looking at the beautiful scenery and looking down on what must be a gloomy day for those people down below, I never saw a single person.  Then I realized why, it was cold and gloomy down there.  Even I thought that this was a gloomy, cold, and wet day until I broke out of it into the clearing that I was standing in.  Until I broke out of it through the shear determination of my character (or the fact that I had already gotten dressed in my biking clothes and didn’t want to waste it) my day looked dreary.

This whole story hopefully sounded somewhat inspiring, but the reality is that there is only one thought that stuck out in my mind as I stood on that stump thinking about the people that were not joining me this morning,”I win”.  Pride is still a problem for me.

They Told Me to Believe Them, So I Did!

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I have been contemplating the media lately and something has occurred to me:  people seem to want the media to tell them what to believe.  I don’t think that this used to be the case, but with the busyness of life and the pervasive nature of the digital world we seem to be looking for people to define our world view for us.

I don’t get mad at the media for two reasons:

  1. People seem to think that the media tells us what to like, but I have found just as often that the media is simply reflecting the culture.  If we accept the second idea to be true than they are merely holding a mirror to what is going on.  There are of course exceptions to this.
  2. The media will take the time to interpret the events that occur whereas many individuals will not.  Here is where I see a problem.

The Center for Parent Youth Understanding used to put out a media guide (they still might, check it out) in order to help youth to be able to interact with media in a productive fashion.  Here is the essence of what it says “DON’T TURN YOUR BRAIN OFF”.  I cannot believe how many ways one event is interpreted in the media and via social media.  This is not in order to understand the event further, but an attempt by some people (some are honest, and some are trying to be funny) to interpret it.

Here is where it gets really interesting, people seem to be looking for someone else to interpret these events for them.  Isn’t there a breakdown there?  Shouldn’t we look for understanding, and then use our own moral, social, and ethical code to interpret the events for ourselves?  Have we dulled ourselves to the point that we now need someone else to tell us how we should view the events of our own lives?

The next time that a major event occurs (there is one a day lately), first make sure you understand all of the facts.  Then run the entire scenario through the filter that God gave you, and your upbringing shaped in you.  Then after that, after you have had a chance to understand the facts and determine for yourself how your should view this, I give you permission to see what your friends on facebook say.  But don’t allow me to influence you, decide for yourself.

The Timeliest Two Year Old in Kitsap County

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Now before those that know my family get worked up, my daughter is not quite two yet, but calling this post “The Timeliest 20 Month Old in Kitsap County” didn’t have the same ring.  So as many of you know I am a bit of a Seahawks fan.  I am also always looking for ways to get people to darken the doors of our church facility.  My belief is that if I can get people to turn into our parking lot, enter our building, and meet our people, they can do it again.  So when our church bought a HD projector and screen a couple of years ago I started to show football games here at the church facility.  I told people that it was the “Biggest Screen in Kitsap County”.

The only games that seemed to gain traction was the night Seahawks games so we started to push those.  Well this weekend, as many of you know, it was not only a Seahawks game, it was a rivalry game.  Not only was it a rivalry game, but the winner gets to go to the championship;  The Super Bowl.  We had twenty or so people here to watch a game, and among those we had several guests.  The game was amazing, the screen was awesome, the food was great.

We get to the fourth quarter and the Seahawks have made a come back.  However the 49ers are driving down the field.  During this whole game my daughter had been running around the entire church.  My wife and I had been taking turns keeping an eye on her.  While my wife was playing with her my daughter decided to take off like a shot, behind the sound booth.  All of a sudden, with a minute left in the game, and the opposing team driving, the screen goes black.

Now it took me a second to figure out what happened, and people in the room were freaking out.  When I realized that my daughter had found the one switch that would turn the entire system off, I turned and yelled at my wife “What are you Doing?!?………

After I rebooted the entire system and the game came back on I realized that I had very unjustly and very loudly yelled at my wife.  Not only that, but many in the room turned their icy stares at her.  One guy stated that she was lucky that her husband had turned the game back on.  Another guy was up like a shot getting ready to speed off to any location that would allow him to finish watching the game.  When the game came back on he stood for a minute, as if to wonder if he needed to be at the ready.  Then when the TV was on for a minute of so he settled down.

I have since apologized many times, my wife is more gracious than I am passionate.  This is one reason why I have stopped “following” sports.  I used to read articles, watch sport’s center, keep up with players, listen to sports radio.  Every once in a while I will find myself falling into that pattern again.  I finally decided that I had enough things to do in my life that being a fanatic would be a terrible distraction.  Apparently I still have some issues to work through.