Find the dog in this photo
I took my front fork in to the bike shop yesterday in order to have some routine maintenance done on it. By routine I mean that I have neglected to ever do any maintenance on it. I grew up on a fully rigid Shogun “Prairie Breaker II” so when I first got suspension I guess I figured that they took care of themselves like the steel fork of my youth.
I proceeded to the shop part of the store and asked the guy up front who was replacing some tubes if they could work on the fork.
“Sure, let me go talk to one of our mechanics and I will be right with you” He said.
As I was waiting I wandered around the store noticing all the brand new bikes in the store. My friend Dave and I swapped bikes back in 2007, he got my road bike and I got his full suspension mountain bike. As it turned out I hated road riding and Dave decided that mountain biking was not a venture that he should be taking on with one arm. Dave does everything else that you can imagine with one arm, but mountain biking is not one of them anymore. Road biking, however, was something that he could do and I was more than happy to get rid of the one that I had bought brand new and was not getting any joy out of. That bike was an attempt on my part to adapt to living in eastern South Dakota, it didn’t take.
So needless to say (but I guess I will anyway) my bike is getting old. The Diamondback Full-Suspension bike is I would guess almost 15 years old now. I tried to take care of it as best I could but it is starting to nickel and dime me. I looked at the new Cannondale full-suspension 27.5″ and 29″ wheel bikes and realized how old the components and technology on my bike were. I lusted. I thought about starting a “Go Fund Me” campaign to buy a new bike, then I realized that those campaigns are for noble reasons. I just wanted a new bike.
So the guy that took my fork back into the shop brought it back out and was accompanied by the most merciful mechanic I have ever seen. He looked at me as a doctor would if they had to give me some bad news.
“You look like the doctor that is about to tell me that my dog just died” I said. I had intended to say “you look like the doctor that is about to tell me that my child died” but that seemed a bit harsh for the moment. Instead, halfway through my quip I changed direction and “dog” came out.
He looked shocked (hey, I made a pun), then he smile and said “yeah” looking at my shock “your dog just died”.
“They don’t make parts for that shock anymore, and we can’t fix it”.
So I spent the next ten minutes working with the “merciful mechanic” on finding a shock that works for an old mountain bike that has 26″ tires and V-brakes. For those of you that do not know what that means, I am riding a dinosaur.
Thank you to Silverdale Cyclery for your impeccable bedside manner, as a pastor I know that no one likes bad news. You gently allowed me my moment to mourn and helped me move on.
The answer: Very carefully.
About twenty years ago I was staying at a friends house on a weekend trip away from college. His parents seemed to love having me stay at their house, the even dubbed the room I stayed in as “Bart’s Room”. It was an honorary title I am sure, I think they let other people stay in there. They certainly didn’t ask me if other people could stay in my room.
This bedroom had its own bathroom with a bathtub. For those of you that have two legs, this is not the greatest scenario for a one-legged person. I used to hop out if there was good traction, but if the traction was not good, I would support myself by holding on to the shower door.
Fun Fact: Shower doors are not supposed to hold a persons body weight.
I managed to put the handle back in place after I had almost broke it. I cannot honestly remember if I told them about it or not. I might not have because I would usually get pretty embarrassed anytime I did something that would show me to be a one-legged person (I think they might have figured it out though).
Since then I have had a few shower slips that are mostly pretty painful, I refuse to sit down. Well I did until I was forty, then I found a shower chair on Craigslist and decided it was time to be comfortable when I was taking up all the hot water.
I broke it.
So now I am back to standing in the shower, which is not a big deal unless you have just arrived back at your house after a 12 mile bike ride. Usually I would get in and stand under the hot water. Occasionally I bike enough that standing up on a leg that has been doing roughly 80% of the bike work is just not an option. I had made the decision before I even went downstairs to take a shower (upstairs, perilous bath tub; downstairs, nice big shower stall) that I was going to just sit on the floor of the shower and soak for awhile. So I did, and it was great except for the fact that it is hard to reach anything when you are sitting on the floor of the shower.
Sometimes I don’t care about the difference between me and two-legged people. Many times that moment is preceded by an event that has fatigued me to the point that my pride says”okay, I get it”. Even though I have been an amputee for 25 years now (is that the silver anniversary?) I still compare my accomplishments to people that have two legs. If I wasn’t able to keep up on the bike ride, it was because I was fat or out or shape or sick. The people on the ride still say that they admire me for what I can do, and I usually try to tell them that I would be able to keep up if I was in shape. That may or may not be true, but at least if I am out of shape I still maintain that there is a version of me, that is possible to attain, that can keep up with you.
I estimate that in the next five years I will have squelched that voice because my body won’t allow me to listen to it anymore.
I went on a long ride on Saturday, 12 miles of mostly single track in the Port Gamble Trail System. It has been amazing to see how much development they have done over the last few years. Not only am I riding many new trails, but the clearings are starting to turn back into woods so I get lost in there much more often than I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I can always figure out how to get back to my vehicle, it just takes longer than normal.
My biking partner on Saturday is in much better shape than I am, and apparently is much more graceful than I am. I say that is because I would have a hard time waiting for someone to catch up if I were the one constantly in the front.
When we finished the ride he asked me how far we went.
“How far did we go? 8 miles?”
I pulled out my phone to look at my trusty app (I still have not received a call from any riding app companies about sponsorships).
“Twelve, we went twelve miles.” Now I could have laughed at him for undershooting his estimate by fully a third of the distance. However the reality is that to him it probably felt like 8. To be honest, to me it felt more like 20 so I guess twelve is a good middle ground.
That brings me back to this morning, or rather I guess it should bring us up to last night. I came home after having pizza to realize that something had not settled well in my digestive system. At 40 years old I should remember that pizza never settles well in my system. My 12 year old can mainline the stuff and ask for more, but I end up saying things like “I bloated” or “I shouldn’t have eaten that”.
Now we can talk about this morning and the title of my blog. After the events that transpired last night to get rid of the stuff that didn’t settle well I woke up feeling like junk. I went to make my normal cup of coffee and I was resigning myself to taking a day off from riding and catching up on the news (again I am 41, this is what I do, I catch up on the news).
Then I had a cup of coffee.
After the coffee kicked in I started to think that I could go out for a ride and I owed it to Spendy, the family dog, to go for a ride. Last week I mostly went to places that have lots of other people on the trail so I didn’t take her. However, 6:45 am on Millie’s Trail is always dead so she gets to be my riding companion. So I suited up and took off. It took me about 2 minutes into the ride to realize that I did not have it today. Then I committed one of my own cardinal sins, stopping within spitting distance from the top of the ride.
I did not have it today, so I blame the coffee for lying to me a telling me that I am fine. Spendy was slightly disappointed because I had shortened her run, and I was disappointed because I try to never stop within range of the top of a hill. What kind of a wuss stops right before summit-ting to contemplate the cup of coffee that they had that morning?!?
I love to blame things that can’t defend themselves because its easier than blaming myself, and less work than victimizing those that can defend themselves (this is of course tongue in cheek, I am not a monster people). Food would seem to be an easy target except I am not sure that it can’t defend itself. It is constantly kicking my butt or lying to me, and I keep coming back for more. Its almost as if it is executing some master plan to defeat me.
I went riding with my third child again yesterday and I am starting to realize that he enjoys biking, but he also enjoys the one on one time that comes with it. We were on a run called “Bobsled” which is not difficult but has quite a bit of curves, bumps, jumps, and other fun elements. As we are navigating this adventure my sons asks me “Dad, what are your three favorite things about all of your children?”
Now I love to bike, and I love time with my son, and I love to talk about the great things about my children. However, attempting to do all three at the same time is not a simple task. I had to think about twelve different attributes while trying to ride and keep an eye on my son. So here it goes:
“Well there each of you have so many amazing qualities it hard to narrow it down to three.”
“So you mean that you don’t want to think about three things, or you can’t think about three things”
“I could come up with at least three for all of you.”
“Then go ahead”
So I did. Now mind you we are going along a trail that normally I would goof around on because of the amount of fun elements and the relative ease of it. But since I was stuck riding behind my son who was a little nervous about the trail and in no hurry, I decided that I could do the task that he allotted to me.
I told him that his oldest brother was a hard worker, an encourager, and loved baseball (which I love as well). His second oldest brother was a people person, loved playing with his sister, and loved to cook. I told him that he had a very observant and inquisitive mind, that I loved that he loved to bike, and he was the best hugger that God ever created. I told him that I loved that his sister loved to wrestle, that she said silly things, and she loved to hang out with me in the shop. And I was done, only to add to the list that my three sons are really good big brothers to their younger sister.
Now we are going to focus on the ride right? Wrong, did I mention that my son has a very observant, inquisitive mind. He asked why I tend to go down hill faster than he does, and I told him that it was because I was heavier. He said “wait a minute, I thought everything fell at the same rate”. Now I am having a physics discussion with my son while we are trying to not get slapped in the face by blackberry, salmonberry, salal, NETTLES! My nine year old is telling me about his theories of acceleration and deceleration while we are climbing a hill in which I am starting to suck wind (and decelerate). He actually got off his bike in order to carry on the conversation! Wait a minute, I was cool with slowing down a little to talk. Now you want to walk the bike to talk, not okay.
Okay, that is not true. I was okay with it. When I go biking with my son I usually accept that I am not going to be going as fast as I want, or getting the work out I want. Now I am starting to understand more and more just how serious he was when he said that he wanted to spend time with me, and it doesn’t seem like he is so concerned about what we are doing.
I am actually happy that my son forced me to think about what I loved about my kids, that is not a list I normally put to words, but it almost felt like a blessing that I was imparting as soon as I spoke it. It is amazing how much a child likes to hear what their parents like about them.
I went to my chiropractor this morning and told him that there is someone in my life that is working against what he is trying to accomplish.
“Who?” he asked
“Me” I said.
I went riding yesterday after work, one of the benefits of going to work at 5:30 am is that I can go home at 2:30, so I did. When I arrived at home and found that my family was still out, I said “Yes!” Well not really, but that did mean that I could go on a longer ride without wanting to get back and help out. I actually want to get home and help out. Now how I help I believe should be something along the lines of chainsawing, demolition, or construction. The offer to help clean is not something that I want to hurry home to do, cooking sure, but cleaning definitely not. Playing baseball with my son or wrestling with my daughter, sure. Doing laundry or the dishes, well, you get the idea.
Back to my ride.
I put on my new bike shorts and packed my new trail bike tool (I would tell you the name of the product, but I want endorsements before I do that), thank you Father’s Day, and I headed to the trails. I have a love/hate relationship with my riding app on my phone (again I will not tell you which one, please contact me if you would like me to promote your product. I have a huge readership that would love to download your free app. Please don’t ask me to define huge). I love it because it tells me how far I went and how fast, I hate it because it tells me how little I did and how slow. But yesterday I had some extra time so I could make that squiggly line that maps how far I went look a lot messier.
The real story here is that I only had one wreck on my ride but I actually earned it, or asked for it depending on your interpretation of events. Usually my wrecks happen because of one of three factors. The first is what I call “The Fatigue Factor”. I have been riding long enough that my body and my mind are not working at optimal levels and I hit a two inch tall root that sends me flopping off my bike.
The second factor is what I call “The Rust Factor”. The Rust Factor occurs when I try to do the things that I was doing 20 years ago that I assume that I can still do, only to remember that I have not done something like that it 20 years. This does not assume that the situation is risky, it only assumes that I have acquired a certain amount of rust that makes easy things hard, and hard things impossible.
The third factor I simply call “The Oblivious Factor”, otherwise known as “The Bonehead Factor”, or “The Didn’t-See-That-Coming Factor”. This lack of foresight is the most embarrassing because it assumes that you weren’t looking past the end of your front wheel and something totally benign sends you careening into a tree.
Yesterday my wreck did not occur because of one of those factors, but a combination of all three that worked in concert with a fourth factor that I like to call “The Whee! Factor”. The Whee! Factor is when you have a wreck because you wanted to have fun. This happened when I saw a ramp-shaped rock on the right side of the trail and thought “Wheee!”
What I didn’t account for was “The Oblivious Factor” that informed me in mid-air that the trail jogged to the right on the back side of this wonderful ramp. Now the Whee! Factor tends to ignore the Fatigue Factor because excitement has a wonderful way of energizing me. But the Rust Factor kicked me in the butt when I was in mid air and did not correct for the landing well and headed off the bike and off the trail because like I said before the Oblivious Factor had me ignoring the fact that I actually angled my bike off the trail.
So I earned that wreck. Unlike so many of my wrecks that only account for one or two of those factors, this wreck accounted for all of them. If I am going to wreck, I want it to be something that I am proud of. I am proud of this one, I am proud and thankfully not injured. My son wrecked a few weeks ago and came down the trail smiling with broken helmet and some weeds stuck to his bike. I was excited to see my son embrace the idea that wrecking doesn’t necessarily need to breed fear, it can challenge us, teach us, and excite us. But I do enjoy it more when I earn it.
Two days ago my son asked if he could go mountain biking with me. I have gone mountain biking before with my two sons, but this time it was obvious that he wanted to go without his brother. I asked him if he wanted to take his brother and he hesitated. When my wife and I told him that it was okay to ask to go without his brother he said that is exactly what he wanted. Yesterday I felt like junk. My leg hurt, I was fighting off a cold (in June, come on!), and I was tired because of that. However, one of my children asked for time alone with me and they were going to get it. Mostly because it doesn’t happen that often.
So yesterday I went riding with my son, and it was great. We got lost, we got muddy, we got tired (well I got tired). During the ride I asked him if he wanted to go uphill or downhill and he said “well if I go up hill it will make my legs stronger, so let’s go uphill”. When I asked him if he wanted to go on a more difficult trail or just head back, he said he wanted to go on the more difficult trail. Lately he has been big on manhood tests, I think that this had something to do with it.
At the end of the day we came back and I asked him if he had fun and he said:
“What I would give to have time alone with you.”
He was actually thinking about what he would sacrifice to get time alone with his dad. This caught me off guard. As I am writing this I am actually trying to figure out if there is a more that I could do to make that phrase jump out of the computer to show just how powerful that query was to me. My son has an amazing way with words. He says things that are so funny that every time I think about it I laugh anew. Interestingly he never seems to understand how potent his words are. He is always surprised at the fact that we find his comments to be so funny; he doesn’t try to be funny.
After I choked back a tear or two I said “we just had time alone together.” Then he did it again! He said:
“No, I mean everyday.”
How can a father live up to that expectation, or that longing in a child’s heart to be with his father? As I write this I am choking up.
I can’t remember the last time that I felt such a longing for time alone with God. I get so wrapped up in myself, my wants, my perceived needs, my life that I sometimes view my relationship with God as a obligation or a contractual arrangement. I know that I have great times with God, but I also know that they don’t normally started off with that longing that my son expressed yesterday morning. Honestly, those times are usually precipitated by something that is bothering me, or something that I want.
However, God longs for time with me. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t need it, but he longs for it anyway.