6.20.2009

dog people




In this world there are dog people and cat people. I have always been a dog person.

I never have quite understood cat people, so I can't judge what I do not really know. Until a few years ago I always thought cat people were a toy short of a happy meal, but then my sister became a cat person.
And she's normal.
So what do I know?

I have had a love for dogs my entire life. With such names as Caesar, Bull, Alexander, Pele and my latest dog Reagan. Reagan is a Dalmatian. I bought him as a puppy in January of 1995. I lived alone at the time and he was a good companion, well, except for all of the pooping, peeing and defiling of my pillows that is.

I can remember my parents always reminding me that, "a dog is a lot of responsibility", and they are right. If you're not ready to take care of a dog, don't get one. They can be a lot of work. But a dog is different than other house pets of the feline family in that they take responsibility for you.

They bark when an intruder comes near your home.
They have this instinct to know when you are sad.
They protect you.
When my son Sam would run across the back yard, Reagan would run ahead of him and block him with his body to slow him down so he wouldn't run away...no one ever taught him that.

Yep, dogs are pretty amazing.

I have this theory about dogs that I have never heard espoused by any one except me (I suppose there's a reason for that). I believe that when God put the fear of man in animals (Genesis 9:2) He left dogs the way they were in relational harmony with man. Unless a dog has been abused, they for the most part have a bond with man like no other animal. If my theory is correct perhaps this is to remind us that the way things are now is not how they are meant to be. Perhaps dogs are to be a constant reminder of a day when all of creation will be reconciled with its Creator.

I had to put my dog down today. He has always been terrified of storms. When he was was younger he used to crawl up in bed with me and hide under the covers, but in his later years he has had to weather the storms locked up in his kennel because of his inability to control his bodily functions. Last night's storm was the last one he'll ever have to endure. His fear of the storm must have caused some kind of stroke, because when I got home he was breathing heavily and he couldn't walk. When I checked on him this morning his breathing had normalized, but he still was unable to walk. I took the above picture of him this morning and took him to the vet. I stroked his back and kissed him on the head one last time and I put my hand on his back until I felt the life leave his body. He was the best dog I've ever had.

I'll miss my dog, but as long as we are in this fallen creation, dying will always be a part of living. But one day things will be different.

4.02.2009

"how to ride a mountain bike and ________." part five; pedal




If you're going to ride a mountain bike, you have to pedal.

Duh.

Now I know it sounds simple because it's hard to stay vertical on any bike without pedaling, but you'd be surprised. Some skip this rudimentary activity whenever they can. I see it all the time. I see people ride bikes and coast whenever the terrain begins to descend. But there is no coasting on a mountain bike.

Now I like a long descent as much as the next guy. The wind blowing through my hair...or my beard that is.
But there is one simple principle that keeps me pedaling.
Unless you're one of those who starts on top, what goes down, must always go up. If you coast when things are good, when the slope is descending, you're only going to suffer more when the climb starts. And climbing can be the most difficult part of a ride.

But if you maintain the discipline of pedaling, even when you're going down hill, the momentum you achieve through this simple discipline will carry you up the hill when the terrain becomes unbearably steep.

About 20 years ago when I started to become a little more serious about biking I learned a new term; cadence.

In music, cadence is the rhythmic pattern or beat.

In language, cadence is the flow and rhythm of words.

In biking, cadence is the rhythm of pedaling. It's how you spin the pedals.

My bike has 27 different gear configurations (27 speeds). I probably shift into a different gear every 5-7 seconds. I try to keep my cadence, my rhythm the same and adjust the gears as the terrain determines the tension. The terrain will always determine how much and how fast you pedal. The terrain is constantly changing and if you don't change with it, if you don't shift, the terrain wins. You have to keep pedaling.

If you're going down hill and things are looking easy, don't quit the fundamentals. Don't quit pedaling. If the terrain gets difficult, and the climb is steep, pedal.
Adjust your gear to the terrain, but never give up pedaling.

road of life

Back in the 80's one of my favorite author's was Tim Hansel. I first read this poem in his book, Holy Sweat. The author of the poem is unknown. You might think it's kinda of corny, but I've always liked it.

The Road of Life

At first I saw God as my observer, my Judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die.

He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized his picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.

But later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in back helping me pedal.

I don’t know just when it was that he suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since.

When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable… It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!”

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust.

I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared” He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me gifts to take on my journey, my Lord’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, “give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.

And I’m learning to shut up and pedal
in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says…. “Pedal.”
-Author unknown

3.29.2009

"how to ride a mountain bike and ________." part four; falling



I have never liked the old adage, "It's not a matter of if you're going to___________but when." I don't like it because it presupposes that people are prone to make the same mistakes over and over and that no one can avoid what others could not.

That having been said, I will say this, if you're going to mountain bike in Nowhere, you're going to fall. And falling is no fun.

I have fallen so many times that I don't remember the first time I fell. There have been days when it seemed that I was on the ground more than I was on the bike. I wouldn't say that I'm an expert in falling, but I can tell you how not to fall. Don't take any chances.

If you don't want to fall, ride slow.
If you don't want to fall, stay on the safe trail.
If you don't want to fall, ride alone (that one was for my buddy Steve who tends to make me crash).
If you don't want to fall, get off and walk your bike when the trail becomes difficult.
If you don't want to fall, stay off the bike.

The worst fall I ever experienced happened several years ago. My buddy Steve and I were on the trail and approaching a section that most riders walked their bikes down, including myself. One thing that I have learned about riding is to not let the trail beat me. And the best way to not get beat is to attack my fear. Before I tell you what happened, let me tell you what should have happened.

This part of the trail was a steep drop that headed strait down to a very rocky creek bed. What the rider must do is drop in and reduce his speed as much as possible so as to make a sharp 90 degree turn against the slope before hitting the creek bed, then lift his front wheel to clear about an 8 inch log, then make a 45 degree left turn and cross the creek at a passable point. And, if you're feeling good about yourself, you then need to drop into a low gear to make the steep, but short climb on the other side of the creek bed. Simple.

Simple, but this is part of the trail that always beat me. It had my number.
But I was tired of being beat.
I was tired of cowardly getting off my bike and walking down.
So as I mentioned before, my buddy Steve and I were riding, he was in front. As we approached this technical section of the trail I talked myself into not getting off my bike. Steve slowed down as to dismount and I yelled for him to get out of my way saying, "Outta my way, monkey boy.!"
I dropped in.
Made the sharp turn, but couldn't get my wheel up in time to clear the log.
I was going too fast.

I hit the high, elevated portion of the fallen tree hard. So hard that my bike stopped without me. I really don't remember flying through the air, but I do remember the sudden stop. I landed on my head on the moist rocky creek bed and as I put my hand down, I hurt my wrist. I flopped over on the rocks, and put a sizable gash in my knee and leg. Still dizzy, I jumped back on my bike and started to ride again, but my buddy made me stop and take inventory.
It hurt...a lot, but I finished the ride.

My helmet was cracked and had to be replaced. I don't know what I did to my wrist, but for the next 3 months I had to wear a brace when I lifted with the high school football team at the gym and to this day, when there's moisture in the air, my wrist aches.

Believe it or not, I don't regret facing my nemesis that day. The only thing that I regret was not reducing my speed enough to stay in tighter to the slope so I could safely clear the log. I had made it before, I just didn't make it that day.

A few weeks later that section of the trail was closed and the path was rerouted.

Facing and overcoming my fears is one of the reasons why I like riding. I know the day will come when I will have to make safer choices.

But not today.

3.27.2009

"how to ride a mountain bike and ______________." part three; lines



As I mentioned in a previous post, I don't like riding on the beaten path too much.
The beaten path is boring.
The scenery and elevation may change, but the terrain remains the same.
Riding off the beaten path is different. The terrain changes with every stroke of the pedal.
There are roots and ruts and rocks and fallen trees.
There are dips and bends and low hanging limbs.
If you loose your concentration for a moment, you could find your self looking up at the sky flat on your back.

On the beaten path, your mind can wander. You can think about what you are going to do after the ride or even after next year. But off the beaten path, the only thing you can think about is staying vertical from moment to moment.

Off the beaten path choosing the right line is critical.

Here a few things that I have learned about choosing the right line.

First look far enough ahead. If you only think about one move at a time, you can easily get into trouble. You have to think two, three or even four moves ahead. You have to know what you're going to do right after you do this or that or the other thing. If you shoot down a steep ravine you will need to know what gear will help you get up the other side without dismounting. If you hop over a fallen tree, you will need to look what's on the other side before you hop, otherwise you will move from vertical to horizontal in record time. Looking far enough ahead is key.

The second thing is this, don't look too far ahead. Yes it's important to understand how one move on your bike will compliment the other, but when it comes down to it what matters most is what's under your wheel right now.

One winter we had a string of warm days so my buddy Roger and I got the bikes out and hit the horse trails. Horse trails or multi-track as some call them, are trails that are wide and usually covered with gravel. The nice thing about horse trials is that you can ride them shortly after a rain or early in the season. Anyway, on this warm January day we are riding down the trail and talking not paying to much attention to the trail beneath us. There was a puddle that I casually road through and then wham! The next moment I was on the ground covered in water. The gravel had ripped a hole in my pants and my skin. What I thought was a puddle was a thin layer of water over ice. The only way I could have avoided such a rapid fall is to avoid the puddle all together. Because once I hit the ice puddle my destiny was predetermined. If you take the terrain for granted, it will always get the best of you. Don't look too far ahead.

Back in the 90's I saw a No Fear poster that said this, "Beaten paths are for Beaten Men." Riding on the beaten path will get you where you may want to go, but you will miss the journey. And sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.

3.26.2009

"how to ride a mountain bike and ______________." part two; buddies


There are some people who can ride with anybody.
For them the ride is more important to them than the people they ride with.
I am not one of those people.

It's not that I mind riding with strangers, I just would rather ride with those people that I have learned to trust and enjoy being around.

When I first started mountain biking I rode by myself. I wasn't a pathetic recluse, I just didn't know anyone else who rode. About a year into it, the guy who managed the bike shop where I bought all of my goods said to me, "Hey, I'm riding with you on Thursday" He knew a ton about bikes, but never had an interest in riding them. Until that day.

Since then we, that is Rich and I, have picked up many other riders from all walks of life. And what we have found that riding together is a lot more fun than riding alone. But it's not just the ride that has become enriched, it's friendships as well. The guys I ride with have become some of the best friends that I have.

You see buddies do a lot more than keep you company on the trail.
They encourage you when you feel like walking up the hill instead or riding up it.
They help you when you breakdown.
They call you to get up and get moving when you feel like sleeping in.
They make fun of you when you take yourself too seriously.
They wait for you when you're having a slow day.
But most of all, they're just there.

And just having them there makes the ride a lot more enjoyable.

Yeah, I could ride alone, but it's not nearly as enjoyable as riding together.

3.25.2009

"how to ride a mountain bike and ________." part one; be prepared

If you're going to ride a bike, especially off road, you must be prepared. You never know what's going to happen or what you'll need to fix if you breakdown in Nowhere.

A few years ago my friend Steve and I were riding in the Trek 100. It's a century ride (a century is riding 100 miles in less than 10 hours) that raises money for childhood cancer research. This particular ride was a road ride. Now to give you a little insight, when a cyclist is riding and she/he sees another cyclist broke down on the side of the road, it is customary to check to see if he/she needs help.

About 30 miles into the ride we were on a long descent and picking up speed. The last time I looked down at my cyclometer I was approaching 30 mph (fast for a fatboy on a bike).
Then I saw him.
Stranded on the side of the road just looking as hundreds of his fellow riders sped by. Instinctively I shouted, "Are you alright?"
"No!", he shouted back.
I kept going without hitting my brake, pretending I didn't hear him.
I couldn't believe that I had to stop this awesome descent.
Selfishness had taken over.
Then by buddy Steve shouted back at me, "He said 'No'"

I was busted.
I stopped my descent and rode back to his position.
There he was on the side of the road with a blown tire and completely unequipped.
No levers.
No spare tube.
No pump.
Nothing.

Who goes on a 100 mile ride completely unprepared?
I pulled off my pack and fixed his tire and we were on our way again.

When we used to do these long road rides my buddy and I would stick out from the crowd because our equipment was different than the typical road rider. We wore Camelbaks (like a backpack but with a bladder that held about 100 oz of water) full of gear. The typical Roady doesn't wear a Camelbak. Something about aerodynamics and the drag coefficient.

You never want to go riding, especially mountain biking, without your Camelbak.

In my Camelbak I have:
  • Spare Tube
  • 2 spare chain links
  • Tire levers
  • A C02 pump
  • 4 C02 Cartridges
  • A multi-tool
  • A compass
  • A tire patch kit
  • Oh yeah...and water
That's just the basic equipment needed when you're riding in Nowhere. Because in Nowhere, you never know what's going to happen. You never know what's going to break. But there's another important thing to remember about riding in Nowhere.

Sometimes your preparation is not for you, but for your fellow riders.

There have been many times when I've had to use someone elses parts or equipment to fix my bike. I have never ever had one of my buddies refuse to lend me what I needed to complete the ride.

That's a great thing about riding.
Someone else may have what I lack and on any given day I may have what they lack.
I only wish somebody would pack an extra set of lungs for tomorrow's ride.