Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A shout out to single parents that ride.

Ever since this whole cancer thing started, my Lovely and I have basically lived apart, save for the one weekend home and a couple hours here and there. So, it is not unlike being a single parent of a small child. 

Yes, the Boy is 13.  Before we knew he has cancer, leaving him alone to go do something was never a problem. Hell, I'd probably get in trouble for how old he was when we started leaving him home alone. But now that he has cancer, his immune system is constantly compromised because of the chemo, so we have to basically monitor him around the clock. We've been instructed to bring  him to the hospital immediately if he has even the slightest fever. This obviously means he has to be with someone almost all the time. 

Because of this, finding time to catch a ride while I'm alone in Colorado with the Boy is difficult. Sure, I've got family around that is more than willing to hang with him for a couple hours, but it's hard for me to want to put that responsibility on their shoulders should something arise while I'm out fucking around on my bike. 

That all being said, I have gotten out a couple times in the last week and a half. I've had a couple revelations on these rides. First, it feels like I've gotten amazingly out of shape over the course of the last 6-7 weeks (not that I was ever in good shape, but now it's even worse). There's a lot of sitting around in the hospital, as well as in the apartment or my mom's house doing things like homework, art or just talking to doctors, nurses or case workers on the phone. Add a little bit more elevation to the mix and all of the sudden, I'm climbing even slower than I did before! WTF? I thought if I slowed down from my previous pace I'd be going backwards.  Second, I've found that I've become a big pussy on techy descents. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that I haven't been riding much lately (you know the whole use it or lose it thing), but a bigger chunk is because I can't afford to be injured right now. I mean, obviously I can't afford to anytime, but because what we have going on is counting on one of us being there at all times, it is even more so now. I found myself walking techy stuff that I used to ride without even thinking about it. 

But as I said, I did get out. Early in the week, I did a solo ride at Green Mountain. The ride started out with about 4 or 5 switchbacks, which left an iron taste in my mouth. "What the hell? I think my lungs are bleeding!" But overall, it was a good ride. 

Then on Saturday, Cleaver had said he might be in the area and we should go catch a ride. Finally about noon, I hadn't heard from him, so I was gonna write that day off. The Boy and loaded up and headed to my mom's house. Just as we were leaving, the call on the Bat Phone came in. We were gonna ride! And Highlander Andy was gonna join us! Cool!  

Andy took us to a fairly new state park about 25 miles SW of where we're staying called Staunton State Park. One of the things Colorado does really well is their state parks. Even their smallest parks are top notch facilities. 

Anyhow, we did a nice loop there that took us up to 9400', (I was REALLY 
sucking air) took us into snowy terrain and garnered some stellar views of Pikes Peak and awarded us with a rollicking descent. The terrain was smooth enough that speed was the only danger for us on the day (Cleaver's Garmin clocked 33 mph). But, almost immediately when we were done I wanted to get back the Boy. 

I suppose the further into this process we get, the more I'll "figure it out", but I have to say I've earned a new found respect for single parents, especially a single parent of a child with special needs, I always knew they had a tough job, but now I'm living it. So, good job single parents. If you have any tips, let me know, but I'm really looking forward to when I am part of a two parent household again. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Lance Armstrong, Cancer and Riding Bikes

Have you seen this trailer yet?

All about Lance Armstrong and his system of cheating in the pro peloton, this movie will probably be a huge hit in Europe, but most likely be, at best, an art-house movie here in the US.

Like most cyclists, I was an Armstrong fan when he was starting to win (although I liked Jan Ullrich better, how he started each season fat and out of shape, looking like he just drank a 6 pack and snorted a line of coke off a hooker's ass).  I had my doubts as he closed in on five TdF wins, but when LeMond was bellyaching about Armstrong's doping, I thought it was just sour grapes.  Then as he neared 7 wins, I was pretty sure he was doping, as many of his major (and not so major) competitors were dropping like flies to doping scandal after doping scandal.  No way this guy could have stayed clean and beat all those other guys, right?  (Kinda funny though how each sport has its own doping figure that the media locks onto, like Barry Bonds in baseball, and crucifies them, even though TONS of others are doping.  Maybe if they weren't such assholes to the media...)

I reveled in the fact that Armstrong doped, even going to a party with a bunch of other cycling friends the night Lance "came clean" with Oprah.  I even wrote a blog or two about what a hypocrite he was and how his apologists were idiots, blah, bablah, bablah.  I even got to the point where I kinda felt sorry for him.  I mean, he's been raked over the coals and he's having everything, and I mean everything, taken away, from wins, to the ability to ride in events, to all of his money.  But, he made his bed, now he gets to lie in it.

And then this last week, everything changed again.  Don't get me wrong, I think he's still a cheat and he was an asshole to a lot of people, and that will never change.  I don't like Lance Armstrong the cyclist.  But as I was lying on that hospital couch/futon/bed/medieval torture device, watching the Boy, who was hooked up to about 10 different tubes and/or monitors, have one crazy-assed drug after another pumped into him to rid his body of cancer, I thought about Lance Armstrong and the fact he overcame the odds that were stacked against him from such a shitty disease, not to just survive, but to live, much less ride his bike at a competitive level (yeah, yeah, I know, he was cheating, but still), my opinion of him changed once again.
Lance between his stints as an asshole.

I realize there are many, many other success stories out there, but because I ride (kinda) I can relate to Lance, and not to the doper Lance, but to the survivor Lance, to the LiveStrong Lance.  Suddenly, I could empathize with the Lance apologists.  I understood why the locked onto him and why they gave him a pass when the rest of the world was crushing him.  My thoughts about him went from a white area in the beginning, to a grey area in the middle, to the deepest, darkest black area by the end of his 7 "wins" and were now back in a grey area once again.  They'll never be a "white" area again, but the fact that it's back to a grey area says something.

Which brings me back to riding.  I took a bike with me to Denver with the thoughts of riding some short rides as time allowed, with my mom stopping by to hang with the Boy for an hour or two.  HA.  That was serious wishful thinking.  Besides the fact we were in the hospital for 2 1/2 days last week, when we were out of the hospital, I had 7 alarms set on my phone to tell me the various times I had to get him medications or flush lines throughout the day.  It seems like every time I turned around, I was giving him something.

Now I'm home and my Lovely is in Denver with the Boy and I'm thinking about catching some rides.  But part of me feels guilt about wanting to do something as superfluous as riding a bike for pleasure, knowing that the infusion the Boy has to take every night makes him feel like shit.  Knowing he can't go out and do many of the things he loves to do.  Everyone keeps telling me to make sure I take care of myself during this ordeal, but that is easier said than done.  If I knew for sure he was going to be OK, then riding a bike would be a fun idea. I'll probably still go for some rides while I'm home, and it will most likely do me some good.  I'll ride in hopes that by this time next year, I'll be doing it with the Boy.
One of my all time favorite pics of the Boy.  Tandem riding
at HLMP (M-Hill).

Monday, August 24, 2015

I lied

As most of you know, I post with stunning irregularity on this blog.  All sorts of bullshit gets in the way of being able to puke out some nonsense on this digital paper.  As I stated in my last post, I was going to shutter the NSS blog for a while as we dealt with Samuel's cancer and the ensuing treatments, but with the length between regular posts, I probably didn't even need to state that I was pulling the plug on this blog.  I could have just kept on, business as usual, and no one would have been the wiser.

Which brings me to the reason I lied. 

Yesterday I went into work for a while. The store is closed on Sundays, so I like to go in and write the order, stock the store and get stuff done that's harder to do when it's open and we're focusing on customers. And, as usual, I rode my bike to work. 

As I usually do when I ride my bike, I thought about all the shit going on in my life, which obviously led me to thinking about Sam and all the crap he's going to endure for the next year or so. And I thought about the amazing outpouring of support we've received in the last 48 hours since letting the world outside of a close circle of family and friends know what's going on. All of that overwhelmed me and I cried on the way to work. Let me tell you it's a bitch to ride with tears in your eyes. As I rode I realize that I need this blog to vent some shit, yell and rant and rave as we go through this. And maybe just be silly, or dirty, or, well, just bitch. 

So, after the shortest hiatus this blog has ever seen, I'm back posting with same ridiculous irregularity that you've come to know and expect from me. We'll still be over on Sam's Caring Bridge page, but that will be more updates and news about Sam. This will be just for me to vent. If I get too whiny, tell me in the comments, I probably won't give a shit, but tell me anyhow. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Who gives a shit about Leadville

I fully expected that the next post I was gonna do for this blog was going to be about how I succeeded or failed at Leadville this year (and it kinda is) but none of that really matters. And as I weave this tale, you'll soon find out why.

Back in January, my son Samuel, crashed skiing. Shortly after this, he started having intermittent hip pain. He'd play basketball, dodge ball or something like that and he'd complain about hip pain. It seemed like he had a pulled muscle or something along those lines. He'd take a couple ibuprofen and everything would be hunky-dory. We deal with this every 3-4 weeks and didn't think much of it. 

Fast forward to mid-July. We went to a friends house for dinner where a giant Slip n' Slide was set up for the kids. Sam ran up and down the hill many times, having a blast on the slide.  The next day he was hurting for sure, barely able to walk. Not cool. We called the doctor and made an appointment. I was convinced it was a pulled groin muscle. 

We got into the doctor a couple days later and you know how those things go. Go to the this place for an xray, that place for a CT scan, make a follow up appointment with a orthopedic doctor, blah, blah, blah. 

About 3 days before heading to Leadville, we had an appointment with the orthopedic doc (which was about 3 weeks after our initial doctor appointment) who then sent us for a color contrast MRI. He said, based on the CT scans, the two possibilities for Sam's hip were an infected bone or a tumor. Shit. A tumor was a possibility? WTF? Nah, no way. That kid is healthy as a horse and strong as a bull. I'd bet (based on some information we received) that it's an infection. No question. He'll get on an antibiotic regimen when we get home and everything will be A-OK.  We then scheduled an appointment for a specialist orthopedic in Sioux Falls for a couple weeks after we got home from Leadville.

So, off we go to Colorado for a couple days at my mom's house, then up to Leadville for the race and a couple days of camping with my mom and my brother and his family. 

Friday we got up early to head to Leadville so I can get signed in, go to the pre-race meeting, etc. As we were at the gas station filling up, my phone rings. It's the doctor's office. Sweet, now we can get the ball rolling. "It's definitely a tumor. We've got your biopsy appointment scheduled for next Thursday." Those words were like a well placed Chuck Norris round-house kick to the gut. Holy shit. It was like one of those scenes in a movie where a bomb goes off and the person is disoriented and can't hear what's happening around him. All of the sudden I had zero desire to go to Leadville, but since the ball was in motion, we continued on to the city in the clouds.

As I sat in the pre-race meeting, all I was thinking about was Sam and hoping beyond hope that it was just a cyst or a benign tumor and that everything would still be good, barely listening to the presenters. We got up early the next morning and without having you suffer through the minutia of this race, I got pulled from the course at mile 74 after missing the time cut off and I could not have cared less.  I had no shits left to give. Was it the two flats I had on the day?  Maybe.  Was it the fact that all I was thinking about was my son during the race?  Possibly.  Maybe it was a combination of everything involved, but I didn't care.  Maybe the day when they tell me Sam is OK I'll get pissed about it, but not now.
Sam going in for one of many scans he's had so far.

We just got home from Sam's biopsy in Sioux Falls and found out he does indeed have a cancerous tumor in his hip.  The doctor said it is either Ewing's sarcoma or osteosarcoma but the course of treatment will be similar.  A round of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor followed by a surgery to remove the tumor and most likely replace his hip with an artificial one, followed by more chemo and/or radiation depending on the cancer.  Of everyone in-the-know, he's taking all this news the best.  When we were talking with him about the surgery/hip replacement he said it will be cool, cause he'll be a DROID (saying the word like the Motorola Droid phone does when it turns on).
Sam yucking it up, pre-op.
Right now the whole bike thing is kinda ringing hollow for me.  I hope that someday I'll be stoked to fire this blog back up, but for the near future it's gonna go dark.  We'll be over on Sam's Caring Bridge page, updating his info so if you feel inclined to follow along, you can see how he's doing.  And of course, feel free to shoot me an e-mail or give me a call.  I'll still be riding my bike when I can, but it for sure won't be what I'm focused on.

Monday, May 25, 2015

When N+1 is One Too Much

In the cycling world, as I'm sure you've all heard or have said, there is an equation that says B=N+1, where B=Bicycles Owned and N=Bicycles Needed, meaning you always need just one more bike.  I've heard this same philosophy thrown about by skiers (although they're using skis instead of bikes) and golfers as well, so I suppose any sports/hobby that requires shiny new equipment has this a running joke.

The Moots is gone...
I was a subscriber to this mathematical formula for a long time.  I had bikes upon bikes in my garage (well, I guess I still do, but hang with me here).  I had a bike for everything.  I had/have a singlespeed, a 5" travel trail bike, a 29'er hardtail, a cross bike, a tandem, a city/pub bike, etc.  You name it, I had it.  And the whole while I should have taken a cue from my cross bike, which was/is my road-gravel-commuter-singletrack-cyclocross bike, which means I use this one bike for lots and lots of different things.  And besides washing it once in a while, the biggest thing I ever do to that bike is change the tires from a beefier gravel tire to a smoother road tire.

The nagging issue of owning all these bike came down to one word...maintenance.  You know, once a bike gets to be a certain age and/or have a certain number of miles on it, it seems like there is always something that needs to be repaired, replaced or rebuilt.  A new brake lever here, some brake pads over there, a new chain, tires on both need to be replaced, oh shit, this one needs its fork overhauled, this one needs it brakes bled, blah, bablah, bablah.  It was nice to have another bike to ride when one was down for the count, but it seemed like those things were overlapping at an alarming rate.
Gone too...

Splitting the difference...
So guess what?  I did something about it!  I sold off two bikes and rolled the money into one new bike that split the difference.  It took a lot of soul searching to come to the conclusion that I needed to part ways with my beloved Moots (I've ridden a Moots for 16 years), but this frame was 10 years old!  Technology was passing me by and while that in and of itself wasn't an issue (I find myself having some retrogrouch qualities) being able to replace parts on a bike of that age becomes more and more difficult.  I thought if I'm ever gonna get anything money-wise for the Moots, I'd better do it NOW or just completely embrace the retrogrouch in me and ride it into the sunset. I also found myself riding my 29'er hardtail a LOT, like almost all the time, but I missed having some squish in the rear of the bike.  While the 29'er wasn't that old and in pretty good shape, I didn't see a need to have two bikes when one would do the trick, again, the maintenance thing, ya know? So, part of it was replacing a slightly antiquated wheel size (26") with a 29'er, but I was just sick and tired of having to constantly do something to one of these bikes.  Will I have to do stuff to this new one?  Yes, eventually, but I'll only have to do it once, I won' t have to do it to two bikes, leaving me more time to do what?  Ride my freaking bike!  Now if Mother Nature would just cooperate...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

In defense of Episodes I-III

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, this is a quasi-bike blog.  But it's also a blog about shit I love too, so we're gonna talk about Star Wars for a minute (or five).  Besides, if you've blasted down a forested stretch of singletrack and you haven't pretended you're on a speeder bike racing through the forest moon of Endor, you're either a liar or you have no business reading this blog anyhow.

The new Star Wars trailer, as the kids say, dropped this week.  In case you haven't seen it, here it is.

 And with this, the news media has gone completely ape-shit.  Good Morning America, ABC Nightly News, (which are owned by Disney, the company making the new Star Wars movies, hmmm) NPR, and others have run stories on this TRAILER (it's a teaser from a movie that is 8 months from being released) and the event, Star Wars Celebration, where the trailer was officially released.  And with it, the ubiquitous interviews with all those quasi-nerds that say the same shit, "Yeah, the trailer was great, but I have mixed emotions, I really hope this is better than the Jar-Jar disasters of Episodes I-III." Or something along those lines.  A fucking 20 something hipster-nerd, who wasn't even born when Episodes IV-VI came out, waxing nostalgic for movies that he hasn't even seen the original versions of?  What the hell?

Let me preface this by saying I don't think that Episodes I-III were great, but they're not as horrible as some people make them out to be.  Could Lucas have done a better job with them by letting someone else direct them?  Sure.  Would they have more depth and character if he didn't rely solely on CGI for every damn effect?  Absolutely.  Can I give you the reasons why they're not the trash you think?  I'm gonna.

Defense 1.  The free flowing story arc.
Episodes IV-VI had no constraints on its story line.  Lucas could have taken us anywhere he wanted to go.  We didn't know there was a second Death Star, we didn't know what Jabba looked like (it's true hipster-nerd, Jabba was NOT in the original version of Episode IV), and we surely didn't know that Darth Vader was Luke's father.

Episodes I-III had a very limited ability to create a story line.  Everything in all the stories had to come to a very specific point.  They had to come to Anakin being trained by Obi-Wan and subsequently being defeated on Mustafar by Obi-Wan and being burned up like a piece of Bantha bacon.  Luke and Leia had to be born, and then hidden from Anakin/Darth Vader.  Yoda and Obi-Wan had to go into
Mmmm, Bantha bacon...
hiding.  Oh yeah, and Anakin had to turn to the dark side and actually become Vader.  Hard to make a new amazing story when the  very specific ending was already written.

This is also why the story line for the new episodes should/better be amazing.  There is no constraint on the stories.

Defense 2.  The acting.
Pensive Luke...that's some SERIOUS
I hear a lot about how horrible Hayden Christensen was as Anakin.  Yes, I'll agree he wasn't great.  But guess what?  Mark Hamill wasn't great as Luke either!  Seriously, go back and re-watch IV-VI and tell me why you think Mark's acting was better than Hayden's.  Just listen to the whiny, monotone voice that says "BUUT I WAS GOING TO TOSCHI'S STATION TO PICK UP SOME POWER CONVERTERS!" and seriously tell me that this is better that Hayden saying in a 4 year old's best grumpy voice "DON'T MAKE ME DESTROY YOU."  You can't.  And, just like in Episodes IV-VI, there were bright spots of acting.  Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan was believable, especially when he was monologuing on the bank of the lava river to the fried up Darth Vader, and when Natalie Portman was telling Anakin "you're breaking my heart" was real emotion.

Defense 3.  They are kids movies.
I think this is the thing that people forget the most.  Not that these movies were not intended for adults, but they were made for kids!  Lucas has said many times that he wanted to recreate that Saturday serial type of experience he had when he was a kid.  And, lest you forget, you most likely watched Episodes IV-VI when you were a kid and then saw I-III when you were an adult, skewing your opinion on those movies (except for those hipster-nerds, who are just regurgitating what ever is supposed to be cool or not cool about Star Wars).

Defense 4.  Lightsaber battles.
The lightsaber battles in Episodes I-III were WAY better than in IV-VI, don't deny it!  Sure the battles between Vader and Obi-Wan in IV and between Vader and Luke in V-VI had a lot of emotion in them, but they looked like they were swinging 25 lb. baseball bats at each other.  As far as the action goes, they were far better in I-III.  Actual choreography and young actors that could handle it  
(mostly), not old guys or guys in heavy black suits.

Defense 5.  The Jar-Jar factor.
This is the one that gets me riled up the most.  Everyone always points to Jar-Jar as to why Episodes I-III sucked.  Don't get me wrong, I don't like the Jar-Jar character.  I think it's pointless and slightly racist.  Watch these movies with a little kid sometime and see how hard they laugh at Jar-Jar and you'll understand part of it.

That's not my defense though.  My biggest complaint is about the revisionist mentality of those that blame Jar-Jar for I-III and think that Ewoks are OK.  Ewoks suck my balls!  I hated them from the second they came on screen at the Elks Theater in 1983 when I first watched Episode VI.    
Really?  The Care Bears beat the Empire?
Seriously?  Luke, Han and Leia couldn't beat the Empire with the fastest ship in the galaxy and all those X, Y, A, and B wings at their disposal, and yet a bunch of FUCKING TEDDY BEARS with rocks and sticks take them down?  I call BULLSHIT on the whole premise!  Tell me the Empire wouldn't just torch their whole planet, burning the forest down and the tree-forts and teddy bears that live therein.  God I hate Ewoks...

So, here's to A New, New Hope that Episodes VII-??? are better than I-VI, yes I-VI, all of them, but I can almost guarantee that there will be a Jar-Jar/Ewok character or moment in these new ones that will get the nerd illuminati so up in arms that they'll have a fit in their mom's basement.  I loved IV-VI as a kid and still do as an adult, I know I don't hate I-III as much as you say you do and maybe now you won't either.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Rambling thoughts that may or may not tie together.

Do you ever think about when you first learned how to ride a bike?  Do you think about that feeling you got when you first were able to ride on two wheels, no parent running behind you holding you up or no training wheels saving your wobbling bike?  It was magic!  Balancing yourself on something 2" wide (or less) yet propelling yourself forward at a pace that was faster than running and could take you much further!  It was independence, it was freedom, it was maturity, it was getting rad, it was amazing.  

Do you ever get that feeling anymore when you ride?  Why not?  Too busy?  Too stressed?  The thoughts of your life, death and taxes weighing on you?  Man, you gotta find that place again.  It gives you perspective, it calms you, it makes everything OK.  I found that feeling again today.  A short ride through some side streets, past a cemetery (if riding past a cemetery doesn't put shit into perspective for you, just about nothing will) and I was on singletrack.  And even though I could see the city on one side, there was nothing in front of me other than that brown ribbon of dirt snaking its way through the trees up the side of the mountain.  That smell of the forest, the pine trees, the dirt, the organic material decaying, all mix together and speak to that primal spot in my soul.  Couple that with the sound of my bike tires scraping rocks, trying to find some traction, crunching the gravel on the trail, the whir of gears, the grating sound of brakes being applied and pretty soon, while I could see the city below me, it meant nothing to me.  Not that it wouldn't ever mean anything to me, but it didn't right then and there.  I was in the moment, I felt the magic of being able to balance, pedal, shift, and brake all while trying to keep myself from plummeting off the edge of a ravine.  It was that same feeling as I had when I first learned how to ride a bike.  I don't always find that feeling when I'm riding my bike, but I find it way more often than not.
Riding in the Land of the Lost...

Which brings me to the bummer part of this story.  After almost 3 hours of winding my way all over Skyline and HLMP here in Rapid City, I was pedaling home on the bike path, awash in that feeling of being tired from the physical exertion but alive with all the endorphins my body could muster, when I crossed paths with a mental kick to the balls.

There it was, pulled over on the side of the bike path, a family, the mom walking a dog, the dad, crouched down near his son, who was on a bike with training wheels.  As I got closer, I could tell the dad was being a total, ever-loving prick to his kid, who was sitting there with his head down his eyes full of tears.  By the looks of the situation, the kid was doing something that didn't go over well with the dad and he was being "told" all about it.  I said, "Hello" in a firm voice, hoping that the dad would realize what he was doing and stop it as I sped by.  I contemplated stopping and saying something, but I quickly realized that I don't think it would have helped the situation.

Look man, I get it.  Sometimes as parents we don't stop and think before we say shit to our kids.  And sometimes our kids do shit that gets under, WAY under our skin.  And sometimes we say shit to our kids over and over and over again and they don't listen.  And sometimes we need to give our kids a push to get them motivated and try to reach their potential or even just to try new things.  But at NO time is it OK to berate your child and make them feel like idiots.  Guess what parent on the bike path?
Did you know your child is CONSTANTLY trying to impress you with everything they do?  They want you to be proud of them, they want you to tell them they're doing the right thing, they're doing well, they make you proud.  Stop just for a minute and think back to your childhood and how you'd feel in that situation if you were in your child's shoes and it was your dad yelling at you.

Bike riding is always supposed to be fun no matter how old you are, but it is supposed to be especially fun for a small child.  Don't make them grow up to be one of those pricks driving their giant diesel pickups that are rollin' coal that swerve towards and throw shit at cyclists because they are bitter about an experience they had when they were a kid.  Give them the confidence they need to grow up and be a (almost) 44 year old that loves that magical feeling of riding a bike almost 40 years after the first time they pushed a pedal down on their own.