Monday, April 3, 2017

I've been silent for almost a year...

Man alive, this web-log has been all but repossessed by, out of commision for nearly a year.  And it's not because I've not wanted to blog anything, but more because I didn't feel like I had much to say.  But, things are starting to rattle around in my puny brain, so let's blow the cobwebs out of the corners, dust off the screen and do this.

My last post, nearly a year ago, was really focused on our battle, as a family, with the Boy's cancer.  There will still be some of that in this post, but it won't be solely focused on it.  The Boy is nearly a year out of his treatments and is still cancer free, so about the only thing I can say about it is thank you to all the people that supported him and us (and continue to do so) during this time.
Pictures of the boy taken exactly one year apart.
It's partially because of this support, along with other factors surrounding his cancer, that I haven't been on here in nearly a year.  Lemme 'splain.  See, I get my stupid ideas for my blog when I'm out on long rides, and I hadn't been out doing that.  Part of it is because of us trying to figure out new priorities with our family and after a year of being apart, not wanting to be away from each other for long periods of time.  But the other part of it is because of how my stupid brain works.  I feel like I had to "make up" for being away from work so much in the last year.  I know my co-workers didn't resent me for what we had to do, but I also didn't feel like I could and/or should take time off after being around only 1/3 of the time in the previous 10 months.  I felt like I had make amends.

This last week that all changed though.  I was able to get out on a solo 50 mile pavement/gravel ride, my longest ride since the day after we found out the Boy had cancer almost 2 years ago, and it sure kicked my brain into overdrive.  It was like there was a year's worth of garbage needing to be purged, it came spewing out all at once.  I had to try and focus on just one part of all of what was gushing out.  And here it is...the most political post ever on this site.

A beautiful shot heading back into the Black Hills.
Anyone that knows me personally knows that my political leanings are fairly well to the left, but I also tend to keep quiet about this most of the time for a couple reasons.  One, I live in a blood-red state where finding another liberal person is like finding a unicorn, so unless you want to get into a fight with someone, it is best to keep most of your political opinions to yourself.   Which leads me to number two, politics, like religion, are and should be a very private thing.  I never deny my feelings on a subject when asked about it, but I don't go out shouting my feelings to any and everyone that will listen.

What the hell does this have to do with bikes you might ask?  A lot it turns out.  On my ride the other day, I rode out to the gravel roads north and east of the NSS HQ into the rolling prairie/farm/ranch land past the foothills of the Black Hills.  I love riding out in places like this.  It feels like taking a time-machine back to a simpler time.  As I rolled along, an occasional farm truck would drive by.  Here's this big, bearded guy in spandex, riding a bright orange bike, and every single one of them slowed down, moved over and waved.  They respected me as a person even as I invaded their "territory".  I also knew that if I needed any help out there, I could have walked up to just about any one of those farmhouses, knocked on the door and been greeted like an old neighbor and helped.  And most of these people would do the same for just about anyone else in the same position.

I could make a fairly safe wager that most (yes, most, not all) of these people voted far right in this last election.  But therein lies the rub with the political climate in this country right now.  We are all so fucking eager to label the "other side" with being gun-toting rednecks Trump supporters or free-loading, good for nothing socialist liberals that we don't take the time to realize that a great majority of people we know are not gun-toting rednecks or free-loading liberals, but just solid people that believe a certain thing and that having someone on the other side yelling at you that you're wrong will never, in a million years, change your mind.

My point of all of this is, get out there on your bike.  Explore places that make you feel "uncomfortable".  Say hi to someone that doesn't look like you.  Stop and have a conversation with a person that doesn't believe the same things you do.  You'll feel a lot better because you're riding your bike and you might just learn that the person on the other side wants almost the exact same things you do.  Make a good, honest living, provide for their family, and have a little fun along the way.  And that is how we'll make America greater.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

It's been 206 days since we last met.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking.  A NSS post?  These are about as frequent as a positive political post on Facebook these days.  Well, as we near the end of the journey here in Denver for the Boy, I thought instead of posting all the positive stuff on his CaringBridge page, I want to bitch and complain on this page for once.  So, fair warning, the language on this post might get a little colorful so to speak.  Not that it hasn't in the past, but today might get a bit more so.

The meme says it all...
First, fuck cancer.  Yeah, I know that it goes without saying.  But having lived down here for the better part of the last 9 months, I'm seeing day in and day out these kids battling these horrific battles with cancer.  We have friends back in SD that are finding out their daughters/nieces have rare cancers.  What the fuck?  How the hell does a kid, some of these I see are tiny little toddlers, have cancer?  They have done nothing in their lives to invite it.  They haven't done all those things that we're told not to do.  And yet there are people in the world that drink to excess, smoke a bazillion packs of cigarettes, do all the drugs and fuck prostitutes like it's going out of style and yet they still make millions of dollars playing guitar for the Rolling Stones and not get cancer.  Possibly the least fair disease I've ever seen, so yeah, FUCK CANCER.

Look at his smile.  He's a happy boy.
Second, after having lived this whole bullshit lifestyle, I can tell you a secret.  You know how when you find out someone has a traumatic thing happen in their life?  What does everyone do?  You say to that person, "if there is anything I can do, just let me know."  But, I will tell you, that person doesn't know what they need. Has no fucking clue. Their mind is racing a million miles a minute.  They are completely freaked out by the circumstances.  I will also tell you, especially when you're separated from your home like we have been, it can get real lonely, real quick.  When you're alone with your thoughts (in this situation) you dwell on what is happening and what might happen in the future and that can take you down a dark and scary place.  So, what can you do to help?  You don't have to do some big, grand gesture.  All you have to do is shoot that person a text.  Give them a call.  Send a card.  Let them know they are not alone in their battle, what ever that battle is.  I'm telling you, having people break up your days with a quick communication might not seem like you're doing much but it can mean the world to the person on the receiving end.  Thankfully, the Boy had that from some of his friends, school, and family.

One of the few rides I've been able to do this spring.
Third, and let's lighten the mood here a bit, I've gotten completely out of shape and ungodly fat.  I was going back through my last post (I've had 206 days to dwell on it) and I laughed about me whining about finding time to ride.  Shit.  I wish I had that problem now.  It seems like the last month or so I haven't even had the time when I'm here to think about riding, much less actually go.  I've brought a bike with me almost every single trip down and most of the time it rests quietly in the back of my truck.  For a while during the winter I was finding some time to work out, but as we've gotten closer to the end, this whole thing is moving like a carpet unrolling.  It seems like more doctors appointments, scans, cramming school work in, getting my extensive cleaning list done, waiting for the piece of shit infusion drug company (that is getting paid HUGE money) to deliver whenever they fucking feel like it, go in for a blood test and end up being admitted overnight, you name it.  On top of it, as I mentioned in my last post, I can't just go out for a quick ride.  I have to have someone be with the Boy.  And now that we're living at Brent's Place (which has been amazing), we are 30 miles from my mom's house, so it's not quite so easy to find a time just to "pop over" and bang out a quick ride.  When I'm home and I bitch about, it people say "don't worry, you'll get it back quickly". I truly hope they are right, but right now I'm not so confident in that...maybe they are just being nice.  I've heard a couple of those inspirational poster bullshit quotes saying "pain is weakness leaving the body" and "sweat is fat crying".  Well, I've got a lot of fat-crying and weakness-leaving to do.

Fourth, and finally, living apart from my Lovely for the last 9 months has sucked giant donkey balls.  In the 250+ days since this whole thing started, we've spent about approximately 8% of that time together (something like 22 days).  Good thing we've got a strong relationship.  I totally understand how things like this can break up people's marriages.  We're going to have to re-learn how to live together.  Maybe I can ease her into it by not being at home a ton by trying to ride some of my fat off...

So, there you have it.  Not as many cuss words as I had initially anticipated.  I'm looking forward to getting some riding in.  Looking forward to going from ultra-fat to just plain ol' fat.  Looking forward to posting maybe ten times more frequently (so, every 20.6 days vs. 206 days).  But mostly I'm looking forward to all of us being home!

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...