2020 Addendum

In looking at my previous post, I realized (somewhat ashamedly) that I failed to include and recognize a series of events that should rank higher than the election and perhaps even COVID. I am talking about the events surrounding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that took place all across the county. Perhaps this is for the good, since I feel that this subject deserves a place of its own

BLM first came to my attention in 2014 following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYC Police. Mr. Garner’s death was followed by Tamir Rice (Cleveland OH, 11/2014), Walter Scott (N Charleston SC, 4/2015), Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge LA, 7/2016), Philando Castile (St. Paul MN, 7/2016), and Stephon Clark (Sacramento CA, 3/2018). All of these deaths came at the hands of the respective police departments, exposing the systemic racism built into so many of our organizations: civic, government and business.

While I’m fairly certain there have been others, two in 2020 reignited the BLM cause. The first was the death of Breonna Taylor in March. By all accounts, Ms. Taylor was a remarkable young woman. Working as an Emergency Medical Technician while studying to become a nurse, she was sound asleep in her own bed when the door to the apartment  she shared with her fiance was broken down by police executing a search warrant.  Responding to the break-in, her boyfriend grabbed his gun to defend his home and family. In response, the police officers fired multiple times, killing Ms. Taylor. After no drugs were found (the subject of the warrant,) it turned out that the wrong address had been provided. Further, some accounts noted that this was known before the raid. There is also some discrepancy in accounts on whether the police announced themselves prior to breaking in the door. Of the three officers involved, only one was charged and that charge was one of “wanton endangerment” for firing into an adjoining apartment, not for killing Ms. Taylor. Ultimately, all three of the officers were dismissed, and the city settled with Ms. Taylor’s family in September.

In May 2020, George Floyd went to a convenience store to purchase cigarettes. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, he used suspected counterfeit to pay for it, and the store called the police. When they arrived, there was a brief altercation, and he was subdued. However, one of the cops kept Floyd down on the ground by pressing a knee into his neck. Despite protests from Floyd that he couldn’t breathe and in spite of the expressed concerns of bystanders, this cop kept his knee there for over eight minutes, during which time Floyd passed out. Ultimately, this caused his death.

During the protests that followed, the police often reacted violently, beating and arresting those taking part. Compare this to the treatment of the armed insurrectionists of January 6.

Initial reaction is that the police department has issues with racism and, while that may be true, it also demonstrates systemic racism throughout our nation. When landfills, oil depots, factories, etc. are built, they are all too often placed in or next to BIPOC neighborhoods. Schools in those areas have far fewer resources than those in more affluent neighborhoods (largely through fundraising of the PTA or private donation.) Even infrastructure as simple as bike lanes are concentrated in neighborhoods/areas that are less in need of that alternative transportation.

I won’t pretend to know the answers. For me, the first step will be to be more analytical about my actions and reactions, my thoughts and words to see if they negatively impact anyone, but particularly those who have been treated poorly in the past. I’m open to suggestions on other ways to help to heal the divides and to bring us closer to the dream of MLK. After all, his dream was to bring out the best in all of us, individually and together.

Roll on, together!

2020, I Knew Ye Better than I Wanted

Thank the gods it’s done! 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m more than happy to put 2020 behind me. But let’s recap it just for the record.

The year “dawned” just as any other year would. I moved back to Omaha in the last part of 2019 to reconcile with Laura. Those first few months were a bit stressful as we both walked on eggshells for a bit (I suspect me more so,) working our way through some of the (mostly mine) issues that had caused our split. This continued into 2020, but we were beginning to feel our way.

Then, in February, a new wrinkle in the world: COVID-19. First reports out of China talked about this new virus being highly contagious with symptoms that could only be described as “agile,” since they seemed to be different in different folks. Despite efforts to keep it from our shores, within the month, the first cases appeared in the US.

Initially, the federal government (in particular the President) downplayed the serious nature of the virus, allowing it to spread and infect exponentially. New York City was the first major hub of the infection, but did a credible job of containing and isolating those affected to the point that the mantle was passed to other regions. Despite the evidence, the fed still seemed to be clueless about its response, and COVID moved quickly into other areas. Finally, the responses in major cities and regions began to rise to the necessary level as more and more of us moved into self-imposed isolation. Here in Omaha, Laura and I continue to maintain this defensive posture.

In late April, my father fell ill (non-COVID) and his health declined fairly rapidly. After spending most of May in the hospital, he returned home to spend his final days with his wife (my stepmother,) my sisters and my youngest surviving brother. Concern about the pandemic and carrying it into the family prevented us from traveling to the East Coast to also share his final days. I was able to say goodbye to him on a video call, thanks to my sister. I don’t know if he heard me, but it did me well to be able to have a few last words with him. He left us on June 1.  A celebration of his life has been postponed until such time as it can be done safely.

For the next few months, COVID shared the spotlight with the Presidential primaries and elections. It was interesting to see how the candidates handled the new reality: it seemed the Democrats took the health risks seriously (for the most part,) while the Republicans felt that the wearing of masks was some kind of political statement against the President. The primaries distilled the large field of Democratic  candidates down to Joe Biden while Trump held onto the reins of power for the Republicans. November 3 should have been the end of the election season. Unfortunately, Trump was unable to reconcile himself to losing and spent the balance of the year in court challenges, enticing state legislatures, and putting pressure on election officials, all in an effort to overturn the results of the election. Fortunately, for the health of our country, these efforts were all in vain, and Joe Biden was declared the President-Elect.

Thanksgiving was decidedly different. Normally, Laura and I would make the trip back East to celebrate with my family (Christmas is spent with hers.) With COVID still our constant companion, we remained home and had dinner for just the two of us. Zoom calls allowed us to at least see everyone, but it’s a poor substitute to actually being able to share the day.

In December, we received word that my Uncle Mason, the last and youngest of my father’s brothers, was diagnosed with COVID. He spent time in and out of the hospital, but on December 20, he passed away. Always full of life and fun, he will be missed. 

Like Thanksgiving, Christmas was a Zoom event. The biggest thing that was missed was the white elephant gift exchange with Laura’s kids and their father. In its place, we packaged up the gifts we had collected over the year and carried them to each family. Each of the grandkids was taken care of as well, albeit from a socially safe distance.

Other things of note:

My sister Mary continues to care for our other sister, Nell, who is in the latter stages of early onset Alzheimers. This is such a nasty ailment, robbing Nell of her memories, and all of us of our sister. I am grateful that Mary is such a great caretaker.

On January 6, 2021, the Congress met to certify the vote of the Electoral College. Trump made a final effort by inviting scores of his followers to DC, whipping them into  a frenzy and sending them to attack the Capitol where they vandalized the temple of democracy and threatened the wellbeing of our elected representatives. Rather than trying to rein them in, Trump watched the destruction on TV while his Defense Dept appointees refused to send in the National Guard for hours. When he finally did speak, he told the insurgents that he loved them, but to go home. For this he is now facing his second impeachment.

That’s it for now. I’ll try to keep better track of this little blog of mine. Until next time.

Roll on!

Update!!

By now, my dozen of followers have been wondering what became of me. I haven’t posted since July 2019, so we’re due for an update.

Those of you who have followed me from the beginning (or were curious enough to go back to the first post) know that I ended up in Salisbury after the end of a relationship. You’ll also recall that the end of that relationship was all me. I had screwed up, accepted it, and was paying the price. I began (and continue) the journey to being a better being. Shirley Surly, Eunice Univega, and Trixied Blix were a big part of my therapy and journey. Over the course of several months (almost two years,) I rode, contemplated and posted my meditations on two wheels here. I want to thank all who read, followed, and encouraged me on this journey; it was equally important to me.

During my time in Salisbury, I had the opportunity to work with some amazing folks at The Pedal Factory. They took me into their hearts, which allowed me to start mine opening. Again, they have no idea of how much they meant, and still mean, to me.

I also came to the realization that Trixie and Eunice were spending way too much time sitting in storage, so I found new homes for them. Shirley and I miss them at times, but I know their new homes are happy to have them.

All this leads up to: I’M BACK IN OMAHA! You read that right. The relationship I once thought over has been rekindled. It came completely out of the blue, and I couldn’t be happier! Sure, there’s a bump or two now and then, but we’re both trying very hard to make this work with the help of therapy.

So while I may not be posting as much, I still continue to work on myself and, by extension, our relationship. Keep me in your thoughts! I’ll be back periodically to update my progress.

Roll on!

June 21, 2019 -Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime Blues

When Eddie Cochran penned this little anthem, he obviously didn’t know about riding a bicycle! Yep, it’s Summertime! Today is the LOOOONGEST day of the year, and I plan to take advantage of every second of it.

First, let me apologize for my three week absence; it’s  been a busy time of year for me. In addition to regular work/home stuff, The Pedal Factory hosted its first ever summer bike camp for kids. Ten participants, five days, 20+ hours of fun on two wheels. In addition to riding, the kids got to learn how to take care of their bikes, about different types of bikes, and some of the history of the city. A good time was had by all!

 

Also since our last visit, I’ve begun what I’m hoping will be a series of events/rides to demonstrate to others how their bikes can be used for more than just recreation. I’m also hoping to use information gathered to show the city how infrastructure can be improved to promote butts on bikes (of course, I won’t discuss it with them with those terms!) The first ride started is To Coffee/To Market. Each Saturday morning that TPF is not open, we’ll be leaving from the shop to ride out to get coffee and/or breakfast at one of the local eateries. Then it’s on to the Farmers’ Market where we’ll see what the latest harvest has provided. The first such ride (where it was more than just myself) took place two weeks ago on June 8. Six of us shared the joy and the lack of bicycle parking.

 

Back on June 1, I led a band on intrepid bicycle tourists on a trip to Boone’s Cave County Park in neighboring Davidson County. This was in conjunction with Adventure Cycling Association’s Bike Travel Weekend. Sixteen miles each way, it wasn’t a great feat but it did allow some folks who’d never considered it a taste of what bike touring can be. A good time with good folks!

I think that about covers it! I am still riding around the roads here and in town, but won’t bore you with pics of those this time. Hope to catch you on the road, on the trail, or in the pub sometime! Until then…

Roll on!

May 29, 2019 – Pleased To Meet You…

Sometime last year, I mentioned another cyclist out on the same roads that I frequent. Driving a white pickup, he parks at one of the intersections I pass through and rides from there. The only reason I knew he was a cyclist was that I happened to see him driving off one day with his bike in the bed of the truck. Since that time, I’ve looked for him on the road without success.

That changed today! He’s a gentleman of my own vintage who rides what looks to be a gravel bike with flat bars. Looked like a Specialized. We were going in opposite directions and, rather than just a nod as we passed, we both chose to stop, exchange names, and route details/ride preferences.

Greg, it was great to finally meet you! Hope to see you again on the road. In the meantime, keep the rubber beneath you and the blue sky above.

Roll on!

May 28, 2019 -So Long, Farewell!!

Don’t dismay! The title this week doesn’t mean I’m shutting down and closing up shop. There’s a different good-bye involved.

As readers of moderate time know, one of my bikes, Trixie Blix the e-bike, didn’t get a whole lot of use. Not because she isn’t a good bike, but I’m just more comfortable riding Shirley Surly (on the road) or Eunice Univega (in the woods, trails.) So, after some deliberation, I decided to find a new home for Trixie.

Last week, I found one: a professor at UNC-Charlotte, no less. After some back and forth, we came to agreement on conditions of transfer, and Trixie found a new owner. Richard, I know you’ll be getting a lot of enjoyment commuting to your office now. Believe me, two wheels beats four any day!img_20180809_080900586

This past Saturday saw the inaugural Coffee/Farmers’ Market Ride from The Pedal Factory. Not sure this one should count since no one showed up but me! I did have a good ride, nonetheless, scoring kale, tomatoes, potatoes and onions at the market after an iced coffee at Mean Mug.

The first heat wave of 2019 kept folks from showing up for the Sunday Social Ride. I didn’t much feel like riding alone in those conditions, so I packed up and headed home. However, I did get out and ride yesterday and went in to the shop to see how Todd was doing with a build/education customer. Got there just in time to see it finished and then went out out for coffee (again at Mean Mug.)

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Before I headed into town, I setup my tent to make sure it was ready for next weekend.

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To wrap up this post, I went on another ride this morning. Just over  13 miles, it combined paved road with gravel. As I rolled on the rocks, I remembered there was a time when I did my best to stay off such roads; now, I almost seek them out as a challenge and to enjoy what are roads less traveled. I was also reminded how close we are to the mountains by this view of a “hill.”img_20190528_080639131_hdr

As Spring winds down, I hope that you’ve had a chance to get outside and do the things that make you feel whole. For me, that’s cycling. For you, who knows but I wish you well doing it.

Roll on!

May 21, 2019 – Chasing the Promise

Good day! Hope your Bike Month has been going well. I know mine has (even if I don’t post it here more often.)

Since last we spoke, I’ve put some time on the bike, although not as much as I’d like. Stuff just keeps on getting in the way. Work, family, other endeavors. But I have taken both Shirley and Eunice out for spins.

One thing I have started to do is carry Eunice into town with me when I go. I’ll park at The Pedal Factory (as it’s a good central place to be) and run my errands by bike from there. So far it’s worked out nicely and is allowing me to get a feel for small urban cycling. This is  a good thing as I plan to be moved into town by the first of July.

Shirley and I have also taken a few rides around the house out here in the country, plus the regular Sunday Social Ride this past weekend. So I’m getting bike time in.

Sunday also saw my first visit to the Steel Bike Rendezvous in Farmville NC. This is an annual event showcasing vintage steel bikes and a flea market for parts. While I see a lot of potential here, the showing was VERY light with fewer than ten vendors hawking their wares. I hope it grows. Todd (from TPF) showed a couple of rebuilds he’s done for the experience of showing. While his are things of beauty, the competition was stiff! For some reason, I was drawn to this orange beauty.

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I continue to work on my parking project, adding a couple of spots that I hadn’t yet discovered on Sunday. There’s more bike parking in Salisbury than I’d first thought, but not as much as could be needed.

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That’s it for now. Until next time, keep the round on the ground and…

Roll on!

May 14, 2019 – Riding That Train…

Today brings to a close this visit to the old homestead in Northern VA. Waking at my usual 5:30 – 6:00AM, I packed my clothes in my duffel, my laptop and electronics in my backpack, and headed down for that elixir of the gods: coffee! After finishing a couple of cups, I went to the garage and took Shirley out. Since it has rained pretty much the whole past couple of days we hadn’t seen each other for a while. She didn’t seem to mind. I wheeled her out into the sunlight, up to the patio by the front porch, and loaded the duffel, water bottles and running lights. She then waited patiently as I went back inside for another cup and to say farewell to Dad & Linda.

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Shortly after 10:00, I said my final farewells for the trip and together we headed out. At just under eight miles, it look just over 45 minutes of travel, but closer to 55 minutes of real time; the traffic lights just didn’t seem to work in our favor this morning.

Once at the station, I took off the bags and bottles to get her ready for boarding. Shirley waited with anticipation for the arrival of the train. You can see my bags on the bench to the right.

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Once the train arrived, I left her in the care of the baggage car conductor. I always do this with some trepidation, even though I’ve yet to have any real issues with Amtrak on this route.

The ride was fairly uneventful. No “manspreading” companion on the return trip, just a young woman who preferred sleeping. Makes for a quiet trip. Outside of Fredericksburg, the train slowed to a crawl. Apparently, we were last in line for priority. That put us 45 minutes behind schedule. As I write this section, we are approaching Raleigh NC and have made up four minutes.  I should still be in Salisbury before 9:00 this evening.

I’ve been asked by a few people why I choose to take the train. To me, it’s much more relaxing that driving. I can work (like this) on the way. In fact, most of the time I get enough done to pay for the trip. Can’t do that while going down the road at 70mph. Besides, I’m not 100% sure my poor ol’ Outback could make the trip too often.

On a personal note, during this visit more than any previous, it was apparent that my Dad’s getting older. Heck, at 88, I guess he’s entitled. But his memory seems to be on the way out. I’ll offer to come up and help with him if it progresses.

FINAL NOTE: Train ended up falling further behind. Our 8:06pm arrival was actually closer to 9:15. Just a reminder that we don’t take the train with the expectation of arriving on time. Perhaps that should also be how we approach living.

Roll on!

May 11, 2019 – Off to See Friends!

On one of my trips up last year, I went to visit Velocity Bike Shop, a non-profit bike shop in Alexandria. I had also planned to go see Phoenix Bikes, but the deluge that hit while I was at Velocity (just before I got there, actually) caused me to put that visit off. Today, I planned to rectify that aborted mission.

Shirley and I set out from the house shortly before 9:00am in order to arrive just after the 10:00 opening. It was a pleasurable ride, just over 14 miles each way. We took the Mount Vernon Trail through Alexandria, climbed onto the Western and Old Dominion Trail (W&OD) until we reached our destination in the Del Ray section of Arlington.

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Catering mostly to kids, Phoenix Bikes offers many of the same programs that The Pedal Factory does in Salisbury. It was great to visit and see how their operation works.

About ten miles in on the return trip, I found myself at Dyke Marsh, a favorite place of mine. I stopped to take a rest/water break and ended up talking to a father and his two children for a bit. His daughter had learned to ride just a month earlier and was taking her second 11 mile trip! I commended him for taking the time to encourage them to ride. As for the kids, they were more interested in Shirley’s bamboo fenders than anything I had to say.

After bidding them adieu, I sat and enjoyed the birdsongs and watching the sailboats dance on the Potomac River. Finally, I loaded myself back onto the saddle and finished the ride home.

All in all, this was a fantastic day! How better to spend it than in doing something I love and speaking with folks who share the joy?

Roll on!