December 25, 2013

Year end wrap-up, already?

Well, yeah... as I sit back and chill on the afternoon before a company day-off, with the sun dipping, the shadows lengthening, and my afternoon coffee steaming next to the keyboard, yes.  I take a break from surfing across various chain-rings and eccentric bottom-brackets/rear hubs, and various tube-final guitar amps I can't afford to summarize the year that was (er, is still) 2013.

Mileage...  what mileage?  This, with few exceptions, has proven to be one of the lowest mileage years to date at 3,400 miles.  I haven't had that low of a number since prior to starting this randonneuring thing back in 2002.  There was a time, prior to '02, wherein I didn't even log commuter-miles, and in one case I'd almost bested this years number.  Now, there IS one more 200km permanent coming in a few days time, and that will bump me above the 3,500 mile marker -- but, that's still pretty low for me.  But... how do I FEEL about that?  Heck, I'm okay, really.  It's been a rewarding year in so many more ways than JUST cycling... so, who can complain?  Not me.  However; well, I think I see a higher number for next year.

Complaints?  Really?  What do I POSSIBLY have to complain about?  Middle-aged-married-suburban-livin'-cubicle-worker-with-two-point-five-children-who's-never-missed-a-meal problems, that's what.  In short, nothing of consequence.  I've overheard and been shoulder-for enough over the last year that I don't have any REAL complaints.  I've helped out at reStart over the last year, have helped feed some folks at various places, helped at Harvesters, and heard the stories of hard-working folks who've
encountered bad luck here and there.  

I have absolutely zero to complain about.

So, small, personal, non-complaining-style GOALS for ME:  I'd like to weigh less.  That's one, ongoing thing - and despite what I'd written LAST year about this time, I still never made the effort... not really.  I started up some things, but never followed-through.  Life goes on.... and I will try, indeed, again.  I find it a lot easier to keep my hand out of the Cheez-it's box when I know someone out there hasn't eaten hardly anything in a few days, because they can't afford it.  Perspective.

More fun... more fulfillment from riding:  I had that going in spades this year, and more development will come.  I've added a handlebar bag, of sorts, to each of my bikes now.  I'm finally past the silly "oh-no-there's-too-much-junk-on-my-handlebars" phase, and it's transformed my riding.  I take more pics, I eat enough, I relax more, I know the route better, and my back feels great (a result of preventing my previous approach of "not-carrying-anything", yet still having "everything" in my back pockets.  The bike looked "sleek" and "unladen", but I looked - and felt - stupid.  With the saddlebag for most things, and the handlebar bag for former backpocket things and things I'd like to eat, look at, and use, I'm a much happier cyclist.  I'm not any faster, or slower... but, that was never the point.  I'm just finally "there."

Where I haven't been turning the pedals, I've been turning the mouse-wheel over the maps, bigtime, to help pay it back to the rando community we're growing here in KC.  I've come up with four new routes, and a fifth is in the making.  While I didn't spend as much time ON the saddle this year as in years-prior, I've invested a bit more into the rando community in the local area with these new routes - one of which, The Mighty Peculiar, finally hit RUSA's books last month.  Variety is good for rando in general, and between Spencer in St. Joseph and Ron A., formerly of Topeka, filling in the 100km-199km catalog with his populaires, KCUC has a very robust collection of routes!  My own offerings merely follow their good example, and offer a different perspective for the Kansas/Missouri riding scene.  The others will take some time to get ironed-out, but include a different taste of the Flint Hills with some rail-trail action, a jaunt northwest of Lawrence, a visit through Archie, MO., a connector for Spencer's Flint Hills 225 ride for those interested in a multi-day tour, and a possible revisit of the Border Patrol - with improvements.  

Speaking of paying it back, I discovered a slick little app for smartphones called "Charity Miles," and as far as logging commuting miles and such, well ... let's just say that MapMyRide's app - recently - is leaving a little to be desired, surrounding how seamlessly their dev team has been able to circumvent issues with a certain iOS7.  Since these apps don't REALLY get me anything -- not being fast enough to compete in the "standings", and sorta weary of the whole alpha-dog "I'm-faster-than-you-are" [according to my app, at least] posturing thing -- I've begun playing with "Charity Miles" instead, which - simply - you pick a charity from their list of partners, you start your workout (bike or run/hike), and hit "go."  The results, basically, equate to something like 10-cents-a-mile toward that charity, because of their agreements with anonymous donors who've joined up to back the program.  The app doesn't ask for money, and the signup-setup-launch process is REALLY easy.  It accesses your phone's GPS (WiFi or whatever) and logs your miles.  The display is super-simple:  it will show your progress, but also shows how you are helping your chosen charity:  (for example, when I select "Feed America" the app displays "Number of Families Fed" as the mileage accumulates, based on $xx.xx feeds 1 family) - in short, it gives me a much higher degree of satisfaction than does knowing how many people I beat up "such-n-such hill" behind the golf course after I arrive home... and even if competition was my thing, I'm already logging miles with ye olde handlebar-mounted bike computer.  Ultimately, MapMy and Strava and others hadn't really helped me realize my weight-loss and fitness goals - but, this, helping others with REAL problems while riding at the same time, seems pretty slick.  I'm not going to spend the rest of the post getting all "weird" and touchy-feeley... but, I've wasted a good number of years being angry and frustrated about the state of society (through my myopic little suburban goggles), and haven't directed much of those energies towards actually trying to FIX any of it until recently.  So, yeah... there you have it... be the change I want to see in the world.  blah, blah.  Personally, and socially - I'm just tired of complaining.  Need to DO.  What better way to stop the cycle of cynicism within my own head, and set a far better example for my kids, than to stop complaining and start trying to fix stuff?  

This, I promise, will *NOT* make me a more difficult person to talk to -- trust that.  It also won't start sneaking into my ride reports in any clever fashion.... Nor will it turn into me asking readers for support.  This year-end post is sort of a personal checkpoint, and that is what currently needs to get out of my head, and down in writing... to myself.  This blog remains about cycling -- but some of my motivations have changed.  Do I still love to ride, for the sake of riding?  Yes, absolutely...but, why not do a little something more while I'm at it?  That's what the MS-150 is about, and that was one of my first big goals.

Okay, some materialistic, non-cycling stuff now... music.  I *love* music.  No, really... I don't think you get it.... if there is one thing that I am as, if not more, passionate about than cycling, it's music.  I.  Love.  Music. 

(except “county".  LOL… explained, Kenny Chesney (I'm sure he's a great guy, never met him.) is “country.”  Willie Nelson is not country.  It’s a micro-thin, fuzzy line separating the two, but on the correct side you’ll find artists like Johnny Cash, Ryan Adams, and The Earl Brothers (ok, that's bluegrass, but that's another discussion).  On the incorrect side are (yes, talented) guitar-playing singer/songwriters who insist on making everything rhyme on a realllllly simple level for the benefit of their record-label's carefully brainwashed... er, chosen... audience, all packaged into a nice, tidy, 3-chord formula.  Invariably, they will find it necessary to advise you on the status of their “truck,” or “woman.”  If you replace “truck” with “motorcycle”, and filter out some of the twang and patriotism, you have 80’s hair/anthem metal.  Both are catchy, but ultimately exhausting.  Anyhoo… if you want to split a pitcher of something frothy at a local pub sometime, and have about three hours to spare, we can get into the rest of the discussion.  But, only if the band isn’t playing – because there is nothing more annoying than playing to a room of people that don’t give a rats-behind that you’d practiced every day to get ready for Friday night.  Yes, that means you, business-types on your phones, and you, twenty-something hoodie-wearing white-belt aviator-wearing Camaro-driving Bieber-haired card-carrying-d-patrol member, feeding light-beer to your underage girlfriend:  yes, YOU.  Leave.  Now.      Ok, I’m done…

Where was I?  Oh, crud... music.  Okay... I've been a music FAN far longer than I've been... ouch it hurts to even posit this:  a musician. (groan) !FAIL!  ok, I'm NOT a musician... and I can't call myself one until I figure out the rest of my scales and chord progressions and 4ths and 9ths...  I'm considering getting something like Guitarsmith to help speed things along, with my only fear there surrounding the dread of being turned into another middle-aged cover-band droid.  I admire the chops after 60-days of the guy in the video... probably my demographic equal ...but, I have absolutely no desire to learn "Walk this Way."  I need to browse the setlist on the game's website and see if it's got something to work toward:  like "Dust in the Wind," eh, Warbird??  Or perhaps Chet Atkins' rendition of "Take Five."   I know I have to start small, but, I want to learn REAL playing, real musiciany-stuff... I don't necessarily want to learn specific, popular songs.  Okay, a few.., but I wouldn't call them popular.  I want to play the kind of stuff that I used to go see on purpose... Sonny Kenner, to be precise:  real jazz and blues standards, improv, jam; to be able to hold up a 15-minute solo conversation with a band, being able to deliver enough diversity and scale-knowledge to keep an audience interested.... even if that audience is only ever the kids... or perhaps the dogs.... or, more realistically, the bicycles in the garage.  

The late, great, Sonny Kenner
Trey Anastasio of Phish

And, okay... trust me... I'm not anywhere  N E A R  mellow-enough to be a REAL fan of Phish... but, I'm a huge fan of Phish.  I've never seen them live, never followed them across the country in a VW microbus  (or was that the 'Dead, can't remember?)  , but, I like Trey's sound... and I like the improv aspect.  It's a weird counter to the usual electronica I enjoy, but I've always liked their groove.  Plus, if I learn guitar I can add Trey to the short list of deadringerisms I occasionally encounter.  Like...

I'm the one with the bike clothes, in case you got confused...  

... But, yeah... I'm lathering it on pretty thick about music and musicians for a cycling blog.... aren't I?   (yes...)  So, I'll wrap this section up, thusly:  It's GREAT to be playing again, even if it IS only on my son's former dust-collecting "First Act", Toys-R-Us purchased, balsa-particle-board, oak-laminate (are we sure it's even WOOD?) six-string guitar: it's been a fingertip-indenting JOY.  If the bug sticks and the technique improves, I'll upgrade to something nicer... like a real, USA-made Gibson, or Telecaster... but, realistically... perhaps finding the "Kogswell" of guitars makes more sense.  We'll see.  Until I get where I would like to be, skillwise, the 3-year old $69.95 First-Act single-Humbucker "Guitar-shaped object" will do.  I'm not buying anything ambitious until I can back it up.  Okay, maybe a small practice amp, because that 9V battery thing the First-Act came with has gotta go.  Yeesh.

Big dreams... yes... I probably WON'T ever "grow up."  I've seen what that does to the people I work with, and I don't like it.  Yep... I'm approaching my mid-40's, and I still wanna start that high-school garage band.  That's me.  

That's all I'll share here; but, after all the bike talk, a brief taste of another of my interests was sorta fun.  I'm not always about the bike, no... but, I am always about the passion.

Cripes, I need to go see Marty Wall and Gary Charleson play, soon.

2013 has been one of the toughest, busiest years of my life.  I thought things would slow down, but, I guess I'm destined to always be a busy person.  I just can't sit still that long.  Some of it is a rampant inability to say "no" to certain things and people... some of it really is restlessness and creativity eeking to get out.  No complaints, but I wish I had more time for my brain.  (Thank you, Beck Hanson)

 I've come to grips with saying "no" to myself a little... things like the recent, "get-real-you-aren't-a-product-reviewer" post.  Do one thing... do it well.  Okay, maybe two things... The bike satisfies a LOT, mentally... but a lot physically, too.  The music helps fill a gap the bike hadn't been.  As far as the blog goes, yes... do one thing, do it well:  ride reports.

Music?  The guitar fits, and - biggest deal - it's FAR cheaper than electronic music -- time and money -- at least the way I'd WANT to get involved.  Sadly, too, it's FAR cheaper than drums:  even crappy cymbals can cost the same as an entry-level 6-string these days for cryin' out loud... forget that the wife isn't a fan of losing a whole room for even a small 5-pc. kit, AND her sanity.  (The house already has a trumpet and violin player!)  Guitar is the easiest way in - and I can pick it up, play it, and put it down without killing 4 hours (like at the computer trying to iron out ONE drum-n-bass track).

Riding?  Keeping it fun is paramount.... I don't see me stopping.  No sir... the coolest thing I can imagine?  Still?  That epic 1,200km goal.  Finishing a 600km again... getting "revenge" in Iowa...  Yeah, I suppose I've added Iowa's 600k to the same list Tejas lives on.   May have to dust off that list, too.  I loved riding up in Iowa, and July looks open.  Tejas...I dunno... yes:  I'm all rando, no doubt about it... but, so is "scary Gary", and HE did Tejas with his normal rando saddlebag mounted, because he forgot it was there.  If I DO go back, it'll be for the correct reasons.... not out of some feeling of obligation.  Going out and hitting the same bent-over nail with a hammer isn't going to teach me anything about myself that I don't already know.  Still... the "list" is big, as usual... but, I also want to do some smaller -- no less important -- riding goals, too:

The Dark Side Rides.... maybe just planning one, decent, annual event, like the Lenexa folks do, is enough?  Monthly?... that's proved tough in 2013.... and 2012..... but, if I get a route together, and start talking it up... why NOT?  

Same with the olde C'Dude ride... what happened?  My own goals got in the way... and yeah, one 200k a month is difficult enough when it's ONLY me and a couple others, but, filed under "paying it back," maybe putting on a local casual ride is something to consider, too?  Heck, maybe just volunteer at one of JCBC's annual pay rides at a SAG stop?  If my goal is REALLY to help build the rando scene in KC, I can't deny that the DSR and the c'Dude rides alike both introduced at least a few riders to rando.  What else am I gonna do with that can of pavement marking spray-paint in the garage, anyways?

So, for 2014, that's "me"... Passionate:  helping others, staying involved, staying active, getting focused on personal health and gains again, a return to playing something resembling music, building rando in KC, enjoying riding, giving back, volunteering.

I don't know how much more keyboard time I want eating up my vacation time from work, so that's it for now... the December Ride Report will be coming along, likely after the new year... so, until then:

Happy Holiday's and Happy New Year, y'all!  
Stay safe, stay warm, and stay seated until the ride comes to a complete stop.  


(ugh...ok, that was the Phish talking)

Thanks for reading!

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