Monday, December 31, 2007

Why I have three rear derailleurs

There were only four of us on a "training ride" three weeks back.  One guy was about the same level as me, the other two are really strong guys.  So as we're starting up another hill about an hour into the ride, I shift into the big ring to catch up and promptly drop my chain.  It fell off on the outside, towards my pedal.  I shifted back, hoping to pull my chain back onto the ring (it's worked a couple of times), but it didn't this time.  I felt the chain catch, or I should say lock up.  I tried to force it a bit (just a bit), and then I felt the whole bike lock up.  Fortunately, by this time, I had lost a considerable amount of momentum and the bike was almost to a stop.  The wet pavement helped me from doing further damage to my drivetrain.  I pulled over and noticed my rear derailleur in my rear spokes.  Not good, not good at all.  Worse, the other guys were over the hill and gone, and I didn't have anyone's phone number with me.  So I pulled over and tried to get the bike rideable.  Did I mention that it was cold, like mid-30's?  And windy?  And the sweat in my gear was starting to make me shiver?
I was about to call home and get my wife to come get me (it would have taken her an hour plus) when my ride mates came back over the hill looking for me.  Chris Moore was able to get me one gear, one stinking gear, but that was enough to ride on, and we took off.  My one gear was 53x13 or 14, I forget.  And the derailleur hanger was at a 45 degree angle, so the derailleur pulleys were out of alignment with the chain, meaning a huge amount of drag (Chris said it felt like 50 watts, I have no clue).  It felt very tall.  Well, we went back the next 16 miles to the shop.  The whole way I can't shift.  I can't accelerate worth a flip and I don't want to stop.  At the shop, the wrench (a guy I trust a great deal, despite his misdiagnosis) informs me that, now that he's worked the derailleur hanger back, the derailleur itself is bent.  Time for a new one.  Oh, new ones cost $100.  And it's right before Christmas and with six kids, I'm pretty much broke.  So much for finishing off those last 120 miles to get to 2500 for the year...  So I did what any other near-broke cyclist would do, I went to eBay.  I put the bike in the shop, it needed a new chain anyway, and I told the guy "I'll provide the derailleur and the hanger." I spent the rest of the week looking on eBay.  Meanwhile, another wrench at another shop who's a pretty good friend (I'd buy him lunch on his birthday kind of buddy) says, "Hey, maybe I can find something at home to help you out."  Of course, I'm impatient, so after a couple of days of no news from him, I found a nice Ultegra 9 sp rear der, which would work with my 10 speed system per Shimano, and I bought it the Friday before Christmas.  Then I wait and wait.  I bought it on a Friday.  The following Thursday, I ping the eBay seller.  No response.  I ping him again on Friday, he says "Your der is on its way."  Ouch, no way it will be here before the big ride on New Year's.  Sat night, my buddy at the shop says, I've got a better der, Dura Ace, and it's yours for $5 more than the eBay der, and it's ready tomorrow.  Rock and roll!  The eBay one will be a backup.  So I buy it, take it back to the shop my bike is waiting at (same franchise), and get everything set up.  I picked it up today, but the guy tells me that the "broken" der isn't really bent.  It must have been the hanger.  Dang it, I had that the whole time!  I ordered a spare when Joseph bent one last Summer.  Then I get home, and guess what's in my mailbox?  The eBay der!!  So now I have a 9 speed Ultegra, a 10 speed Ultegra, and a 9 speed Dura Ace, with the last one installed.  Yuck, now I have to go back to try to sell one to make back some change.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Prospero Año Neuvo

I don't know if you can tell, but I came very close to using some foul Spanish in the title for this post. Many years ago when I was a Youth Minister, I came to understand the difference between "Año" and "Ano." One means year, the other means anus. The Catholic Church was making a big deal about the year 2000 and there was a National Office that was created to promote all kinds of stuff for it. They called it a Jubilee year and everything that was written in English was also in Spanish. Unfortunately, they let something slip in a final press and had to recall thousands and thousands of Spanish pamphlets proclaiming the Jubilee for Anus 2000, or maybe it was the Jubilee of 2000 Anuses (Anii?). So fast forward a year, and I'm in Six Flags at their Holiday in the Park, and there's all these signs everywhere with Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in different languages, and there's this one in front of me with "Prospero Ano Neuvo!" Happy New Anus! I included it on all my Christmas Cards that year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I really want one of these

In the Netherlands, they are called bakfiets (bach-feets), the plural is bakfietsen. They are huge overseas. Check out this footage of them outside a local zoo.

I especially like all the child sized seatbelts. I don't know how these would play out here unless there emerged a real bike friendly trail system, but I would love to find out. Here's an example of how family-friendly they can be.

Sleeping babies, how cute!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Better than a Blog award!

Today I experienced an epiphany. I checked out Sitemeter and saw that I had a hit. Yes, I know, I'm so desperate for attention that I check out each hit on my blog, but that only proves my eventual point. The entry click for this hit was a Google search for "lame blogs." And yessir, this one came in third!!

Check it out for yourself.

I'm so proud. And I can't believe I'm so proud. It's a tribute to the insignificance of this blog. To all the little people who have never checked out my blog, thank you. Although you'll never know how much your missing this blog was so important to me, and you'll never know you missed it because you never saw it, your apathy and ignorance is a source of courage and inspiration for me.

Edit: *sniff, sniff* I guess the vagaries of Google are beyond the ken of mortals. I am now no longer #3 on the list, but #36. Maybe the very nature of lame-ness requires that you be ignorant of it. Sort of like those folks who are sooo cooool that they shop for plaid pants at thrift stores even though they pull down six figure salaries. If you are knowingly lame, you no longer qualify as lame, but have progressed beyond lame, straight past vaguely hip, around the corner from faddish, to sit down next to passé.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bike Lights

Ok, a while back I put up a post on riding in the dark. It is different than riding in the night, obviously. There are two points to consider. 1) Can drivers see me? and 2) Can I see the road enough to ride at a decent speed? The first point can be handled pretty inexpensively. I've got a Planet Bike Blinky Super Flash tail light and the dang thing is bright. It's not as bright as a Dinotte tail light, but it seems to do a good enough job. I even had a driver tell me at a stoplight that he liked the taillight that I had, and that was on a Saturday morning. It was cloudy, but it was between 11 and 11:30 am. If I had a spare $150, I'd get the Dinotte. Joey from Trinity Bicycles showed me one on his bike back this summer and the thing is bright. The pics from the bottom of their photo page that show a huge amount of red light look exactly like what I saw. But the Super Flash was $20 or so. Case closed. I guess if I were concerned that someone was going to hit me from behind, then I'd get the Dinotte. Yeah, the busiest part of my commute is a road that had a shoulder that's a whole lane wide. If I didn't have that, I'd spend for the Dinotte. Despite the high cost of living, it's still popular. You can handle the first question for headlights (Can drivers see me?) for relatively little cash as well. The Fredcast recommends that you actually have two lights for visibility, one flashing on your handlebars and one constant on your helmet. Folks can see that you are looking at them and respond quicker. The one for your head should probably be a relatively expensive one though, so you can use it to see the road better. I got a cheap Cateye LED for Joseph last month. I didn't realize how weak it was until I got it, but it will work as a flashing light just fine.
But for the second issue, can I see the road, you need to be prepared to spend the bucks. I originally got a NiteHawk Phoenix halogen light that had been sitting in the shop for three years. Since it had been sitting there for so long, it was marked down to 1/2 MSRP. I liked the brightness, the charger, and the setup on the bike. Unfortunately, the yellow light tended to get washed out at dusk, especially when there's cars passing by. On a dark night or on a trail, it's great though. So I ended up getting an early Christmas gift from my Pop, a NiteRider Minewt. It's the '07 model, not the one they sold last Spring. It throws the light a bit farther than the halogen and the light picks up contrasts a bit better. It also has three settings: high, low and flash; and the battery lasts longer. My commute is short enough that I don't worry about the Phoenix dying out, but on longer night rides, the 3 1/2 hour burn time is nice.
Last night I rode about 12 miles from the office to try to catch up with the bi-weekly night ride. I brought along both headlights, as I was worried that I might run through the Minewt's battery. I haven't ever had a light go out on me when I needed it, but I'm pretty good about making sure the things are charged up. I missed the ride and had to turn around and go home. So I got a chance to see how the lights worked at twilight, at dusk, and then after sunset. When there was enough light to see the road clearly, I had the Minewt on flash. It gave me the comfort I needed to approach intersections and basically let folks know I'm there. Eventually it got a bit darker and I had to go to the low beam. The high beam didn't help me see the road better, although you could see a difference between high and low, plus I wanted to be able to use it for the entire ride. Turning on the Phoenix didn't give me better vision at this point either. After I figured out that I had missed the ride and had turned back, it was after sunset. I started to head home. Unlike my normal commute, this was mostly through neighborhood streets with no defined shoulder instead of on a major road with a full lane of shoulder. The Super Flash was still adequate but the Minewt just didn't seem to throw out light far enough as I passed from block to block in mostly-darkness. After a couple of miles, I threw it on high. Then I turned on the Phoenix and noticed quite a difference. When I was riding down the major road with lots of light pollution (streetlights, car headlights), the halogen Phoenix was washed out. If I had the Minewt on low and turned the Phoenix on and off, there really wasn't a discernible difference, except at the far edges of the beam. I think this is primarily because most headlights and streetlights are halogens, so the light pollution from them washes out the halogen Phoenix. The LED light freqs thrown out by the Minewt are different enough to help me see up the road. But when there's not much light out at all, the Phoenix was a tad brighter. Using both gave me the best vision though. The Minewt threw the light out a bit farther and the light itself is easier to adjust, so it was tilted a bit further up than the Phoenix. I was planning on giving it to Joseph or to my Brother-in-law, but now it looks like I'm buying some more lights for Christmas for them. Maybe I'll buy them some different types and try them out first.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sherman named head coach - News

Sherman named head coach - News

I dunno. He's never been a head coach in college, so never been in charge of recruiting. And that's more than half of college coaching. He's been an NFL head coach, but never of a team that had a quarterback not named Brett Favre. Methinks that he might not be that much better than Fran. At least Fran had a great pedigree. And for 7 years at $1.8 million? I know that's what the head coach at a "major" team like A&M should be paid, but this guy seems like a reach. If he has a cheap buyout clause, then I'm on the bandwagon. Otherwise, I'm just kinda hanging here, waiting to see what the recruit class looks like and see what he puts on the field.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mike Huckabee, Chuck Norris approved

This is just freaking hilarious.

I don't really support Huckabee, I actually think all politicians are basically out for themselves instead of the betterment of the nation. But this, this makes me want to vote for him. This is just too much chutzpah to ignore.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Check this out

Just found this on accident and found it fascinating. It makes me think all about my own kids' experience with homeschooling.

So it seems that educational structures and objectives are totally skew with what college students experience or how they see the world.

H/T to Digital Edu. Like I said, I just stumbled upon it, no guarantees that this guy would approve of anything I say, or vice versa.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reunification, everybody's doing it

OK, for something different, a blog entry that has nothing to do with family or cycling...

I just read this about possible reunification between the Roman Catholic Church and elements of the Orthodox Church. Hat tip to Marcel at Mary's Aggies. I say "elements of" only because the Russian Orthodox (not the oldest or most prestigious, but certainly the largest) members walked out because there were reps from the Estonian Orthodox church there, and the Russians apparently look on the Estonians like the Chinese do the Taiwanese. It will be interesting to see if this sticks. Since the Orthodox church is "Autocephalous," meaning that the Patriarch of Serbia has no real authority over folks under the Patriarch of Romania, it remains to be seen if each Patriarch will have to independently agree to the document, although maybe they already did, the reports I've read aren't clear. I also did a bit of Googling and found an interview with the representative Bishop from the Russian Orthodox church where he makes it clear that he agrees with the primacy of the Patriarch of Rome (the Pope) but that it's a primacy of honor, not of jurisdiction. In other words, yup, he's the first, but not really in any meaningful way. It's like letting your older brother ride shotgun so he won't mess with you you in the back seat. It looks nice and all, but it's really not something all that meaningful. It might be a good start, or it might not go anywhere. There's also a CNS report out that has some interesting tidbits. The Russian Orthodox are saying "We weren't there, it might not count." And Cardinal Kaspar points out in a Vatican Radio interview that "I think it will need a whole decade." OK, something to pray for, but it doesn't look like anything's going to happen soon.

And it reminds me also of this, although this is a bit less autocephalous and a bit more "OK, now that we've got spit in the eye by the Episcopalian Church, we can see a bit more clearly. Please let us in your club."
Hat tips to Marcel (a buddy of mine from college), to the Shrine of the Holy Whapping (never met him), and to the Bovina Blovinator (never heard of them, but that's more about my ignorance than their importance).

Monday, November 12, 2007

It get too dark too early now

OK, so I'm walking out to the car after work. I had spandex on under my clothes and my bike in the trunk. It was between 5:30 to 5:40. Fortunately I had remembered to grab the battery for my head light before I left this morning. When I finally stepped off at nearly six pm, dusk had fallen. In fact, sunset was at 5:30, so dusk had not only fallen on his keister, but he was passed out on the median mumbling something about an old college flame. No problem, I thought. I've got my trusty 10w halogen headlight mounted on the handlebars. That with a blinky taillight will keep me visible. And those items did just that. Unfortunately I came to understand why my headlight was on clearance for $80 and why some folks will pay > $400 for a top flight HID system. I'm sure cars could see my headlight, but with all of the streetlights and headlights of traffic passing, I could barely see 15-20 feet in front of me. If it had been darker, then I would have done fine. But as it was, I needed more light to cut through the light pollution to really see the ground. It'll be fine for those night rides through the parks, but I think I need to spend a couple of hundred bucks to get me a dinotte or maybe a minewt dual. Then Joseph can put on my niterider and come meet me halfway or something.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"Doping in sports is a victimless crime"

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be so. This is troubling in that not only are innocent children the ones bearing the burden, but that the athletes probably didn't even know that they were taking PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs). Today's athletes are putting not only their own health at risk, but the health of their progeny if/when they dope.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Saturday ride

OK, there's more in my life than just cycling, but that seems to be one of the few things I feel OK blogging about. So it goes. Saturday morning I decide to take the plunge and go on the big shop ride, 55 miles. I remembered that Andy Hollinger has said that if he's there, no one will get dropped. I've done some other shop rides, 30-odd affairs, and I usually fall off after about 12-15 miles and make my own way home. This ride goes to a completely different part of Ft. Worth and a part that I don't know well enough to get back on my own. But I knew that I couldn't ride on Sunday (HS cycling league practice), or Monday (business trip) or Tuesday (conf call at 8 AM), so I wanted to get in some miles. Of course, I forgot my cell phone in the car, so I couldn't log the miles with bimactive. And I don't know the route, so I can't manually input it. So I get on this ride. I think I fell off the back four times. Once, they came to a stop light barely a hundred meters after I popped. Then I fell off again, but they turned away from the wind and got a little slope down, so it was no problem to get right back on. A third time I fell back and thought I would be waiting for Andy (who fell back miles before), but I think the group got held up by another light. The last time, I was riding on perhaps the worst chip-seal that I've ever ridden on. I don't mean that it was broken up in semi-potholes. I mean that it was without blemish, except for the chip seal itself was so bad it was like the road had some sort of skin disease. And there was a hill, and I was tired, and, oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the chipseal was all kinds of nasty. One of the better riders, Colt Bates, came back and rode with me up the last few hills. Quite an encourager. I never really rotated through with anyone, just stayed in the back and took what draft I could. I did jump at the end, but after a short rally I popped and sharked back to the back of the pack. I still finished with the pack though. I think I'm getting an idea of what my strengths and weaknesses are. Of course, like everyone else, I hate hills, but on long low-grade climbs, I think I have an advantage. Being 250, I don't have to get up out of the seat to really mash down with power, so lots of hills where other guys are standing up, I'm motoring past still in my seat and not putting in that much effort. And on the other side of the hill, I can totally tear up most smaller riders. I need to work on steeper hills, longer high HR efforts, and maybe learn to sprint in there somewhere.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wed Night ride

Wow, that was fun. I rode the TBi night ride last night. It starts at 6 pm, so it's not that dark for the first hour or so. Much of the ride is on trails through parks, and the intent is to have a fun ride, not train for this weekend's race, so the pace is quite a bit easier than the Tuesday/Thursday rides. Lot's of guys ride with their wives, which is a welcome addition. I was jealous that I wasn't able to bring my own. She told me, she's only a bike purchase and a babysitter for six away from joining me. I think she'd rock. Anyway, the ride requires lights. Lots of folks have gotten nice LED's or HID lights. My 10w Halogen looked teensy by comparison. But it did the job. Maybe I will upgrade later. I was surprised by the performance that one guy got out of some Princeton Tec lights. Those guys are only $30 or so. Of course, he had 2 on his bike and one on his helmet, but they seemed to be bright enough, and they had that blue tint that seems to make things easier to see. Hmmm... I think I have an idea for a Christmas list. You can see the ride on my cycling blog. I don't know how often I can ride these. It was a rough night of solo parenting for Kim. Maybe every other week or so?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Reunion or Re-Onion?

This upcoming weekend is my 20th HS reunion. Scary stuff. The website that they have set up is really pretty good. It has a nice combination of "Did I look like that?" pictures, complete with yours truly sporting a Coors Light can (Coors, it's not even real beer, is it?) combined with "Where I am now," posts and "Look at my kids" pictures. I think it really whets everyone's appetite for the big shin-dig on Saturday night. I guess the biggest downer for me is all the folks who are divorced. Very rarely is it a good ending, usually it's a bad thing, especially with kids. I guess some might see it as making the best of a bad situation, but it hurts to see folks that I grew up with divorced, and so many of them. I just am one of those that sees marriage as a forever thing. From my folks closing arguments in a big fight ("Well, it's too bad, you're stuck with me!" with a big, broad smile, soon followed by apologies and a kiss) to the my understanding of the Catholic Sacramental model of Marriage (Bam! Kapow! Abra Kadabra, the two are now ONE!!!) to my own twisted home-grown, amateur-theologian understanding of marriage as a life-long object lesson on the love and passion of Christ for His Bride, the Church, it's always a one-way street. You can see it in the language. You get married, meaning that you undergo a change. You don't say, "I'm going to get eating," or "I'm going to get watching a football game." Those are just events in your life, you don't stay in that state forever. It's more like "I am going to get tattooed," or "I am going to get in shape." Marriage is a change of who and what you are. You stay that way until God pulls you apart by killing one of you. OK, maybe others won't agree (maybe I'm too post-modern to stand firmer on this). But all I've ever known about marriage is that it happens once and you stick to it forever. And that has brought such purpose to my life. I am still totally in love with my wife after 14 years of marriage. I have to be honest, I think I'm more in awe of her now than when we first got hitched. I heard a guy quoted on the radio saying "The fact that I get to wake up next to her each morning has got to be the best scam I have ever been a part of..." So maybe I got really really lucky, or married above my station, but I'm not married to her still because it feels right, but because it just is right.
So, lot's of folks from my class are divorced, and somehow that hurts me. Maybe it hurts because it makes my marriage seem not as important somehow, or that other folks don't cherish it the way I do. Maybe it's because it's folks who I grew up with, from my hometown, who in some way have lived life much the same as I have. I dunno. I do want to hug my wife right now. Maybe I just want it to reassure myself that she's still mine, or that I'm still a good husband. Grace just doesn't sit well with us, does it? Almost as bad as sin.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Night Riding

It's getting darker earlier now. I heard that our regular Tuesday - Thursday shop ride will be phasing out this week due to dusk coming earlier and earlier. Shame that Joseph and I are just now getting tuned in. The alternate to it is laps at Texas Motor Speedway, ok for me but a hoof for Joseph. So today, due to a class that I had at 8 am at work, I had to get up at the butt crack of dawn and ride in the dark. I have a nice set of lights, a 10W halogen front light and a super blinky back light, but I still felt like I was taking my life in my hands when I pedaled off today. It wasn't that early, say 6:30 or so. Dawn was right around 7, so the last couple of miles I turned off my headlight. I think I'll be doing it again tomorrow and for the rest of the winter. I guess I better get used to it. There's also going to be a night ride starting at the shop sometime soon, maybe in a month or two. That's supposed to be a blast. Kinda slow compared to the regular ride and you need lights, but it's supposed to be the funnest ride out there. Maybe I can find a used set of lights for Joseph, maybe even Emily could keep up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

There's all kinds of good in this world

I read a story on CNN that shows me what evangelism could be, maybe what it should be. A little Iraqi boy was disfigured by some nasties last January who poured gasoline over him and lit him on fire. The father goes to the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the parliament to see what help he can find for his boy, but to no avail. He finds some reporters from CNN and 12,000 viewers donate to a special fund set up at the Children's Burn Foundation. He's here now in the states to get medical treatment, and as a bonus, he gets to see the beach in Malibu. While there, some folks from a local church are there on a Father-child beach trip. They see him, approach the interpreter, and ask if they can pray for him. The Iraqi family accepts and the church folks get down on their knees in the sand and surround the family, praying for healing and support. They even pray for forgiveness for the folks who injured this child. That's evangelism. We need to send folks over to Iraq to get on their knees in the sand and pray. I'm not a leftie or a fundie, and I think we're stuck in Iraq until they are ready to hold their own, but I think we need more missionaries there.
By the way, the CNN article identifies the church as Valley Peak, but it's almost certainly the Church at Rocky Peak. It's in the same town that the article mentions and there was a Father - child beach event there last Sunday.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mark Shea falls victim to the disease that he's diagnosing

So I check Mark Shea's blog daily. OK, several times a day. He's got great stuff and I appreciate his sense of humor. In fact, I get a bit bummed when he doesn't have the time to post. He reads a ton on the 'net and lots of folks email him stuff so his site is a great nexus. He posted a nice article from today that he wrote. On this article, I have a point of contention though. In order to point out how biased the media is about Pope Benedict XVI, he did a number of Google searches about him, like "Benedict XVI" rigid, and recorded the number of hits. So if lot's of folks think Pope B XVI is a rigid sort of guy, then there would be lots of hits. One problem, he did this for Google, so that's the entire Internet, not just what the LA Times or NY Post think of him. It's all the random left wing bloggers, all the whacked-out Fundies who think Jack Chick has a true vision, and all the random pages with lists of search terms hoping to catch traffic. All it would have taken would be to click the "News" link on the top of the Google search page to get an idea of how often that set of words was used by media types. Of course, the numbers given would have been much smaller, but a true indication of how prevalent those terms are used by the media, not the 'net. OK, I think I've beat the Internet <> Media drum. There's another issue that I have with this. He never gives those numbers any context by comparing them to searches that would be considered kind. So, no listing of how many hits "Benedict XVI" loving would show. In fact, that search gave more hits than the top one on his list. So going by the logic that he presents, there's more a feeling that the Pope is loving among the media than a feeling that he is rigid, more than he's "cracking down" on anything, in fact. Clicking on the "News" link here again gives a similar ratio of hits, although the numbers are much less impressive.
So what's the point? Isn't it OK for Mark to take a bit of license? I mean, I'm saying that the ratios don't change when we go from searching the whole 'net versus searching news articles, so he's not really twisting anything or presenting false info, right?
OK, technically, he's not lying or anything, but the gist of his article is about how unbelievably dumb the media is about religion. His reason? "
They huddle together in packs, quoting each other and loading up their computers with macros that spit out the required text without their having to fire a single neuron to write it." Uhm, Mark, isn't that what you kinda-sorta did here? You took some Google hit numbers out of context, and they were the wrong numbers, by the way, and then said that they proved something that they didn't prove. I agree totally with the rest of your article, but using the Google examples as support only weakens your point and shows you as guilty of the very same slovenly approach to information that you are accusing the media of taking.
I wrote him an email about it, don't know if he'll respond. Busy guy that Mark. I pray he's really, really busy, doing things that bring him mucho $$ and that the Providence of God is shown again in his life.

PS. I didn't know that this would get picked up by Technorati. My apologies if this seems a bit mean. I have the utmost regard for Mark. I even tipped him (too bad I'm a lousy tipper).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Moving Sucks

We moved last week. Saturday, August 25th, I was in the attic pulling down old Christmas and Easter decorations and had just come inside for a drink when someone called about Ivan's death the night before. It hit Kim hard. It still does. I don't think that other team member's death would have have hit the whole team that hard. Because Ivan was so distant from his father, he belonged to all of us in a sense. A half-dozen people helped Tom put Ivan's bike together, donating parts and labor. Ivan was the boy becoming a man before our eyes. So packing on Saturday seemed pointless. Sunday night there was a ride for Ivan, four laps around the local Jr. College. They passed a hat and raised about 2 grand. I only came to work on Tuesday of last week, spending the rest of the time trying to pack and trying to cope. Wednesday night there was the last weekly crit for our team. All of the proceeds went to Ivan's memory. Some folks donated extra prize money. Normally the A race will return say $50-$60, but folks donated $400, with another $200 for the B race. That got people's attention. So many riders came up and said, "Hey, instead of racing against each other for the prize money that we'll probably donate back, let's race together." Half of the racers wore TBi jerseys and did exactly that. Every prime, and almost every place was won by someone wearing the new jerseys. And you don't usually see that many TBi jerseys in the A race to begin with. Very nice.
Thursday really hurt. Andy Hollinger had asked me to prepare a short prayer, just in case Ivan's pastor was late, so I did. The pastor was there on time though. The kids were over at Grandma's so we were packing like crazy until an hour or so beforehand. Kim got there late with Joseph and Emily. The service was simple: Andy said a few words, Ivan's pastor said a few words and led us in prayer. Then Andy asked for folks to talk about their memories of Ivan. Andy finished by reading some letters that Tom and Bobbye had written about Ivan, and then Lauren Hollinger and Randy Wallis sang Amazing Grace and that was that. It really sank in after that for Joseph. Lots of tears. We took Emily back to Grandma's but Joseph came home with us. He needed to be with us.
So not enough time. Not enough time to move, not enough time to pull ourselves gradually away from our friends on Finian Lane, or the schools. Not enough time to fully grieve for Ivan who did not live long enough for us to know him as well as I wish we could have. I know that Ivan has all of time now. And I don't feel that he's missing out. He's in heaven, and all the earthly joys that we might think he's "missing," going to and finishing school, getting married, having kids, they are but shadows of the joy in the presence of God. They are but smoke, scattered by the wind in comparison to spending eternity with the Almighty. I just wish I had taken more time, been more direct with Ivan, and been further enriched by that.
One story that didn't make the paper: Ivan ran cross country. One girl came up after the service and spoke with Tom. She said that she had also ran CC, and that no one would run with her except Ivan when she was recovering from an injury. When she raced, Ivan would run along the sidelines, encouraging her with a small stuffed monkey that was the team mascot for the entire race. She gave that monkey to Tom. Ivan was that encourager to many. I told Joseph that he needed to be that encourager now.

We're IN!!

We officially closed on our new house on Friday, August 31st. For those of you keeping count, that means that we were one calendar month from putting a sign up on our old house to closing on our new house. All in all, it was probably too fast. We got a total of one offer for our house. We looked at a total of one house in that month. It was one that we had looked at online for a while. This still scares the crud out of me. OK, the house is just right. It's not a Hampton's Mansion, but it's huge compared to anything I've ever lived in. I'm intimidated by the price. Our mortgage payment roughly doubled. That means that all of the times I would buy "little things" that at Bicycles Inc. are going to be gone. Instead of just buying basically what I want when I want, I'm going to have to budget stuff. Yuck. Christmas will be a bit rougher this year. Hopefully stuff will even out next year. I think the annual bonus in March will go straight to the mortgage. No fun.
This house also has stairs. Good and bad. Stairs means that the A/C (two units) will be a bit more efficient because there's more cubic space to surface area. Stairs means an extra floor with extra room. Stairs means that the kids can be sent upstairs to their room and you can't hear them ranting. Stairs also means that little girls can fall down them. Stairs also means that big, fat Dads can twist their bad knee with impunity when moving stuff upstairs. Stairs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Goodbye Ivan

I lost a friend this weekend. Ivan Mukasa was part of my son's Jr. cycling team. He turned 18 last April and was someone that Joseph really looked up to. Ivan had a cruddy home life, beyond the usual "Dad and Son don't see eye-to-eye." Let's just say that I took Ivan on several out of town trips to various locations in TX and never met a parent at any race. Everything I've heard suggests that abuse was involved. Ivan was a very kind young man, soft spoken and polite, as well as fast. Rarely will an 18 year old choose to spend time with 12 year old boys, but Ivan never complained about bad jokes or loud voices on any of our long car rides. He always had a kind word for another racer no matter how they finished. He was also a State Champion. Ivan had finally prevailed against his past. He had graduated high school, gotten a green card, and received a cycling scholarship to MidWestern State University in Wichita Falls, TX. He was staying in the overflow housing at an apartment complex the weekend before classes started when he was found in the bottom of a swimming pool Friday night. Foul play is not being considered but there aren't any other details available. I still can't fathom that he's really gone. Like everyone else, I expect to see him riding around the corner any minute.
The grief is strong, not because his life was cut short. He lives a fullness with God now that the best parts of this life only point to. He has completed his final race and now stands a Champion. I pray that he will be carried swiftly to Paradise and that he will intercede for my family, especially Joseph. Ivan over the last few months had really come out of his shell and developed a role as a mentor for some of the younger riders. He mentioned to them that there were other riders who might think that they are too fast to ride with these kids, but that he thought that it was vitally important that he pass on all the experience that he could. I think that he just enjoyed the opportunity to be a kid. Joseph broke my heart in detailing the loss of Ivan. "Besides John, he's probably the only guy on the team who understands me." Tough to hear from a twelve year old. Kim cried as much or more than any of us.
Some things I will always remember about Ivan: his goofy Ugandan accent and big open laugh, the time he heard an announcer talking about primes and use the words "last lap," so he and another racer pushed hard for one more lap and finished the race two laps early, seeing him come around the final bend in perfect position for the State Championship RR last year and surprising everyone by getting fourth, seeing him cross the line 1st in this year's State Championship RR, leaving everyone behind with his powerful sprint. The next night, we went to grab some chow on the way home. We stopped at a Long John Silver's and Ivan noticed a Church's chicken next door. He met us at the Long John's with a ten piece box of chicken. Tom wouldn't let him eat fried chicken and he missed it so much. His consuming of that chicken was punctuated with long, this-is-really-good-food sighs. I will also remember seeing him about a week ago. We were just starting the Sunday afternoon ride and he came up behind me and placed his open palm on my back and stayed there for about twenty seconds. Then I looked over, he flashed his biggest smile, said "Hey Mr. Bull," and rode on ahead. Someday I'll catch up with you Ivan.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Goood Catholic Families

Last week I was on a business trip and mentioned to a car full of associates that we have six kids. Jaws dropped, eyes widened, air was gasped, the usual. Someone else in the car mentioned growing up with all the "good Catholic families" in their neighborhood having six, seven, or eight kids. A couple of folks mentioned that they or their spouses were Catholic. I didn't mention that I was Catholic, just that I married far above my station (true fact) and that my wife is a saint (so far, so good). I only have one sibling, a sister 19 months younger. We were never really close, so I would often ask my Mom and Dad to have some more kids, hopefully better ones, ones not as "bratty and spoiled," as I saw my sister. Mom would tell me many times that she would have loved to have had more, and then make some excuse as to why she stopped at two. I didn't know until my wife was pregnant that my Mom had gone through tremendous complications to have me and my sister. A high forceps delivery, internal tearing of muscles that I don't feel comfortable mentioning, a baby having emergency surgery at 28 days old to repair an unknown life-threatening birth defect, the death of her father five days before I was born and the mixture of emotions that I would never know him or his abusive tendencies. We have some friends who just had their fourth this year, and that pregnancy nearly killed the mom. She had her tubes tied and plenty else removed shortly later. These are faith-filled Catholics who know that the stroke that came with this child was God's way of saying "that's plenty." The issues my Mom dealt with were God's way of saying "that's plenty." I have a dear friend who has shared in his wife's pain of six miscarriages and no living children. They've given up on asking again for a child. And then I read this really beautiful piece on Good Catholic Families. Thanks Karen. I really need to remember these kinds of things. I take too much pride in the fact that God has blessed us with a vision of many children and then followed it up with no complications. But Good Catholic is as Good Catholic Does, not how many trophies they accumulate. My Mom and Dad having two was faithful and prudent and open and holy.

House for sale! No more!

OK, so we've got six kids, four bedrooms, and two bathrooms. That means two kids per room (not as bad as it sounds). And it means that all of them share one bathroom. Not a tremendous obstacle right now, but our oldest will be 13 in October and the next one is 10 and of a different gender. This projects as major conflict on the horizon. We will potentially have three teenagers using the same bathroom, sharing it with three younger kids. Not good. So the house went up for sale on July 31st, just before we left for vacation. On Monday after we got back, we got a call from our Realtor, Loyce Shirley. She said we had an offer on the table that was just what we were looking for. Basically list price and an extra thousand back for their closing. Zowie. I thought we had another month or so and that the offer would be for 3 to 5 thousand less. So then we have to find a place, and a home that I had looked at 8 MONTHS AGO and longed for and said "why am I looking at this on the internet, it will not be available when I can buy it," still had a For Sale sign up in its yard. We went over to see it and it's perfect. Upstairs might need a bit of updating, but downstairs is so much more than we could have dreamed. And it's got 5 BR and 3 bath. And it's 12k cheaper than it was in January. So we close on our home this week, maybe next, and we buy the new house just after Labor Day. It's only a couple of miles from our house right now so we can still see all our friends. So either God was up there tapping his watch saying "Uhm, Bull, let's get your house on the market so I can show you some tangible gifts" or it's like when Israel kept begging Samuel to have God send them a king. Finally God responded and gave them Saul. They got what they asked for, even when their asking was an act of unbelief, and the results were not what they wanted. Lord, sanctify my very asking. Help me to want that which you want.

Babies like the Elms

OK, so there's a couple more stories about Vacation... Sunday we went to the San Jacinto Monument. It's tucked in the middle of all kinds of factories and plants that make things like olefins and random smelly plastics. The park is beautiful, however. Plenty of trees block the view of all the gunk around it. And the monument is the monument. Pretty much the same as when I visited it as a 3rd grader on a field trip. The Battleship Texas is also there and it looks much better than I remember it. Not as much of it is open but what's there looks great.
Then on the way back we had a spate of dueling crying babies. We knew that stopping would calm them down only temporarily so we soldiered on. No amount of singing or holding-while-still-in-baby-straps would help. Finally we thought "let's try the CD player." The song on was by a band named The Elms, the song was Hey Hey! and the line of the song was "Yeah, hey, hey I! Hey, hey I…Should’ve tried - tried this sooner. Tried this sooner." And that was that, they both conked out before the line finished and slept the rest of the way. Needless to say we did not change the CD until after we got home. Our babies like the Elms.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Ahhh... We just got back from our vacation Sunday night. It was very restful. We spent Monday cleaning up the house and getting in order to show. We have too many kids for that house and we need a bigger one. So on Sunday night, we had a realtor over to sign the paperwork to put it on the market. Loyce Shirley. Nice gal. Smart and experienced. We had talked to another realtor and while there was nothing wrong with her, it just didn't feel right, so I called Loyce. Glad I did, but more on that later. So we get up on Tuesday and start to pack, get out of the house around 1 or 2 and head off to Nacogdoches, TX. Affectionately referred to as Naco-Nowhere. My Aunt and Uncle built a house there (by themselves, no builder) after they took early retirement. I love being there. My cell phone doesn't work, there's about 8 acres, no one else around, no shops, lots of grass and trees and mud. Heck, the room we slept in doesn't have windows. Kim slept in until 10! The kids love it there, the babies were just glad to get out of their car seats and enjoy some room. Wednesday we drove down to Houston after having lunch with my cousin Josh and his wife Ashley and their new boy Will. He's about a month older than my youngest but he's built like a truck. Thursday I drove to the other side of Houston for work stuff. I don't know that I got that much work done, but I think I really laid the foundation for stuff I'm doing this week and beyond. It always helps to be able to meet and greet. Friday we just sat around. The weekend was jam packed and I'll post that separately. All in all, a great time. Too much time driving though. My back hurt all day Monday and the babies cried off and on. Next time we'll space out our driving a bit more.

Monday, July 23, 2007

State Championships

This past weekend, Texas had their Age-Based State Championships, the road and crit. Joseph was in the 13-14 group in both of them. On Saturday, we got up early and met with three other juniors from the team to trek out to a little town south of Tyler. Ivan Mukasa was entered in the 17-18 race and Joseph, John Ryan, and Redding Shelby were entered into the 13-14 race. The race course is dominated by the double hill that locals call "Killer." After a rigorous ascent, it flattens out a bit before it seems to go straight up. No, it's not as long as Cherry Pie, and in that, it doesn't kill you quite the same way. It crushes quadriceps with its stiff grade.
Joseph was not looking forward to the race that morning. I think he wavers back and forth about how much he enjoys cycling, which is completely par for a near-13 year-old. I'm similar in that I want him to enjoy it for it's own merits, not to please me, and yet I also hope that it will be something that we can share for the next few decades, father and son. So there's also the typical teenager hi jinx going on, the guys are talking about cycling and the competition and Harry Potter. Joseph got the new book that morning and started reading it on the trip. He finished it around 11 pm that night, by the way. I think he was looking to be distracted. He just knew it was going to be a hard day.
So we get there and set up. Ivan's race is first with the other boys all racing shortly after. I missed Ivan's start while catching up with other parents. Joseph's start was a bit off-kilter, he was in his small ring, bent over and almost sprinting to keep in the pack. I think he put too much pressure on himself. Then I went over and got a water bottle and a gel for Ivan, he had two 24 mile laps and I wanted to offer him a feed. It was hot, very hot. Baking oven, sweat dripping off your head into your glasses hot. But I realized that if Joseph didn't have any shade, I should stay out in the sun until he finished. Ivan came by and took on a gel, he was in a good position with a break of 4-5 guys. Then the 13-14 winner comes in, Michael Pincus from Pearland. I had been talking to his dad because Pearland is right next to Friendswood, my hometown. My folks live on the border between those two towns now. Michael ran away with his class. Redding was second a couple of minutes behind. John was third. Then came the rest of the finishers, one after another. At this age, the kids aren't keeping together like the "peleton" of older folks. They vary a great deal in skill and conditioning until after puberty hits for all of them. So the waiting began. And it went on for quite a while. I think Joseph finally came in over an hour and a half after starting. Not too far from two hours. I was there waiting for him and gave him a hug just over the line. He was crushed, probably embarrassed. It just wasn't his day. Last year he had done great things on this course, but that day, well, he just didn't have enough that day, and it hurt. They had already posted the results instead of waiting for him, so his name wasn't on the list. I could tell that hurt him. On a nicer note, Ivan hung with the lead group until the bottom of the last hill, then pulled away and won. He's the State Champion! When we were about to leave, Ivan was getting his State Championship Jersey and I heard an official reading off Joseph's name. He had come back to add it to the list. Thanks Steve. I know you did it because you wanted to have complete results, but you made a 12 year-old's day. I pointed out to Joseph that if he sticks with it for another 10 - 20 years, he might still be getting 8th place, but that will be 8th out of 50 riders, not 8th of 8. Most of the guys out here are really, really good.
That night we stayed in Jacksonville, TX (population maybe 15k). Not the nicest hotel, but we were able to enjoy the swimming pool and watch some cable TV. I think the time to decompress was good for Joseph. All the guys were in bed, asleep when Joseph finished Harry Potter.
Sunday we got up and trucked on down to Lufkin for the next State Championships, the crits. I had planned on visiting my Aunt and Uncle in Nacogdoches on the way, but Ivan's race started at 10:20, so we had to skip out on them. I forgot to call and inform them of this and they stayed in Nacogdoches waiting for us and missed Joseph's race (Sorry Uncle Bill, that was my mistake). Joseph, Redding, and I rode our bikes over to a Lufkin BK for breakfast, I wonder how many folks cycle downtown Lufkin? In the 17-18 yr-old race, Ivan thought that the guy off the front would get caught, but nobody worked to bring him back. One guy got impatient and bridged up and that was it, Ivan was caught with the pack. He ended up in fifth.
After that, I was working with Joseph on cornering and speed. I pointed out that Redding was faster than Joseph, let him go. In the same vein, let Michael Pincus go, he was faster than everyone in the race. And then there was Noah Williams, who placed 4th at Nationals and whose dad is a professional cycling coach. Don't pretend that you're faster yet. But there were three other riders in the race. One looked younger and, forgive me, like he had eaten too many cupcakes. The other was younger and someone that he had ridden a rally with a year ago. That's two racers that he would probably beat. Then there was a late entry girl who didn't normally race but realized that she would get a State Champion's jersey just for finishing. Joseph raced hard. He got lapped twice by Michael Pincus, who lapped everyone. He got lapped by Redding. He got lapped by Noah, but he came back against Noah while he was napping and made up some ground before Noah spotted him, and, surprised by Joseph's resolve, had to work to extend his lead.
Joseph got fourth out of seven, nearly lapping the last three competitors. Joseph's not on the same level as Michael, Redding, or Noah, but he's still got something. And I think he understands that a bit better after yesterday. I told him that I was proud of him, and I don't use that word with my kids. I tell them how pleased I am with them, how excited I am with their performance, how much I love them and all, but proud, that's something I reserve. And I was proud, I am proud.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mark Shea set's 'em straight

Mark Shea can sound bafflingly pompous on his podcasts but his words always speak Charity. I go to his blog daily when I can. He's got an article in the Seattle paper on the newest Church Document that's causing such a riff in the press. There is a specific irony to the folks outside the Church by choice who object the idea that they are outside the Church, or that the Church says "Hey, y'all know y'all are outside, right?" There's even more irony in that folks are offended that Church is sure that She's the Church. Somehow a church who's a bit less sure would be more palatable. Who wants to join a Church that *doesn't* know all the answers? It's reminds me of a cartoon of a preacher who ends all his sermons with "Well, what do I know?" Not very reassuring.

Official Results

I know, it's the equivalent of pulling out pictures of my kids, but I said I would post results, so I'm posting results. It's not like anyone really reads this anyway.

From the 11th.
From the 18th.

Expect more results from this weekend. We'll see how he fares. Pre-registration is light, but it's always light. Hopefully Joseph will get a chance to catch up with Chris Breeding. We rode the Space Race tour together in April '06 and his older brother is registered for the race. So far, I'm taking Joseph and Ivan, another Jr. racer on Joseph's team. I'm also staying over for Sunday's race with those guys and with another Jr. racer named Redding. I might have to take a fourth, looks like I'm headed over to Bicycles, Inc. to get a hitch rack for four bikes.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

This Week's Crit race

Joseph got third this week. One of the 16 year-old ringers from Stephenville came up and routed the field. It was windy, really windy. Joseph, being the oldest of six, decides that he needs to be the one that takes the brunt of it for a teammate. The teammate then spanks him on the final sprint. Ahhh, Joseph, hopefully this is a lesson. This weekend is a real doozy. Let's get ready. It's the State Championships, not to be confused with the State Championships in May, or the one in June, or the one in August. The one in May was a category-based criterium (a course < 2 miles that may have one lap or more, advertised as x0 minutes). The one in June was a Category based road race, advertised as XX miles. This weekend are the age-based road race and crits. Categories don't have ages attached, they are just based on experience and success, so you start as a Category 5 and work your way up. Joseph and I are in the same Category. Age-based is like it sounds. The course is one that Joseph raced last year and did OK. He wimped out on the hill, then finally finished it, then raced down the last 8 miles to catch fourth place at the line. He passed the guy in front of him literally about 300 meters from the finish, prompting a "Where did he come from?" Hopefully he will be able to build on previous victories and do well. "Do well," means top 5 in his age group, maybe top 8 depending on his competition. Sounds like a great weekend!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Boy Did It!

For the first time, my oldest son got a first place in a bicycle race. Yes, it was only the local weekly crit. Yes, it was the Jr. race. Yes, the 16 yr-old ringers from Stephenville who normally place 1-2 stayed home. Yes, he was the oldest Jr. out there still in the Jr. race and not in the C race. But he won. He won fair and square. He won convincingly. He rode off the front and nobody could catch him. No, he's not ready to go overseas and ride in the Tour de France, or even win an average TX weekend bike race, but he's really making progress this summer and I'm overjoyed to see that. Depending on who he gets set up with, he has an outside shot at a State Champion's Jersey for the Team Time Trial next month.
The best part, he doesn't have a dejected, moping, "At least I wasn't last this time" attitude. He also can track back his victory to the work that he's been putting in lately, as well as the fact that he actually fueled himself properly. Hopefully this carries over to other races. Just that it gives him a vision of what success looks and tastes like. I'll post the link for the official standings when they get set up.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

EPO, Te Quero!

OK, nobody but will understand this, but it's really funny. Even if you don't quite get all the French.

Performance Bike SOLD!

Forgive me fellow cyclist, for I have sinned. I have sinned against you and every other person who has ever given their local bicycle shop (LBS) their patronage. I went, and bought from, Performance Bicycle. Not just through the anonymity of the internet, with plain brown boxes arriving at my door, but I actually drove across town to their new shop in Dallas, walked around, and knowingly, willingly, purchased gear. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
I told myself "I blew a tire and my LBS doesn't stock Vredesteins. I have to go there." I reasoned, "With this $20 off coupon and the fact that it's a grand opening, I could save a ton of money." I consoled myself with, "Some of this stuff has got to be a loss leader, they will lose money on that. I'm actually helping my LBS." But in the end, $115 if my hard-earned credit is now owned by Performance Bike, actually Bitech, now North Castle Partners. And all I have to show for it is four Panaracer tires, three tubes, two cans of GU20, a set of skewers, two Michelin 16" tires for my 6 year-old, and two spare tubes for said 16" tires. DANG!! Yup, that was a haul of gear for the $$.
So now Performance Bike has been sold to some big equity firm. Someone told me that they also owned Nashbar and a trip to ICANN proved it. Both ip's track back to the same company. Someone posted a bunch of the online news about the buyout here. I guess it's OK news. The knock on online places like Nashbar, Performance, and PricePoint (which has more holes but better deals) is that they don't have a local presence. The knock on Performance Bikes shops, which I've also extended to REI, is that they don't support local racing or clubs. They want to sell you a bike, shake your hand, and let you walk away. You may come back, you may not. An LBS wants you to come back again. Maybe for an upgrade or a repair, maybe for more gear, maybe for a bike for your kid or with a friend. They want you to know all the folks who work there and they want you to recommend them to friends. But let's be honest, both Performance Bike and the LBS want to make money. Both want to pay their bills and feed their kids. The crucial difference I think is this. Most every LBS started with a guy who raced and burned out or hit a ceiling and said "what do I do now?" With the only skills they had being with bikes, they went to work in a shop and then one day, opened their own. So they want to pay bills and feed kids and race you. One day they want to pull on a jersey and lead out someone to victory or cross the duct-tape first.
So next paycheck, I'm going to go down and support someone's dream. I'm off to my LBS to plop down some dough there. Maybe $120 worth of penance will be enough.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I forgot how I came across this guy. Maybe it was on the forums, maybe it was something from 1lesscar or something like that. This guy, Matt Young, was doing 3000 miles in one month on his bike to raise $$ for Cystic Fibrosis research. He's got a girlfriend who has it. Turns out that he's an Aggie. Sweet. I go to his blog. Turns out he's going from Seattle, WA to right here in Ft. Worth. Sweet. Another reason to support him. Being my narcissistic self, I'm thinking I might know this guy from being the Vastly Popular Youth Minister that I was. OK, maybe not Vastly Popular, maybe just Mildly Recognizable. Then I click on his donate button and I see the names of the folks that are donating and I recognize a couple from my church. Maybe I do know this guy. Then he puts on his blog an open invite to come ride the last 50 miles into town with him. I'm interested. Then someone from TBI, my cycling club/team posts on our forum, hey, let's do this. So I get up at 4:30 Sunday AM to get to Sundance Square to meet the other folks from the team and travel out to Mineral Wells to ride in with him. I walk up to the guy and his GF says "Hey, I know you, I go to St. John's. Thanks so much for being here." Wow. Small world. And right then, I did feel small somehow. That's probably a good thing.
The ride was fine, I was not near the match for the hills that Matt or Bob Rowell (TBI guy) were. There was another TBI guy, Gerry, who I've ridden tons with, and a tri-athlete gal from A&M (Cheryl). Most of the ride was on Hwy 180 from Mineral Wells into Weatherford and the rest on the I-20 frontage road. The road was rough in places but virtually traffic-free. Matt and Bob and I opened it up after another cyclist turned in front of us near Aledo. That's when I bent a tooth on my big chain ring. Don't really remember how, I think I hit a pot hole the diameter of a coffee cup. Maybe I kicked something up? Anyway, my chain ended up wrapping back on itself in a curly-q twice. The chain locked up on me. Weird. After a three minute mechanical break we were on our way. Then, after Matt doesn't have a single flat in his 3000 miles, I get one in Ft. Worth. I have Vredestein tires pumped up to ~ 145 PSI, which is a lot. It wasn't a hiss, it was a gunshot. That was when Amanda, the GF, the reason that Matt was riding, gets out her bike and rides in the last few miles with us. It was nice. There was a bunch of Matt's and Amanda's friends and family waiting for us when we arrived. Plenty of cheering, balloons, and more cameras than I could count. There was even a bit of coverage on the local news that night. You can hear some folks from our church exclaiming quite surprisedly "Bull!" as we finished. I was just as surprised to see someone I knew there. But I guess that comes with being Mildly Recognizable.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Past Weekend, part II

OK, so I said there was more.

4) I was personally saddened by the loss of Elesha Debenport last week. Elesha was 5 and the daughter of Tony, who I was in the Corps with back at A&M. Yeah, only one semester, but enough. I hadn't been in touch but came across an article about her condition in the local paper. They had a caringbridge site set up to keep folks informed. She had been cleared late last year but the cancer came back and came back aggresively. Tony had prayed to have Elesha at his home before Jesus took her back to her final home and was blessed with several month of time with her. From what was written, Elesha was amazing. The last few days were painful, and frustrating as they waited. But the final end was peaceful and they were together. Tony has been through seminary and had planned on going to work as a missionary in East Asia before this illness. I took the whole family to the funeral. Emily took it the hardest. She just turned 10 and she's old enough to question why but not old enough to make it all fit, or even understand the emotions going on inside her. The kids all wanted to know, was that person in the casket really dead? Was that her real body? Tony had some great comments about his daughter and didn't have to stress where she was, or the hope that Christians have in such situations. I grieve for his loss all the same. And I hope and pray that I will never know the depths of his own grief.

Trying to connect the dots...

The thing that I kept coming back to is from the beginning. I don't spend enough time in prayer, or cycling, or with my kids, or reading the things that I need to be reading, or even getting out thoughts in this blog. OK, I know, join the club. Pass the cheese to go with my whine. But it seems like something is afoot. I really, genuinely miss the times from my young adulthood where it seemed every step I took was something new and special from God. Like I was still being led to something. Where I am now doesn't seem to be leading to something, it's just stagnant. Maybe this is the crux of the crisis of mid-life. But I don't want a new car or a new wife or to drop my job or anything. I just want to be led somewhere. And maybe the job thing might change, but I feel the need to find the void and gaze out at it. Sorry, that's the image I've heard attributed to Kierkegaard. Life is a featureless plain that stretches out in all directions. After traveling through it, you come upon the void. The plain just stops and there is nothing out in the void, except God. You don't see Him or hear Him, you just know in your gut that He's waiting for you. You have to jump off the plain and into the waiting arms of God. Folks call that Kierkegaard's Leap of Faith. I look back and see that played over and over again in my life. Right now things are too safe. Bills are being paid too frequently. We've got a Suburban out front for crying out loud! Maybe there will be more on this later. That's not entirely up to me, though.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Past weekend

I don't blog enough, I don't pray enough, I don't ride my bike enough, and I don't read my Bible. Anyway, enough of the pity party, that's now an official to do list. Here's what we got to do this weekend.
1) We joined the ranks of folks slowly killing the environment with an SUV. I hate to do it but we had to. Six kids + two parents = more butts than seat belts in either of our mini-vans. So instead of us always taking two vehicles to church or out to eat or to Grandma's, we'll be actually saving the environment by taking a Suburban! Got a nice one from Lynn Smith in Burleson at a nice price. As with any place that sells cars, you might get a nice guy or you might get a guy with previous convictions. From the folks that I saw at Lynn Smith, they seem to be a nice bunch of guys. Fairly honest for the profession. I also had a nice experience at Moritz of Ft. Worth, but they didn't have the Suburban I wanted for my budget. The guy who told me he didn't sing or dance did seem to sing and dance a bit at the end. I could dish dirt on two other places. Stay away from Bankston and Longhorn Dodge in FW. Just stay away.
2) There's another couple at our church that have six kids. The Tocci's. I won't link to their blog because that would presume too much. I introduced myself to them after Mass on Sunday. Really nice folks. They have the 15-passenger van and told me that they are going for 10 kids. My goal was five and we have six, so I really don't have any further goals in mind other than to please God.
3) I finished Jeff Cavin's biography. The beginning wasn't that great. Some of the later stuff was really good, though. The part dealing with his ministry in a Protestant church seemed thin. Thin from a detail standpoint and like he was a bit thin on his theology as a Protestant pastor. I think that may have been from trying to make Protestant theology seem incomplete, but he might just have wanted to gloss over that time to shield his former flock. I was envious of some parts though. Hold that thought...