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Monday, November 18, 2019

Red Tail Invited Ground Squirrel for Brunch

One day Red Tail invited Ground Squirrel for brunch. Ground Squirrel was very excited. She had known many friends who had been invited to brunch by Red Tail in the past. They had never returned so she assumed it must be the most lavish brunch in the clouds that one would never want to leave. So she happily accepted Red Tail’s invitation. “I’ll meet you under the Lemonade Berry Bush at 10am sharp,” Red Tail instructed. Ground Squirrel could hardly sleep that night as she stayed up thinking about all the lovely seeds and nuts and refreshing herbs that would be spread across Red Tail’s table. And she was also really looking forward to catching up with all her old friends. Ground Squirrel was bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning when she showed up early to wait for Red Tail. He showed up casually late as if he really didn’t care much. “Curl up into my talons and I will carry you to my brunch,” he rather gruffly squawked at Ground Squirrel. Just as she was rather uncomfortably settled into his talons Red Tail began to flap his powerful wings and they slowly began to rise through the branches of the Lemonade Berry. Just as they had broken free from the last rustling leaves Old Man came running down the arroyo past them. All were quite startled for a moment. Even Red Tail lost his normal cool and his grip on Ground Squirrel. As she fell a few feet back down to earth she suddenly had a flash of enlightenment. She was for brunch! She quickly spun around and scurried straight back into her burrow under the Lemonade Berry. Her heart wouldn’t calm down for quite sometime and she wasn’t even hungry anymore. She decided that from then on she would abide by her name and stay on the ground…

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tour of Cal No More

So the news is out there that the Tour of California week-long professional bicycle stage race will not be returning for the year of 2020 which in my mind puts it at extreme rick of never occurring at some future date.

It's a bit sad and surprising. It seemed to be well attended and sponsored. And there were some great stages over the years.

A couple of favorite stages that come to mind were both seen in person. It's still the only bicycle race I've ever seen from the ground. I remember George Hincapie crushing it on a breakaway on several loops around the Rose Bowl which also included a climb up and out and back in, I think up Holly St somehow. That was some great hard fought racing! I think that was the first race I ever saw.

And then one year a stage started right here in town. Which was lot's of fun. Mission Street was closed off all morning with all the team cars and bikes lined up for viewing and general swag and excitement all around. I even pulled my daughter out of school early that morning so we could soak in all things cycling for a brief moment. She was in Pre-K at the time so really big deal, I know! I wonder if she'll remember that.

In recent years I've felt a little overwhelmed with riding the mountain roads around here because of all the speeding cars and motorcycles. It hasn't felt safe up there on a bicycle for a long time but I do love those roads and those mountains. And that was one of the amazing side effects of Tour of Cal - it closed off roads to cars for the racers but fans on bicycles could still head up early before the race and enjoy the mountains car free - oh, and sure, the race... I'm realizing now that I didn't take nearly enough advantage of that loophole...

Thursday, November 7, 2019

sneak up on opportunities

When I was a kid, like, in my teens, I liked to work on cars. Tinkering, turning bolts, fixin' stuff... but mostly just hangin' around with other car people... There was an older guy, probably in his sixties or seventies back then, whose house we'd frequently hang out at - there were always a least a few old cars in various stages of repair lined up in his driveway.

He'd been fixin' stuff his whole life it seemed and pretty much new all the answers to our questions even if he usually tried to hold back his opinions and let us figure it out on or own. He mostly just sat around in a folding lawn chair nearby and drank. There's a certain kind of clinking sound that ice makes on those hard plastic tumbler glasses and that sound still reminds me of him. We called him Chuck. Not his real name. Not changed here for privacy, that's just what we called him.

To give you an idea of his ways, we were once trying to figure out why one particular car kept leaking oil on the ground. Chuck didn't tell us what was likely to be the source of the problem but rather suggested we just pour the oil straight on to his driveway instead of into the engine - "Avoid the middleman," he laughed and laughed...

And his advice for those tough to loosen stuck bolts, "Well, you gotta sneak up on 'em, ya see... Don't let that bolt know what you're up to until - Wham!" And, you know what, it often works.

And in that same way, we've sometimes got to sneak up on those moments in our day when we can get out and do our thing - whatever that thing might be... a run, a blog post... Things can't always be planned and scheduled. Sometimes we gotta just say, Hey, I've got a few moments here all of a sudden and - Wham! Get out there...

Thursday, October 31, 2019

smokey season

There's wildfires burning all over the state. Again. Some of them are even fairly close to Mindful Mule. Within a couple dozen miles. They've been burning now for a couple of weeks I'd guess. It's been very dry. Like 5% humidity on some afternoons. And it was pretty hot a few days ago. 97 degrees. This morning it was down around 44 degrees. Amazingly, if it weren't for all the news reports I'd have little idea that anything was even going on through all of this. There have been slightly gustier winds but nothing too significant. But today there is an obviously strong presence of smoke in the air. So much that I'm trying my best to stay inside. The fires haven't gotten any closer. I guess the wind has just shifted a little bit. Bringing the smoke my way. There Air Quality Index is still hovering down at around 50. Which is really not too bad. Given the strong smell of smoke I would imagine the AQI to be much higher. It's a very heavy air out there. It seems unhealthy. I wonder if maybe smoke doesn't directly affect the AQI reading. It should register as a particulate at least. There's been a lot of talk about the Santa Ana winds that are driving the flames. There's always a lot of talk about The Santa Anas. I've heard about these winds for as long as I can remember - for life. They've been a big part of that life, too. A long current of natural connection. They even burned down Brown Mountain ten years ago. Remember that?! And yet they feel like home. If the Santa Anas picked up a bit they'd blow the smoke away from me and Mule and we could get on with things. But they would also fan the flames downwind of here and extend the fire threat to others. It's very still out there right now. So I'll just stay put and sniff around some more. Maybe write you all a little note...

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Friends Don’t Let Friends Wear Sheer Bibs And Other Adventures in Lycra

Sometimes we become overly attached to our garments. Perhaps an old t-shirt from that trail race back in Aught Seven with the sweet multicolor silkscreen logo…  a pair of comfortable shoes that walked with us all over this earth… or our first pair of cycling bibs! We just can’t seem to throw them out and don’t really even want to stop wearing them despite their faded, ripped, stained, holey condition. 

It took me a long time to come to cycling bibs. Lycra shorts, sure. They’re comfortable for long spirited rides. Those have been with me for decades. (I like that I can pretty much throw the word decades into any conversation these days…) But as I don’t wear suspenders with my pants—let alone my shorts!—it never quite made sense to use them for my cycling, which is kinda sorta what bibs are, although to a much sexier level—you can tell already I’ve been turned… But one day a trusted riding friend was adamant about their advantages and so I thought I’d give them a try… And they are great. And sexy! But that’s not what this post is about…

We become attached to our things. We like to keep wearing them. They’re cool or comfortable or maybe we don’t want to throw down a hundred bucks to replace them… 

Have you ever been riding behind someone, though, and they seem to be wearing one of their old favorite shorts or bibs that have developed a certain amount of thinning of the fabric so that you are more or less just looking at their butt? Mostly just the top half of the buttocks as the chamois pad will always block vision into the lower depths. But there is clearly a cleavage thing happening that in certain angles of light may be more pronounced. I see it pretty frequently. I’ve grown more or less immune to it. I mean, it’s just a butt. And really, a cyclist’s butt at that and so often times a pretty nice butt! If you don’t want to look at it just ride faster…

But. Then there’s also the coffee stops and such. Again, not a big problem if you’re encircled by your riding crew. But if you’re alone or still waiting on the crew’s arrival or at the edge of Le Peloton de Cafe (not really a phrase) and seated next to a non-cyclist, a non-understander of the culture of a crew of old men that find it okay to ride around looking at each other’s butts… well, then, sometimes a certain insecurity arrises. A wondering. Have I worn these bibs too far? Am I offending that family breakfast over there? 

So my suggestion to the cycling crew is to be in communication with each other. It’s okay to tell your friend that maybe it’s time to throw down that hundred bucks… 

And anyway, a nice fresh pair of bibs feels really great!

Thursday, April 4, 2019


As with most things in life our dedication to riding can ebb and flood. (Why isn't that the saying?) Numerous contributing factors account for this - season, sleep, injury, stress, busy-busy-busy, training, et cetera. But for those of us that actually like riding, love it even, it's sometimes harder to tell the difference between excitement and monotony. Joy&Suffering. War&Peace. Grin&Grimace.

Anyone who's watched a little of the pro cycling season is familiar with announcers commonly commenting about a stone-faced rider, not giving up any indication to their competitors about whether they are about to shoot out for a breakaway or are just hanging on by a thread and hoping not to get dropped.

And if you think about it, this all sort of makes sense for anyone that does a lot of riding. Regularly riding to the tops of mountains, for instance, requires some determination, some grit, some amount of pain even if it is chosen and enjoyable - dancing on that line between Suffering&Struggle. Is it a grimace on the way up and a grin at the top? At what point do they slowly fade from one to the other? Done enough times and even the rider will stop noticing the difference - think of them the same way. Start grinning at suffering.

On good days there's that moment. A moment we sometimes have to wait for for some time. Like waiting for spring, for our injuries to heal, for our rides to get longer, for the sun to finally shine through the gloom... for that solo ride where your legs just want to spin forever and your lungs seem only to be continuously breathing in... and all of a sudden you feel it... you're smiling! You're having fun! Enjoying! Joy&Peace&Grin!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Forward Ho!

I don't want to open up a whole other conversation about the use of turn signals, and lack thereof, and how incredibly relevant they are to proper road flow, but there is one somewhat unusual element of it that keeps popping up for me. 

There's a road that circles the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena. It's a loop with a few feeder roads coming in and out of it. The loop encloses a fairly large area, as in addition to the stadium and relatively limited-seeming car parking area, there is also a golf course where during stadium events the extra/overflow (perhaps the majority of) cars are parked. The loop road is 3.1 miles around. Which makes it perfect for several 5K run/walk events to be held there every year. The road planners couldn't possibly have intended that but it works out quite nicely. 

The loop is used daily by many people. Walkers, runners, bikers, primarily. And rollerblading seems to be making a meager comeback. I guess the attraction for all these people is that it's a somewhat social, safe place to go and get some nice views of the San Gabriel Mountains and people watch and maybe a central enough place to meet one's friends. And while it's not exactly car traffic free there is somewhat of an easing of the mental effort required to navigate along normal city streets. 

Three miles is a pretty long walk. I imagine most people walk one lap. It's a great distance for a run and, depending on what you're into, one or two laps can be great. Three miles on a bike is pretty easy. So multiple laps are required if you're going to get much out of it. I've done my fair share of mind numbing multiple laps there before. Turn off brain - spin. Endless clockwise loops. You'll never be able to remember how many laps you've made. 

And so many cyclists do this loop around and around and around that every single car drivers knows exactly where every cyclist is going to go... Or they think they know. 

(Even the cops! I've been stopped on my bike by a cop there as they were preparing to close the loop down to "recreational use" in order to clear the area for a Rose Bowl event. He said, "You have to turn around and go back to your car." LOL. Car?!) 

But not every cyclist is riding laps. Sometimes a cyclist is just passing through the area to get to somewhere else. Which brings me to my point. Imagining the loop as a clock face in which riders are moving clockwise, at about the 10 o'clock there is a right turn to stay on the loop. Every ridder takes it - almost! But one can also go straight ahead there and leave the loop to go elsewhere in the world - anything to avoid riding around in circles... At this same intersection there is a stop sign for vehicles coming from the 11 o'clock - counter clockwise. But no stop sign for vehicles turning right or going straight forward. 

So, a car stops at the stop sign. No turn is indicated. The car can only go left or right. Which is it? The driver looks left. Sees an approaching vehicle. The operator of the vehicle (a bicycle it may be but a vehicle it still is!) has not indicated a turn. Therefore, is continuing straight forward. However, the driver of the car at the stop sign knows that every bicycle turns right to continue on the Rose Bowl Loop. Assumes the approaching bicycle/vehicle is turning right. Pulls directly in front of said vehicle. 

So, I, as the operator of the approaching vehicle, signal straight ahead. I am leaving the Rose Bowl loop on my bicycle - going off the clock, so to speak. But there is no official hand signal for that. I point straight ahead - forward. Sometimes I point slightly upward and ahead as there is a short steep hill that rises out and away from the loop. 

Actually I've taken to doing a lot of pointing anyway when I use hand turn signals. Hopefully it helps people understand. I don't know. I only know that I generally feel ridiculous sitting up tall on my saddle and pointing straight ahead as if an alien spaceship is landing I want everyone to see or as if reenacting the crossing of the Delaware... 

Monday, March 18, 2019

t-shirt communications

It’s early on a bright, sunny Monday morning and I’m out for my regular easy run up and down the street. I’m stopped, waiting to cross the intersection by the new coffee shop. I’ve pressed the pedestrian button to trip the traffic signal so I can cross the street but I’m looking around, checking out the new shop and the woman walking toward me on the sidewalk with her little fluffy dog. Maybe I’m holding my glance at her a little too long. I’m trying to figure her out. She’s wearing a green t-shirt. It’s got the logo from the Irish pub across the street. Is she somehow affiliated with the pub? I’ve never seen her in there before but she looks vaguely familiar. Wait. It’s the day after St. Patrick’s Day. Has she been out all night? She doesn’t seem the type… but what do I know. I turn to face the street. My light will be turning soon… 

“That must be a tough race! Did you win?” she quips. 

It takes me a second to realize she’s talking to me. Why is she talking to me? Oh, she’s commenting on my shirt. I take a quick glance down to the logo on the front of my shirt because out of the dozen or so race t-shirts I have crammed into my drawer at home I really have no idea which one I’m wearing. I really never do. I don’t care. It’s not a statement. It’s a free shirt (just pay the exorbitant race fee!). They’re wicking and light and other than the fact that they smell like hell before you even put them on I still wear them. They function well enough - sort of. There’s a blue mule printed on my chest. I do a quick scan of my remaining brain matter. Ah. Mt. Wilson Trail Race. Don’t remember which year. Doesn’t matter. 

“Oh. No. I did not win… very steep up there!” I respond, trying to be somewhat cheery for this St. Patty, while at the same time hoping that the conversation will end, because, although I’ve turned now and am no longer facing the street but my new companion, I’m sure my light has changed and I’d like to cross and continue my run - my heart rate is dropping like a brick! And what was it that I was just thinking about before I got to this intersection… another lost blog post! 

I think she kind of gets it. But as she’s waking away, now crossing the train tracks with her puppy-doodle, she actually offers out some surprisingly genuine trail knowledge. “I’ll bet! I used to take the Girl Scouts up there…” 

“Ah! Okay! Thanks!” I say. Or some such words. She keeps going her way. I turn to check the light. It has changed for me. I can still make it across.  

A few blocks further along I recall the lost blog post - not a very good one - not even a title - just a topic, a sensation… Why are my calves sore? I read something about trying to engage one’s glutes to help alleviate stress on the calves… how exactly does one do that, again? But that’s already lost its interest for me. So my calves are sore. Probably from the big weekend. All I want to know now is how did she get that t-shirt… and how can I get one?!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Underwear and How to Wear It (Part II)

And now for an epiphany twenty-five years in the making. In part one of this thread, if I recall, I haven't bothered to reread it, LOL, I essentially relayed the pro (read: amateur) tip about wearing ones underwear inside-out. A great tip. It does help. But something still wasn't quite complete. Something has been nagging at me. I kept thinking about underwear. And running shorts. And why do they have that liner? An extra layer to trap heat that no runner needs except maybe in the depths of a SoCal winter. So I thought about cutting it out. I'm a fan of altering ones clothing to fit ones needs. I do it with my running shirts all the time, or, I should say, to almost all of them. I cut off all the hems around the neck and sleeves and waistline. It's in a post. "It's down there somewhere." But not without careful thought. Always with careful thought, the cutting. But I just couldn't get myself to cut out the liner in my shorts. Why is it there? Why is it always there? I kept asking myself while staring at the ceiling as I lay awake through the middle of the night wishing I could just get out and go for a run like a lunatic a two-thirty in the morning. (Hashtag: Way of the future?) Finally it came to me. I'm not sure why this took me so long to approach. I mean, I've been running my entire adult life. And I'm getting pretty old! I'm totally half way through. Is this my midlife crisis? Well, I hope so. Because it's going to be a whole lot cheaper than a red Porsche convertible and the complications that would arise from its Barbie-esc accompaniment. And it will save You money too! All will benefit and stay cooler through this revving up summer season. So here it is. Underwear and How to Wear It. Don't. Just don't. What do you think that liner is for?! I mean, two pairs of underwear? Isn't that a little extravagant? So now you'll save money because you can stop buying thirty dollar running underwear. And be less stinky! And run cooler! You might feel a little like a pervert for the first few runs. But you'll get used to it...

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunglasses are so cool… Or are they? (Part II)

Having previously determined that sunglasses are not nearly as cool as we give them credit for, I’ll move on now to the flip side of this, as usual, counterintuitive storyline. Cool, cloudy, wettish days are when sunglasses really shine. Because they keep the skin around your eyes blocked from the cold wind and therefore give you the impression that you’re not so cold. And as we’ve likely all learned by now it’s all about our impressions of this world. Our minds rule our world. If we can tweak some minor sensory inputs that factor into these impressions, these perceptions then we expand the limits of what our mind will allow. We may only be talking about micro adjustments here, marginal gains, in the parlance of our times… but more and more I’m starting to believe that the difference between feeling good on a run and feeling like crap can be ever so slight, if not even the same but with a different perspective. As in running, in cycling, in life… put on those rose-colored glasses (or take them off or whatever) and enjoy these moments just a little longer, fuller, faster… a little more…

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

when locals disappear

There are a few riders that I frequently see passing by on my street. I know them well as riders only. I don’t know their names or where they live except that I assume (perhaps wrongly) based on their regular presence that they are from somewhere fairly nearby. Although, my street is a common throughway for many people on foot and bikes and cars so they may live far away. But to me they are the local riders. I know each one of them by their style and posture and cadence as they’re coming up or down the street long before I could possibly recognize their faces. And, actually, if I were to be standing next to one of them in, let’s say, the checkout line at the grocery store, I’m quite sure I’d have no idea who they were unless they happened to be wearing their full kit. But still they are my locals—people I look out for—my friends, if only imaginary… 

Which is all well and good (having imaginary friends—they’re so easy to deal with!) But in cycling things take a twist. We hear stories, read the news about, know people who… let’s say, didn’t come back from their ride. And so we worry. We worry when we haven’t seen one of the locals for a while. We hope they’re just taking some time off… nursing an overuse injury… taking another route these days… or maybe they moved to Portland… We hope they’re okay. 

And so it is with great joy that when, after what seems like months have passed, we see them again, riding by, looking more or less the same and unharmed… we want to jump up and wave and call out and hug them! But they don’t know me and I don’t know them and maybe they’ve never even seen me on my bike—maybe I’ve never ridden past their house. So I can’t—we can’t. But, to all those local cyclists, my friends, please remember when you’re out there that I am looking out for you, that we are looking out for each other… and please try to remember to ride by my place once in a while!