Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bicycles & Me

It all started with a tandem bike. Don’t misunderstand me, it was the first bicycle I ever rode, but my feet weren't touching the peddles. I was on the handlebars of our family’s yellow, tandem bike. Cindy & I would take turns riding with Dad. He would place us on the handlebars & peddle us around the driveway. We might as well been riding to the moon.
Eventually I learned to ride a bicycle, somewhere around six years old. After watching ET, I was determined to learn myself. I’m pretty sure I just picked us my bicycle with a Dennis the Menace fly wheel and rode off into the sunset.
When we lived in our old house, I didn’t ride my bike too much because there was little road space to ride. During our transition to building my parent’s current home, we lived in apartment on West Main Street above a dentist office. I know I was riding a BMX style bike but not sure what kind it was. It was my second bike and I loved riding it around town. As much as I tried, I never did a wheelie or jump over curbs. The bicycle must have weighed 200 lbs because I could never lift it over an inch off the ground. Any elevation and every curb was one more possibility. There were plenty of turn-arounds for me to try one more time over what I thought was the perfect jump site. After my huge heave and muscle strain, my wheels stayed on the ground. I still haven’t figured out the catch.
I didn’t have very many wrecks either, at least that I remember. I don’t recall any war story wrecks, but the lack of scars is proof that I didn’t have traumatic wrecks. My wrecks and scars have come much later in life; I’d say all of them have been post 21.
My mother didn’t rely on the safety of a small town to provide a watching eye over me while I rode. She diligently laid out boundaries about 3 blocks west & 5 blocks east. Despite my requests to ride all over town, her motherly care constrained me to these markers. I am thankful that helmets weren’t pushed as much as they are now, or I’m sure I would have had a helmet back then.
Sometime soon after we moved to our new house and I moved into the sixth grade, Grandmother entered a raffle at the grocery store. The prize was a brand new 10 speed bicycle. Her name was drawn, but I was the winner. I can’t tell you much about this lightning bolt except it was maroon, made of steel, and all mine.
In those days, I spent my days riding my bike or shooting a basketball. Some might remember me as a rough, Bill Lambeer-esque player, but in my middle school days I was lucky for the ball not to punch me in the face when I dribbled. Every ride was a ride of freedom into the unknown. True I had a road bike and I wasn’t quite in the wilderness, but at the time I felt like a pioneer exploring new terrain riding through fields barely a mile from my house. I have no idea how the bike held up over all those years.
Riding in Cincinnati was an entirely different monster. It didn’t matter where I was riding, there were enormous hills in every direction. One Christmas Mom gave me an insignificant present at the time – my helmet. It was a joke. I knew I wasn’t going to wear a helmet, but I still didn’t grasp the term “motherly,” and I’m sure Mom would say I never will understand how much she loves me. I know that is a good and marvelous gift. I will always be her son regardless of how old I am. As one attempting to be a young man in my early twenties, I still didn’t come close to grasping that truth.
Cincinnati is a mean city to ride a bike through, but it was there I found my first taste of speed. Riding past cars and faster than traffic on downhill slopes only fueled my love for cycling.
My mountain bike moved with me to Louisville and carried me through the streets of St. Matthews and the Highlands until it was taken from me – stolen in the middle of the night. Although my car was stolen nearly a year earlier from the same location on Broadway.
In 2004, I purchased a road bike, a KHS Flight 300. Years earlier I had seen Ironman competitions but simply wrote them off as an impossible dream. With a little encouragement from a friend, I was now set on becoming an Ironman.
Louisville is a great city to ride a bike - riding downtown, through Cherokee and Senaca park, or through Jefferson County at large. Before turning 16, the only thing a teenager can think about is getting a license so he can drive. After being trapped in a cage for all these years as a necessity to get from point A to point B, the freedom to ride 40, 50, or 100 miles by your own power is truly invigorating. The hills and curves of Kentucky provide beautiful scenery for long rides. I love riding River road’s flat terrain out to Oldham County. Past River Road the ride becomes more wooded and much steeper. Riding through the country past horse farms, magnificent houses, and patches of forest makes a great ride.
I was able to put a lot of mileage on my KHS for races, and I even bought another bike for racing, a Fuji – Team Super Light. Karen inherited the KHS, and we enjoy riding together (more about family riding later). I still had one more bicycle dream come true in Louisville and that was becoming a bicycle messenger. I know, lofty dream. I remember watching Quicksilver and being enamored with cycling in the city. To make a long story short, for three and a half days I was a bike messenger. I thought I had lived my dream never to return. However, my dream would be relived here in Chicago. I’m cycling away five days a week and still counting.
The bottom line is that I love to ride a bike. Getting on a bike for pleasure, fitness, or travel is fun. During the day I am working as a courier, but here's the catch - I'M RIDING MY BIKE. There is something freeing about propelling yourself around on two wheels. Feel the wind and sun on your face. Take a relaxing ride with you wife or husband. Speed through traffic. Race down the road and hit 50 mph. Park your car.
I encourage everyone who reads this to treat yourself to a ride. Shoot, treat yourself to several rides.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cycling through Chicago

Three weeks ago I set out to find employment as a bicycle messenger. Some of you may remember my short career at the Bike Depot in Louisville, KY as a messenger. However, I spoke with Karen about this possibility in Chicago and she responded, "At this point, you can pedal until your heart's content." Those words were immediately emblazoned in my mind (Although Karen does question the authenticity of her statement).
As of April 28, I began my employment as a bicycle messenger with Standard Courier. My first day was a harrowing experience. Chicago welcomed me with brutal wind, rain, and cold temperatures. At the end of the day, I was soaked, freezing, shivering, and sore. But it was grand.
Since then, my hands and seat have adjusted to the posture of a cyclist. In the beginning, every morning was agonizing when I mounted up for the first pedal stroke. At first I was riding an old Panasonic, but have since changed to riding my KHS. Changing bikes was a total transformation for riding; it's smoother, faster, and much more comfortable. But at the end of my third week, I am thankful for the rest and relaxation of the weekends. The physical demands of the job have been relatively easy to adjust to. Don't misunderstand me though. When I get home, I'm worthless.
Riding through the city is an adventure! Surviving the obstacles of traffic, potholes, cabs, BUSES, and masses of people create many intense challenges. Chicago is very friendly toward bikers. Buses and people seem to create the biggest challenges for me. Squirming through the throngs of people at crosswalks can be difficult but dodging merging buses is scary yet at the same time thrilling. At this point, I'm not going into great detail about such experiences for my loved one's piece of mind.
I have made deliveries to some interesting places, mostly to law firms, marketing agencies, banks, and notably to Oprah's company, Harpo. I wasn't hypnotized, but I did notice several Oprah shrines and people begging for alms in the name of Oprah.

Here are a couple of other pictures from my day.

Chicago is a beautiful city. While this job is short term, I'm thankful for this opportunity to ride my bike all day, everyday. I look forward to serving as a pastor, but for now I will keep on peddling.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Praying for the Lost

Listen to Augustine's words about his mother's prayers and his journey to salvation (Book III):

My mother, your faithful servant, was weeping for me to you, weeping more than mothers weep for the bodily deaths of their sons. For she, by that faith and spirit which she had from you, saw the death in which I lay, and you, Lord, heard her prayer. . . . For nearly nine years after this I wallowed in the mud of the pit and in the darkness of falsehood, often trying to rise and then being plunged back again all the more violently. Yet all thsi time that chaste widow, holy and sober (such as you love), though she had now more hope to cheer her, never slackened in her weeping and her lamentations, never ceased in all hours of her prayer to weep to you about me, and her prayers entered into your presence, and yet you still allowed me to roll over and over in that darkness.

We have many friends and family members that do not know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us be diligent in praying for them to know Christ as well as taking every opportunity to share the Gospel with them.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Running the Race

In December I suggested to my parents that they run the Derby half-marathon in Louisville, Kentucky. To my surprise, the suggestion was met with a slight optimism rather than an immediate dismissal. Little more was said after this initial conversation. Then my father, who is the editor of the Times Leader newspaper, committed to the race IN PRINT. Just so you understand, he not only committed himself but also committed his wife to the race. When I brought up the race as a possibility, he didn't say yes or no, simply nodded his head in contemplation. The next thing my mother reads in his editorial is that THEY are going to run 13.1 miles. I can't tell you how interesting it was to hear the conversation between mom and dad after the paper was out. Dad just laughed and laughed.

Needless to say, what seemed like a whimsical decision was the beginning of tenacious training. Up to this point in their middle ages, mom has always been a speed walker, and dad was a golfer. However, they began training and never looked back despite cold weather, physical pain, and old age. Mom and Dad were determined to finish the race. Mom even said the only way she was stopping for dad is if he dropped dead with a heart attack.

Race day came and everyone was confident, plus nervous, cold, as well as extreme confusion as to why in the world they were about to run 13.1 miles. Originally, I had planned to run the full marathon, but decided instead to run the half so I could see mom and dad finish their first half-marathon. I can't tell you how excited and joyful I was to see them turning the final corner at 7th and Market. Mom came to the finished in 2:38. I ran with mom during the last 100 yards or so of her race. I yelled encouragements to her that she had finished! She said, "I'm going to throw up when I cross the finish line." Although mom may have felt like throwing up, she crossed the finish line with no problems. Dad finished in 2:50. I was waiting for him in the same place and encouraged him in the same way telling him he had finished about 100 yards before the finish line. He was quick to say "I haven't finished yet." There was still enough stamina to carry him across the finish line.

The best thing about mom and dad running the half-marathon was listening to them tell others why they were running the race. Throughout their training and after the race, they continually said they did it because they love me and their daughter-in-law. Its true that Karen and I asked them to run with us. Throughout my life my parents told me how much they loved me and now into my adult life, they continue to tell Karen & I they love us and will do anything for us. I never imagined that would entail running 13.1 miles, but I'm sure they never did either.