Monday, March 27, 2017

Maybe It's the Rain

The brown and gray hills blurred by, obscured by rain, and speed, and construction barrels.  I was soaring high on the ride I had just completed on the Dawkins Line Trail in Eastern Kentucky.  I was out of the “restaurant row” construction along the Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway where they had carved out a great canyon through the hills to widen the road. I have to be honest, I think the Parkway widening project is a lot of wasted money.  The road was originally built as an economic development road.  While I do concede conditions in Eastern Kentucky are better than they would have been without Bert Combs vision for the road, I don’t think the promises made were fulfilled, and I don’t think adding a couple of lanes and decreasing the drive time west by a few minutes is going to be a billion dollar game changer.  Maybe I’ll be proved wrong, but I just don’t see this being a worthy investment.

Much like the Mountain Parkway the Dawkins Line was built with the promise of bringing in big dollars.  While the Parkway was intended to be a conduit for industry and as a way to get the coal out of the hills the rail trail is intended to extract tourist dollars from the pockets of visitors to the region from elsewhere.  I’ve ridden the Dawkins about four times now.  I’ve finally seen all of it that is currently constructed.  And on this last ride I felt the least welcomed.  I can’t put my finger on it, but something was different.

I landed in Royalton at about twelve hundred hours.  Ol’ Fatter than Average deployed behind the church there.  It was still dry as I’d outpaced the rain heading east from home.  The skies were gunmetal gray but it seemed like the weather might hold off for a while.  I was on the bike and pedaling west within minutes of arriving in Royalton.

My plan was to ride thirty miles.  I needed the distance in preparation for the upcoming Mohican 100 (kilometer) in Ohio the first Saturday in June.  First I wanted to see Carver Tunnel.  Tomahawk told me about it after his ride exploring around that end of the trail.  It was a long easy grade for 7.4 miles from the trailhead to the tunnel.  As advertised it’s still closed.  I lingered a few minutes before turning the ol’ Pine Mountain east. 

Right away I picked up considerable speed.  I was back at Royalton in no time flat.  I’d been riding a little over an hour when I reached the equestrian trailhead a half mile west of Royalton proper.  I checked the restrooms, but they’re still closed.  It was a good opportunity to stretch unconditioned legs a bit.  I ate half of the incredible breakfast burrito my lovely wife had sent with me.  After a short rest I was back on my way heading for the eastern terminus of the trail at Hagerhill.  I didn’t know if I would ride the whole thing, but I wanted to.

Through Royalton I cranked away.  A couple of spokebait lapdogs came running after me, but I was moving too fast for them to be much of a threat.  I climbed toward Gun Creek Tunnel.  A few heavy drops fell as I approached the first road crossing east of the trailhead.  I stopped at the bench and stowed my phone in a Ziploc.  It wasn’t too much further down the trail—just after crossing a trestle—when the attack dogs came out.  I say “attack” dogs, but they were really just a couple of herd dogs who thought they’d nip me along.  But the first one came all stealth like and was right on my back wheel before barking.  I called out in threat reaching for my empty water bottle.  I’d carried the hydration pack for drinking and figured to use the water bottle in case of dog attack.  I didn’t check to see if there was water in the bottle.

My shout fended off the first attack, but as I turned my eyes over the handlebars a second sally came.  I couldn’t tell if it was the same dog, but by then there were two medium sized black dogs.  Again, I called out menacingly and kept pedaling.  They backed off, but I knew I’d likely have to face them again on the return trip.

Gun Creek Tunnel

At the tunnel I got off the bike again for a minute or so.  On the other side I was on all new ground. And I was picking up solid speed again as I cruised toward Ivyton and the Mountain Parkway crossing.  I’d been riding for a couple of hours and my hands weren’t used to that kind of riding.  As I continued downward from the tunnel I sat up and let my arms dangle at my sides as I kept pedaling.  Homes flashed past.  The trail was a blur under me.  I couldn’t help but smile and push a little harder on the pedals.

I crossed the Parkway at a pretty good clip and kept right on moving.  Then I was in new territory again (I’d ridden a short section of the Ivyton and Parkway segment on my way to the 2013 KBBC conference at Jenny Wiley State Park) and climbed to a low gap and began descending into a narrow hollow.  The road then turned off and I found myself on a section of trail unlike the rest of the Dawkins.  There was no road paralleling, no homes, no development.  The trail was cut into a steep hillside overlooking a rock-filled and mossy stream in between forested slopes. 

That section was truly amazing.  I wished more of the trail was like that.  There was no litter, no ramshackle Appalachian backdrop, and it offered a more natural passage through the hills.
Past that section I knew I was getting close to Swamp Branch.  The day was getting long.  I was feeling the miles and my stomach was beginning to nag at me with its growing emptiness. 

I stopped at the first kiosk when I reached the large but empty trailhead. I looked at the map and quickly realized that if I continued on to Hagerhill and then returned to my car under my own power it would be a fifty mile ride. I had not signed up for that. My goal was thirty miles.  I did my best head math and figured if I turned back around I’d get at least thirty miles.  And I had ridden everything east of Swamp Branch Trailhead in 2013 with Mandy after the KBBC. 

I looked west and saw a sky that was bruised blue and black.  It’s about eight miles or so from Swamp Branch back to Royalton.  It didn’t scare me to think of heading back that way.  I went prepared.  I had a rain jacket.  I’ve ridden through worse than whatever would thrash me on the way.  I wasn’t worried. 

The car is that way...

It wasn’t the rain that felt heavy, it was what I imagined would be a slow slog all the way back to Gun Creek Tunnel.  I knew all there was for it was for me to get on the bike and move.  There is no steep parts of Dawkins.  It was a railroad for cryin’ out loud!  Quickly, before heading out, I filled my water bottle for defense against the dogs.

I stopped once to rest again as I entered the undeveloped stretch.  There was a trestle there and I checked it out, drank a little more water, and as I was getting ready to start moving again the rain came.  It was sparse but heavy drops.  With it came a sense of urgency to keep moving. 



Finally I reached Gun Creek Tunnel and I only stopped at the bench on the west side to stretch a bit.  My knees were singing. And then I was on the home stretch, gaining momentum, rolling along faster and faster until I was in my highest gear, elbows resting on my handlebar, and pushing, pushing, pushing on the pedals.

As I approached the spot where the dogs came after me I grabbed my water bottle, but they didn’t come back out.  Maybe it was the rain.  Maybe it was the ghost of the coal train I was channeling as I cranked along at likely fifteen miles an hour on my way home.

I didn’t stop until there was nowhere else to go.  It felt good to lift the bike up onto the tray rack and settle into the driver’s seat.  The rain had subsided as I approached Royalton, but as I climbed into the Jeep it began in earnest.  By the time I reached the Mountain Parkway my wipers were outpacing the beat of Whitehouse Road blaring on the stereo. 

The construction slowed traffic but not as much as the heavy rain.  The great, garish road cuts looked like a linear strip mine.  Apparently that’s what we do in Eastern Kentucky: strip mines and road cuts.  And ATVs on the trail.  And illegal garbage dumps.  And avoiding eye contact with the crazy mountain biker on the trail in the rain.  And completely and totally failing to capitalize on a huge asset to the community because it’s a cultural oddity.

There are two trailheads at Royalton.  There’s really still not much in the way of services in the area.  Other than the trail itself there’s little that makes the area seem bicycle friendly.  It’s not overtly hostile, but it’s also disappointingly not welcoming.  Yet.  I hold out hope.  And maybe my timing was off visiting on a rainy Sunday in March.  

We were supposed to ride at Brown County, Indiana on Sunday.  We’d gone up to that area to help our friends with Next Opportunity Events volunteer at an ultra.  But the forecast was so wretched, and it was raining hard as we drove out of the state park where the race took place.  We decided to return home instead of blowing money on a hotel room.  And that’s how I ended up riding thirty-four miles on the Dawkins Line over the weekend. 


Riding through the Nashville, Indiana area in the rain we were excited about the prospects of returning to ride.  Everything we saw in Brown County and the Bloomington area said: “Come back!  We want you!” but as I drove home on the Mountain Parkway in a similar downpour I couldn’t help but think that the residents of the corridor along Bert Combs’s visionary road don’t yet get it, and right now could care less if I come and ride my bike in their neighborhood.  I’m sure we’ll keep going there to ride because it’s close to home and great fun.  And again, and again, and again I have hope that the Eastern Kentucky bike culture will grow.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Unscheduled Thursday Posts Can Be Fun Too


Facebook has this thing: On This Day.  I kinda like it.  It lets you see the odd rhythms of the years.  It shows patterns in life you wouldn’t otherwise see.  For example…
Four years ago in Clark County

Three years ago in the Gorge.  I miss this.
Time to dust off the ol' Dogrunner!
On March 23, 2013 I did a 46 mile bike ride from my sister’s house where we were staying around through Clark County and Montgomery County and back.  Then on 3/23/14 was the infamous “true love is letting the dog bite you instead of your wife” ride through the Gorge with Mandy and Casey Mozer. 
Fresh dog bite
I probably won’t manage a 45+ mile ride this evening, though I’m chomping at the bit to get out and pull down some big numbers again.  Was a time in my life 60 or 70 miles was off the couch easy and standard.  There was a time that I wouldn’t bother with a mere 20 mile ride because it just wasn’t long enough to engage my interest.
 
With mountain biking that’s different.  Obviously.  Mandy and Lily and I rode just shy of three mile the other night on Tarr Ridge; the Dark Hollow side.  While I would have cranked out at least the six of the 77 trails had I been by myself it was enjoyable to spend time with my ladies in the woods.  Lily just can’t keep up on trails at this point.  I think she has the fitness but the wrong bike.  Though…she does seem to have grown into her six speed Specialized.  I think maybe I should do some one on one work with her and see if we can’t coach her to better enjoyment.  A good kids clinic would do wonders for her J
 Maybe Mandy and I or I alone will get out tonight and skim some pavement.  I have also realized I can do my afternoon rides and grab some miles without getting on the main roads around town during the evening rush.  I’m not sure why I didn’t see it before, but the next time I go out alone I’m going to do this ride, and I’ll be sure to share here on the back alley wall of the internet.
The weekend looks promising as well.  I’ll not give away the surprise, but Monday’s report might be worth waiting for.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Bike Culture Club

I may have become inspired to start riding again.  I mean, on the road and over longer distances.  Maybe it’s time to dance with traffic again.  Climb these many hills.  Shake off the shadows of gravity and climb into the sky…

I had a great weekend.

Friday I had invited anyone who wanted to come for the first ever Oddball Friday Red River Gorge mountain bike ride.  So far there are only two in the Oddball club, but I expect that number to climb.  

Kenny from Hazard showed up and he and I rode the west side of the Tarr Ridge 77 trails.  We didn’t get far and I showed him the hidden abandoned logging road I had found when I rode with Bean.  We wandered down and down and down that ol road throwing deadfall out of the way, riding our bikes a little ways, walking and chucking deadwood, and finally we left the bikes and hiked the last bit to the end of the ridge.  It was a full half a mile long from where it left the main doubletrack. 

When rode back up and continued on out the main ridge toward the “Dark Hollow” trail.  But shortly after getting back on track Kenny rode over a small stump and punctured his tire.  We spent a good bit of time trying to patch his tube and then changing to a fresh one, and as we finished up we heard thunder and noticed it was getting dark.  So the first Oddball Friday ride was cut short and we ended up just shy of two miles of riding and were chased out of the parking lot by a sudden heavy rain just after we were both loaded up. Kenny invited me to come down and ride around Hazard sometime, and I think I need to.  It sounds like he has a lot of potential in his area too.

Saturday dawned overcast and dreary.  There wasn’t much hope for warmth or sun on my Tarr Ridge tour ride.  I’d invited folks to come see what was there to ride and to talk about the potential and possibilities for future trails there.  But my little mountain bikers heart swelled when I reached the 77 parking lot right at 9:00am and saw it was full of cars with bikes hanging off of them at all kinds of odd angles.  Counting myself there were ten.



Kris was lagging—he’d forgotten his bike shoes and had to backtrack to Irvine—so we went out the east side of the 77 trails first because it was a simple out and back and I could text him the directions: “Ride the trail behind the RRG sign.”  The group moved pretty quick out the ridge. Dave and I stopped to clear one log as the rest of the mountain bikers continued on following Josh. He’s another Clark Countian and he’s been riding Tarr Ridge a lot lately too.

We all collected out on the cool overlook about a mile and a half out the ridge.  The group lingered there marveling at how good the trail was, how amazing the views were (the fog was clearing and the sun was peeking out), and exchanging stories and talking about bikes and gear and just generally having a good time.  Kris finally caught us just as we were heading back to the parking lot. Rinse, ride and repeat.  We did it all again, but finally we headed south toward the 77 parking lot and the final leg onto the “Dark Hollow” trail.

The view at the end of FR 173

We lost one at the trailhead as he was still having trouble with a leaking tube, but the rest of the group continued south along the doubletrack, left at the wildlife opening, and then onto the really cool user created singletrack through a dark stand of pines, tightly twisting amongst the trees, over small logs, and finally out a really nice narrow ridge to the final stout crank to the knob at the end of the ridge. Dave took a plunge into the rhodo but came up laughing as I snapped his photo before giving him a hand out.



We scrambled along the edge of the cliff at the end down to the top of Bedtime for Bonzo, and finally turned toward the parking lot for one last time.  We made the side detour that Kenny and I had cleared of deadfall the night before and eventually returned to our cars with about fifteen miles under our lycra waistbands and big smiles all around.  Along the way we all talked about other rides we've done and would like to do.  I think the demand for a Red River Gorge of-road cycling community is apparent.  The seeds have not only been planted, but are sprouting and thriving.






The race planning is going well.  Mandy and I went out Sunday afternoon to look at tow aid station locations.  I know them well, but I’ve never been at either location thinking: this would be a good spot for an aid station, I think it should be set up thusly. So we visited them both and stood there thinking this would be a good spot for an aid station, I think it should be set up thusly.  And we discussed some issues and had a couple of epiphanies and we’re certain we’ve got those two spots pinned down.

Afterward we drove over into Estill County and hiked the 0.7 miles down to Cottage Furnace from Marble Yard Road.  The access road is closed.  We poked around the furnace for a little bit and then hiked out.  It was a decent little outing and we had a good time hanging out.  That area is nice and has a lot of potential, but it seems like there’s a good possibility that maybe in the past it’s been ill-treated and that’s why the Forest Service has closed the facility.



On the drive out we discussed a hypothetical gravel bike ride that would incorporate all of the best / worst climbs in the area.  When we got home I mapped it out, discussed a few tweaks, and came up with a route that starts and ends in Stanton, covers 67 miles, and gains and loses 6,700’ of elevation.  There are eight pretty tough climbs on the route.  Most everything else is rolling terrain. The only downfall is that there are five miles of mandatory gravel and the rest is paved.  But it’s all adventure riding!


This might be more epic than the hundred mile race…

Friday, March 17, 2017

Ramming Speed Friday: Not So Fast Edition

This has been a pretty good week.  I was thrown another ball or two to juggle but so far I’ve not dropped anything.  Though I have deadlines on all of them coming up fast.  The upside to that is that after March 31 one ball will go away and after the end of May another will go away.  In theory I should be able to drop the most onerous one next week (fingers crossed!), and then going into summer I should be able to try and regroup my frayed wiring and maybe get a little better organized.    I know that’s all pretty vague but that’s all you need to know about the situation I guess.  Too many details spoil to pot.

I did attend the first ever Kentucky Trail Town Summit in Morehead on Wednesday and Thursday.  Those were my peeps.  For the most part anyway.  I guess maybe the core of that group is my tribe beyond my immediate family.  Mandy and the kids just walked out to go to school and I sit here writing this basking in the warmth of a house full of love.  Those things matter.  I let juggling the balls distract me from that all the time.  I need to change that.

Something clicked in my head on Wednesday.  I decided I needed to live in the moment more and less in a fantasy projecting out to some point in the dim future where things are “better.”  That’s my typical MO.  I spend a lot of time imaging how things are going to be for me when I finally get what I want.  It’s a mostly subconscious process, but that’s how my brain runs almost all of the time.  I had a good long stretch on both of the past two days when I was simply enjoying who I am NOW and the place I’m at NOW in life.  I’ve got it pretty good, and I really just need to bring my focus back closer to the chest.

While I’m good at it, maybe being big picture all the time isn’t good for my mental health.  Maybe its just been sucking the energy out of me.  And so I will try to live more in the moment going forward.  And obviously I don’t need to do that all the time; I just can’t let myself get caught up in dreaming about the future and pining for something I’m not when what I AM is something I used to pine for hoping to reach the place I am now so things would be “better” from some restore point in the past.  Well, I don’t need to restore too far back.

I rode on Big Limestone yesterday.  I finally found the fourth finger.  Starting out from the end of the road, riding the fingers, and returning via the Sheltowee doubletrack I got in a respectable 11 miles.  That’s a darn good ride and I highly recommend it.  If you want something longer you can do the big loop from the Ranger Station up the Sheltowee, down Lakeview, along 801 to Clack Road, east to Big Limestone and then pick up all the fingers before finishing up on the Sheltowee back to the Ranger Station.  That’s probably getting close to twenty miles if not fully there.   That’s a good ball to juggle.  Though…the temperature was about 15F when I headed out yesterday morning.  My face and ears were numb before I got out of sight of the Jeep and my toes were burning agnoy as they warmed up under the heater on the way on into Morehead after the ride.


Tonight is the first RRG “group ride” at Tarr Ridge.  The weather looks junky, but I think it’ll be good anyway.  Until then I’m going to live in Friday, not rush too much, and try to be the best me I can be.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Out of Tune


There's a bluegrass joke about mandolin players spending half their time tuning their instruments and the other half playing out of tune.  I feel that way.  I'm always trying to get myself straightened out or just playing less than what I'm capable of.
I discovered the mandolin too late in life.  I picked up the guitar at fifteen years old.  I knocked around for about fifteen more, but I eventually gave up on it when it was clear I have little musical aptitude.  I love music—don't get me wrong—but I'm either tone deaf or tonally challenged.  The best thing I can say is I have passable rhythm. 
Somewhere around forty years old I tried to learn the mandolin.  I got kids.  I got a career.  I ain't got time to learn the mandolin!  Maybe when I'm an old dude, dude.
Anyway, when I'm not trying to get in tune I'm just running along out of tune.  But I said that. 
Speaking of Bluegrass…I took Bean to Meadowgreen Saturday night to see her favorite band Ma Crow and the Ladyslippers.  As expected they were great.  Lily had a great time.  Fun all around.
Sunday I took the kids (my two, the nephew and friend) to Comic Con.  Nerds unite!  Actually, I implored the children not to touch any of the nerds’ toys.  Last year one of the kids almost touched a Mandalorian’s helmet and I was afraid I was going to have to punch the guy for yelling at my kid.  Don’t bring your toys out in public if you don’t want people to try and play with them.  Someone didn’t learn to share.  But I digress.



My desk decorations...
Proof that I'm no nerd
 
There seemed to be a lot of cyclists in the Gorge this weekend.  Mandy saw a peloton Friday afternoon going through Stanton and then Bean and I saw a few more cyclists (mostly on mtbs and CX bikes) as we were leaving Tarr Ridge Saturday in the early afternoon.  Bean and I rode out the west side of the 77 trails to check for blow downs from recent storms.  This coming Friday is going to be the first ever Oddball Fridays Red River Gorge group mtb ride. 
I’ve decided it’s time to get in the habit of a regular local ride.  Odd date Fridays seemed easy enough to remember.  Fridays will allow folks coming into town for the weekend as well as locals to participate.  Since the time change was this past weekend it seemed like the very next odd Friday would be a good time to start. 
I had already planned a tour of the Tarr Ridge area for stakeholders on Saturday morning, and we’ll go ahead and do that ride too, but I wanted to get a regular recreational ride going.  It’s one of those things that I think will be key to building community and boosting interest in trails in the area. 
Later in the week I’ll be attending the inaugural Kentucky Trail Town Summit in Morehead.  I was asked to host a breakout session on mountain bike trail development and am looking forward to it.  Hopefully I’ll have a lot to report back on by the end of the week.  Got lots of other things nearing a boil as well and should be an interesting Spring and Summer in the Red River Valley.
 
Actual LCTC photo dump:
I almost bought this



Almost bough this too

What did you do, Ray?

Even the Mario Brothers gotta eat!

 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Ramming Speed Friday: Barking Hounds Edition


“Up in Pocahontas in the Cranberry Glades,
“Ain’t got bars nor the charge to call her anyway,
“My mind’s a mile a minute, my mind that barks like hounds,
“I’m focused on my breathin’ and the universal sound.”

~Tyler Childers, Universal Sound

I have a lot of issues.  I was diagnosed with ADHD ten years ago, but I am also sensitive to sensory input (sometimes I overstimulated and sometimes I am sensory seeking), I am adverse to crowded spaces and moving crowds (to the point of panic), I don’t read people well, I don’t convey myself well, I am motivated—even driven—but I’m not a people pleaser so my energies are mostly self-serving, and ultimately I suffer from depression, suicidal thoughts, and the complete and total absence of self-esteem.  Well, maybe I have a shred.
Yesterday I went to my second therapy session.  I’m 43 years old.  You can probably see I carry around a lot of rotting garbage in my head.  
I have hope.  I used to say I was simply a realist.  I didn’t feel like I tended toward optimism or pessimism.  And that may have been true when I was younger.  But when you’re in the middle of a depressive state, walking through that dark valley, you will reach for whatever light there is.  You scrabble for the life preservers, and if you find yourself doing it often enough you become practiced at finding something to keep you afloat.  It’s a survival mechanism pure and simple.  It may not even be healthy.  But it keeps you going another day and staves off ruinous consequences.
Maybe I am still simply a realist.  I guess you can be a realist and have hope.  You don’t have to be an optimist and be hopeful.  But my hope is dogged.  Even in my deepest depression I still have dreams for the future.  I lose the drive to pursue them, but I hope that when the light returns the dreams won’t have left me.  Maybe I’m an optimist after all.  I don’t let little things like depression and adversity hinder my dreams.  I don’t let life get me down too bad.
What I struggle with of late is the uncertainty of not knowing where I want to go.  My biggest problem in life is I am constantly trying to escape the dark situations I find myself in while ignoring all of the good around me.  I want out of the cubicle so bad I would trade a good job and being in a place where I am able to good things for something less good.  But then I get caught up in arguments that money isn’t everything and my values are being battered while my body is knotted up from sitting in the damn cubicle and that maybe I would be better suited to other work, and I’m missing the boat on other opportunities, and why did I ever leave the outdoor industry to begin with, to I’d love to get back in shape for climbing, to I don’t have enough time to ride my bike, to a sudden and crippling guilt that I’m focused on myself and not my family, to another layer of guilt that I’m neglecting things that need to be done at home and at work, to hoping again that maybe I can get in shape to do endurance mountain bike events again, to wondering if I’ll ever be able to stop all of these voices.  These barking hounds.  My mind is ever going a mile a minute and never stops, never pauses, never gives me a second to catch my breath and figure out where I am and where I need to be going.
The garbage continues to rot and I continue failing to figure out a way to haul it off.
My amazing wife has asked me in the past: “You’ll never be content, will you?” in regards to some new scheme I’ve been brainstorming.  At first I was defensive, but the past few times she’s asked I’ve simply answered:  “No.”  I don’t think I could be content if I got my every wish granted by some all-powerful genie.  Part of my wiring is to be ever-moving.  Part of my neurosis is an insatiable desire for the new and novel experience.  If tomorrow I walked into the woods and found a hundred miles of mountain bike trails in my backyard by next month I’d be looking elsewhere for new experiences. 
I always thought those songs about being a rambling man were silly, but the truth is that’s me.  I want to always be moving.  The curse of that programming is that the natural desire for stability and of being part of a family and passing on myself to the next generation was not deleted from it.  My urges are in conflict all the time. 
I’ve been reading The Power of Myth which is written as a conversation between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell.  There’s a passage that struck me pretty hard and I want to share it.  The excerpt is from a longer passage that better informs the sentiment, but I think this captures the essence:
“Moyers: So if my private dreams are in accord with the public mythology, I’m more likely to live healthily in that society.  But if my private dreams are out of step with the public—
“Campbell: —you’ll be in trouble.  If you’re forced to live in that system, you’ll be a neurotic.”
To me this seems to explain exactly why so many people are living with depression and anxiety.  We all understand the current social arrangement doesn’t conform to a logical structure and that it’s simply propped up by artificial edifices.  Sooner rather than later the bill is going to come due and we definitely can’t cover the check.  But we think it should not be that way.  We want to be in harmony with our culture.  Our tribe.
I just can’t believe the depression and anxiety that afflicts so many of us has any evolutionary or spiritual value.  The likely culprits are the prevalence of unnatural chemical combinations in our environment, genetic decline, and the expectations of a free market which has no regard for human need, only in generating more and more capital at the expense of resources.  As human beings we can sense that we have no societal value beyond our contribution to the market and we despair. 
I’m trying to find a clear view of my value.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hump Day Harrangue: Finally Functional

9/22/05

1:40pm

ADHD?

So I wish I knew what was wrong with me. I just can’t seem to focus on many different things. My thoughts tend to wander too easily. I can’t keep myself interested in things after I leave the classroom. I forget important things.  Am I odd in this?  I don’t know.  I think I am different in some way in how I keep track of what is important in life.  My priorities themselves are much like most everyone I know, but the way I handle them is not.  Am I lazy?  Not caring?  Do I have some developmental problem?  I don’t know.

I have decided that my main problem in public schools was that I was either bored with the material or it was too complicated to keep my interest so most of the time I was daydreaming and doodling.

Not too different these days.

***

That was a journal entry of mine from 2005.  I was thirty-one years old and in the middle of my undergraduate studies at Eastern Kentucky University.  I struggled to get that degree.  It took seven calendar years for me to get an undergraduate, not counting the shorter stints over the previous thirteen years wherein I attempted to find a career / life path through higher education.  My twelve years sentence in K12 education was even worse.  At least in my long stretch to the finish in college I was invested and engaged in my education.  It never really got easier, but the expectations changed and I was better able to manage myself as a non-trad commuter.
It was late 2005 when I first began to seriously question if I had something fundamentally wrong with me.  Until then I just assumed I was a “normal” person.  What is normal?  Even now I don’t know if I agree with the “neuro-typical” and “neuro-atypical” labels.  I think we’re all screwed up to some degree.
But regardless, I figured out over a two year process that apparently the wiring harness installed in my brain or the software version I was running was for a different model.  The expectations of Western Civilization were no motivation for me and instead offered nothing but torment and frustration. 
I was finally diagnosed with ADHD on March 5, 2007.  It’s been ten years.
I missed a great blogging opportunity on Sunday / Monday.  I’m here to correct that.  However, the real landmark date was March 28, 2006.  On that day I sat in our home office trying to write a paper for some class.  After hours of unproductive internet play I became frustrated to the point of anger.  I remembered or reread the entry that I’ve copied at the top of this piece and typed into my handy-dandy Google search bar: “symptoms of ADD.”  On that day I felt as if I had met the real me.  I felt like the veil across my eyes had been taken away.  I felt like someone had flipped on a light.  But instead of hope my world devolved into despair.  I felt broken, betrayed by the world, alone, and hopeless.  My life changed that day more than any other single day before or since. 
Since that day I’ve discovered more and more about myself.  I also realized I suffer from very real and at time debilitating depression.  I figured the sad moods I’d felt my entire adult life were just carryovers from my adolescent peaks and valleys.  I assumed everyone went through the cycles I went through.  I didn’t realize I was stoically bearing the burden of a comorbid gang of neurological demons hanging about my neck and chewing on my thoughts day after day after day.
I’ve also learned that I’m much stronger than I ever believed.  While I may not have the physical endurance to do the things I would love to do I have a mental toughness that has protected me through the storms of my life.  I’m one of those people who have been able to carry on putting up the front that nothing is wrong and that I’m well-adjusted and “normal.” 
What’s different now—after living a decade with all of this new knowledge about myself—is that despite my strength and despite the coping strategies I learned without even knowing it I am running out of road.  I just can’t keep trying to shoulder this burden alone.  I can’t bear the weight without seeking outside help.
I have to back up just a bit.  I’ve had help for the past eighteen years.  My wife has been the solid rock in my life.  Without her support I would have been adrift and likely sunk a long time ago.  When I am at the bottom of the darkest well she is the one to shine the light I need to climb out.  When I am lost in the wilderness it’s her voice I listen for to guide me out. 
I’ve depended on her too much.  Neither of us are mental health professionals.  And so, after too long ignoring my mental health needs I am seeing a therapist.  Tomorrow is my second visit.  I honestly don’t know where this path is going to lead.  But I needed to explore this, and I should have done so a long time ago.
When I was younger I didn’t expect I’d ever go through a midlife crisis, but then again, I didn’t expect to make such startling discoveries about myself going into midlife.  I’m not predicting going bald and growing chest hair to show off through gold chains and buying a Corvette, but these days my mind is in turmoil all the time.  I can point to specific factors that are troubling me, but there are days when I feel like there’s no point in trying to pick the flotsam and jetsam out of the flood to prevent getting pricked when it’s the flood itself that’s the problem.
I know, Dear Readers, this isn’t the happy-go-lucky fare you’re used to here on this back alley wall of the internet, but it felt timely, and I am determined not to sweep this stuff under the rug because I know part of my problem has been the cultural un-awareness of mental health issues.

 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Big Sigh of Relief / Exasperation

Nothing much to report.  I'm still gimping about on this bum ankle.  Running is definitely out for a while.  And that's okay.  I'm not signed up for any running events and I fully intended to do more cycling this year.  I'd started out the year running to try and get a lead on my fitness.  Blew that out of the water.
 
[Be thankful I refrained from posting the nude pic of my bruised foot]
 
Anyway, I think I'm just about good to go for some easy mountain biking.  I'm going to give it the rest of this week, but I fully intend to get on the road bike some evenings.  I can't put off the miles any longer.  The Mohican will not wait for me to be ready.
 
Saturday Mandy and I hiked the Flat Hollow loop to check for storm damage.  On the under construction section of Hillbilly Hayduke there is one large tree and some medium sized trees down which should be easy enough to clear when I get a chance.  I was expecting much more wind damage; I'm thankful it's not worse.
 
Now that planning for the RRG MTB 100 is in full swing I definitely want to ride.  I'm inspired.  And I'm not even going to be able to race in the derned thing!  
 
I could go into numbers and such.  I won't.  We had a good first couple of days after registration and then activity has flatlined.  That's okay.  We're still a few months out.
 
 What is inspiring is hearing my friends talk about their plans to do the race, or get a new bike, or they're stoked to volunteer.  I'm heartened that what we're doing is going to interject plenty of positive energy into the universe.  And that's what I really want to do.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Ramming Speed Fridays: Mountain Folk Edition


Ok, the mountain bike race is progressing well.  We've got 26+ folks so far.  We've got racers signed up from five states.  I'm stoked to say the least.

The Mohican 100 is creeping up over the horizon.  So last night I made up a training calendar.  I’m not too late into the year to begin; especially considering that when I got to mountain bike races I’m not really racing.  

Why mountain bike racing?  Geez, why couldn’t I have been obsessed with nature photography?  I was at one time in my life.  When I was younger and better able to endure the suffering of an endurance race.  Should have flip-flopped passions.  And we come back to the hypothetical imagery that twenty-three year old me would punch forty-three year old me in the teeth.  I think Tyler Childers sang it better in William Hill:

…And I’ve turned into a stranger to the boy who left the creek…

He finishes that out with:

But I reckon if I’m lucky then I just might make it home;
Get a handle on my drinking, straighten up, and die alone.

So maybe I’ve got it better than I thought after all.  I’m not over the hill yet. 

Speaking of fine folk from Eastern Kentucky…

I read Hillbilly Elegy and I've listened to numerous interviews with and a TED talk by the author, and I wasn't impressed. It's not an accurate representation of Eastern Kentucky culture. J.D. Vance didn't grow up in Eastern KY. In fact, even his mother was a transplant to southwest Ohio. Vance was second generation Buckeye and his grandparents moved north when they were hard out of their teens. So his claim to be some kind of spokesperson for Eastern Kentucky is horse hooey. And while a lot of commentators are endeared to the way he refers to his grandmother as "Mamaw" his accent butchers it in such a way it sounds like he's trying to use the word to learn English.

A lot of people love this book, and it was a quick read. I can't say it was poorly written or that it's not engaging. But the claims Vance makes and the picture he tries to paint are simply not representative of life in Eastern Kentucky. It's a view through a very narrow window and it brings to light nothing but bad stereotypes. And as someone who spent a good deal of time in the same part of Ohio where Vance lived I can say that he should have called the book "White Trash Elegy" and left hillbillies out of it. Rednecks and white trash live everywhere and the culture Vance describes is more indicative of poor working class whites across the nation and does nothing to describe what it's like to grow up in Eastern Kentucky.

I posted those last two paragraphs on my Facebook page and then in response to another comment by a friend (who didn’t finish the book) I added:

…The other thing that really gets to me is that "success" seems to only be escaping poverty by moving away. I feel like I am and a lot of people I know who live in Eastern Kentucky are successful people. And I see a lot of nice homes and shiny cars and all of those things our consumerist society tout as being emblems of success. So why do we need to hear yet another story about the poor, stupid white people in Appalachia? Why not a tale of how great it is to live where we do and what wonderful people inhabit this place?

You realize this is a challenge I'm throwing out to myself?  I’m chucking that ball up in the air to hit myself, not pitching it to someone else.

I’m a native, but I am also a resident by choice.  I’ve moved away and moved back multiple times.  This big hole in the ground called the Red River Gorge keeps pulling me back into its gravity well.  I don’t truly know if it’s the landscape or the people.  Maybe both.  I know I feel more comfortable around the people I find here.  The interesting thing is that it’s all the people, not just friends and family who are natives.  Maybe I’m just more comfortable being social in this ecosystem.

Regardless, J.D. Vance knows nothing of the world I live in or the worlds that I touch.  I’ll admit I’m probably somewhat privileged in Eastern Kentucky, but there’s not much that separates me from the poorest people in the community where I live.  Slightly different circumstances in my life and I would have suffered deeply in the conditions that affect a lot of so-called “hillbillies.”

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Hump Day Harrangue: Ash in the Wind


Well, now we’ve done it.  Registration is open for the Red River Gorge MTB 100.  Hearts and bikes are going to be broken.  The course is tough.  Tough on metal, but especially tough on muscle and sinew, skin and bone.

I haven’t ridden the course in a single push yet.  In fact, it was only last month that I had the final version in mind and mapped.  And the weather and my time and energy have not aligned in such a way to allow me to attempt even a small chunk.  So I need to get out and start racking up the road miles.  I need to harden my legs back up for climbing short and steep and relentless.  I need a Furnace / Cobhill / Patsey / High Rock day.  I need a few of those.  The Mohican is speeding toward me and I am not ready.  I’ll only do the short version—the stumpy Mo—but that will still require some hardening up of the eff.

Registration is open and as of 10:00am the first morning we have over a dozen signed up.  Another race director friend says that’s impressive.  I say that’s simply the magic of the Red River Gorge.  If they come stampeding back next year to do it again then I’ll take some credit. 

The real work begins now.  Very soon I’ll be able to share some artwork for the race and hopefully we’ll be announcing sponsors and partners soon.  Things are coming together and I am less antsy now that we have registration open.  It’s going to be a great race, and I’m not saying that because it was my idea.  This should have happened a long time ago.  I’m just the guy finally pulling the trigger on it.

It was twenty years ago almost to the day that raging storms came through the state, flinging mobile homes about like so much fast food litter and then flooding whatever was left over.  That was a memorable one.  And today we’ve got tornado threats and heavy rains pounding the Bluegrass State.  It’s probably not quite the same intensity, but we’ve got another one of those Spring season hitting us that will likely have us all scratching our heads and patching our roofs.

The ankle is slowly healing.  Probably won’t be back on Ol’ Fatter Than Average for another week but maybe I’ll try to get on the Dogrunner over the weekend and roll some hills.