My brother Richard took up farming in Maple Hill, Kansas in the mid 70’s.  He bought land, but to make ends meet rented a very old (circa 1885) farm house from Francis.

Francis, well into his 80’s at the time, and his wife Verna lived a long life in this old farm house and reluctantly moved out to a newer, more practical, home when Francis could no longer chop the endless supply of wood to stoke the “octopus” furnace.  Verna and Francis raised a large family here.  Along the way, their daughter Louise was hit by a train as the tracks cross Vera Road, less than half a mile from their front door.  Louise was only eleven years old at the time of her death.  Clearly never over this, they stored her toys and clothes in the attic and never touched them again – even as they moved out decades later.

The old house was eternally dusty from farm trucks stirring up the gravel road as they raced toward town. It seemed to wheeze and cough from time to time and exhibit numerous other signs of being worn out from a long life.  As soon as Richard and his family moved in they noticed all manner of odd goings-on. Benevolent, yet odd.

The first week, painters came to slap a new coat of whitewash on the outside.  They tilted out the screens to paint the window frames.  My sister-in-law Claudette was somewhat miffed that they had left these unlatched on the inside when they left for the day.  An hour later, after a quick trip to the market, she arrived home alone.  She noticed they had been latched.  No one fessed up to the credit or the blame.

As the months passed the creaky noises began to develop a bit of a pattern.  Most nights, from the upstairs bedrooms, you could hear what sounded like a rocking chair making a slow comforting rhythm from the main floor.  Claudette enjoyed the thought of a “special guest” and would attempt small talk when she came down to the kitchen late at night.

Many summer nights, exhausted from bailing hay all day, I would lie awake, in Louise’s old room, with the entrance to the attic and her 50 year-old belongings feet away, trying to convince myself that nothing strange was happening.  Countless “odd noises” and “misplacements” ensued.  Each  became more difficult to explain.  Contributing to my concern, the bunk bed I slept in was so rickety that the rhythm of my breathing would literally elicit a creeking noise with each exhale.  Yet, I resisted the notion of anything supernatural, and elucidation came in many forms – usually blaming the age of the old house and it’s new epoch with the Spain’s.  the open attic cover, most mornings, could be explained by the bellows effect of the huffing and puffing old house.

One fall evening, around sunset, my nephew Ron (more like a slightly younger brother) and I drove home past the Maple Hill Cemetery, with it’s glowing tombstones.  Then we took the left down Vera Road and over the tracks where Louise lost her life, and swung into the driveway and parked around back to run inside and grab a jacket with plans to head out for a High School basketball game.

As we walked into the kitchen together, we heard the door to the 1940’s bathroom, under the stairs to the right, slam shut with impetus.  We walked through the kitchen and into the dining room to see who was in such a rush.  There seemed to be no one home.

Retracing our steps back through the kitchen, we heard a young someone run up the stairs – clomp, clomp, clomp with a matching “Jackie, Jackie, Jackie” joining each step.  Eyes locked, Ron and I simultaneously asked each other, “is Jackie home?”  (Jackie is the name of Ron’s younger sister and my niece)

We followed up the stairs and looked carefully through the first bedroom, not speaking a word.  No one was there.  Peering into the master bedroom together, we saw that the curtains were blowing away from the window as if a Kansas tornado had arrived.  As we searched the room, we noticed that the windows were closed.  A quicker glance into our bedroom revealed that the attic hatchway was open again.

That was it.  Without a word we both bailed, flying down the stairs and out the back door, we couldn’t get in the car and the hell out of there fast enough.  It was miles down the road before we could speak and each detailed the same story.

Never again did we arrive home to an empty house, without offering Louise ample time to clear out of the way.

Soon after Richard built a modest new house and moved his family out of the old farm house.  The next resident lasted just a few months before being forced to move to a psychiatric hospital.  Once again empty, the house was burned to the ground.  I would forever drive 4 or 5 miles out of my way to avoid that section of Vera Road.

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The World Would Be A Better Place, If…

  • What tastes good was also good for you
  • We could all have “that one moment” when it all goes perfectly
  • The politicians figured out that the vast majority of us live in the middle, not the fringe
  • You could always drink just enough and still feel great in the morning
  • Teachers and administrators were paid well and in return they treated every kid as a young human, worth the investment
  • You found something you’re good at and used it to make a real difference
  • You knew when not to ask that question
  • Your “friends” would stop saying stupid shit
  • Dating was less painful
  • We could be happy for each other
  • Pain killers worked
  • Do-overs were possible
  • Awkwardness wasn’t
  • We could Be Here Now
  • We lived for the moment
  • We made money doing what we love
  • Green was easier
  • The work week was two days and the weekends were five
  • We understood that I am me and you are you
  • You could accept that Not Everyone’s Gonna Like Ya
  • History is just that: New Man New River
  • You could turn off your mind and accept what you have done and focus on what you will do
  • You could travel and still sleep at home
  • The most amazing person you ever met said “YES” – oh wait, SHE DID!!!

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man – Heraclitus

Comparisons are inevitable.  Our mind feels the need to understand the difference between our results, our toys, our love lives and those we know or used to know and our adjusted expectation.  Despite our certainty of the juxtaposition, we always bring our own bias and an objective comparison is rare.

Cut jagged by emotion, how we connect the dots is at best jaded and at worst horribly flawed.

Every time we enter the river it is new – we are new as well.  With this opportunity you can recreate yourself, events and relationships or by understanding that the same holds true for others, you can begin each conversation, perhaps each interaction, anew.

Life has been all about having more fun.  The adventure this weekend was remarkably close, yet…

To that end, Elaine and I raced the Urban Assault Ride in Charlotte this past weekend.

Here’s how it works: You and your teammate set out on a city-wide quest for ‘checkpoints’ on your favorite two-wheeled machine.  At each checkpoint, you drop your bikes and complete a funky/adventurous obstacle course, then you remount bike and hit the streets for more.

The goal is to complete all the checkpoints in the shortest amount of time. You choose your own route and checkpoint order. This means that the most clever are often the victors.

Our friend Doug Ruwe, an Urban Assault veteran, laid out our course for us and gave us the skinny as to how to make this work.  And, this was amazingly helpful until we missed the very first turn and then improvised the rest of the day – leveraging the previously aforementioned advice.

Elaine and I laughed through the first miscue and followed a small group to the first stop.  This is where she jumped on the handlebars as we cruised around the parking lot on a BMX bike grabbing two flags and collecting our ‘bead’ for our necklace to prove that we made stop #1.

Note to self – a cyclocross bike would have been slightly better than a road bike for some of the terrain.

Stop #2 came after a winding trip through some of the nicest neighborhoods in Charlotte.  At the Mint I donned a large pair of hiking boots with a piece of inner tube attached to both and used my ‘slingshot’ to fling old shoes at Elaine, standing in a hula hoop, about 30 feet away.  Her job was to catch them in a basket.  The first one made it about 5 feet; however, the second hit her straight in the chest at Mach V.  It knocked her out of the hoop, but, no kidding, she didn’t even complain.  Ahhh…after adjusting to launch them up in the air, she quickly caught two.  Upon collecting bead #2 we were off.

Stacking blocks on a sledding disk preceded the big wheel course.  The big wheels are serious fun and this should have lasted much longer.  Three wheel skids through each turn and a final spin out at the finish had everyone roaring.  Four beads down and one to go.

Seriously lost for a few blocks downtown, we finally found the art museum for the mystery stop and then we hauled it out to Ray’s Splash Planet.  We went here last as we were expecting to have to dive in to the pool and retrieve beer.  Instead, we arrived and saw a field with about 6 cones arranged in a row and an ambulance in the parking lot.  Yeah, seriously, a guy had just broken his shoulder minutes before we arrived.  Perhaps we should have paid attention.

This photo may help, but the idea is that one person holds on to the handles on the wheel, while the second lifts the legs and you create a human wheelbarrow.

Elaine held the wheel while I tried to lift her which is remarkably difficult to do both at the same time.  We switched places and she tried to lift my goon size legs, but at least she figured out that to keep balance you have to grab both legs together at the same time.  Before switching yet again, she reminded me that she needed to crash on her left side – not the right hip.  We quickly got rolling and headed to the first cone and 180 degree turn.  After dodging three or four cones, just two from the end, we rolled into a deep pothole hidden by the grass and the wheel stopped.  Unfortunately, Elaine did not and we drove her left shoulder into the ground.  We both rolled and tumbled.

It was immediately obvious that she was seriously hurt.  It was also obvious that this girl is tough.  I waved over the EMT tending to the previous victim and we got her into the ambulance.  A giant logistic nightmare ensued to get her to the hospital with the bikes and me to the truck to collect her insurance card and such to meet her at the hospital.

Seven hours later (literally seven hours later) we left with the diagnosis of a fractured left humerus (the bone between shoulder and elbow) at her lesser tuberosity.  No, it was not funny.

Describing the whole experience, at least ten times, to the various medical staff, she smiled each time and said it was fun and that she would do it again.  So would I.  Next time we want more fun and lesser tuberosity.

Perspective

per·spec·tive noun /pərˈspektiv/

The art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point

a perspective

  • A picture drawn in such a way, esp. one appearing to enlarge or extend the actual space, or to give the effect of distance
  • The relation of two figures in the same plane, such that pairs of corresponding points lie on concurrent lines, and corresponding lines meet in collinear points
  • A particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view
  • True understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion
    • – we must keep a sense of perspective about what he’s done

The past two months have been amazing for gaining a proper perspective of and for my life.  Many friends have asked, “where have you been?”  The truth is, I have been on vacation from old habits, serious training, DELTA TriathlonIOSDT, and my blog.  But, I have been present – present in the moment.

It has been a very long time since I have slept in on Saturday, fully enjoyed the company of someone I love, and thought about someone besides myself.  I am much looking forward to Ray Lamontagne reminding us to Be Here Now with Elaine and my sons.

Looking at oneself is very cathartic; yet, impossible without a reflective view.  I highly recommend occasionally stepping back from all of the things which consume your time and attention and make sure this is where you really want to be. Enlist someone you trust – as I do Elaine – to tell you the truth.  With this and some internal calisthenics, I have rebalanced and reloaded for the next phase of my life.  I have found a moment of clarity.

I am honored that so many people – friends and friends of friends – reach out to me for guidance with selecting a new bike.

More commonly now I don’t really know the person I am speaking with, so I always start with a few questions to size them up.

How much do you plan to spend?  Anyone answering with, “how much do I have to spend?” or “I don’t really know if I will ride or not” begets the internal scoff and will receive a bit of a lecture about having the wrong stuff guarantees that you won’t like it.  The minimum you can spend is $650 + shorts, shoes, water bottles and a helmet = $1,000.  Wrap your head around that and call me back if you are serious.

Sometimes I get the used bike question.  I do know people who have bought used bikes that worked and just happened to fit and not make their asses or their hands hurt.  This is sort of a miracle and at best a lottery.  It is so difficult to find a used bike that fits and to do so you may need to fix something, or change the seat or pay for a $65 bike fit, which comes free with a new bike.  You really need to know what you are doing for a used bike to work out.  It is generally better to borrow one until you come to love cycling as much as I do … and you will. Then you will have to spend a LOT to be happy.

It is very important that the bike fit you.  Asses hurt from poor fitting bikes and, generally speaking, not the saddle.  Also, real bike shorts, with the chamois, worn WITHOUT underwear, are a must.  Again, the more you spend the better they generally are to a point.

If the bike seeker is deemed serious, we move on…  Think of a bike as a frame, components, and wheels.  some manufacturers start with a great frame and less expensive parts or vice versa.  I always say, get the best frame you can afford.  The more carbon fiber the better.  The drive train, wheels and other parts can all be upgraded later.  All of these parts become lighter and more efficient with price.  But, there is a law of diminishing return beyond which is sort of a foolish investment (which is exactly one step away from what I currently have).

Then I usually guide the would-be cyclist to a reputable bike shop who sells bikes I like in their price range.  I also steer them away from bike shops run by people who have pissed me off.  Hey, it is hard to piss Todd off, but he has a VERY good memory.

For lunch, or if the person is unusually serious, I will go with them and help them get started.

Cid Cardoso, Jr. (owner of Inside-Out Sports) and I created these videos which we hope will help.  Please feel free to share this article and my contact information with your friends and friends of friends.  I will be glad to do what I can.

More Related Videos:

Proper Road Bike Fit

Selecting Between A Road Vs A Time Trial Frame

I haven’t believed Tyler Hamilton for a long time, but I believed his story from the 60 Minutes interview last Sunday.  I think the guy is finally giving it up.

Hamilton Interview Part One

Hamilton Interview Part Two

Can the world come to grips with the fact that Lance doped?  Personally, I am fairly certain that he did in 1999 and through at least 2002.  After that maybe not – as cycling finally began to clean itself up.

In 2011 Livestrong will provide more than $45 million dollars for cancer research and programs for patients.  Cancer has or will touch all of our lives – perhaps very close to home.  There are 12 million cancer survivors in the U.S.  The answer to the moral dilemma may come by polling them.

But, more than cheating to win, Lance may have lied to a Grand Jury, defaulted on a contract with the United States Government (I thought that the USPS was a quasi-governmental organization?) and duped all of the world into believing that his fairy tale was completely legit.

Let’s just say that he is found guilty of doping in 1999 and he is stripped of his Tour title from that year.  To whom are we going to give the victory?

This is the top 10 General Classification from the 1999 Tour de France

  1. Lance Armstrong – probable doper
  2. Alex Zulle – admitted doper in Festina Affair
  3. Fernando Escartin – admitted doper
  4. Laurent Dufaux – admitted to EPO
  5. Angel Casero  – busted in Operation Puerto
  6. Abraham Olano  – never admitted, but implicated with Michele Ferrari
  7. Daniele Nardello – never met his potential and never implicated, but was coached by Rudy Pevenage (Ullrich’s drug dealer)
  8. Richard Virenque – doper
  9. Wladimir Belli – not implicated but on the 1999 Festina team
  10. Andrea Peron – minor drug implications

….Hmmm.  We could go with Olano who is the highest placed rider not busted.  Or, maybe Nardello who had such incredible talent which never translated to victories – perhaps because he didn’t do drugs.

Is hauling Lance off to jail going to help anyone?  I doubt it.  It won’t prevent anyone from doing drugs to win.  But it may have a catastrophic impact on those millions more cancer patients and their families.  The truth is that I just don’t care if Lance did Edgar Allan Poe (EPO).  He was clearly the greatest amongst the dopers for a very long time.  His punishment may be living with the giant lie and the constant worry that it will spill out uncontrollably – as it did for Tyler.

My legs are at that critical stage today.  The hair has grown to the point where it looks silly and is especially itchy.  What is the projected injury timeline whereby cessation of shaving is logical and/or acceptable?

My appendix was taken out five days ago.  The surgeon explained the high risk of hernia if I resume training before at least two weeks.  Which means that real training won’t resume for another twelve days or so.

So, five days in and twelve to go. Maximum itchiness is today.  I am feeling very lazy.  If I let it go one more day, past the stupid looking itchy stage, I may be in for the duration.

What to do ??  What to do?  Are there any rules for this?  Cool factor is very important to me!

Related Blog: Leg Shaving Explained

I smiled,
I waited,
I was circumspect;
O never, never, never write that I
missed life or loving.


In the last two years I have experienced:

– Three surgeries; leg, wrist, and an appendectomy yesterday
– A broken thumb and two broken toes – yeah, I dinged a toe again last week
– Stitches in a thumb and calf
– The continued chaos that is Cisco
– Acceptance that Lance probably doped
– Moving from the Cleaver house to a beaver lodge
– A personal investment typhoon
Love American Style
– Much less time with my boys
– And, the loss of my mom

I have always believed that Chaos = Opportunity; this period of upheaval has had its opportunities.  In many ways this has been the happiest time of my life.  Life rages in me.

I know Todd much better.  I know what is important to me.  For the first time, in a long time, I have real goals.  Pursuing the Tri-life has renewed my faith in the value of hard work and dedication.  Coach Alex McDonald has helped me focus.  And, I have been able to develop many close and long-lasting friendships.

It may be Karma or luck, but somehow because of, or despite the upheaval, I am circumspect about happiness.

My theory is that humans are genetically wired to seek the approval and acceptance of others.  Perhaps this is such that we can remain in the tribe and be allowed in the shelter during a storm or to jointly stave off the sabre tooth tiger attack.  This distinctly human need has driven all sorts of actions and behaviors in me.  Many of which I have spoken to in previous blog posts.

A long time ago, I was new to Cisco and leading a large global IT Team.  Our mission was to design and build web-based systems to help our HR department interview, hire and onboard 400 new employees per week.  (I told you it was a long time ago)

Each day I worked with a young lady in California named “Kelly.”  She was very good at managing up and really thought of herself as being on the fast track.  This was my first gig at a large company and with thousands of stock options and the the price rising every day, I planned to check out a very wealthy man after just a few years. To me, every day was a celebration of my future wealth and I was really diggin’ my job. Except for Kelly.  She was a pain in the ass.

We had a great team and I got along very well with everyone except Kelly.  She was simply never happy with what I said, how I said it, or how I approached problems and openly argued every single point I tried to make.  I repeatedly flew to California to work with her in person.  We went to lunch and I tried being extra nice…  Nothing worked.

One day, in utter frustration, I approached her boss who was my peer and told him this story.  His answer was very simple and profound, “Todd, not everyone’s gonna like ya!”  Yeah, Bob, but I’ve tried this and this and this.  “Yeah, Todd, not everyone’s gonna like ya.”  “Some people aren’t gonna like ya because you are too happy, too kind, too fun, whatever.” “Let it go.”

This was very difficult to accept.  It still is.  I really want everyone to like me.  In fact, I hate thinking that someone may not.  Yet, since hearing this message from Bob, I am much better at living my life by my own values and valiantly trying to let the results be what they will.  The worst scenarios are those whereby it is impossible to make everyone happy.  Frankly, I still suck at letting this go, but am still valiantly trying and am still getting better.

Related Blogs:

Harsh Truth Vs Loving Lie

Object To Focus

Shoulding On Myself

Whatever The Mind Expects, It Will Find