Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Play

It was Christmas morning and all the cool kids were playing with their toys...and so was I. Before the family gathering, I suited up and hit the road. Actually, I hit the road AND the trail. The ride started with about 20 miles of backroads, followed by about 10 miles of trails. It was clear, crisp, and breezy. The road portion of the ride took me eastward to the Lake Ray Roberts Dam and the Greenbelt trailhead.

After stopping for a snack and a water bottle refill, it was time to turn into the woods. There was not much traffic on Christmas morning.

The family came, in route to the family gathering, to pick me up at the designated meeting spot near the southern end of the trail. Since I arrived a little ahead of schedule, I spent a little time playing with the automatic feature of the camera. The results were mostly poor. It's a little childish of me, but here are a couple of shots to show what happens when I try to be like the cool kids.

It was a good day for a little Christmas play.

Strange Times

Dog lovers live outside the limits of normal behavior. The rest of us know that and accomodate their needs as best we can. When various holidays arrive, they ramp up their behaviour a notch to the level of mild embarrassment. We deal with it by reminding ourselves that it is only temporary. But when the Christmas season is in full swing, they are just plain creepy. The problem is that sometimes we feed this behavior. We'll come back to that idea in a moment.

The dog lover in my family (hint- not me) has traded addresses with many internet weinie dog loving friends across the country for the purpose of exchanging Christmas cards. It sounds innocent enough but, let me tell you, when those cards started rolling in, it was frightening. First, I think we received more cards from people we've never met that from those we know well. Second, I'm guessing that we didn't receive a card from every wienie dog fanatic and certainly there are other breeds of dogs out there. That means the sheer number of people who behave this way is staggering. Finally, almost all the cards come with photos of one or more weinie dogs all dressed up in all sorts of costumes. If you can imagine it, someone has figured out how to put it on dog. It might be holly-decorated collars, jingle-bells around their necks, little red Santa hats, floppy reindeer antlers, and complete Santa costumes. It might be anything. Tell me, what kind of mind does it take to dream up how to put a tiny white beard on a dachshund?

Now back to my point about "encouraging them" in their bizarre behavior. My daughter, Ellen, who is otherwise a good normal kid, brought her two cats home with her during her holiday visit with us. No costumes. However, she brought the dog lover in the family gifts. Gifts that you might say were dog lover oriented. In fact, (and I don't blame her for this) they were costumes. When you see the great joy on the face of a dog lover after they receive some kind of over-the-top pet trinket, it is hard to resist. The more embarrasing it is to purchase, seemingly the greater the joy for the recipient. I am pleased to report that the costume was not an elf suit. Instead,...well, see for your self.

You tell me. Does the look on their faces say, "Wow...just what I always wanted!" or rather, "If I was 100 pounds bigger, you'd be wearing this on your face faster than you could say, 'Aw...what a cute puppy-wuppy', and I would be the one grinning"?

It wasn't long after that Gus, the pit bull mix, was being subjected to the festivities. The jingle bells were put around his neck. The he looked up and I heard him say, "If you want me to prance around like some kind of sissy sleigh horse or reindeer, you've had too much eggnogg!".

Then he flopped down in total embarrassment.

While Ellen and I were sympathetically embarrassed for him, the dog lover was clapping her hands with glee.

Yes sir. Christmas time is a strange time for the dog lover's family.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What It's Like

Janet was surprised to learn that I took no photos during my early morning ride.

"Most of it was too dark", I replied without elaboration.

The truth is that there were several things about the ride that made an impression. A mental image, if you will. I thought that some readers of this blog might not have experienced an early morning, start-in-the-dark, chilly, bicycle ride through a rural area. If you can use your imagination for a minute, I'll tell you what it's like.

Leaving my lover all nestled under cover is like a lingering goodbye. It needs to happen, duty calls, you've really got to go, but you don't really want to leave her behind.

Rolling along in the pre-dawn darkness is both spectacular and eerie. To borrow a phrase from a Charlie Daniels Band song, the stars are like "diamonds on black velvet, stretching from horizon to horizon." The silence and limited vision are like walking into your dark house after being away. You know that it is unlikely that some stranger has broken in and come inside, but there is always that slight chance that he did and he's hiding in that dark corner.

The post-warm-up rhythm of climbing, descending, rounding corners, and adjusting pace to match terrain and wind conditions is like performing easy familiar work. It doesn't require thinking. The automatic motion of completing every climb and reaching the next curve in the road, provides a slow-burning sense of satisfaction like a job skillfully done.

On a clear day, the orange glow on the eastern horizon is like a visual trumpet fanfare signaling the imminent arrivial of some important dignitary.

The solitude is like owning the moment and owning everything you can see. With no one sight, it is like God personally hands you, and only you, this time and His creation to enjoy as His gift. You roll by every farm, every pasture, every creek, and every tree and admire them as if you went out to survey and admire the extent of your own vast empire.

Climbing a road that rises up to resist you is like having a tiny army to stoke the fire that burns in your legs. They provide all the power needed to meet the challenge and conquer all who dare to stand in your way.

When the just-before-sunrise temperatures reach their minimum and fog appears in low areas, it is like God signaled his servants, in an instant, to spread a thin blanket over the pasture. It can sleep a little longer.

Returning home as the sun leaps into the sky and light spills across the valley is like a celebration. It is a joyful homecoming, a reunion with a lover, and a hopeful expectation for what the day has yet to bring.

It's kinda like that.

Only better.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Where I Live

Being outside is...


...better than TV.


Isn't it?
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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Where is everyone?

The weather, after several days of clouds, wind, rain, and cold, was excellent. Sunny skies, temperatures in the high 40's, and a light breeze. It would have been good to work on fender installation, but this day was made for ridin'.

Even on the relatively low traffic county roads, I was a little surprised how empty they were. Maybe everyone was either shopping...or watching football. Whatever the cause, it makes for a delightful 2-hour excursion for a man and his bicycle.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fireplace Haiku

warm, gold tongues aglow
crackling, hissing, simple sounds
spirits soar like smoke

Ride Regrets

The forecast called for rain ending during Friday night, an early Saturday morning temperature of 40 degrees with a light northeast wind, followed by continuing dropping temperatures throughout the day and winds increasing to 25 mph. I planned to ride north, explore a few roads I haven't been on before, and enjoy a tailwind coming home.

I didn't count on the lingering drizzle.

Riding into a light wind with spray in my face made me wonder how long I'd stay out. But when dressed properly and riding uphill into the wind, one warms up quickly and I was actually comfortable and enjoying myself.

This is what fun looks like.

So the route took me up into Cooke County and I really should have gone farther. But, instead of exploring new areas, I turned around at a familiar intersection.

With so little early morning traffic, the sounds of the trip were memorable. Goats. Roosters. The hum of pavement under spinning tires. Dogs barking in the distance. Wind. The sound of water droplets crashing against my helmet and glasses.

There were the sounds, but the smell of clean moist air and wood smoke from homestead fireplaces scattered across the countryside were just as memorable.

Some of those homesteads, so warm and dry, looked inviting.

I do not regret being out on the bike in the dark, damp, cold early morning.

I regret letting the rapidly increasing wind speeds and dropping temperatures nudge me back in the house just a little too soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Please Help Me

They keep arriving...

...and I'm the one who needs to be rescued.

Sunset Ride

It is not always about traveling great distances to see things you haven't seen before.

Sometimes it is about taking the time to see the things around you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


She walked in and said, "The good news is that I did NOT bring home the Coon Hound..."

I grimaced, "Oh no," as I waited for the other shoe to drop.


No, that is NOT a Coon Hound. That is a PAIR of...well...other than little, furry, potty-where-you-please, rascals...we don't really know what they are.

"Don't worry," she said, "They'll just be here for a few days."

"Oh no," I grimaced (do you see a pattern here?). As I recall, that is what she said about about this goof ball...

...who looks pretty at-home in my warm living room.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday Afternoon

When practical, I like to illustrate my little adventures with photographs. On Sunday afternoon, Janet and I enjoyed a Sunday afternoon homestead adventure. Here's the photograph.

The weather Sunday hovered around the mid-30's all day. The plan today called for trekking (via pickup) to Justin to worship God with some friends and returning home for lunch. On cloudy, misty, windy, cold days, a good hot soup is a perfect lunch. This is especially true when followed-up with biscuits and molasses for dessert. After consuming our comfort food, we sashayed closer to the fireplace, put our feet up, and enjoyed the hissing, popping, crackling warmth for about 3 hours.

Occasionally, an adventure in quiet, comfortable rest is pretty hard to beat.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Small Town Parade

Small towns have parades for various occasions. Nacogdoches, Texas has an annual Christmas parade and fireworks show. Being a small town parade, it is really more interesting than the polished parades most of us see on television. These are more intimate. The participants and the by-standers actually KNOW each other.

It is a place were you can take your family and settle-in for about an hour of amusement as...

Honor Guards
Cloggers in Mrs. Santa suits
The Grinch on a Fire Truck
The Grand Marshall wearing a Cowboy Hat
Shriners in Little Red Cars
An Old John Deere Tractor driven by Fat Elvis
Antique Cars and Trucks
Disney Characters
Draft Horses and Buggies
Four-Wheel Drive/Steering Vehicles driving sideways

...and much more come one after another walking, skipping, rolling, dancing, etc. over old, red brick streets.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Cup of Coffee

Across the street from the Denton County Courthouse, at the top of the hill there in the Denton town square, is the 24-hour coffee shop. Since two of the things I like on chilly, overcast Saturday mornings are riding my bike and sipping a cup of hot coffee, a ride for coffee was the plan. I could have brewed a pot of coffee in my kitchen. I could have taken the pick-up to a much closer coffee shop in Sanger. Instead, I pedaled the bike through an indirect sequence of deserted backroads to the Denton town square. It was a 20-mile ride for a cup of coffee.

There are more time efficient and less expensive ways to get coffee in the morning. But, as you can probably guess, the objective isn't only the coffee. The objective, and this might surprise some of you, isn't even the bike ride. No, the objective of the morning involved a variety of things. The coffee and the bike ride were included, of course. Also included were things like physical and emotional health benefits, an extended period of time to think about God and the Bible class I will be teaching Sunday morning, and seeing how long it takes to ride to Denton in case I ever have the opportunity to commute to work in the future. From the perspective of some, it might be ridiculous to ride a bike 40-miles round trip to get a cup of coffee. What a waste of time and effort!

Nope...not a waste at all. Today's morning adventure reminded me of a lesson we must keep relearning...that speed, productivity, efficiency, and monetary profit aren't always useful ways to measure things. There is danger in over-simplification. The economy of real value is a more complex thing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Little Adventures

Bicycles are great machines and can take one to far away and exciting destinations. As one cyclist (Kent Peterson) so eloquently said, "Any distance is biking distance". I am planning my own multi-day bicycle trip and am looking forward to the adventure of riding through different surroundings. When that happens, it will be the longest point-to-point bike ride I've ever done. Until then, I am content with little adventures closer to home.

Today was one of those adventures. The destination was 2.5 miles from home at the cross roads of FM 2450 and FM 455, the old township site of Bolivar. Having a little more time than it takes to ride a bike 2.5 miles, I took the long way. It was a crisp 37 degrees and the sunlight was just beginning to creep over the hills and trees.

It was a delightful morning and there was no hurry...just spinning along the backroads...getting there whenever we get there.

Upon arriving at the intersection I've been through many times, this time was a completely new experience. This time included a history lesson. Turns out that Bolivar was almost named New Prospect if it weren't for a few mugs of rum.

(click for larger image)

Turns out that the town was named for another town in Tennesse, which was named for Simon Bolivar. Mr. Bolivar as best I can tell from the monument given to Texas by Venezuela, was a fairly productive guy. Apparently, he died at age 47, but look at his resume. Statesman. General. Patriot. Liberator of Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama. Founder of Bolivia. Not only were two American towns named after him, an entire country was too.

(click for larger image)

Apparently, back in 1958, the Venezuelan government decided to send us Denton County residents a small momento so that we could remember Mr. Bolivar. That is what we did today. We remembered for the very first time that a man who did so much they named a town in Tennesse after him. Because another man moved to Texas and wanted to name this little town after his home, he went to great trouble and expense to buy mugs of rum as a part of his campaign strategy...and when the votes were tallied, this place would be called Bolivar...and it still is to this very day.

Unfortunately, Miss Becky doesn't live here anymore. Some of you might remember my entry about Miss Becky and how certain persons-of-conscience thought maybe she should be "rescued". So she was. It is interesting to know about the affects of mugs of rum and how it came to be that we aren't standing in a place called New Prospect. Even so, and as delightful as riding a bike on a clear crisp early morning little adventure can be, traveling through Bolivar isn't quite as interesting as it was a few weeks ago.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Weeding the Garden

It is important to keep weeds out of the garden.

Not being a gardener myself, I'm going mainly by what I've heard others say. I think they say something about the competition for water, nutrients, and sunlight. I think it has something to do with allowing the plant to produce its fruit.

The visual effects are obvious to even me. I've seen gardens that were so over run with weeds, it made me wonder at the lack of care. The beauty of the flower or the tasty fruit seem of little value to the caretaker. It is not a garden at all, but an unsitely, unorganized mess. Have you noticed that weedy gardens look worse than almost anything growing naturally?

Jesus said something about the affect of weeds. First, as a part of the parable of the sower of seeds...

"...and some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it." (Luke 8:7)

Then He explains...

"Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity." (Luke 8:14)

What do people see in me? An ugly, weedy, unfruitful mess? Do they see wasted talents and resources? Unfullfilled potential? Someone who is distracted and tangled-up by the weeds of this world?

It is time to do some weeding. I'd rather display the beauty of Godly character and bear the fruit of righteousness. A productive garden takes diligent work. It requires discipline and focus. These things are so easily neglected when we let our eyes wander and our minds stray for even a moment.

Maybe that is why Jesus answered the question about which is the great commandment like He did.

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)

Work. Discipline. Focus.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Things change. It is often said that nothing stays the same. Some things change dramatically, rapidly, and drastically. Other things just sort of ooze unperceptively from the way they are into something different. Those things might not be noticed until you go away and come back later.

Three days ago, I drove down to Houston for business reasons and observed the fast major kind of change and the slow oozing kind of change. On Wednesday afternoon, a friend from work announced, out of the blue, "I'm getting married". The next day, I announced to this friend, as well as all my other co-workers, that I have accepted another job offer and will be leaving my employer of 8+ years. Marriage committments and job changes are big dramatic, high impact changes and they can transform a person's life very quickly.

While in town over the last few days, I noticed that many areas that were once forest are now commercial development. An interesting pattern became evident while driving in. A Farm-to-Market road that once served as a primary cycling route through dense pine trees is now surrounded by urban development. The development is organized. At each major intersection, there are the same kinds of establishments. The same gas stations, the same fast food restaurants, the same grocery stores, and the same coffee shops. There were no real geographic or character differences between the east end of the road versus the west end of the road.

On Friday evening and Saturday morning, I had a chance to ride the bike through old familiar neighborhoods. I rolled along at a casual pace through areas I've been through hundreds of times over the last 8 years. Much of what I saw was easily recognizable and allowed me to navigate my way easily, yet so much was different. It was like riding along in a place strangely similar to the place I once lived, but not really the same place. It was the same place, of course, but it has changed slowly since I've been away.

I guess one lesson to keep in mind is that while it is sensible to make plans, it is also wise to stay flexible, patient, and ready to adapt...because things change.

It was dark and cool when I started the ride Friday night.

Speaking of change, how about Old Town Spring? There is much history here, but it's once simple quiet neighborhood of modest wood-siding homes, has been converted. It is now an eclectic collection of craft shops, bakeries, antique shops, and other shopping opportunities. Even this empty street and open sidewalks transformed into a dense crowd within an hour after this photo.

This old post office looks a little odd surrounded by so many weekend tourist/shoppers.

The parks in the old stomping ground, haven't changed much. Still, the 12-year olds playing soccer when we first moved in are now somewhere else and a different generation of kids are out there running up and down those fields.

Hmmm...even that guy there in the photo above looks like he's aged a little...

Monday, November 26, 2007

We Live Like Kings

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is one in which the objective is decidedly non-commercial. I understand that the greeting card industry is trying to make its way in, but for the most part, this holiday is still about family gatherings and counting blessings. Counting blessings tends to promote contentment which is counter to our cultural obsession with consummerism. Thanking God for all He has provided makes me realize how goods things are and produces a sense of satisfaction that buying things can not.

During this holiday, I reflected on my blessings joyfully. At one point during the weekend, I was mindful of my immediate circumstances. My father-in-law commented on how cold and rainy it was outside and that he was grateful that he had a nice warm, dry home and did not have to sleep outside under a bridge.

"Let's see," I said, "I am warm and dry, have a full stomach, just had a piece of homemade pie, and am sipping hot coffee with my family" Then I paused with gratitude and satisfaction and borrowed a phrase that our church's preacher and my good friend, Shane Coleman says often, "We live like kings".

Yes, we do live like kings. We have it quite good. Our needs are met and we have many other comforts and luxuries. In fact, like kings, it is arguable that some of us live in excess. I won't speak for you, but I plan to keep this in mind as the Christmas holiday approaches. It is a holiday that has become a celebration of materialism. It seems to be a ritual for people to spend money they do not have to buy things for other people who do not need them.

I don't need more things. I like the giving part of the tradition. It is the buying things that bothers me. That and the accumulation of more stuff. I have more than enough stuff. Here is my request to everyone who might be considering buying something for me. This year, please refrain from buying gifts for me. I'd much rather have a conversation, share a meal, share in accomplishing some work task, etc. I don't want stuff, I'd rather have you. In fact, if I receive a purchased gift or money, I plan to donate it to a charity.

If that makes you uncomfortable, I'm sorry. I've been uncomfortable for many years. This year I plan to do something about it. Imagine what we could do collectively if all our consumer activity was directed to those who ARE in need.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Worth It

From one perspective, it is understandable why there are not more cyclists out there. Cycling is an activity that takes some amount of equipment and gear. It is something that, for those with any kind of life, must be planned in advance. Even for those that commute to work on a regular basis, it is usually not the easiest option. So while it might be understandable, I don't think that non-cyclists have all the facts.

The key fact, of course, and one that keeps on reminding, is that it is worth it. It is worth the expense, planning, preparation, and inconvenience. The rhythm of the spin of the cranks, the feel of the balance on two wheels, the glide of momentum, the physical working of the body, and the perfect pace of movement are worth it all. Fast enough to travel significant distances in reasonable time. Slow enough to take in the sights, sounds, and smells along the way. Fast enough to be able to watch the scenary change. Slow enough to greet people verbally.

Early this morning, it was dark, damp, and cool outside. It would have been easier to stay in bed for another hour. My mind ran through a list of excuses. It is surprising how creative my rationalizing mind can be before even leaving the bed. But the ride was on. No excuses.

Roll out in silent solitude before 6am. Within a handful of minutes, the rich returns on my investment were accommulating. Simply delightful. Spinning through the countryside, watching the darkness dissipate, and rolling from creek bottom to hilltop repeatedly. I was back home by 7:30am and it was easily worth the effort (especially since the black-cat-that-I-saw-while-screaming-downhill-out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye-streaking-toward-my-front-wheel-and-then-realized-it-was-not-a-black-cat-but-a-SKUNK and I didn't collide. His nose stopped within an inch of the tire and I thought I was going to have to sleep in the shop for a month, but "no harm, no foul"...and in this case, no harm, no foul smell).

Anything amazing happen to you this morning between 6 and 7:30?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Weekend at Home

At the outset, let me be more specific about my prior comments about the furry rascals. The menace above is the leader. The ego behind the whole gang of them. Can't you just hear him say, "Go ahead, try to push me off...I'll rip your hand off!"

The thug below is the brawn of the operation. Not much for brains, but if he bumps into to your go down.

With that established, we can move on to a very pleasant Saturday morning ride in the country...(as usual, click for larger image)

...and a foggy short Sunday morning ride.

These are all things you can do when you spend the weekend at home. Photos of the slightly better organized shop could have been inserted here also. But I'm not sure how many of you are interested in looking at a workbench, pegboard, and a few hand tools.

In the odd chance that some of you actually can't hear Ted (furry rascal at top) say what I think he said, we'll just open it up for comments. Let's see your own best photo caption for the rascal standing on top of the sofa.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Containing the Furry Rascals

While out of town for a couple of days, Janet made real progress on the fence. She called someone who knows what he is doing and doesn't get bogged down in details. My brother. It is nice to be related to someone who can be so productive. Why did he get all the practical skills in the family?

Nice work, eh?

Interesting that when four furry rascals use a smaller area for a latrine, are more...uh...concentrated.

Watch your step.

Wolf Pen Creek Trail

Sometimes the bike is permitted to come along on the business trip. Sometimes the travel is within Texas and it can stow away in the pickup. It is those times that exploration in other cities happens. This trip, first to Burnet, Texas, and then on to College Station, Texas was one of those times.

Sometimes things just fall into place and, as a part of other plans, you get to visit with an old college friend unexpectedly. You know how the conversation goes.

"Kent", I said happily, "It's good to see you again."

He smiled, "Yes, you too."

To which I responded with something very unusual like, "It's been quite a while." Then I was repaid for my statement of the obvious with a reminder of how old I am.

" 20 years!"

After catching up on each other's lives for the last 20+ years, I told him of my scheme to do a little bike riding before leaving town. That is when I found out my old friend designed a local hike/bike trail. After he provided a few simple directions, I was on my way.

Here are a few photos of his handiwork that I enjoyed on a crisp November day.

The trip went well. My friend has done very well for himself and, unlike me, doesn't seem to have aged a bit. He has designed a very nice quiet trail in this bustling college town. He was proud of it and I was grateful for the chance to experience first hand this part of himself.