Friday, December 26, 2008


It was a cloud covered sky on one of the longest nights of the year. It was an overnighter that started mid-afternoon, just after our Christmas dinner.

The campground was almost completely empty. It was a little creepy, as if everyone fled from some secret danger. It was not foggy, but somehow still like being in a cloud. A blustery wind, roaring through the trees, made it seem like not only another place, but another time as well. The gray afternoon, almost perceptibly, choked out all light and the moonless, starless dark night came early.

Solitude was sought and it was found. After several hours absent of human conversation, my own thoughts rushed to fill the void. I recalled a recent conversation.

“What do you want for Christmas,” she said.

I don’t recall the precise response, but in the midst of the non-routine, hectic holiday schedule for the day, she caught me off guard. Likely, it was something like, “I don’t know. I’ll think about it.” I like to dwell on my wants.

This Christmas day overnight in the lonely woods gave plenty of opportunity for thinking.

When I somehow convinced her to marry me, I turned her life upside down. Whatever ambitious plans she had were tossed to support what became we. I can cite too many examples of how I have made her life difficult. In spite of them all, she has been faithful to me for 25 years. She follows me where I go. She encourages right action and lives a quiet, consistent example. When I am busy thinking about how to do it, she does it. She is more selfless than I and blesses me every day.

She is a gift. How silly to ask for anything more. In this dark and silent place, it is obvious what must be done. I don't need a gift, I need to be a gift to her.

But like the fuzzy shoreline across the distant gray, how is not quite clear.

Even so, I have a direction. It is time to act. Clarity will come as the goal draws near.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Quiet Contentment

It was an early start. Even in the pre-dawn darkness, the wind was wide awake and at full capacity. Not in the mood for spinning pedals into those gusts, it seemed better to pack refreshments and head to the low lands. It wasn't long after arriving at the Waide Road crossing of Clear Creek that the sky started to lighten up.

The bridge at this location is barricaded at both ends, but a cyclist can squeeze by. Without vehicle traffic this area it is a lonely place on a Sunday morning. Deer running through the shallow creek, and then effortlessly up the steep bank, amazed me.

Spending some quiet time cycling down a rarely used gravel road with a thermos of my own brew, and then pausing at a nearby creekbed for a cup or two, is one way I define contentment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Melancholy Moment

The scene was surreal. On a chilly December morning, it was breakfast in a hotel restaurant. Away from home in a strange place, my attention vacuumed-in the surroundings.

There were a multitude of simultaneous activities. Out on the city street, pedestrians, bicycles, buses, and taxis went east and west. Inside the restaurant, there was normal waitstaff and self-serve buffet traffic. There were four TV screens in an area the size of a large living room.

The TV screens were muted, but furiously paced. Each of them was tuned to CNN and the images flashed rapidly like a strobe light. The news was of the current economic woes, the latest terrorist activities, and a recent political scandal. The horizontal rolling banner at the bottom of the screen displayed the latest juicy details.

Some folks ignored the screens and were intent on the conversation with their dining companions. Others focused their attention on one of the screens, trying to keep up with keeping up. Dining alone, I scanned a USA Today newspaper. One front page story told how teens and young adults are taking advantage of the latest technology to send nude photos of themselves to each other.

A traditional Christmas song played over the restaurant loud speakers. We might be nearing Christmas, but the lyrics just didn't fit. Like wearing swimming trunks to a black tie affair, they exclaimed with passion, but totally out of context...

"...Oh come let us adore Him...Christ, the Lord!"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Between Breaths

After several days of below-freezing mornings and blustery afternoons, it was as if the atmosphere had taken a deep breath, exhaled forcefully, and was at a prolonged pause before inhaling again. Saturday afternoon was sunny, above 60 degrees, and unusually windless. As prairie dwellers, we know that such warm stillness is like driving throught a small town. If you reach down to adjust the radio, you missed it. I wonder how many were inside watching the idiot box and missing it.

Fortunately for me, there were a few simple outdoor chores to be done in the morning. They began in a sharp chill, but as morning turned to afternoon, the wind layed down for a nap. It became obvious that conditions had reached an optimum.

So I grabbed a small lunch, a couple of hours, and a noodling mindset. Then I pedaled around the Clear Creek watershed and found a quiet place for a short picnic stop. I took a deep breath, the sun warmed, birds chirped, I pondered pleasant surroundings, and then exhaled...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Ride

Practically every ride for me is a blessing and a time to be thankful. There have been a couple of rides in to work lately that were especially good, but not documented with photos. The day we set aside for the primary purpose to be thankful included a slow ride in south Texas and that, my friends, fit very nicely with the occasion.

The entire weekend was outstanding in that it included reconnecting with family, good food, a break from the routine work schedule, and a relaxed schedule. We had a fairly full house down there, but we all missed having our Coastie who was on duty out in Alameda, CA. There are lots of other photos of the weekend events, but only a few from the ride will be included in this post. I think I'll save some of the others for a future occasion.

South Texas refers to "not far from Corpus Christi". We were about an hour northwest of Corpus Christi and the high temperatures were in the mid 80s. So the vegetation looked a little more tropical than in has lately back in Denton County.

Typical for these gatherings, my father-in-law and I sort through and solve all the major problems of the world and lament that no one in authority is listening. Most of the rest of the family laments that they are listening.

He is as much an aviator as I am a cyclist. He builds his own airplanes and flies them. Since he recently finished building one, I thought one last photo using a Wright brothers theme would be a good thing. They strike a nice, proud pose together, eh?

I'm thankful when they have an opportunity to be together.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cadillac Sky

For those of you that actually visit this page (as opposed to those who might read via Google Reader, or similar), you might have noticed music. This is the kind of music some of us out here on the Denton County prairie like to hear. It's acoustic, creative, has clever and/or meaningful lyrics, and it includes highly-skilled musicians.

This band also holds a special place in our hearts because of the bass player, Andy "Panda" Moritz. Andy gave private lessons to our daughter Lisa a few years ago. He helped her achieve her music goals in high school. The two of them amazed me. Andy was able to help Lisa do incredible things in a short time. He had a way of encouraging her to work hard. She wanted to acheive, but she wanted also (I believe) to please him.

My family attended one of his recitals at the University of Houston and we were blown away. I had no idea anyone could do what he did with the double bass. He mentioned to us back in those days that, in addition to his classical music, he was playing with a bluegrass band. If this is the same band, I was an idiot for not demanding to hear them back then.

We have both of their albums and think that they have an optimum blend of traditional acoustic bluegrass with many refreshing new features. Apparently, my opinion isn't overly clouded by the fact that I know one of the band members. Check out their website for more details and other gushing reviews by more objective and knowledgeable people than me.

They are coming to Fort Worth soon and I think we might need to shine up our boots and make a trip to town.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Commute Perspective

In keeping with the recognition of the need for more saddle time, I rode the bike to work on Monday. I really need to do this more often. This is one of those great blessings in life one should take advantage of. My job does not lend itself to commuting full time, but my route is really nice. Who wouldn't want to trade a 30-minute drive for 90-minute bike ride? To put my situation in even better perspective, here is what the roads look like after about 60 minutes...

...which is similar to how they look at the start (except that there is light by this time). Yessir, my commute involves about 75 minutes of very low traffic roads and about 15 minutes of wide shoulders or bike lanes. Just think, I have about 3 hours of great cycling with every commute to work.

Go ahead and admit it, you wish you were me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Seasonal Stupor

Some of my bicycling blog brothers (and sisters) have been describing the transition to winter riding. They've detailed accounts of sub-freezing rides, including photos of recent snowfall, and raving about the benefits of studded tires. These accounts are interesting to me not because they apply to my situation, but because of the stark contrast with my little patch on the prairie.

The cycling out here in Denton County, Texas (right about now) is ideal. The weather is cool, but not harsh. Winter is coming, but we are still enjoying the rapidly changing of colors. In fact, the refreshment of cooler air is, in a way, intoxicating to us Texans. I've been slipping into a kind of stupor of short, lazy rides with my mind on the surroundings. Because the weather is so nice and the sunsets so spectacular, I sit on the back porch in the cool breeze when I should be riding. My fitness has suffered and I need to slap myself awake.

I need to make a conscious decision to ride more frequently and go longer. It is time to get up out of the chair and see how far away from home I can get before the sun sets. The time has come to add a little more purpose to my ramblings in the country. I just wish the lazy lure to stop, look around, and soak it all in was a little less appealing.

It soon will be, I suppose, but for now, it's really nice out there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Deer Blind Pondering

I went deer hunting yesterday. More precisely, I went deer "scouting". My brother and his son, the deer hunters, called and invited me to join them for an afternoon hunt. My job was to sit in the elevated blind, downwind of their more strategic location, and let them know when the deer cautiously crept out of forest cover. This job doesn't require much except quiet watchfulness. My mind was free to wander other territory. So it went to topics covered in recent news stories associated with the presidential election and other ballot issues.

The stories were related to abortion and same sex marriages. With plenty of time on my hands, I extracted these topics out of the election context, out of the news stories, and pondered them. In other words, in my thinking, they were isolated from anything else; isolated from religious organizational zeal and isolated from political activist ferver. I wanted to simply examine them there in my hands for what they are in a common sense way. The result was a very odd sensation.

It is odd to me that there is any controversy at all over these issues. It is odd that so many highy educated and wordly wise folks disagree on the obvious. These issues didn't always cause such heated discussion. Now that we have the advances in science and technology, more and more are college educated, and communication and information is literally at our fingertips, we are collectively more confused than ever. As someone wiser than me said, it appears that some "have educated themselves into imbecility".

The fact that our country is so sharply divided on something so fundamental is frightening. These issues are the most basic of societal building blocks; life and family. It doesn't get any more elementary. If we continue to have such a large disagreement about what constitutes taking human life and what marriage is, we will (mark my words) rip ourselves apart.

There were no deer that afternoon, but the time went quickly. As the sun set over my right shoulder, the wind died down, and a chill came to the night air. I remembered that we should pray for our leaders, and especially the president. I shuddered in the cold (or was it fear?). I will be praying passionately for our new president and I sincerely hope that he will do the same.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Book Review

I just finished reading a book. I was so impressed that I thought it should be mentioned here. The purpose of the book, to refute objections to christianity, doesn't apply to me. I am a christian. I almost didn't read it.

I picked it up out of curiosity and was surprised at the simplicity and organization. The authors begin with reasoning and science to make their initial points and build on that evidence, layer upon layer, until atheism appears impractical and unbelievable. Thus the title, "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist".

They go beyond the mere establishment of the existence of God to making the case for christianity as described in the Bible. I thought it was compelling. These guys bring up every objection that I have ever raised myself or heard uttered by others. Then they overwhelmingly refute them.

You might point out that my reaction is predictable for someone already convinced. I agree. When it comes to the Bible, I'm biased. To my mind, there is plenty of evidence in the world around me and the words of the Bible alone to be convincing.

The thing that haunts me, however, is that I was so totally convinced that I can not imagine that anyone could read the book honestly and formulate a substantive argument. I'll admit that I might be limited in my perspective in this case, but I'd really be interested in hearing a alternative view of the information presented. Can a reasonable argument be made?

Finally, I wonder if those that aren't convinced about the existence of the God of the Bible will read this book and investigate. If not, then one of the central messages of the authors seems to apply. Lingering doubt or scepticism is not a matter of evidence, it is a matter of will.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

S24O Solo

It took longer than I would have preferred, but the second S24O is now bagged. My patience was rewarded with perfect conditions (leaving work early on a Friday, clear skies, low wind, cool temperatures, and so on). This time the short campout was solo. I didn't have the social advantages of the previous outing, but was able to spend more time admiring the small amount of fall color we have in north central Texas.

The camping spot was very near the last one, but better protected from the notably cooler northwest wind. In addition, the panniers that I was not able to use on the last trip arrived just in time for this outing.

When we live our lives trying to get more done, optimizing efficiency, being more productive, and improving profitability, these are the things we miss.

When we carve out a few hours of solitude outdoors, we can soak up some of God's greatest blessings.

Like fresh camp coffee on a chilly fall morning...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Disappearing Afternoon

I left work with haste. After arriving at home, I changed and rolled out quickly. The sun plummeted toward the horizon. With each day more of the afternoon is swallowed by night.

Fleeting are the moments to view the countryside after the day's work. Shadows stretch long across the ground and leaves glow in side illumination.

By this time next week, all this will be veiled in darkness.

Like a dear friend's departure after a visit,...

...the afternoon disappears down the road.

To Lisa, From Joey

Since my youngest daughter is serving in the United States Coast Guard, she spends a lot of time on a ship. She misses her faithful friend. So I thought I'd let her know that Joey is still Joey.

Since I live in a house with my adorable wife and her furry rascals, I spend a lot of time surrounded by scoundrels. She is careful to not overfeed them. That means dinner time doesn't last long. There is about 30 seconds of inhaling food followed by a 15-minute quartet of dachshund belching. Then they spend the rest of the evening acting like they've never been fed. I live a charmed life.

Yes, Lisa, Joey is still Joey and he'd like to know if you have any cookies.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

One Lane Bridge

Patiently waiting for the next S24O opportunity, I keep spinning along the same familiar routes. In the meantime, scenes like this are reward enough.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Morning Refreshment

This is the time of year that the occasional cool front saunters down to Texas. That makes for very pleasant mornings and ideal cycling conditions. The morning light makes long shadows and interesting contrasts.

Sometimes on those cool mornings the ordinary becomes more magical and inviting.

And because one pauses to notice, he can see in the color of things that a new season is rolling in.

So he may pedal through pastures grateful for seasons and time for reflection.
Refreshment for the land and refreshment for the soul.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dogged Logic...or Jedi Mind Tricks?

"Five dogs is my max", she said.

"That's good, because there are six living in our house now", I said. "That means we can get rid of one."

"No", she said. "That means I bring home another one."

This might be perfectly logical to you. But I'm an engineer. I take comfort in the predictability of mathematics and was seriously confused. As I paused to try and comprehend what she was saying, she held up her hand, looked me in the eye, and said, "Six dogs, plus one dog, is five dogs."

"Six dogs, plus one dog, is five dogs", I said, not in control of my faculties.

I'm still confused. Something doesn't seem quite right here.

To those of you that read this blog regularly, please answer me this...Have I seen this dog before?