Friday, December 2, 2011

Time to Read

Okay, the date on the above picture does NOT reflect the actual time in space that is was taken. This was last Christmas in Nebraska. The wind was blowing just a bit and the temperature was somewhere in the negatives. I just had to suit up in my bicycling attire and take my bike out with frozen tires, frozen brake cables, frozen shifters just so I could do some photo OP and say that I did it. :)

Now, on to the title of this posting. I think I have realized a trend in my life. I find myself gravitating to exercising my brain as I enter into the winter months. The outside projects and activities become limited with weather and the lack of long days of, I realized that I gravitate toward reading more. A good thing for me. I'm not much of a reader. I traditionally gravitate towards books with lots of pictures, in the past as an adult this has been in the form of Car history books, Airplane history books, gun history books and books full of galactic images: stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae, etc...I'm sure I've left out a few other image ridden reading materials. But, this fall I have been investing my limited reading power on thought provoking material, C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, some public dialog on theology/philosophy, intense reading concerning the activity in the Middle East...reading not typical to my style. More on that later as I continue to immerse myself in that.

Several things have unfolded in my life starting in July of this year. I started working for BP America in July. Yep, that's the big oil and gas producer that has been pegged as the primary responsible party for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This has become a dream job for me. I was hired on as an Automation Engineer and support the San Juan Basin asset based out of Durango and Farmington. The good news is that after 5 months with the company, the honeymoon does not appear to be anywhere over. I truly enjoy the work that I am doing. It is a new and refreshing challenge to me on a regular basis and I am growing in many directions in my person in such a fashion that I have desired for a long time. I feel appreciated and valuable and believe my contributions to the company are really making a difference.

Virtual Mission Control is gaining steam and hopefully, in January, I will kick off a Beta mission with Ignacio, Bayfield, Durango and other participating school districts.

I electronically published my second book, "Heart Resolute", on Yeah! I will likely publish it in paperback form early next year.

I did a whole lot of tile and hardwood flooring this summer as we embark on remodeling the old portion of our house. So far, So good. The floors are outstanding.

Enough, this is starting to sound like the typical family Christmas newsletter! What pearls of wisdom can I pretend to share? As before, live life to the fullest. Don't be hindered by anything. Don't let those around you define who you can or can't be. Live life and enjoy it. Be a blessing to those around you. Be generous in a time when things are tough for a lot of people and your seemingly simple acts of kindness may have a greater impact in a person's life than you may ever realize. Smile, hold a door for someone, bring a surprise breakfast snack to your office buddies, offer a kind word "with no strings attached". Remind those around you how beautiful and wonderful they are. People need that encouragement right now. Life is tough for a lot of us. That's all for now. Wish I had more. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year! ~James

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Life Choices

So...where to start? Where to start? I raced in the Alien Run and the Iron Horse again this year but got off to a late start with my training and as a result along with a spring cold, I finished later in both events than what I did last year.

I have finished the draft of my second book, the sequel to "Lost in Reality" but I can't settle on a title and I have a couple of friends reviewing to make sure it gets the right response.

I've been offered a new job with a major oil/gas producing company and my current employer does not want me to leave. However, I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that the new employer can provide me.

I'll be 46 years old June 10, but people think I'm still in my 30's...I'm pretty sure that's a good thing. :)

I've picked up an old car project that my 11 year old son is interested in. So, some great father son time!

I'm working on a project in my spare time to develop a "Virtual Mission Control" center that Jr. High and High School students from around the world can log in and partake in missions associated with Space Exploration, Deep Sea Exploration, Arctic Exploration, Weather Exploration, etc...More on that soon! It may get the backing of a NASA/Rice University Grant!

I gotta go for now, but I promise to update the ever changing status of some of these updates.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A year for 'epic' events

I haven't posted in a while. So, I'll fix that now. I've been training actively this spring for two separate cycling events. One of them already happened, the Alien Run race in Aztec, New Mexico. It was really fun. It's a 25 mile mountain bike race. I took a digger 2 miles into the race when I endovered in some soft sand and my knee augured into the sand. I was glad it didn't land on a rock instead. I had a feeling that when I reached down to feel my knee and it was numb that it was going to 'leave a mark'. I made it through the remaining 23 miles of the race. I finished about in the middle of the pack. I had a blast and I finished. Those were my goals. I'll hopefully get to do it again next year.

After the Alien Run, I redirected my attention to road cycling. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is this coming Saturday and I've been hitting the road as often as my body can take it. We went to Nebraska last weekend to visit Shiela's folks for a few days and I took my bicycle with me so I could keep up my training. That was really fun. My first ride was about 25 miles when I cycled from the Colorado/Nebraska state line, Venango, to Madrid near where Shiela's folks live. Then the following day I rode from Madrid to a bit north of Lake McConaughy. That was my first half-century ride! The last 5 miles were really hard. My bum was very sore and my legs were getting weak. But I accomplished that miles stone with a 10 or 20 second stop in Ogallala for a red light. Thirty minutes after the ride with some re-hydration, food and stretching, my body felt pretty normal. The first few minutes after finishing were a little scary for me. My thighs felt like they were on the verge of cramping up. I've not felt that before. But, like I said, stretching and fluids put me back in shape pretty quick. The following day I knew I needed to do a cool-down ride. So, with a 30mph tail wind behind me I rode 20 miles from Wallace to Southerland. It was the quickest 20 miles I've ever done, averaging 30-35mph the entire way. It was eerie how the wind would seemingly stand still when I reached 30mph to match it's speed. Pretty cool to be heading down the highway with no wind blowing in my face.

Then there are those of the motorists who are angry and especially so towards bicyclists. In all the biking I've done this spring, I've discovered that 1 in 4 southwest Colorado motorists nearly run me off the road and participate in illegal highway activities concerning the bicycle. When I was in Nebraska, I encountered plenty of traffic and yet the ratio was about 1 in 30 motorists who didn't provide a safe passing distance. Hmmmm...I might limit my road cycling to Nebraska from now on and limit my mountain biking to Colorado. I did my last pre-race ride last night, riding my bike home from work. It is a 32 mile stretch on Highway 172 and Highway 151. The first highway actually has a decent shoulder that i used quite often when mud, rocks and other debris were present. However, Highway 151 is a very different story. Little to no shoulder and what shoulder there is has about a 6 inch drop off onto dirt/gravel/vegetation and steep bar ditches. On a particular stretch, I had a car coming towards me in the opposite direction about 100 yards ahead, I had three cars behind me going in my direction about 100 yards back. There was no shoulder. I knew what was about to happen. I was moving along at 25-30mph. I knew if I tried to ride the white line, the three cars were going to pass me at the same time the other car travelling in the opposite direction would meet up with me. Not good, not save, and not legal. I positioned myself in the right hand tire track of the highway. The cars did not pass, until the other vehicle travelling in the opposite direction had gone by. However, the third car back stopped in front of me three times waving her fist at me as though I had done something wrong. She would have continued this very real case of road rage if it had not been for me pulling out my cell phone as I was riding along and pointing it toward her to take a picture of her car/license plate and then dialing 911. As soon as she saw me holding up my phone, she accelerated in a hurry and got out of there. I'm guessing she knew she was in the wrong. I didn't turn her in, how ever, the car was unique enough and so was her hairdo. So, I'll be watching for her since this incident happened very close to where I live. Now I will agree that there are a LOT of bicyclists with bad attitude out on the highway, but stop and remember that not all of us are like that. It's pretty unfair and stupid to assume that ALL bicyclists are like and. Then a motorist ends up taking out their aggressions on us innocent and polite cyclists. Oh-well, I plan to go back to the mountain biking after the Iron Horse race this weekend so the motorists will be inconvenienced by one less friendly cycler. Have a great day everyone! :) Drive happy, not angry.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Live an Extraordinary Life

So, what's up with the title? Well. I had a friend recently contact me asking about any websites I knew of for a friend of hers to go to where she could research and learn about and get support concerning her son who has multiple "facial differences". I thought for a minute before responding. I first directed her to this site and mentioned that there is a link to the right that I included to another site that a wonderful person put together full of endless resources and answers. There is a need for getting those answers and developing a clear understanding of the conditions. But, when all is said and done and the dust settles and the doctors have done everything they are capable of doing and the insurance has black-balled the patient, that's when I think a person could gain something by spending time on this "silly" seemingly non-related blog that I write. Why? Because at some point in my life I realized that my face didn't have to define who I was. I was going to title this posting "Live a normal life", but what the heck is that? What is normal? And beyond that, why JUST live a normal life when you can live an extraordinary life? I live a "normal" life and yet I strive for much more. Countless people have asked me how I manage to do so much in life. I guess there's just a LOT of things I want to do and see. So I work to fit all those things in. And believe it or not. There is still plenty of idle time still left over. To my fellow brothers and sisters who have been "plauged", "blessed", "cursed", or what ever title you have put on your condition---pursue your dreams. Press in hard and do your best to not look back. Except perhaps to witness that line of demarcation so you can see where you were and where you have come to a better place. I don't want anyone to think that my life has been exceptional from day one. I have spent countless hours fighting the ache in my heart, feeling cheated, feeling ugly, feeling lonely, feeling despised and rejected. I've been through all of those and more. But there has also been so much richness in my life. Unbelievable richness. My facial differences don't define who I am now, but they contributed toward what makes me who I am. I can't deny that. And I've told people I would never "wish" my condition upon another person, but I also would not choose to do it all over again with a "normal" face. There is a great deal of confidence, tenacity, endurance, love of life, etc...that has been deeply instilled in me as a result of my life experiences with facial differences.
To anyone out there who is struggling with being different from the "standard" be it physical or emotional, I am VERY sorry that you have to carry that burden. I can honestly share in your pain and suffering. I can honestly say that I've been there to a certain degree. I know there are folks who have far worse conditions than mine and my heart aches for them, and I wonder how they do it. Funny that I would say such a thing, but I have come to a place that I forget that I look different probably 90% of the time. It's crazy. But it's like I said early on in this posting. I am not defined by my facial differences. If anyone wants to talk more with me about this, please feel free to contact me. I believe my email is included on my profile page and I can be contacted via that or via replying to this post. Finally, read through my postings. Some are serious and some are silly. But hopefully, as you read through them you will begin to realize that you don't have to be different from everyone else. You just get out in the world and start living. One of those things that seems to be quite certain in the world we live in is that we can't turn back the clock. Oneo of my favorite phrases back in college, CARPE DIEM, "sieze the day".
Have a great day everyone.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lost in Reality Part Deux?

So, as many if not all of you know that I am in the process of writing a sequel to my first book titled: "Lost in Reality". Even though I have only reached the rough draft stage of writing the second book. I have been attempting to come up with a title. I like using project titles while I am in the process of writing the book that may have nothing to do with the story. My first book was saved under the file name "Jarod's Dream" because I initially started writing the story as a result of a dream I had about my son Jarod. Well, now, as I work on the second book, I first saved it under the file name "Falling Snow" because the opening scene depicted such an environment. But then I started writing occasionally at the Irish Embassy on Sundays while listening to the live Irish music and sipping on a nice dark beer. So, I renamed the project title of the book to "Irish Snow". However, somewhere along the process, I totally revamped the story line and it no longer involved any snowy scenes at all.

I though of posting a contest on here to my blog readers for a title for the second book that is more creative than "Lost in Reality 2", "Lost in Reality Again", "Found in Reality", or any of those obvious kinds of titles. I suppose that's kind of why I liked calling it "Falling Snow" and most recently, "Irish Snow". The picture at the top of this posting was my planned book cover for the sequel but my son, Jarod has a better picture idea that I will have to put together in photoshop. Since I mention a "contest" to my blog readers for a title, first of all, I don't know what I would even offer as a reward. Secondly, None of you have read any of the content of the sequel and consequently, how could you even begin to come up with a great title? :)

Well, in an effort to contribute something, the characters, Jarod, Sarah, Distra, the eagles, and many more new characters are included in the sequel, including, talking cats, flying cats, mice, large mice that also talk, hermit crabs, lemurs, meer cats, lots of little critters. There is a large battle scene including all of the above as well as traditional church attenders represented as the "big people", who sometimes get in the way of progress, the "invisible children" as defined by the children in Africa who are kidnapped from their families and trained to be military killer children soldiers. There is a spiritual element that is represented in two parallel events occuring simultaneously, the battle with all the aforementioned participants AND a celebration of the "invisible children" as that dark strong hold is broken as a result of the battle that is occurring. There is some angelic presence in this story associated with the great battle. There is some soul searching as Jarod deals with the loss of his father that occurred some time between the first book and the second. There is some soul searching for Sarah as she deals with being raised by her dad, the both of them not knowing what happened to her mother when she was an infant since her mother mysteriously disappeared. There are some interesting discoveries that occur as the children venture into that other world and find their way through it. Lots of analogy and lots of adventures. It's mostly written around the three kids this time without an adult aside from Justus the great eagle.

So, anyway, that's a bit about what is to come. I have three people reviewing the draft to give me some more feedback on missing details and weak sections before I include even a few more critiques before going to the next level of not so rough of a draft. I'm sitting at 96 pages right now with possibly several more to write before I am done. It's a bit longer than the first and I haven't included any imagery yet. Although my fine friend Brad who illustrated the first book is also working on illustrations for the second.

If any of you are willing to be a part of the review team, I'd be glad to forward a text copy of the book to you to get some more input, critique, feedback, ideas as to what needs to be included or excluded at this point in the venture. I do promise to take genuine consideration in all that you have to say but I don't promise to follow it since it is my story. But, I have been very open minded in the past when it comes to good advice.

So, aside from EVERYTHING else that is going on in my life these days. I'm trying to put some emphasis on finishing this book in the first half of this new year.

Have a great day!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pressing in

So, it's been a while since my last posting. I started a few and ditched them before finishing and posting. So, I'll try yet again. Life's been busy with trips, work, ranching, snow, Boy Scouts (I've been recruited as a Den Leader since my son wanted to join), and now, it's January and I am starting my excercise and indoor riding training for the Classic Iron Horse Bicycle race later this spring in which I plan to participate. I signed up for the McDonald's tour ride rather than the official race. That seems to be what a lot of my coleages are doing as well. Near the end of last summer I purchase a very nice used Felt F85 road bicycle with intentions to keep in shape over the winter so I would be ready for the mountain biking the following spring. That's what got me interested in preparing for the Iron Horse race. Let's step back in time to set the stage.

Back in college before modern mountain bikes were invented (I say modern because I am aware that there were some pioneers on fat tire bikes up in the woods long before "Mtn. Biking" became popular) I used to ride a road bike up and down Lookout Mountain over in Golden, CO near the Colorado School of Mines where I was earning my degrees. Anyway, back then when modern mountain biking was emerging, I was big on road cycling and couldn't understand why anyone in their right mind would want to ride on a dusty, rocky, muddy, single track trail out in the middle of nowhere.

Then I discovered mountain biking due to the influence of a very good friend of mine at which point, I couldn't understand why anyone in their right mind would want to just stick to road cycling on a boring paved road.

Now, I've grown up a bit and have realized that I truly enjoy both venues of cycling. So, as I mentioned, near the end of last summer I purchase that used Felt F85 road bike and rediscovered my enjoyment of road cycling. On top of it all, I discovered the enjoyment of a modern road bicycle as compared to my vintage "Tour de France", made in Spain bicycle that I road back in college. BIG difference in riding quality and enjoyment for me. So, the Miyata took a back seat to the Felt and the enjoyable road rides began as I alternated between that venue and some of my favorite mountain bike trails.

Then winter came with a vengence. No more mountain or road biking for the season. At some point in the fall, my son mentioned that he wanted to start riding with me during my road cycling. That got my ears buring, someone else was interested in bicycling with me.

A short interlude here. My entire family was interested in and enjoying various forms of bicycling last summer just not to the extended degree that I was. So, to have my son express interest in the road cycling was a wonderful thing. So, my mind starts churning. He's 10 years old and a bit too small for a full-sized road bike. I price kid's versions and I'm not impressed with the pricing OR the quality or lack thereof. So, I started a project cutting down an old specialized frame to fit him. Well, a few months later and an unfinished project and I came upon an add for a Trek HILO 2000 Alpha triathlon bike with a 50cm frame and 650mm wheels. A nice small road bike. I jumped on it. Brought it home and Jarod immediately took an interest. We've been working for a few days now, that's all the longer I've had it so far, dialing it in to his frame size. I've run out of space for lowering the seat. I still need about an inch. I've been researching a shorter crank set but don't want to spend too much but don't want to put any "crap" on this very quality bicycle. It turns out this Trek is a few notches above my Felt that I have been riding. I may have to take the Trek out for a few runs when my son is not riding with me just so I can compare the riding differences between the two bikes.

So, anyway, it's been an interesting and fun winter so far. It's been a lot colder for a lot longer than what is typical here. The ice age is moving in. I'll keep myself busy on my cycle trainer indoors till things warm up again! Have a great day everyone.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Baa baa black sheep have you any wool?

Drench AND BE Drenched!

So, this weekend was the time for the annual sheep worming festivities. I call it festivities because is was an entertaining sight to observe. There were only three willing participants, Dad, Malcolm (my brother in law) and me. The planning started the night before, Friday, I believe. Outside it was raining cats and dogs, lightning flashing, thunder crashing. We're all over at Mom and Dad's enjoying some great company as one of my younger sisters is visiting with her husband and son from Montana. Her husband is the aforementioned, innocent and unsuspecting Malcolm. So, on with the story; as the rain is pouring outside, I hear out of the corner of my ear (kinda like seeing something out of the corner of your eye), Dad mentions something to Malcolm about de-worming the sheep in the morning. So, I redirect my attention to that conversation and I remark, "That's some good timing to wait till the sheep are all soggy from a heavy rain to de-worm them." Dad laughs. Malcolm wonders. I realize the reality of what is yet to come. It's gotta be done. The poor sheep aren't just soggy from rain, they got worms. I continue, "Are we planning on waiting till mid morning so the sheep can dry off a little bit? Not that it will make any difference."

Well, Saturday arrives, I'm all geared up. It's probably 8 to 9 in the morning. I see Dad and Malcolm herding the sheep into the coral and I head out to help. We get a few of them shooshed into the cattle tub and then into the alley way. The actual process of de-worming the sheep is referred to as "drenching". I've never researched the origin of that term. But, a short tube is inserted in the sheep's mouth and a small amount of liquid medicine is squirted at the back of their tongue so they can't spit it out. Must not taste that good. I haven't tried it so I can't vouch.

So, we have two small syringes with medicine in them. The syringe holds 30cc's. The lambs get 2.5cc's and the adults get 5cc's, unless they appear to be more sick, in which case they get a double dose. Oh yeah, the adults get marked on the back with a wax marker and the lambs all have to get an ear tag.


So, Malcolm keeps the first group in the alley way while I proceed with capturing each animal with one hand with fingers in mouth to hold mouth open and other hand holding and inserting syringe to apply medicine. (Yes, my fingers are in the sheep's mouth, not mine). Then after medicine has been administered, I hand Dad syringe and take ear tagger in free hand while still holding sheep with other hand and clipping on the ear tag. Lambs like to jump when they get their ear pierced. So, I have to keep my head clear of their head so I don't get head butted and knocked out or something like that. So, we get through the first little batch of sheeps drenching, ear tagging and waxing.

Intermission, I have to describe the dimensions of the alley way, it's about 2.5 feet wide by 25 feet long and it holds about 15-20 sheep at a time. Yes, they tend to kind of crowd together in there. So, you must imagine, Malcolm is at the back of the alley keeping them from backing out, while I am crawling my way over and through the bunch advancing my way forward as I succeed in administering the treatments. Often getting squished between sheep and sheep and sheep and panels.

Now, back to the story; We get done with the first batch and run the next batch of critters into the alley way. At this point I notice a renegade band of yellow jacket wasps of some variety or another (I seem to be mildly to moderately allergic to ALL varieties of yellow jackets); So I go grab a can of wasp spray and proceed to declare war on the nest. I soak the nest and knock a few escapees out of the air for good measure. Then we are back on track. Malcolm was just loyally standing back there keeping the sheep from backing out while the irritated wasps were making kamikaze dive bomb threats all around his head. To his credit he kept his calm and didn't get stung, but he was very happy when I nailed their outpost.

While I was away getting the wasp spray, Malcolm took over administering the treatments. I came back and held up the alley way while he played doctor. I had my share of fun giving Malcolm a hard time; "Hey, Malcolm, the medicine goes in the mouth, not the nose". He was a good sport and laughed. We got through that gaggle and Malcolm took over the tail end job again while I continued with administering the goods. Or maybe it was just me feeling sorry for Malcolm having gotten into the thick of the sheep. Remember, it had rained a lot the night before. The sheep were very soggy and by this time so were we. I made a few jokes about how Malcolm's wife, my little sister, would have nothing to do with him when he was done with this chore, "You stink! Stay away from me." Those were the joking comments for the next few minutes. That's kind of how it is when you are working sheep. If I can't find a way to laugh my way through the process, they will just irritate me and I'll get angry. But this was fun having someone getting defiled with me! Haha. Malcolm suggested that he might be burning his clothes after this event and Shiela was out at the corals watching the show by then and laughingly assured him that it would wash out.


Eventually, we managed to doctor all of the animals and through the process, we were soaked through and through with everything hidden in the soggy wool, we were stepped on, kicked, licked, sneezed on, probably peed on, pooed on bitten, bled on...I guess that just about covers it all. I did take a picture of Malcolm at the tail end keeping a gaggle of sheep in the alley way for blackmail...I mean for posterity's sake, something like that, but unfortunately, I don't have my hardware with me today to download the photo, so that will have to wait till tonight when I get home. We survived and had lots of laughs through it all and the sheep are now much healthier as a result. The rest of us- one more priceless memory to share laughs with friends and family.
Have a great day and laugh lots!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Round XX: It's a small world after-all

So, I'm sure you are wondering about the title of this posting. I've since lost count of which round I am up to on the Schwinn "Homegrown". I have been pushing myself to go faster on the same trail and gaining success over technical areas that had previously been conquering me. The rides have been great. I'm enjoying the bike immensely and my jeans are not so tight around the waist lately. But today's story tops them all. This morning during my break I looked on to see if I could find an unreasonably low cost road bike that I could mount on my trainer this winter in order to keep my exercise regiment going and even do a little bit of road biking when the winter weather permits. So I come across an old, yes vintage even, Miyata road bike with about the right frame size for my height. I email the owner, he still has it. Then at some point we exchange a few words on the phone and we come up with a plan to meet at his house around lunch time. I head down with my vintage Schwinn on the bike rack. I pull up to his house and get out. We introduce ourselves and he promptly and excitedly explains to me that the bike on the back of my car was once his! Haha. He was the one who actually bought it from Ruthie Matthes at her yard sale. Then at some point, the man I bought it from had bought it from this person now standing before me. Wow! Well it turns out that this fine gentleman I had just met knows the art of generosity and three hours later a new friend had been made and I drove off with a road bike for the winter training plans AND a few really cool/fun retro colored mountain bike tires for the Schwinn.

During the course of our conversation, we discovered that we had a few mutual friends as if the bike thing wasn't enough. Turns out he is very near and dear to the hearts of a young married couple of whom I have had the privilege and joy of knowing the past couple of years. Note that I have omitted the names of all involved in order to protect the innocent. Haha. All of you know who you are and know that you are all dear to my heart. I am very happy with my new found friend today and look forward to many more enjoyable conversations with him in the future.

For your viewing enjoyment I've included a picture of my Schwinn with those vintage red tires mounted and ready for the trail! Woohoo! And of course I've included a picture of the awesome vintage Miyata road bike that I had set out to buy in the first place. It sure rides nice. Thanks Dennis!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"170mm or 175mm that is the question!"

So, before I get started. I've included a picture of "blow-out ridge" for your viewing enjoyment. For those not familiar with "blow-out ridge", read the older blogs. It's a great story. (Well, I'll include the picture tomorrow. I forgot to bring my camera linking hardware home tonight, sorry, I know everybody really wanted to see it. Until then just enjoy the Schwinn bike pics! :)

Okay, I have to admit a grave error on my part. It's rather funny AND disturbing. For the bike savvy read on, for the not so bike savvy, bare with me and I think I'll explain this in a way that most anybody with or without bike knowledge will understand.

So, let's start with some definitions. The crank set is the two levers that the pedals are connected to. The chain rings are the three front chain sprockets that the chain rides on depending upon with one your shifter is selected for. I've been a little bit frustrated with my smallest front chain ring. It has 28 teeth. For a mountain bike of the vintage age that I tend to ride, that is a lot of teeth for the inner (smallest) chain ring. So, I've been going around to the local bike shops looking for a smaller one. Nobody had one in stock but all of them were sure they could still order one. I looked on ebay, no vintage chain rings. Well, the ones I found on ebay were the middle ring, certainly too many teeth in that one.

Well, deep in the back of my mind I could remember having changed my crank set on one of my previous mountain bikes from years ago. I even remembered seeing the crank set on my back porch at some point in time not too long ago. And so started my search last night. It turned out that there were too many dark spaces on my porch with the dim light so I had to wait till today to look again with daylight.

So, I get home. Look so more with no success. Then I remember that I keep a few spare bike parts out in an old tin grainery and also some in the tool shed. So, I head out and take a look through all my parts boxes and buckets in the grainery and find nothing. As I jump out of the grainery and head for the tool shed I am headed off by Dad. He's needing help disconnecting a farm implement from one tractor and transferring it a different tractor because the first tractor wasn't starting. Seems the starter might have gone bad. So, I help Dad with his chore and then quickly head for the shop (tool shed) as it begins to rain. I'm digging through parts and dust and viola! I found half of the crank set. Oh well, at least it is the half with the chain rings on it. I count the number of teeth on the inner ring and again woohoo! It only has 24 teeth, just the size I was looking for. So, I take it to the back porch and remove the crank arm from the side that has the chain rings on it. I get out the measuring tape and compare the bolt spacing on the two chain ring sets and Dang! They are different bolt patterns. Hmmm. I consider just putting on the replacement crank arm and chain rings in place of the one I took off the bike. The only concern is that crank arms come in different lengths and I had remembered reading the stamped measurement of the crank arm that I took off of my bike to be 175mm. I look at the replacement piece and it is, YES! 175mm. I look at the one I just took off the bike and, NOOOOO! It's 170mm. That's strange, I think, I was sure I had read 175mm at some point in the recent past working on the bike. I look at the opposing crank arm still on the bike and it says 175mm. Ohhhh...I've been riding for nearly three weeks now with two different crank arm lengths. My back and shoulders have been more sore than I have ever experienced when biking before. HHHmmm. Maybe I will not ache so much after this. Well, I decided, by default of the only parts available that I would have to use the replacement crank arm anyway since it matched the opposing crank arm dimension. I'm thinking "I guess I can live with the crank arms not matching in model and appearance for a while. As I am comparing the one that will go on the bike with the mate that is still on the bike, I think, "these two match in appearance better than the one I just took off the bike.

Now, we must go back in time to about 6 weeks ago when I first started putting together a junk bike before buying the Schwinn frame that I have now. Well that junk bike I first started with was missing a crank arm, the one without the chain rings, the one on the right hand side of the bike. So, now that I dig deep into my memory banks, I can recall that the "missing" matching crank arm that I couldn't find today was already on the Schwinn because I swiped those crank arms from the first junk bike several weeks ago. Apparently, when I put the junk bike together I wasn't to privy about checking the crank arm lengths. Haha!

So, I have a matching crank set on my Schwinn now and I didn't even know I didn't have a matching set to begin with. That's funny. Oh yeah. I also have the smaller inner chain ring with only 24 teeth.

Oh, you may be wondering why I wanted a smaller inner chain ring? Because fewer teeth in front means the bike goes slower in it's lowest gear. And I have been powering out on some of the steeper inclines on the mountain bike trails. Now I have a mountain goat gear for the steep stuff! Cool beans.

Addendum to post: I just got back from my morning ride and the extra low gear proved to be most beneficial. I got up some small steep sections that were kicking my tail previously, as to the different crank arm lengths. I did some thinking about the "real" effect of that as I was riding this morning. 175mm - 170mm = 5mm. Now 5mm doesn't seem like a lot by itself, however the actual effect of that is 5mm lower on the bottom end of the crank stroke and 5mm higher than the top end of the crank stroke, which equates to 10mm difference between my right and left leg and 10mm equates to 1cm which equates to 0.4 inches, almost half an inch difference. Certainly substantial. I have no answer as to why I couldn't feel that while I was riding on it for three weeks. Haha.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Round 7 - My shoulders are aching

Round 7. I made some improvements and adjustments before outing #7. I added a vintage Rock Shox Mag 21 front suspension fork (shown installed on my bike in the picture above). An ebay snag. Got it for $15. It's barely used. Basically no scratches and no oil or air leaks. It seems to function perfectly. I had a major hurdle to jump over to get it working on my bike though. The auction had been advertised as the fork having a 1.1/8 head stem and it turned out to be a 1.1/4 stem instead. What that means is that it would not fit my bike. Major bummer. But for those that know me, my mind was set to reviewing options. I really wanted the fork to work on my bike so that is the option I pursued. I found a tree on ebay that had the correct stem size but that was going to be another $25.00, and I didn't like that option very much. I went down to one of my fav bike shops here in Durango and asked what junk forks they had laying around. They sent me to one of the back rooms to look around for myself. Wooohooo! I found an old stripped down fork with a long 1.1/8 stem! I took it back up front and the guy told me I could just have it. Cool. Those guys at 2nd Ave. are great.

Now, I'm sure some of you are wondering how I was going to get the 1.1/8 tube to fit with a 1.1/4 stem tree? Well, It worked like this. I sawed off the 1.1/4 stem at the top of the tree. I removed the 1.1/8 stem from the old stripped fork that had been given to me. I sawed off a bit of the lower end of the 1.1/8 stem where the diameter was greater. I left a lip at the bottom. Now. I took the 1.1/8 stem and the mag 21 fork to my press. It just so happens that the 1.1/8 stem fits very snugly into the 1.1/4 stem with the encouragement of a 10 ton press. Although it did not take ten tons to get the two stems to slide together. I was encouraged that as I pressed the stem in further, the resistance grew to a nice tight fit when it bottomed out. That's how I converted the 1.1/4 to 1.1/8. Some will say I was crazy for doing that, but it's tight and I believe, structurally sound.

The next adjustment I made was removing the front and rear brake pads and filing them down a bit to get rid of the hard rubber on the braking surface. Spent a great deal of time readjusting the brakes.

So, this morning, I took the bike out for its maiden voyage with the "new" front shock. About one minute into the ride there is a small irrigation ditch, muddy bottom, steep slope on both sides. I slowed way down as I always do so as not to get all muddy and wet by making a big splash. As my shock drops into the ditch, it gives way as shocks do, as compared to my rigid fork, and I am not used to this since I have been riding with a rigid fork and I jump off the front of the bike as it flips over and lands in the mud! Haha. The rest of the ride a as a bit more cautious until my body and mind could readjust to having some suspension up front. The rest of my ride went great. I did almost have a bad wreck when I was coming back down on blowout ridge. (I talked about that section of the trail in a previous posting.) As I was descending and putting a great deal of load on the front shock, it bottomed out and dragged on the front tire for just a short instance. Fortunately, not long enough to lock up the front wheel and send me careening down the edge of the ridge. This was a bit of the 1.1/8 stem that I left sticking out at the bottom of the fork tree right above the tire. I will have to trim that down just a bit more so that doesn't happen again.

All in all a great ride. I'm very pleased with my old mag 21 shock. The stiffness dials on top of each shock work very nicely adjusting from soft response to nice and stiff with movement only under harder impacts.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Round Six-Two are Better Than One

What, you ask? Another mountain goat biking post? Yep, I respond. At least just this one more for now.

I want to get just a wee bit philosophical on you for a while. I took note of a very important truth as I was working my way up the mountain this morning. Two are better than one. It's as simple as this, since I don't have someone riding with me, I have to push myself as far as I am willing to go with the self inflicted pain. With another person who is in similar shape and sharing the same goal of improving their game, becoming better, we would very likely push each other on when we feel like giving into the groans of our bodies. That pushing on may not be much farther than we would have gone up the hill on our own, but it IS FARTHER.

So it is in our personal lives, as we strive to be better people, developing character, triumphing over life's struggles. When we are going it alone, we will fall or fail much sooner than if we are going through life with people with similar life goals. Simple lesson, simple reminder.

The other thing I've noticed as I've pained my way up the trail is that we have to discover the same willingness in our personal lives concerning character development or spirituality, sweating, hurting, struggling to overcome, that we do on the bike trail. Again, doing this with others is almost a guarantee toward success than doing it alone. I know this is often times easier said than done, but that's where we get encouragement, from others.

And finally, I promised to not get preachy on this blog, but I hope that this comes across as not preachy, but enlightening to ALL those who have been burned or turned off by church or religious experiences. A good friend of mine recently mentioned that they feel condemned every time they read the new testament. I couldn't find the right words at the time but now I think I have a better idea. I hate arguing religion with people, it rarely gets anywhere and it consumes large quantities of time and often leaves people offended or hurt. So, to put it simply, concerning the feeling of condemnation that some feel when reading the Bible: Take a look at the context 2000 years ago (although this still fits today with many church dwellers) when Jesus was confronting a person, for example equating a thought of hatred for someone the same as murdering them, look at it as a means to get everyone down to the same level, the same playing field. No pit was too deep, and no mountain was too high to separate EVERY person Jesus encountered. In His eyes they were all on the same level. His remarks were not of condemnation, they put everybody on the same page. No one was too good, no one was too bad. They ALL needed a Savior and the cost was the same for everyone of them. We all go through the same gate, there's no pit access for those who committed the worst of crimes and there is no hi-way for those who believed they were perfect and above it all. There IS NO condemnation, only a promise of new life.

There, that's it. I hope I didn't offend anyone, but this was a bit revelatory for me and so I wanted to share it with all of you.

Have a great day! If you are riding a mountain bike like me, have a great time riding and pushing yourself on to higher places.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Round Five

For your viewing enjoyment, I've included a picture of my mountain goat as she resides in my office waiting for round six. Note the fine vintage rigid GT fork on front. Hopefully to soon be replaced. :)

So, I took my Schwinn mountain goat out for another ride this morning. Yes, I went earlier than the previous four times. I decided the 90+ deg. F heat probably wasn't the best for me. All it had to offer was brain skillet energy. The temperature was indeed much better this morning than it had been in previous rides.

I replaced the rear brake pads with some other old take-offs I had laying around. They gripped better but made a horrendous screech/vibration noise that even bothered ME to listen to as I applied them heavily on some of the downhill stuff.

I encountered some mountain hiking moms (kinda like socker moms), pushing mountain bike tire enhanced kid strollers. Now that takes some ambition. It's hard enough pushing (ooops, I mean riding) my bike up those hills. They were kind and didn't have that now all too familiar look on their faces of, yep, you guessed, "what the heck?" Sorry, I had to use that phrase again before it gets used up.

I encountered two actual mountain bikers later on my ride that were cordial. I had stopped and was just finishing a phone call with my lovely wife as they pulled up. They were not from around these parts and were asking ME for directions. Haha. I told them all that I knew. Encouraged them on as they were on the last LONG stretch of uphill-hideousness. And YES, as they were pushing off and heading up the trail, one of them took a long look at my bike laying on the side of the trail. And she had to be wondering-".....".

All-in-all it was an outstanding Monday morning ride. I went faster, conquered new obstacles that had previously conquered me and it wasn't so hot this time. That helped my psyche for sure.
Have a great ride!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

just living life "normally"

Okay, I just had a revelation that everything I post on here isn't required to be about my facial differences. What I want to share with those who struggle with things that make them feel insecure is how I live my life as normally (whatever that is) as I can. Your differences don't have to define who you are. That's key.

That all said. I want to share some funny stories with you concerning my mountain biking hobby. First off. I got the steal of the century on ebay a couple of weeks ago about the same time I got back on my bike this year. I know slow start. But you got to start somewhere. Anyway, back to ebay, my favorite shopping store! I got this vintage (1994) mountain bike frame that had been built by YETI (when they were still here in Durango) for the Schwinn/Evian women's mountain bike race team. It was one of their training bikes. Most of you won't recognize the name, but it was Ruthie Matthe's training bike. Anyway, a local guy was selling it so I picked it up the day after the auction ended. I added all the components back onto it and promptly took it to a trail very nearby where I work in Durango. Telemark trail system.

The first day out wasn't too bad. I had no front derailleur so the chain came off a couple of times. The head set got just a wee bit loose and started clunking after I came down a bit hard on a rocky drop. I don't have a shock on front, yet. It's a rigid fat tubed fork that came off of my first GT. Hey, it's all I had laying around that would fit! :) The rear derailleur was rough shifting between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. I had to hold down on the shifter to keep it in 1st. My seat height was a bit low. And my rear brakes are really weak. I think the rubber has solidified over the two or three decades. They are pretty old after all.

So, second day, I had adjusted the rear derailleur, seat height, added a front derailleur and re-tightened the headset, still a rigid fork on front, and headed to the trail for round two. Things were looking up. In more ways than one. The bike performed much better with the adjustments I had made. I got much farther in and higher up than the previous day. WoooHooo! So, I'm on my way back down and I am about 1/2 mile away from the trail head and suddenly, the front tire starts making a hissing noise. About 5 seconds later its flat. Dang. I was just mossying along real slow when it happened. It was along this nifty little ridge that has about a 30-40 ft very steep drop off in both directions so I've now affectionately dubbed that part of the trail "blow out ridge". Anyway, I get off and start pushing. I look at my back tire about a minute later and find that it is also flat. I guess it felt sorry for the front one. Never had that happen before. Got back to the car loaded up and headed for the bike store to get two tubes and a small hand pump I could carry with me. It turns out that the front tire had gotten just a bit low on air and the tire slipped on the rim and tore the tube stem loose. The back tire? Like I said, it felt sorry for the front one.

Day three, round three. New tubes with a spare and the hand pump on-board for the ride. Not walking down again! I get about 15 minutes into the ride and feel something making my shorts stick to my seat. I mean like chewing gum sticky! I stop. hop off and find out that there is a big gob of tree sap on my seat. As I'm standng there not being happy about this new mess, my left hand brushes against my shorts and gets something sticky on it. More sap! Dang. It was showing up everywhere. Shorts, shirt, handlebars. I grab some dirt like the Gladiator and rub it on all my sticky surfaces. I had a lot of riding left to do.

I encountered a few bikers on the trail that day. About 4 or 5 of them. I have to wonder what goes through their heads if they take a close enough look at me and my setup. I'm wearing some Levi work shorts and a t-shirt, my helmet is a low-end "Bell", I have standard pedals with no toe-clips and the clincher? I am riding a bicycle that has the brand "Schwinn" in big letters on it (you know, you could find bikes with the same name at Walmart and it could be mistaken for one of those if a person didn't look closely) and there is still no shock in front and not obvious to them my rear brakes are still weak. They have got to be wondering "what the heck"? Actually if I were them, my thoughts would be a bit more descriptive than that. I do have some classic toe clips but have not put them on, yet.

Anyway, had a great ride went further in and higher up on the trail. Got to the top of the ridge between Mercy Medical Center and Sonic. I sat and enjoyed a shady spot for a few minutes and was amazed at how quiet it was up there, being so near to downtown. Headed back down the hill. Made it safely over "blow out ridge" without any troubles. Got back to the office and discovered that hand lotion works fairly well for getting the tree sap off of my hands. However, the sap that was on my bike seat had of course transferred to my shorts and I am quite certain it transferred from my shorts to my underwear. So, the rest of the afternoon things just didn't feel quite right. Enough said.

Day four, round four, today, I rode my Goldwing to work because Shiela, my lovely wife wants to go on a motorcycle ride. So, number one I forgot my mountain biking helmet and no, I was not going to wear my motorcycle helmet on the bike trail. :) So, it dawns on me that I have to get to the trail head. It's about two miles from the office to the trail head and I didn't want to waste energy riding my bike all the way from the office. So, I proceed to bungee strap my mountain bike to my Goldwing luggage rack, I've done this once before, so I knew it could be done. My boss and one of the other employees see me doing this and can hardly believe it. "James, Stop! You're gonna kill yourself doing that." "Naw", I say, "I've done this once before, I just can't remember how I did it." Hmmm. Well, I finally got it strapped on. Bike stayed put as I took it easy driving my Goldwing to the trail head. I'm sure a few heads were turning. Mountain bike strapped to back of Goldwing. Anyway, it was dang hot out this morning! I did NOT got further in and higher up. I got about 3/4 the way of what I had done the previous day and decided that was enough for today.

I encountered one other rider this morning on the trail. She had to be thinking the same thing as all the other riders I have encountered when quickly observing me and my attire and my bike, with no helmet and no front shock, weak brakes, "what the heck?!"

I kinda figure I am injecting some good medicinal health into those other bikers lives in the form of laughter as they reach a resting point or the trail head and ask each other about the guy on the Schwinn with no shock or toe clips, weak brakes. "Did you see that?!" Who knows, maybe there are bigger nuts out there on the trail than me and I just haven't seen them yet. Maybe they wait and come out when the heat of the day has arrived in full boar to boil their brains! Hmmm. Maybe not.

Well, I get back to the office and just as I am walking in, my boss meets me in the hallway and promptly informs me that they are calling me a hippie over on the other side of the office. Who else would be hauling a mountain bike on the back of their motorcycle? So they say. Well my office mate's hobby is bull-riding, so we've been entertaining each other now with name calling. He calls me "hippie", I call him "bull-rider" and "sh!@#t-kicker" but that doesn't seem to have the same effect.

So, anyway, that's a look into my life this past week concerning my mountain biking hobby with the purpose of getting me back into shape. Be yourself, be who you are, you have a lot to say about that, more than everybody else does.

Friday, July 10, 2009

a sort of interlude

So, tonight I want to talk about encouragement; both giving and receiving it. It's funny how we can get excited about something in life, a victory, an acquired item, a new discovery, success, etc...It's ours, all our own and yet in our excitement we share our joy with anybody and everybody. A few really understand the significance of what we are celebrating, some fake (good form), some may be indifferent and then some may question the purpose of being excited at all. There is a good book that many of you are familiar with and in it are some words to challenge us all, "rejoice with those who are rejoicing and mourn with those who are mourning."

Now I have to say that in most cases, it's much easier to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, well, not always. Sometimes the person who is rejoicing is doing so concerning something that you yourself may not have achieved yet in life. That can be a drag. While they are full of joy, you are full of defeat. That's a drag for sure. Cynicism filling your heart and mind. Faking your smile.

Then there are cases where you are around someone celebrating and you are mourning over a loss. I hadn't really considered that case until this year after listening to a sermon on the subject. It's funny, I've always though of that verse of "rejoicing with the rejoicers and mourning with the mourners", as though participating from a neutral point of view. You know, neither rejoicing nor mourning, just being. But, what a challenge to rejoice with the rejoicers when you are in the middle of mourning. Tough.

Then there's the mourning with the mourners when you are in the spirit of rejoicing. Now that's a bit of a kill-joy situation.

I believe it is vital to hold on tightly to every piece of joy and encouragement we get out of life. Guard it, protect it, don't let the circumstances of the moment rob us of that joy, because some things are only single events of a lifetime, and to let another person or circumstance short-change your moment, is pure robbery. It's an art, grace, generosity, kindness, love, patience, peace...expressed by the one on the giving end. You know, rejoicing when you don't "feel like it", mourning when you don't "feel like it". It takes sacrifice and love and kindness on our parts to fill those roles as they come and yet not lose the moment in our own circumstances if we are giving while yet being in a place as the receiver as well.

Does this make sense or am I just rambling? I just know I've heard a lot of people talk about reasons for giving up on each other and the things they spoke of are circumstances that I have gone through as well and yet I stuck it out. Life is hard, but it can be full of greatness. Just don't miss out on the greatness of life. I'm not sure this was very helpful to anyone. Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A time to give- a time to receive

This story may take a while...In college I tried to work toward a more selfless attitude. I would find myself in a lot of relationships where I gave a lot of myself and received much less in return. I was always helping friends fix their cars in the college dorm parking lot. This included, a transmission swap, clutch replacement, numerous brake jobs, carburetor rebuilds, motorcycle engine repairs, paint jobs, engine swaps, etc, etc, etc...counseling troubled persons, hauling people around. Serving others. I can clearly remember a chapter in my life when I really felt like "Shel" Silverstein's "the giving tree" ( I felt like I had been reduced to the stump. I was worn out. I hadn't gathered together enough "givers" in my own life to balance out the giving. It can be a draining and depressing experience.

Jump ahead to about 4 years ago. Married, two children; then they were 7 and 5. I was in the middle of writing my first book. My kids would occasionally ask me about my face and if I would ever have another surgery. My response would be to the effect of no, probably not, because I would not want to compromise providing for them just to spend that kind of money on myself to improve my appearance. They asked me a couple more times off and on over the course of about a month. I thought it was a bit curious but didn't think much more beyond that. They had been spending time with my Mom while Shiela and I were at various meetings or out on a dinner date and I knew that they would ask her questions about when I was a child.

Well, one afternoon, I stopped by Mom and Dad's to pick up Brit and Jarod and my Mom handed me a print out of some emails and mentioned that she had been researching plastic surgeons and had started dialoging with a surgeon out in New York. She said the correspondence had reached a point that I needed to be involved. This was all interesting to me. She and I had talked about this stuff in the past and I had always concluded that I was going to have to get a really well paying job and get rich to get anymore work done on my face because the insurance companies would not touch me.

Anyway, Brit, Jarod, and I hopped in the car and went home. When we were all in the house and settled, I sat down at the couch and started reading through the email correspondence. The first two or three were some basic introduction and explanation of my birth conditions. It was in the third or fourth email from the doctor, where he asked what kind of medical insurance I had. (NOTE: at that time I had been a self employed full time cattle rancher with my Dad. So, no medical insurance and low income). It was in reading Mom's reply that I struggled to maintain composure. She replied to the doctor's inquiry that she had been saving money for several years and had saved up $X0,000 for me to have another surgery. At the time, my mom was an administrative secretary at the local school district. She has never worked a high paying job. I struggled to keep my composure, my kids were playing in the same room and I didn't want to be a mess in front of them. I called Shiela, who was still at work and another close friend of mine. We were all moved.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of activity. Dialoging with a surgeon and seeing miracles right and left as I reconnected with one of the surgeons who had done work on me in the past. He actually readjusted his schedule around mine, canceled other surgeries and fit me in around Thanksgiving break. I was teaching robotics part time at the local Jr. High and High School, so I was stuck to a schedule and he accommodated me.

It was about a four hour surgery and a lot of bulk was removed and some sculpting was performed. It turned out pretty decent. This was my wife's first exposure to this kind of major surgery. I remember it was pretty emotional for her as well. It was just her and I that went to the hospital. Well, some of her family came in from Nebraska but they didn't get there till after I was already in the operating room. There was a period of time where they whisked me off to do some preparatory work and left Shiela out in the waiting area all by her self. Poor girl. She didn't know that she would get to see me again before they put me under and she was just a bit scared and anxious. Then after about 15 minutes they had me gowned and had inserted the IV and they let her come into my little examining room. All was well again.

Soon it was time to go under and they wheeled me into the operating room. The anesthesiologist started to administer the "kockout" meds and I was out. Four hours later I woke up. There was Shiela and a nurse talking to me. Waking me up. I was a bit nauseous and disoriented and I remember thinking and saying, "this is why I haven't had surgery for such a long time." The feeling of coming out of surgery and the feeling of my face having gone under a fair amount of trauma; it doesn't feel good. This is the first surgery that I can remember that I was quite nauseous. I actually let go a couple of times before my stomach settled down. My loving wife was incredibly supportive during this entire process. Her family had arrived sometime shortly after I went into surgery so she got some encouragement and emotional support that was much welcomed. My recovery was amazingly rapid.

Back to the present. I might, some day, have some liposuction done to remove some bulk that has again built up. But barring any great breakthroughs in bone grafting technologies, I don't foresee going through any more major surgeries. Someday it would be cool if they just completely started over with a titanium jawbone on the right side that truly represented the left side. Then get rid of all the old work what has been packed into my jaw area. MRI's and xrays are interesting, there are some pieces of wire that have been permanently left in my jawbone. Very interesting to see all the work from the viewpoint of an MRI-CT scan.
Happy 4th of July everybody and thanks for reading!