Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Evolution of a Bike Ride

We bought our bikes soon after my first son was born.  My wife and I got matching Giant cross-road bikes, ones that would be comfortable for a long ride down a paved path, but could also bounce along off-road.  We also bought a co-pilot seat and helmet for our son, and a rack for the mini-van.  (NOTE:  Dude seriously, a mini-van?  You are soo cool.)

When we got home I attached a wire frame to the rear of my bike and slid the co-pilot seat onto it.  We were set.  Many of the rides in those early days were along paved trails.  Being new parents, we were totally paranoid about riding on the open roads with our baby.  Even in the neighborhood.  We eventually conquered our fears, and whether the rides were short jaunts to a neighborhood playground or several miles of pathway at a local park, we got good use out of our bikes.

Later my son got a bike of his own, and it worked for the rides in the neighborhood, but for summer trips to Hilton Head or rides along the river he still sat in the co-pilot seat.

Then his brother was born, and there was an issue with seating capacity.  It all worked out, though.   Right around the time my second son was able to ride comfortably in the co-pilot seat, a friend sold me one of those attachments to turn a regular bike into a tandem.  Since the co-pilot frame was attached to my bike, my wife’s bike became the tandem, and my older son was just big enough to ride it.  We could still go out as a duo, each with a child in tow.

Then my older son grew big enough to ride on his own and we hit the trails as a trio.  When my younger son was finally big enough to ride the tandem I retired the co-pilot seat to its hook on the garage wall.  I didn’t bother to take the frame off the back of my bike, mainly out of laziness, a quality in which I am abundant, but also out of foreshadowing, which you will understand in the next paragraph, so please read on…

This year my younger son was finally big enough to ride his own bike, and our trio became a foursome.  We took our bikes to Hilton Head this summer and rode them to the beach every day.  I found a way to strap two boogie boards together, and attach them to – you’ll never guess – the co-pilot frame.  We bought new beach chairs that had straps so we could wear them like backpacks, and each chair had a small cooler-pouch and a pouch for books / magazines.  Our beach umbrella came in a sack that I could sling across my chest like a bandolier, and my older son wore a backpack with our beach toys.  We didn’t have to hunt for parking spots, or get the car (okay, mini-van) sandy and salty.  We were the mark of efficiency.

We have a BMX park nearby home, and both boys are big enough to ride the course, something I really enjoy doing with them.  We still go on long rides, there are several trails that cross town, each with a number of parks along the way.  Nowadays our rides are slow paced…they must be, so the young one can keep up.  But I have a feeling that our rides will soon evolve again, and both boys will be able to keep up with us.

And then…then my wife and I will start to slow down, and the boys will pull ahead.  We’ll be the ones struggling to keep up.  The kids will be turning back to us, impatiently telling us to keep moving, pedal, don’t stop, this was your idea…after all, we’ve said the same things to them enough times.

But you know what?  As long as we’re still riding together, I don’t mind.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Got Milk? Bugs Found in Baby Formula

Abbott recalls baby formula.

Help! Everything's gone Helter Skelter. Imagine, a Beatle in the formula. Yesterday was just A Day in the Life for Abbott, but now the have to Carry That Weight, the media just won't Let It Be. Infants can't quit formula Cold Turkey, you know, we would see babies detoxing Here, There, and Everywhere. We need to Come Together and find a solution, not start a Revolution. We Can Work it Out.

The End.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On the Loss of a Good Friend

Yesterday morning my phone rang with bad news: my friend Mark passed away over the weekend.

I knew someday I would get this call.  I haven't spoken with Mark directly for many years, and the recent news I heard of him was rarely positive.  Back in the days at OSU, we all partied pretty hard.  Mark never stopped.  In recent years he accelerated.

Mark had been a roommate, a co-worker, and a good friend; I'd go so far as to call him a brother.  Not having been there to witness his indulgences in the latter years of his life, I spent the afternoon inundated with memories of the times we shared.

Like the time he was eating Chinese food, and he gave me a bite.  I had never eaten Chinese food before.  "Rick, you like hot stuff, don't you?" he asked.  Of course I did.  "Try this."

He gave me the pepper from his General Tso's chicken.  The little peppers that you aren't supposed to eat.  The infernal little buggers that make food hot by just being in the same room.  Not knowing any of this, I popped the pepper in my mouth and bit down.  It was like chewing rope.  I munched harder.  If he could eat one, I could eat one.  Seeds flowed through my mouth, and apparently they were holding blowtorches.  The sound of a steam whistle filled the room as smoke billowed from my ears.  I ran to the trash can and spit the pepper out, knowing it could cause all the garbage to spontaneously combust but not caring.  I didn't curse at Mark or anything, because it hurt too much to breath.  Good times.

I'm not the world's fastest learner, so it should not come as a surprise to you that several years later there was a near-repeat occurrence.  I happened on Mark enjoying Asian cuisine again - this time sushi - and he offered me a bite.  Of wasabi.  "You'll like it, it's like guacamole," he assured me, and even used a tortilla chip to scoop up a generous portion. I don't think I ever ate off his plate again after that.

We went on a road trip once.  We were going to meet some of Mark's old friends in North Carolina to go camping.  We had no real time line and no real agenda, though.  Mark came home from work the day before we were going to leave.  "Do you want to go see the H.O.R.D.E festival?"

"Where is it?"

"Cumberland, Maryland.  We have to leave right now if you want to go."

Ahh, those were the days when you could just pack up and take off for a week on a whim.  We drove through the night and kicked off our road trip with some amazing music.  There are many stories I could tell from that trip, but two stand out in my mind, and the rest are probably incriminating...

At one point we were driving around Virgina rather aimlessly.  We were somewhere outside of Richmond when we both ran out of cigarettes.  Miles of highway passed beneath us as we searched for an exit so we could buy more.  We were both engulfed in hardcore nicotine withdrawal when we saw something up ahead.  A giant pillar, a hundred feet high.  Too small to be a building.  As we closed in on it we could read the black letters against the red and white background: MARLBORO.

Yes, it was their manufacturing plant.  This fit in perfectly with our agenda-less travel plans.  We stopped and took the free tour.  And at the end of the tour, we each got a free pack of cigarettes.  In times of sadness and loss it is important to remember that sometimes fate smiles on us all.  Just hold on and keep heading down the road.

(NOTE: That plant makes enough cigarettes in 2 1/2 minutes to reach from Richmond, VA to San Francisco, CA if they were laid end to end.  That's an impressive amount of cancer.  It's even more impressive that I actually remember that fact.  Also worth noting, I quit smoking many years ago, the day after my bachelor party.  No patches, pills, or special gum.  I used the only thing that really works: will-power.)

Later, on the way home, we were driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Mark was behind the wheel.  A light rain was falling.  We were both tired; neither of us spoke.  I saw something in the road ahead, lying in the middle of our lane.  As we got closer, I could see that it was a puppy, perhaps a beagle.  Its eyes were open, and I looked right into them as Mark drove over the dog's lifeless body, careful not to hit it.

Several minutes passed in silence.  I turned to Mark.  "Are you still thinking about that puppy?"

He nodded.  Several more minutes passed in silence, both of us contemplating life, death, and how cute puppies can be.  And regardless of circumstances brought that puppy to its end - lying in the road, in the rain - it looked peaceful.

Mark, wherever you are, I hope you also found peace.

And I'm still thinking about that puppy, too.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Some Thoughts...

Thought at 10:30 pm: Why certainly I would like another glass of wine.

Thought at 6:00 am: Please stop thinking at 10:30 pm.