Three Feet and Four Years Later

Yesterday there was a big announcement at the new Serious Cycling location in Northridge in regards to the upcoming Three Feet for Safety Act (CVC 21760.) The news is that the law will be coming into effect on September sixteenth of this month. This law will be put in effect in hopes to reduce the number of bicycle vs. vehicle collisions that happen all too often here in Los Angeles.

At yesterday’s press conference, there were city district members, AAA, sheriffs, and the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition to help bring perspective and the functional purpose of the new soon-to-be law. Having gone to said conference to not only represent the team in hopes of getting some air time and a possible modeling gig from my appearance but to also check out our new shop location that is a fifteen minute ride when traveling at a post-inebriated state. All jokes aside, there were a few things mentioned that I took into account and seemed to have a slight concern towards.

Before I continue I would like to preface that I in no way think that this new law is a bad idea. If there is one thing to take home from this, its another law meant to encourage safety between two human beings on the roads. There are very few justifiable arguments one can make involving a counter-argument to this topic. As a good friend of mine once told me,

“There is no substitute for safety.”

That being said, the term that was used the most during this announcement was the word, “educate.” The district officials, sheriffs, and everyone else who wasn’t a spectator wants to use this law to educate the people about safety measures that can be taken between a cyclist and a motorist. If you think back to a few years ago when Antonio Villaraigosa  was the mayor and the original “Give me 3″ campaign began  in 2010.

Let that sink in for a bit. There has been ( I can only imagine) a significant amount of funds put towards raising awareness and (dare I use the term) education for the past four years. Why are we still in the education phase of a law that has been brought to the attention of others for the length of a high school education? With the increasing popularity of alternatives to conventional vehicular transportation, it is hard for me to believe that someone could be so ill informed on an issue that is right in our own county for such an extended amount of time.

The law drives this slap on the wrist further home when mentioning the punishments for violating said law. The fine for passing a cyclist within 3 feet at an unsafe speed is 25$ and over $200 if they are hit (free if you hit and run.) While I agree with the sheriff who mentions that it is obvious when a car is passing a cyclist within three feet, the cynic made itself very well known yesterday morning.

I’m n business major, but from the job experience I have had and through talking with friends who own their own businesses, I can conclude that successful companies would like to take the most efficient amount of time possible (short and sweet) to educate the workers they hope to achieve success through and go straight to enforcing said policies once all is understood. I realize that this may be more difficult to do for citizens in an entire county but four years is more than enough time to change a behavior pattern. Look at the process to obtain a drivers license. We skim through a very short book for no more than a week, take a few tests, pay money, and we are trusted to remain educated on the rules of the road for the rest of the time we plan to drive. If I am held responsible to follow a set of vehicular rules in a short time frame such as this, I would expect four years to learn an additional law is more than enough time to go straight to the enforcing process.

As romantic of a gesture this may seem, it is only dressing a more complex and much larger issue. Most cyclist are aware of the elephant in the room when discussing this topic (the topic of the hit and run driver.) A much more serious and preventable issue that should be addressed by city officials.

The main point I would like to make is that while this new law is a cute gesture to get more people on bikes and on the roads, a big part of me knows that this is legislative lip service. People are going to get passed by cars. Sometimes, given the circumstances, cars are going to get closer than they’re supposed to. It comes with the territory of occupying the road. Cars get closer to other cars on a more frequent basis. Cycling on public roads isn’t for everyone. It takes a strong will and a lot of courage to do what most of us do, some on a daily basis. Thanks for making the cyclist’s perspective more aware to the public, but there are bigger fish to fry if you (the powers that be) want to make the masses feel safe in an infrastructure that is built for the two ton metal box that is a car.

-dfj

Still a Sore Loser

Leave it to the one thing you are able to say you leave to bring out the childhood habits you’re not proud of.

There aren’t many things I get upset about to the point that I show anger. I could get fired from my job tomorrow and not so much as to raise my voice. On the other hand, when it comes to some nothing-up-for-grabs practice race I immediately felt like rage quitting after my first loss. I know this is a shallow excuse to get so upset. The reason I know this is because I’ve had to deal with this all my life.

I grew up competitive as a child. None of it was induced by either parent. All of it was brought on in my head. Nobody motivating me to be the best at whatever I was doing but myself. I rage quit a lot. Never did things fester up to temper tantrums. Just a series of emotions in sequential order that I can recite from memory:

  • Backing off/ losing focus
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Regret
  • Sadness

Some time after the sadness phase I tend to screw my head back on straight and try to come to terms with myself. This takes the longest amount of time.

Cycling in some strange way has taught me to keep this qualities under control. I guess I haven’t been as competitive as I am capable of (in fear of responding this way.) Now the all-too-familiar feeling returns. Like the former junkie who gets their fix after umpteen years of being clean and sober. A feeling that no matter how pleasurable, an inevitable cloud of guilt follows.

If you know someone who is currently dealing with emotions like this, the best advice I can give is to give that person space. Much like a person suffering from a seizure, no matter how much you want to help that person, a bystander the best thing for the both of you is to keep your distance and let things pass. The last thing we (the sore loser) wants to do is to talk things out. We are in a dark place and need to dig ourselves out of it with no exceptions. No significant other can damped the self loathing until that person is ready. Unless there is an obvious sign (like the person starting the “I want to talk about it” conversation) please keep your distance.

I have learned (just recently) that like all pains, they must be embraced in a mindful way in order for them to pass when the time is right. There is a large part of me that sees the negativities that come with strong attachments and sees the most logical response is to not get that attached in the first place. That being said, the little part that is left still wishes to take that chance. Defeat is harder to deal with when the person does not have the mental or physical tools to be their best. For me, the track racing learning curve is kicking my butt. I can’t seem to find the same level of comfort as I do on the road bike. I’ll try and tinker with a few things to try and get that same feel.

-dfj

Life Off the Bike

Life off the bike can be a lonely one. I find myself battling with the ups and downs that come with the pleasures of cycling. Everything is unicorns and rainbows once the wheels start turning. When the time comes to return the steed to the stable (that is to say that bikes belong indoors) what follows can be a more difficult road than climbing hills in the heat at nauseating speeds.

I finished reading Tyler Hamilton’s book, “The Secret Race” which tells the story of the early 200’s Tour de Frances when Lance was making his comeback after being diagnosed with cancer. While this is subject is the highlight of the book, I found subtle aspects of Tyler’s life that felt much like my own.

One of the most inspiring details mentioned is Tyler describing the thoughts and feelings that come with hitting “the wall.” Dealing with (not blocking out) the pains that come from the buildup of Hydrogen atoms and the mind convincing the body to back off. While I do not care for his writing style in this book, these particular passages had me up late a few nights from the excitement and thoughts of me in his shoes.

An event that hit closest to home was once Tyler came back to his hometown from Europe. He had gotten an impressive fourth place in that year’s TDF and was greeted the way I imagine soldiers are greeting when returning from war. There were parades, posters, newspaper articles and a ceremony awarding him an honorary key to the city. While Tyler got a royal welcoming the heavy-hitting material was his perspective on the entire event. He wasn’t happy, he felt ashamed, lonely and embarrassed. I took a break from reading at this point to reflect on what I had read.

Every cyclist wishes for the fame and glory that comes from competing with professional athletes (I’m guilty as charged.) For those of us that have yet to experience such success, we can only imagine how we will take the news. Will we relish and celebrate with bliss? Or will the celebrating be less rewarding than we imagine? Being a glass half empty personality, I imagine myself dealing with the later option. Which is why Tyler’s response struck me on an all-to-familiar chord. He does mention dealing with depression in between the bike racing, new relationships, and the hide-and-seek game that is the cyclist vs. race officials. I am refraining from self diagnosing myself with any form of mental imbalance such as depression for reasons that are destined for another day. That being said I can relate with the peaks (and very sudden falls) that come with succeeding in a goal. Which brings me back to my main point of dealing with this emotional wave on a daily basis.

I have hobbies that occupy my time when I’m off the bike. I still dabble with the guitar, I read books, I write when I’m feeling up for it. These all seem like healthy alternatives to a physical lifestyle, but I still can’t seem to shake this void. Today I sarcastically mentioned to my friend that cycling is a highly addictive gateway drug that causes you to lose all your other priorities in life. Oh how right I was on so many deeper levels.

Like the junkie looking for their next fix, so does the cyclist look for their next ride. Loneliness can set in between rides and can get the best of us (I’d write my name at the top of this list) but can be dealt with. As challenging as things may seem, its the happy moments that help us (myself) through the lonelier times. Thought I would write about it in hopes of a little clarity.

-dfj

 

Quarter-Life Crisis

While reading The Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne one Sunday afternoon, I came across a chapter in which he is in Australia driving in an area with no signs of human life. In the midst of his walking around and exploring the area he comes across an anthill that then triggers an existential episode for him. If I remember correctly, he thought that seeing an army of ants doing their collective good for the sake of the species made him feel ant-like in the grand scheme of thing, then proceeds to brush it off as though he may be over reacting.

Reading in Melrose

Reading in Melrose

Who would have thought that on the same day a similar experience would happen to me. In all honesty I’m not that surprised. The existential episodes have been reoccurring at a more frequent rate. I can seem to go out and ride bikes with friends for most of my day off, then return home and have that good feeling slowly (or sometimes not so slowly) take a dive. Or in this particular case end up at a park I vividly remember from my childhood and be brought to tears for what seemed like no reason at all (at first.)

IMG_0607

This is the view that did it for me. I’m at a park in Culver City near Overland and Culver. At first I was in awe at how comfortable this view felt. A lot of pivotal experiences took place here. A lot of what has shaped me into who I am today took place here. On the other side of the grassy stretch was the first pool I passed the underaged swim test on and got to jump off the diving board. I got to fire off a rocket with mama here. And I remember meeting a pen-pal from school on a separate occasion.

After staying here for a little bit, eating my lunch of six bananas before I head on back into Hollywood to meet up with friends then proceed to make my way back home to get ready for work, I come across some parents with their children doing what parents do. That was my trigger. Something about seeing kids after knowing I’ve spent a lot of time here as I am sure they have, and seeing parents enjoying their lives where they currently live as I did and still do got the brain running on all cylinders.

The current year off school I am taking has always made me feel like I’m missing out on something. Like I should be doing something more productive with my life. To strengthen this guilt trip is the scene in which I grew up in. All the happy memories I’ve had as a child soon to be plateaued by my lull in the rat race. Am I throwing this great upbringing away by choosing to not go the traditional route of a prompt and formal education followed by the want to repopulate? Am I gonna be that guy that is never satisfied with the things he has done with the time spent on this planet? The worst thing I could imagine would have to be explaining that to someone some fifteen years from now. “Yeah I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood. Then when I finished high school things started to dwindle down and here I am (insert slightly above entry level profession.) That stuff gives me nightmares. Nightmares and day terrors.

The other side of the coin has me justifying what I am doing as something I genuinely enjoy. I may feel like a nomad with no place in the world at times, but I can make it work. Maybe what I need is to meet someone and get the dating process rolling again. Am I ready to start dating again? I mean, the idea of having a family is romanticised about from time to time in my head. But then I see my dad’s kids (myself included) and think about all the baggage they’re going to have and reconsider if I want to wish that upon someone else. Hell, isn’t that what a relationship is at a part of it’s core (he laughs in a melancholic way)? Or is it better to just go with this nomad life until the end. I would end up harming less people from it, and I could keep doing what I’m doing all with just having to wrestle with these episodes when they arise.

Seeing youth sparks an internal battle of opinions within me. This on top of the setting of my stomping grounds puts a self-internalizing twist that usually results in a cynical conclusion. Perhaps it’s these settings that trigger the need to keep up with the Jones’. Maybe I need to take my life in a different direction seeing as I am a different person from when I used to live in this part of town. Part of me still enjoys coming back to the place where I grew up. Something about the nostalgia of returning to a hometown (and the possibility of having a great time, or a morbid panic attack) makes the trips worth it. That feeling of familiarity whether it be good or bad that is worth clinging on to.

After this internal discussion, hands still shaky from the coffee, I decide to make my way back home by way of Hollywood and eventually back into the valley (my second home.) Not without another photo of the place where I grew up.

 

Future bike tag

Future bike tag

 

Who knows, maybe this is just a phase in my life. Maybe I’m going through a quarter-life crisis and I’ll only have to deal with this three or four times in my life. Then again I could have just discovered a new about myself I never knew existed. Either way, I’m here for the ride.

-dfj

Platypus

No direct theme today. More of a collective of thoughts, experiences and discoveries.

When I was in a long term relationship, I had developed a few skills that came with being with someone for longer than the duration of a high school education. I was (and still am) able to talk to myself from not only my own perspective but from her’s as well. She doesn’t need to be physically there in order to have an opinion on my thoughts (which would explain why the little voice of reason in my head sounds like an old Jewish woman.) I was able to bridge which parent she got certain traits or made certain noises from. This is a fun game to play at home. If you pay enough attention you can pick out who a person idolizes, who they strive to become, and the type of person they tend to date. That being said I too catch myself exhibiting traits that are unmistakably a direct lineage from one of my parents. Phrases like, “Oh, I sound/ am acting so much like my dad right now” and “So this is why I handle things in this way” have been said time and time again in the recent weeks.

IMG_0596Last week Mama and I hung out at the Santa Monica Pier for their twilight concert series.  It was less of a traditional concert going experience and more of an opportunity to catch up with some peaceful background music. We talked about things we cared about, concerns, and things that we were bothered by. It was then that we both realized that we are both introverts that don’t like crowds or hugs. Once we arrived to the pier & saw the crowds both near the stage and the sand, we both came to the conclusion that the most comfortable spot would be a comfortable fifty feet from the nearest human without saying a word. She proceeded to explain this personal space boundary was non-existent when she wasn’t sober. The drinking made her a more social person, and now that she doesn’t drink, she feels uncomfortable in lovey-dovey situations where people greet one another with hugs and kisses, (“So this is why I handle things that way.”)

Had it not been for the whiskey I had last night before strolling the streets of downtown Los Angeles, I would have become claustrophobic at being so close to so many people at one time. The scents were enough to deter someone from getting into too dense of a crowd, let alone the close proximity anxiety I tend to get. As much as I enjoy getting to know someone when I’m more sociable (when I’m drinking) I favor sobriety over that benefit. At the same time there is that whole idea of poisoning yourself by consuming a substance the human body isn’t meant to digest. Can’t say that makes much sense to me or that I care to relish in that.

This whole idea of altering your normal state of mind to behave in a way that you (may think) or others want you to act seems illogical to me. I remember playing guitar in high school and coming across those who said that they’ve always wanted to learn. Me being the logical person, I wanted to share the experience by teaching, to which I found that that person was only blowing smoke. People say they want to do things like learn to play an instrument, a new language, to lose weight, or manage their money better. I have learned to take this for what it’s worth at a very basic level, just words. People can talk for hours and hours about their plans but spend a fraction of that time pursuing said plans. While I am no trained psychologist, from my personal experiences, I have concluded that these people genuinely do not want to change. They would rather talk about change instead. Its concepts like these that have me questioning the efforts people take to try and motivate one another. I’ve tried to get people to do things they say they want to do. Maybe I’m not the right type of person cut out for this (which would explain my dislike for the field of marketing.) If I want to do something, there is a good chance I need little to no motivation to do said thing. The concept of getting people to do things they don’t want to do will be a foreign idea for me for a long time, just like traffic in Los Angeles. Makes me question telling people my plans in the first place.

I can see how what I write about may come off as me being a shut-in that doesn’t enjoy the “fun” things in life, but I would disagree. I see it as a more mindful approach to one’s actions. this resonates well and further justifies my existence. Maybe it’s my parent’s traits along with the minimal touching that is involved with cycling that has caused these inner feelings to solidify into who I am today. Whatever the reason, they feel right and they’re here to stay. Now to nurse this hangover so I can get motivated to get on my bike some time tonight.

-dfj

 

Salami Dreams

I had a dream last night

My folks went out on an extended vacation near the California/ Nevada border. I had set out to eventually meet them there but was delayed so I had to leave on my own. I had plans to get there by using a giant weather balloon and a parachute. I would float off the ground, and proceed to glide on the parachute while gradually letting air out of the balloon for a way to accelerate. I would also use the edge of the mountains I would cross to somehow save whatever magical gas was in the balloon and somehow piggy-back off the mountains by gliding close to the surface.

I ended up not making it a quarter of  the way there. I was confident I had the right idea in theory, I just lacked the technique when I realized this would be my first type ever doing something such as this. I landed near some giant campground that resembled something in Angeles Naitonal Forest if it had more greenery currently on it’s mountains. I was told by one of the rangers that it was impossible for me to make it to where I was going with the gas I had left (the balloon was about half used up by this time.) I had a few Co2 cartridges that I thought would get me the rest of the way. Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure Co2 is light enough to lift a body with a week’s worth of clothes on it.

I didn’t take the ranger’s advice, kept on, used up my cartridges, and landed about half way through the campground. I don’t even think I hit the one third mark on my overall journey. Feeling defeated and bitter, my stubborn attitude compelled me to walk home, disregarding all advice I had been given. I tried to hurry past the rangers I was about to approach. Judging by the look on their faces, I knew they knew my situation. At this point I wasn’t thinking logically and wanted to avoid everyone, then proceed to walk my feelings of hurt pride off until I passed out or died.

I managed to get passed the human wall they created, but couldn’t help but overhear their words of recommendation. I managed to hear one of the rangers say that one of their co-workers was on his own vacation and left his bicycle at work. This immediately sparked my attention. Imagine a red, white, and blue steel time trial bike with aero bars placed on this. My emotions jumped from one end of the spectrum to the other. I thought to myself this would be the perfect opportunity to learn to ride the TT bike (on an over eight hour ride through the mountains back home.)

The last challenge would be the task of schlepping all my bags of clothes along with me. This got my spirits on a downward slope. One of the lady rangers (a young adult black female I might add) told me that another co worker had an obsession with kites (what being in the wilderness and all) and would fly out my stuff on her kites back home. After many thanks and commendations I set out on my way, to which proceeded with me waking up from said dream and having to finish up the rest of my work from the previous night.

-dfj

Brentwood GP: When in Doubt….

Today was my final race of the “season.” It is safe to say I have been thinking about this race for the past too weeks, but at the same time tried to keep myself from getting overexcited. There is less of an introduction than I thought (since I had pretty much wrote my into in the morning) so I’ll just get right to it.

The weather was hot & humid. Not that big of a deal since its just as muggy when I go out for rides. Knowing that I had intervals in my pocket, I felt more confident despite the competition. I must note that although I had been mentally preparing for this race for over a week, I’ve noticed that the confidence does not blossom until the first four laps of the race. All the emotions leading up to that are a buffer system to keep the nerves, jitters, and over-excitement at bay. After all its once you get in your groove that you’re truly able to realize whether you’re prepared or not. I can say now that I was prepared. I got a decent amount of sleep beforehand (not as much as I’d like, but adequate enough.) I was plenty hydrated, and I rode a mellow two hours to get my legs ready for the event the day before.

The race started off quick as usual. I was able to recover from the accelerations out of corners quickly enough to keep my eye on the front of the race. I was about ten wheels back the entire time and had enough gas when the pace began to surge (thank you intervals.) the field seemed to take turns with minimal risk & kept things safe & out of the gutters. No real breaks were started in the first twenty minutes. When the lap cards came out, the pace picked up slightly and riders began to bunch up for coverage. I couldn’t help but notice other riders banging bars on my thighs with only four to go. This is combination with the bunching made me on edge when considering waiting for the final sprint. It was then that I decided that I felt that I had what it took to start or to follow and contribute to a breakaway.

With three to go, a rider from So Cal velo accelerated from the front group, to which I decided to latch on. I use the word accelerate because I wasn’t convinced that he accelerated with enough conviction and effort to be classified as an attack (a bad first sign.) After having already put myself out there with now two to go, I decided to stick with it since the many corners that were in the second half of the course felt a lot safer with only a few people amongst myself. He ended up breaking off and I took my turn to pull. Not at full speed, but enough to get other rider’s attention incase anyone else was interested. I eventually drifted back to the top ten to which another rider from another team began to accelerate, this time with a little more effort than the first. Having recovered as much as I could from the first acceleration, I decided to go at it again with a bigger effort since the final laps were closing in.

When it was my turn to go, I attacked as hard as I could and broke away from the main pack. I managed to take the first hairpin and the following turns with ease and speed. Having heard the peloton hitting their brakes, I got more excited and kept going. Before the next series of turns, a few riders caught me, but continued the pace I had set. I sat behind them, did the turns on the second half of the course, then once it straightened out, I attacked again. I knew this was the final acceleration I had, so I made it count and stuck with it with one hundred percent effort. I opened up a pretty big gap from what others had told me, and tried not to get distracted by everything around me. I began to think, “what if this was all it took to win the race? Just enough angst and energy to break away from the group?” There was no one behind me now & I could tell I was exhausting myself to a level I had not experienced before.

Normally when someone is spectating a race, one of two phrases come to mind when cheering on a rider: “Move up!” or “Ale!” I have mentioned before that these are the least liked phrases a cyclist could ever hear. What more blatantly obvious thing could be said during a bike race? “Pedal!” (Gee, I had never thought to do that. Thanks for your wise words.) The reason I bring this up is because when I had finished the first set of turns, I heard a spectator say, “Hang in there.” Hearing this was the biggest breath of fresh air I had ever heard at a time like this. He didn’t even yell it to me. His smooth and calm tone accentuated the message allthemore. Why don’t more spectators think about what they say before they say it. We need more constructive criticisms like these rather than the traditional bonehead response that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

Getting back to the race. I made it to the back stretch of the last lap on my own. Only one more set of turns, then the final stretch to the finish. Having been on the rivet for so long with no opportunity to recover, I became fatigued and was chased down by the time the final turns before the sprint came. I drifted back with the pack, and got another pack finish.

No crashes were had, nobodies feelings were hurt and although I got a result I would have otherwise dreaded, I can say that I gave it my all (frankly because I could barely stand once the race was over.)

So ends another race. I’ve yet to acquire any official points in my category, but I’m not worried. I’ve been training my body for events like these and see a tremendous difference in the way I ride. I am riding both smarter and harder. Next is to get a little more comfortable when the tension builds up within the final three laps of a race. I’ve got plenty of tools to use, and enough experience to make more progress as the next opportunities come about. Until next time.

-dfj