Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rrrrrriding in the Cold and Wind

Just like yesterday I went out on the bike late afternoon, even though the weather was c-c-c-cold and it was windy. It was very uncomfortable to walk through, and after I got settled into my chair at my


nice warm house my poor old decrepit body said "NO!" when I got up. But "got up" I did, and put on the jacket, gloves and helmet. My Father-in-law explained to me the depth of how crazy I was for wanting to go ride a flippin' bicycle in this weather.

But I swear, once you get out in it, and your legs are spinning the pedals, and your heart rate starts to climb, and the cold air slaps you in the face, it is difficult to understand why everybody is not out riding bicycles. The raw briskness, the fight against the wind, the scream inside of you that wants to get out and has finally found a way - - -

At 61 years of age I want to feel uncomfortable. When I am uncomfortable, and cold, and riding the miles - - That's when I grow. That's when I get stronger, both emotionally and physically.

See you on the bike!

Music Website Back Up

I had abandoned my old website (markstone.org) a couple of months ago because I was paying the web hosting people about $95 annually for it. I lost a job that I had at the time (posting smartphone articles at a busy tech website) and didn't want to use money from our family's "general fund" to pay for something that really was a hobby, maintaining the website.

But after markstone.org bit the dust, I had a few people at church come up to me with their sad, sad faces disappointed that my music videos, carefully housed at the ol' site, were not available any
longer. Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are - musical-talentwise I would consider myself adequate, slightly better than poor, and gaze in wonder at anyone who shows interest in listening to my music. At 61 years of age the Good Lord knows I can't sing any more, although I will admit my folk fingerstyle on guitar is pretty good.

Anyway, back by popular demand (I think there were 3 people, and two of them were in the same family), I've set up my music/guitar website again but this time at Google Sites, which is free. I've re-posted the videos and some descriptions of my instruments. Without shelling out the bucks, however, I don't get my "markstone.org" URL back, but - again - I'm unwilling to pay that much for a website unless I have the extra job - which I don't have any more.

Here's the link to the new site: Mark Stone - American Folk Guitar. Enjoy it, if you can . . .

The link is also at the top of this blog, too.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A new song written November 2014, called The Thanksgiving Song. Recorded on a cheap smartphone, using my Gibson Hummingbird Pro. The song is a simple 1-4-5 Relative Minor Cowboy-Chord Ballad -- Enjoy!


RIP Modo -- A Friend I Never Met

I love my volunteer position as a Moderator at one of the more influential online Bicycle Forums on the internet, BikeForums. It's a huge, busy, vibrant community of cyclists of all varieties. Usually there are around 1500 people logged in to the site at any given time.

I've discovered during my 3 year membership there, and my 3 short months as a Mod, that friendships created there are very real. Although we rarely meet each other face to face, the other people that post and discuss issues and tell stories are real people. The friendships that are created are just as real as most friendships in the "real" world.
Modo's Profile Picture at BikeForums

In August of 2011, at 308 pounds, is when I joined. Of course, the story of my weight loss since then is multi-faceted - but my friends in one of the sub-forums there helped quite a bit during my weight loss. Cajoling, encouraging, keeping me accountable (and me keeping them accountable) helped me lose 78 pounds in 16 months. We looked at each other using before-and-after pictures etc. and the friendships were solid.

After becoming a Moderator at the site, my view of the forums expanded considerably. And with that expansion came many more friendships. A number of people I met at BikeForums have become friends of mine on Facebook also.  It is very interesting to get to know these people from all over the world.

For the past two months, I have gotten to know a member there that went by the screen-name ModoVincere. He was a great person, who had forged a number of close friendships in the forums. In the decade he was a member, many people grew to respect him. My short two months jabbering with him built a bit of a friendship, although he and I were not as close as he and others. Today, his daughter used his account to log in to the forums and report that he had experienced a heart attack while riding on a stationary bicycle, and passed away. She said that he loved the forums, and the people in the forums, and spoke about them all the time. He was only 47 at the time of his death.

What was interesting is that the sense of loss I felt when hearing about Modo's passing was quite real. Even though our acquaintance was internet-only, he was a real person with which I had real interaction.

What an interesting world we live in. Since I'm older now, it would be easy to criticize internet "friendships" as not real, or with little depth. It would be easy to say that it would be better to concentrate on our families, and local "real" friends, than the ones we have never seen on internet forums or social sites. Then why did it feel like I got punched in the gut when I heard of ModoVincere's passing?

RIP my friend . . .

You Know, Every Day is a New Start

Well, today I'm taking The Black Knight bicycle in for some adjustments, assuming my bike shop is open (and I think that's a good assumption considering this is Black Friday). I'm getting a spoke replaced and a wheel trued, which runs $14.00. Since my cold started 2-1/2 weeks ago, I haven't ridden my bike at all, which means when I start up again after the repair it will be "starting over".

But "starting over" is a good thing. I've been riding my bike a lot during this last half of 2014, and I
The Black Knight
feel great because of the miles, so it's technically not starting over - it's actually just getting back on the bike after a short break. But I want to look at it as starting over anyway, because I like starting over. It makes me think I'm younger, for some reason - starting things rather than finishing things - and I guess only fellow elderly people would understand that.

I'm still confused as to what my goal should be, as far as cycling. Am I gonna form my lifestyle around cycling, by commuting and using the bike as my primary transportation? Or am I simply going to set a simple goal of riding 30 minutes a day as a fitness rider? Or am I just going to sit in my easy chair, get fat, and look through old cycling logs wondering what went wrong? LOL - Actually not the latter. I have the feeling that I'm going to be a "fitness" rider, which is great for my health. There will be times when I will long for the car-free or car-light lifestyle, and will probably lean in that direction. But, hey, I'm almost 62 years old now and I want to be lazy. If being lazy means being a "fitness" rider, I guess that's OK. The only thing that may force me into a car lite lifestyle would be if driving becomes too dangerous for me. But that's still up in the air.

See you on the bike!

The Blues of the Elderly Driver

Through my 40+ years of being a bicyclist, there have been a number of times that I've voluntarily given up driving a car and have used my bicycle as my primary transportation. These periods have always been the happiest times in my life, and I think it proves, at least for me, a tie between physical exercise and my ability to objectify life and enjoy it more. To "objectify" life simply means to have the ability to look at things as they are, as opposed to through "self pity" or "overdramatic" views.

When I can honestly look at things the way they are, I have no choice but to be happy, with the ideal family, health, career and religious pictures in my life. Anyone in my situation would have to be insane to not be happy. With exercise, at times when I have bicycled like a lunatic, it has been easier to be happy, to see life as it really is.

The times that I have commuted by bicycle are many:

  • From when I graduated from high school in 1971 for about a year in the Denver area.
  • When I lived in Tucson and Bisbee Arizona in the early to mid 1970s
  • From 1978 to about 1981 during the White Poison Strike (I'll have to blog about the White Poison Strike some day lol)
  • From 1984 to about 1986 in East El Paso
  • After Bonnie and I got married, I bike commuted through the early 1990s when we lived in Denver
  • After a long break, I did it for about 8 months in 2011 and 2012


There are probably quite a few more times that I've done it. But, I'm over 60 and my life has been long, and memory fades. But I would say a good estimate would be that over 2/3 of my adult years I depended on cycling as my primary transportation.

I think I'm reasonably comfortable with the idea of doing it again. If you've read my blogs over the past couple of years (I have around 150 or so dedicated readers – I don't know who they are, but I know they're there lol) you know I've thought seriously about going back to a car-free or car-light lifestyle again.

Something else has come up that may force the decision. Gradually, over the past 15 years or so, my driving ability has deteriorated. I'm not afraid to admit it – I'm a poor driver. I've discovered that I cannot process information as quickly as in the past. Traffic situations where I used to be able to make a split-second decision and go now give me trouble. I have to look at everything, think things through, make a decision, and proceed. Common traffic situations now confuse me. The result is that I drive more slowly, afraid to proceed at a normal speed. I discovered that driving the speed limit frequently frightens me.

Additionally, I'm having trouble with details. My mind wanders and I miss intersections where I was supposed to make a turn. Just this past Friday night, at about 11pm when I was driving downtown, I made a left-hand turn and came within inches of hitting a pedestrian. He had the walk signal, and was crossing within the crosswalk perfectly legally; I just didn't notice him. He had to jump back to avoid my car.

I see a lot of elderly people driving, and many of them drive slowly and unpredictably, and I think dangerously. What I see in my own driving echoes what I see in them. I have become the older person that blocks traffic because he is too frightened to go the speed limit. It's me. Damn.

Well, the happy thing is that if my driving deteriorates any further, I have an out. I have something in the wings that is within my comfort zone, that I have spent a good portion of my life doing already.

And that is, of course, using my bicycle and/or public transportation instead of a car. I could not possibly live in a more convenient location to do this. I live just a ten minute walk from the big Eastside bus terminal, which has an express bus leaving for downtown (where I work as a Greyhound Manager) every 14 minutes all day long. Additionally, the distance from home to work is only a little over 8 miles, which is well within my current bicycle riding range.

But there's a difference between going car-free because you have the option, and going car-free because you're getting too old and can no longer drive safely. That's hard to swallow.

I don't think I'm going to give up driving yet, but if my ability to drive deteriorates any further, I may have to just for safety sake.

It makes me feel sorry for the elderly people that continue to drive dangerously. Either they cannot admit to themselves that they have become poor drivers, or they actually don't realize it. Plus add in the fact that they may not have an out – bicycling – that I have. It's like being trapped.

The Bike or the Walker -- My Choice

At 61 years of age, of course, I ride my bicycle a lot slower than I used to. Additionally, I really have no desire to go faster. Just the act of getting out on the bike is a great accomplishment in itself. There was a graphic that was displayed at bikeforums dot net, where I am a Moderator, that said "No matter how slow you are, you're still lapping everyone on the couch". I guess that's true, and especially so as I age.

I know there's some others that are my age or so that can ride nearly as fast as they used to. Or that's what they say, anyway. I have a lot of friends at my church that ride bikes, too. Pastor Steve (who actually lives in Virginia now, but he's still Pastor Steve), Tony, Bryan, and a couple other guys ride. Sometimes they say "Hey, we should go out riding some time!" But I've seen them ride, and they are pretty fast – so I keep making excuses to not ride with them. I don't think they would enjoy riding at half their normal speed just to let an old feller keep up with them.

So, generally, I always ride my bike alone so I can go wherever I want at the usually slow speed I want. These other guys think I'm being unsociable, I guess, but that's not true – I'm just slow.

Part of getting used to being in your 60s is realizing that when a person is in their 60s, they look like they're in their 60s. A little part of my brain wants to believe I still look like I did when I was in my 30s or 40s, but I don't. As I have grown older, I've noticed that people respond to me differently even though I'm essentially the same person. Relatives (nieces and nephews especially) act quite a bit differently. People at church unconsciously snub me, because they want to be around the younger, cooler crowd. It must be appearance. If you look like you're in your 60s, people classify you in their minds as an "old person". In some respects that can be useful, but other times it can be hurtful.

In El Paso, which is a largely Hispanic community, looking elderly can be a good thing. The Hispanic culture puts a lot of respect on its elderly, and as I get greyer and more "wrinkly" I've noticed people, even strangers, are more respectful. I hear "sir" a lot and people downtown, even those that look like gangsters, hold doors open for me.

Church gets me a little upset. Inside, I'm not much different than they are. I have hopes, and dreams, and emotions. I look at the little "cliques" of friends and sometimes long to be part. But during the long 3+ years my wife and I have been part of that particular church, we have yet to have an invitation to someone's home for dinner, or out for a lunch after church, or something like that. I play acoustic guitar in the church band, and it's comical – After the service, I pack up my gear by myself, sit around, maybe say "hi" to a couple of people, then just leave. I have rarely been approached by an individual even for small talk. All the young people in the church are too busy being friendly to each other to engage me in conversation. During one "Sunday School" class just for men, I told them all of this, too. However, even though I brought it out into the open, no one has responded.

Bonnie has missed four church services in a row, and yet no one has asked about her, and no one has called her or attempted to contact her in any way.

There's virtually no difference in Bonnie and I now and Bonnie and I 20 years ago – except now we look "elderly". We are no longer "cool". I guess being "cool" is not the point. The point is that if I did not play acoustic guitar reasonably well, we would have no place at all in this church, either socially or otherwise.

And so it goes.

I’m still planning on starting cycling again on or right after December 1st. I figure it’s either the bike or the walker, my choice. I choose the bike.

Battle Mountain II -- Pictures

Yesterday I was reminiscing a little bit about Battle Mountain in Colorado, which was one of my favorite bicycle rides. It was a very challenging ride from both directions, but presented the most amazing views - both historical and natural. Since I posted that memory, I've been thinking about my Colorado mountain rides and the memories.

I never took pictures during these rides. They occurred long before "selfie" became an accepted term and I just didn't think about photography. But the internet is full of photographs of anything a person would desire to look at - and there's some pictures of Battle Mountain. These pics help me to remember the rides, and hopefully some of you can understand the haunting memories that can be borne of such enchanting places.
This is, of course, not me - but a good view of one of the climbs.

The very beginning of the Northbound climb, coming in from Leadville. I forgot the name of this bridge, but the steep ascent starts just to the left of the bridge. If you go to the right (South) there is a long, steady climb up over Tennessee pass into Leadville.

This rider is climbing up the incline just north of the bridge pictured above.

A view from the top of the mountain. The top has old mines scattered about, and very old homes that were built for the workers. It is enchanting to ride my bike on the highway, looking down on the old "ruins". 

Another look at one of the old mines.

This is steeper than it looks lol!
I guess, since I'm closing in on 62 years old, I'll never ride my bike over Battle Mountain again - or perhaps anywhere in my Colorado Rockies. That's ok. But I'll never lose the memories.

Ah, the Difference a Cold Makes

A week ago Monday (that would be November 10th) I caught a cold. I don't catch very many of them and I think it's because no one likes me and therefore I have very little human contact. Go ahead and avoid me, all you cool hip people that hang around other cool hip people - all that means to me is I don't get your diseases. Anyway, somehow a cold germ got to me - and it's been a week-and-a-half of feeling weak, coughing, sneezing, making excuses for myself and self-pity. That all sounds pretty good on its own. But add to that I can't ride my bike when I have a cold, and the joy of the sneeze turns into the - well, the un-joy of not riding.

When I was younger, I could ride through colds. I read in Bicycling Magazine that people with colds could continue to "train" (that's what Bicycling Mag calls it - "training" - you don't get to just go "ride") as long as they didn't have a fever. So, I would just keep riding.

But these days, if I try to ride during a cold, I effectively double the length of time I have the cold. This started happening when I was in my early 50s. So now, at 61+, I can only stare longingly at my bike sitting rusting and alone in the garage.

This is why I'm mean to people.

I don't actually hate people, but I have a purpose in being creatively mean. And that is to stay away from the dreaded cold germs.

"Wow, that diet you've been on really isn't working, is it?"

"You know you'd look a lot better without all that clown paint on your face"

 "I think you accidentally gave us the dog's food."

You get the point. When people come to my house to visit me and the wife, they hug and kiss on her and leave me alone in my easy chair and sheepishly wave at me. They think I don't like them, but I really do. I just don't want their dad burned cold germs.

I'm probably going to start riding again on Monday, December 1st.

Battle Mountain

Editor's Note: I had decided to start a new blog, but the rethought and decided to keep the current one. I copied the 7 new articles from there to here - and that's why this article sounds like a new blog is starting!

I have about a million other blogs I have started, lost interest in, and abandoned. I figured it's about time to start another blog to eventually lose interest in. But this time it's going to be a pretty honest representation of who I am, and not a picture portrait of what I'd like to look like to everyone else. Everyone has a self-image, and some pretty much have it nailed. Others, me included, are waaaaay off. When I'm out riding my bicycle, there's a vast difference in what people see - and what I think they see!
What I really look like, prolly
What I think I look like



But it's ok. It is what it is. I'm closing in on 62 years old now, and the realization that I am no longer 20 is a lot easier to swallow than I thought it would be. As old as 62 sounds to some people, to others (including me) it's really not that old. If one takes care of their body, by exercising and eating decently and having good genes and being surrounded by a family, there are a lot of quality years ahead for people my age.

But there are also a lot of creaks and groans in the morning.

Since I was a fresh-faced young teenager, I have enjoyed riding bicycles. From 1971 until 1978 I cycled everywhere and did not own a car. I used cheap bikes I could get for $20 or $30 at the local department stores (remember - it was the early 70s) and just rode them until they became dust under me. In the late 70s I lived in the Tucson and Bisbee Arizona areas, and continued to bike and walk everywhere. Finally in 1978 I moved to El Paso, Texas - my current home town - and bought my very first car.

I really didn't slow down that much as far as cycling, even though I had a car. From El Paso, back to Tuscon, over to Newnan Georgia for a short while, back to Denver, and eventually back here to El Paso, I owned a few cars indeed. But in that 40 year period, I accumulated over 60,000 miles of bicycling. I rode all the major passes in the Colorado Rockies, up all the front range steep canyons (Mt. Vernon was my favorite for some reason), across the naked desert around El Paso, up Mt. Lemmon in Tucson.

I stopped riding seriously in September of 2003, my heart blown to pieces by the tragic death of Ken Kifer. Over the next several years, I slowly got obese - Although I was eating like a cyclist, I was no longer cycling like a cyclist. In the summer of 2011, I realized what was happening and got back on the bike. (My weight loss story is here.)

If you happen to see an elderly gentleman out and about on his bicycle, riding slowly, smelling the roses and waving at the kids - it's probably me. That's what I do now. Every now and again, those fit looking skinny road cyclists pass me like I'm standing still. Occasionally one of them looks over his shoulder at me and sneers - Just an old fart out riding on a cheap bike - but it doesn't bother me. When was the last time he was at the top of Battle Mountain, when the snow was just starting to come down, 50 or so miles into a 75 mile loop that would end at Copper? The peace, the solitude, the feeling of dominance and freedom and silence is beyond description. That's my memory, buddy, and it's real - and I can only hope you get to have that feeling too.

Sneer all you want. You can't take Battle Mountain from my heart.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hit a Snag in Project 61

11/12/2014 - 252lbs -- 56 pounds lost since 8/30/2011
No Ride Today

I have this task I have laid out before me, and to give it some character and motivation I have called it Project 61. The title comes from the fact that I am 61 years old. See the correlation? Project 61?? 61 years old?? It saddens me that I had to explain it to you.

In August of 2011, I had worked my way up to 308 pounds and my wife and I decided to do something about our weights. In the last half of 2011, I went car-light - using walking, bicycling and public transportation instead of the car. For a period of 8 months, til the beginning of March 2012, I drove my car only about once a week. I didn't diet, but lost about 33 pounds during this period. Then, at 275, Bonnie and I decided to go on Weight Watchers - which BTW works - and I ended up losing another 45 pounds through 2012. 308 to 230 is a 78 pound weight loss. For the full story, click on the "My Weight Loss Story" above.

In 2013 and 2014, I have gained back (as of this morning, 11/12/14) 22 pounds of the 78, making a net loss to date of 56 pounds. 21 weeks ago, realizing that I was beginning to gain it back, and unable to "diet" any longer (which is an entirely different discussion), I started the above mentioned Project 61. It consists of merely riding my bicycle for at least 30 minutes per day, averaging 4 days per week, at what I consider an aerobic rate. Every time I have ridden with this frequency, I have never gained weight and have on many times lost weight, regardless of diet. Well, this past Sunday I completed 21 straight weeks of 4 rides per week, and the result has been what I expected: Some substantial size loss, without any scale weight loss. This indicates a gain in lean weight (muscles) along with a loss of fat.

But the title of this piece says "Hit a Snag" - and I did. Both Bonnie and I have caught monster colds, and so I'm taking some time off of cycling to get rid of this cold. Taking the week off means it will take forever to get back up to a 4-ride-per-week average, so I just may start it over. I'll call it Project 61-1/2.

See you on the bike!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mitochondria Links

11/11/2014, 252lbs - 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11

The huge drug companies make no money from publicizing actual, natural solutions to many of our physical problems. Therefore, we never hear of them on TV or on Facebook - Where's the profit in that? If people can take the time to utilize the wealth of information on the internet, the answers are there. Did you know that when major Universities do studies, and Government Agencies do studies, that they are published to the internet? Yep.

Here is a small series of articles I wrote in the Summer of 2014 in regards to Mitochondria. I first heard of these little cellular "beings" in an exercise book by Covert Bailey, called Fit or Fat. A Google search revealed a wealth of information on the subject at many Universities, especially the University of New Mexico, that conclude that increasing Mitochondria is the ultimate solution for not only obesity, but Type 2 Diabetes. Gasp! Did I just say that??!? Am I claiming that a lifetime of Aerobic Exercise guards us from T2DM? Well, read the articles . . . .

The Mitochondriac is Here! An Introduction to Mitochondria
Second Chapter Mitochondria Discussion
The Best Way to Increase Mitochondria
Mitochondria and Type 2 Diabetes

And for good measure . . .

The Aerobic Benefit

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Unplanned Scenic Drive Ride

9/6/14 253lbs, 55 pounds lost since 8/30/11

I have a couple of favorite El Paso rides, and one of them called my name yesterday. There is a wonderful, paved and painted bicycle path that runs up Artcraft Drive from the banks of the Rio Grande River, and a second one that runs next to the river for a few miles. The path on Artcraft is a loop that goes up one side, and back on the other side of the highway. Additionally, they have extended the path into New Mexico up towards Santa Teresa, but I don't know how far that one goes yet.

Well, it has been several years since I've ridden that path, so I racked up the Black Knight Bicycle and drove to Artcraft for a good ride. I did two laps of "the loop" and when I was sufficiently tired, after about 45 minutes of riding, I rolled back to the car to head home.

Only problem was my car, the world famous "Apa's Lil' Red Truck" overheated on the way home and I had to park her. I was stranded on Baltimore Street at Madeline Park, which is on the hill just East of the UTEP area. After sitting for a few minutes feeling sorry for myself, I decided to get on the bike and ride home, and then call a tow truck to come pick up the vehicle.

I hadn't been over Scenic Drive on a bike in a few years also, so I was having difficulty remembering how challenging it was. But I thought "Heck, why not?" and took off on the bike eastbound to go over the steep drive, then drop down to Central ELP and home.

The trip took about 35 minutes, 8-1/2 miles, which is an average speed of a tad over 15mph, which is pretty good considering my age (61) and the fact that a good portion of the trip is steep uphill work. Average speed was certainly helped by many of the hair-raising descents!

At the end of the ride, I was surprised by how good I felt, and the fact that I still had a lot of energy. I figure that total mileage for the day was about 18 or 19, which should make a person more tired than I seemed to be.

But I sure did sleep good last night!

See you on the bike!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I Gotta Stop Racing People - Old People Don't Race!

Or do they?

9/2/2014, 251lbs - 57 pounds lost since 8/30/2011
40 Minutes

When I turned 60, about a year-and-a-half ago, I had a meeting with myself and agreed that I would not be so competitive when I'm out riding the bike. Mind you, I don't go out to be competitive, but when I see another cyclist I can't seem to stop myself. I - have - to - go - faster!! I'm a freak. So when 60 happened, and I decided I should be biking like old people bike, part of it was promising myself to not chase down and pass roadies.

Roadies? You've seen them. Tight, lycra shorts; colorful jerseys; Thousand Dollar racing bikes. They're all over the place. They don't go out for bike rides; they train. When I see one of these guys, I can't resist. I have to try to chase them down and pass them.

Am I successful? Occasionally. The type of bike I ride is called a City Bike, and they are built for fast city riding and commuting. A great percentage of urban cyclists and commuters use these bikes, and they're not slow bikes by any means. Here's mine, dressed:
Looks like a Roadie Eater, right? Right?
And guys like me ride our urban bikes every day. We're in all parts of the city, challenging cars for lanes, riding to the post office and the shops and the movies. We are as likely to hop on the bike to run an errand as use the car. Since we're on our bikes all the time, why would we not be in condition enough to challenge these road guys?

So today, on the Tuesday of my vacation, I decided to go for a spin on the bike. My goal today was to merely put in about 30 minutes of aerobics, then to lock up the bike and have breakfast at the local Village Inn. After about 35 minutes of moderate sight-seeing, I headed West towards the VI. I probably had about two miles to go to get to the restaurant, flying down a neighborhood street. As I passed an intersection, I looked to the left - and passing through the intersection only a block away, going my direction, were two Roadies! My eyes got big and I felt myself starting to drool.

I told myself not to race these guys. I'm 61 darn years old, I said. But I suddenly found myself in a higher gear, a brisker spin, increasing speed to 15 - 16 - 17mph. At the next intersection, I glanced over - and they were a little further behind! Then another block passed, and a steeper downhill part of the street sent me to over 20mph - I looked to the left again - I had gained another 15 or 20 feet! I was kicking their you-know-whats! It doesn't matter that:

  • They were out on a leisurely spin, having a nice conversation 
  • They had no idea at all that they were in a race
  • Their two ages, combined, were still 20 years younger than I

But I beat them! No excuses!

See you on the bike!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Coming Up on Three Years

8/24/2014 252lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/2011
25 minute moderate aerobic spin

Late July in 2011 saw me make a very important decision in my life. That decision was to go car-light, meaning to utilize the local bus system and walking for my primary transportation. After about two weeks of walking, I switched to bicycling and the bus system. 6 weeks after I started this, on the 30th of August, I "couraged up" and put myself on a scale for the first time in years - 308 pounds. For the

complete narrative of my weight loss - including how I gained all that weight in the first place - click here.

So now I'm coming up on my three year anniversary since that weigh-in. I'm still overweight at 252 pounds, but not obese. I feel very mobile and strong. Almost 60 pounds lighter, it's a great feeling of accomplishment and a source of pride. I love being able to ride my bike, get up out of chairs without it being a struggle, and keep up with kids and grandkids.

According to the BMI charts, I still need to lose another 42 pounds to be at the upper end of my healthy weight range. I don't believe it, though - I love being 230 pounds and anything less than that I look too skinny.

Anyway, it's an important third year anniversary for me, so I will enjoy the bike rides I take this week with a certain relish. I hope to see friends and family members on the road - But I won't, I guess. Most have put their faith in Doctors and Pills.

See you on the bike!


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Riding in Rain . . . AGAIN!

8/9/14 251lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/11
35 minutes in the rain

Today we woke up to a soft, but steady rain here in El Paso. The weather report indicated that the rain would last throughout the morning, and then the sun would come out. So, my plans - initially - were to wait until the afternoon to go for my bike ride.

But the last few rides have been in the rain - and (as I indicated in the blogs) all of these rides were extremely enjoyable. So, at about 10am, after a great breakfast made by my Bonnie, I decided to ride in the rain anyway. I mean, after all, think about it - The only possible "negative" is that I would get wet, and that's really not a negative at all. Of course, at 61 years of age now, my 3 kids and my poor wife think I'm going to catch pneumonia and die just because I get wet. I try to convince them that diseases like this happen to people because of viruses, not warm, gentle summer rains. But one of the facts of life is that logic does not work on blood relatives, so I just shrug my shoulders, climb on the bike, and ride anyway. Then, a couple of hours after the ride, they realize I haven't died, so they feel better.

It's probably a little more dangerous to ride a bicycle on city streets in the rain, but not enough that it would keep a person off of the bike. There are two major considerations:

  1. Corners are slick, so cyclists need to slow down more than usual when turning. I slow way the heck down, never pedal in a corner, and wait to accelerate until I've completed the turn. In 1979 on my trusty ol' Trek 520 touring bike I started accelerating mid-turn on a rainy day and the wheels slipped right out from under me. It hurt, folks, and I learned my lesson.
  2. Be more visible. People driving cars cannot see us cyclists as well during rainstorms. My bike has the most amazing array of lights of any bike I have ever seen - so when it is raining I have all my lighting on high and I am as visible as a lightening bolt. If some cager plows into me and sends me straight into the arms of Jesus, it won't be because he or she didn't see me, that's for sure.
Interestingly there were no other cyclists out riding through the rain in my neighborhood this morning, although I imagine there were lots out later in the day. Edgemere Park did have lots of walkers and joggers, though.

I did get very wet, but I did not die of pneumonia today.

See you on the bike!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Confounding the Diet Nazis

8/6/14 251 lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/11
37 minutes around the neighborhood, stopped for breakfast

Today I posted a little note at Facebook that said: "Eating a Denver Omelet with pancakes, laughing at the diet nazis - in the middle of a 15 mile bike ride - at Village Inn". Well, I guess I was incorrect on the distance. I actually rode only 7-1/2 miles, but it was a great workout for my heart and legs. At least there wasn't any rain today lol! If it's any consolation, I had plans for 15 miles but the day called me home.

If you spend any time searching the internet and listening to experts and studying diet programs, it is easy to conclude that the key to weight loss is what you eat - both the quantity and the quality. However, personal experience tells me that (at least for me) exercise as a lifestyle is much more important to attain health and weight control. As a matter of fact, there have been times in my life (as recently as 3 years ago) that I have experienced substantial weight loss through exercise alone, without dieting.

There is one reclusive exercise proponent, a man named Covert Bailey. You find very little about this man on the internet these days. He is not listed on Wikipedia, there are no videos of him at YouTube, and his old website says simply that he is retired. He was one of the few pro-exercise voices. Of course, there are several more, but Mr. Bailey was a pioneer, and shook my planet.

I have rarely dieted, until recently, and after that experience will probably not diet again.

For the science behind why I believe exercise is the primary permanent weight-loss and health engine, and why I appreciate Mr. Bailey so much, look at the links listed here at my website markstone.org.

My personal experience is lifelong, but in this following couple of paragraphs I will detail the last three years:

I weighed in at 308 pounds on August 30, 2011. At that time I was about a month into a bicycle commuting, car-lite lifestyle that had me riding my bike about 5 days per week, with a total of 35 or 40 minutes per day in the saddle. Between that August weigh-in and January 21, 2012, I lost 33 pounds not dieting. Not only was I not dieting, I was recklessly overeating. 33 pounds lost in 5 months = 6.6 pounds lost per month.

On January 21, 2012, my wife and I joined Weight Watchers. I weighed 275 at the beginning, and when we quit WW at the end of 2012 I had lost 45 pounds in 11 months. During that time, I continued to exercise but backed off on the duration and intensity, and no longer commuted on the bike. 45 pounds lost in 11 months = 4.1 pounds lost per month. Additionally, when we quit WW and I did not adjust my cycling, I gained back 20 of those 45 pounds. Just recently I have kicked up the bike mileage and frequency again, and am losing the weight. 

This is a small example of a pattern I've seen my whole life long: Exercise produces faster, more permanent weight loss than dieting. Apart from the physiological reasons stated at my website (see link above in this post), exercise can be (and is for me) a healthy lifestyle, whereas dieting is just - - dieting.

For the full story of my battle with weight since 2003, scroll to the top of the page and click the link there.

See you on the bike!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Another Bike Ride in the Cooling Rain - Continental Tyres - No Aggressive Drivers

8/5/14 251lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/11
30 minute Spin in the Rain

First, though, I want to post a picture of a T-shirt that I saw on Facebook today. Being a grandpa I found it very special:

Real Grandpas Go Cycling! Love it!

This afternoon was another bike ride through a soft rain in my neighborhood. It wasn't a "thunderstormy" type of event, but a gentle rainfall. I didn't use any kind of rain coat, I figured that if I got wet big deal. I wasn't going anywhere but home, so who cares if I got wet?

The only real difference in how I ride when the streets get wet is in cornering. I slow down quite a bit more and I don't pedal in the corners. The less torque on the rear wheel, the better! I do turn on my full night-time array of lights, however, because when the rain is coming down it's more difficult for cage drivers to see little old men on bikes. I don't want to be a hood ornament, so I make myself as visible as possible.

I love my Continental tyres on the bike so much, that I invested in a set of Continentals for our Dodge Caravan. I figure if the quality is so high on their relatively inexpensive bicycle touring tires, it must be very high on their expensive automobile touring tires. It cost over 6 bills to make the purchase tho - Don't tell Bonnie what I spent! (Actually she already knows. I'm just kidding. She's not too happy with the cost, but I want her to be safe in her car.)

An interesting side note to today's wet ride: I think it's been two or three months since I've seen an aggressive anti-cycling driver. Sometimes the mere presence of a cyclist on the street makes drivers mad, so they honk and "buzz" us (which is to pass dangerously close to a cyclist on purpose) or yell or throw things. It's been quite a while (relatively speaking) since I've encountered someone like that. I don't think I'm riding any differently; I still take the lane when I need to, and ride like the bike is a vehicle (for example, making left turns from the left turn lane, etc.), but no one acts mad. I'm probably on a lucky streak of some kind, I guess.

I don't understand why people would get mad and/or aggressive at a person just out to get some exercise on a bicycle. But it happens, and, unfortunately, quite frequently. I don't know why I've been given a respite for the last several weeks, but I'm not going to argue.

See you on the bike!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Active Rest from a Tiring Day?

8/4/14 251lbs, 57 pounds lost since 8/30/11

Yesterday I went on a relaxing, nonsensical ride that my body thinks it should not have gone on. It illustrates that when a person is tired, he or she may not be tired the way they think they are.

Huh?

I had worked 7 straight days when I came home from my job yesterday afternoon. I manage a restaurant, if, when done correctly, is a lot of work. I'm not interested in arguing with anybody about whether a restaurant management position is "work" or not – You'd be surprised how many people think it's easy. There's an immense amount of stress, and if a manager wants to keep loyalty and his or her job it takes
Me and my crew
active involvement. Every day leaves me tired, and after a string of days all I want to do is collapse into an easy chair when I arrive home.

Yesterday afternoon was one of those days. When I pulled up into the driveway, I sat in the car for a few minutes so tired I was unable to move. When I finally drug myself into the house and sat down, I did not want to get up. But I was in the middle of a little "island" of time where I could put on the gloves and skid lid and take the bike out for aerobics. A busy Grandpa has to take advantage of these little islands, or bike rides (and their associated health bonus) become rare.

So I forced myself out of the chair, and said to myself "I'm going to ride anyway. I don't care if I'm tired."

When I got out on the bike, however, I realized something that I've learned over and over in my cycling career: and that is tired from work and tired from bicycling are two different things. Even though work
My Restaurant Management Style
was physical, most of the "tired" feeling was emotional and the result of the stress.  Getting out on the bike, getting my heart rate up into "aerobic" range, feeling the sweat begin to form on my face, breathing getting faster and my lungs filling up, and my legs beginning to burn - - FEELS RELAXING AND RESTFUL! So after a few minutes of riding, I felt like I wanted to ride all day. The tired feeling from work was gone.

This is, honestly, a lesson I've learned over and over before. When my family and I lived in the Denver area, I commuted to work on my bike extensively, many days 25 or 30 miles. I grew to appreciate the long ride home after a busy day at work, because it was so refreshing and relaxing. And now, as I have begun my journey through my sixties, I'm rediscovering the same thing: Exercise is not tiring, in the sense that the human race is tired. It doesn't make a person irritable, or unsocial, or unkind. It doesn't fill us with stress, and doesn't make us wish everything would just go away. To feel the air on your face and the burn in your quads is, somehow, so restful after a long day. With the spirits lifted, the stress is gone.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

PuddleSplashing Ver. 1.3

8/2/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
30 minute amazing spin in the rain

Riding a bicycle in rainy weather is one of the most enjoyable things in life, however getting up enough courage is the barrier. Once I get out on the bike, it feels great - splishing and splashing through the puddles at a blazing 12 miles per hour. Rain always cools things off, and makes things calm. But starting out is always a trial. I look at the clouds and the rain from my cozy easy chair and say "Nah . . ."

But then, having ridden in the rain dozens and dozens of times in my 40-odd years of cycling, I remember that it is always memorable and always refreshing. And then I always quote this saying: "Fitness isn't something that happens to you. It is something you do." I drag myself out of the chair, put on the gloves and the skid lid, light up the front and rear flashers, stare at the clouds and groan, then
Not actually me lol . . . 
mount the machine and start the spin. Only for the first 20 seconds is a bike ride in the rain bothersome; after the first puddle is ridden through, and the fresh air is filling the lungs, then it becomes amazing. The streets seem so much more peaceful, and the strength in the legs seems more authentic. People on front porches and from under umbrellas stare with a strange longing. They know it's supposed to be uncomfortable, but can tell from the expression on my face that riding on the wet streets is astonishing. They wish they could do it too - but are, nevertheless, glad they are not.

Today's ride started during a break in the storm, though, and there was no actual rain falling. For about 25 minutes of the 30 I was out on the Black Knight, there was a refreshingly soft rain, with very little wind.

I was the only cyclist out on the streets in my neighborhood today. 1. The rain: Many riders looked at the clouds, said "Ugh", and the Ugh won. 2. A local bike shop, Crazy Cat, was having a grand opening for a new shop on the west side of town, and I imagine a lot of cyclists were visiting.

Look at this poor guy! I found this pair of telling images on Google:

Guess it helps to watch where you're going and be extra careful when riding in the rain . . .

See you on the bike!




Friday, August 1, 2014

I Almost Rode Today, but Prolly Would'a Drowned

8/1/14 252lbs, 56 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Almost a Ride Today

I got home from work today and the weather was purr-fect for a ride. The clouds were thick and grey, the temperature was in the low 80s, and there was no wind. The streets in my neighborhood were dry, even though thunderstorm cells have been attacking and devouring entire neighborhoods. So I decided that I should get my ride in before the storms got here - Cuz I knew they were a'comin'!!
This is what New Balance 890s look  like

So I immediately changed into my bike riding outfit (plaid shorts and T-shirt. No "Lie-Kra" on me!!), got on my New Balance 890s, and checked tire pressure on the Black Knight.

I put on my cycling gloves, put on my Skid Lid, started both the front and rear flashing lights, and filled up my water bottle. Then as I was actually rolling the bike out of the garage - - THE RAIN STARTED POURING DOWN!! I thought Noah had come back from the dead and built another ark. Buckets and buckets of water fell from the skies, and all I could do was sit inside the garage door and frown at the storm.

But it's not that bad. I love the sound and smell of the rain, especially here in El Paso where precip is so rare. I'll get through this - - somehow - -

See you on the bike!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

People Walk Straighter, Close Mouths, Lift Heads

7/29/2014 - 254lbs, 54 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Muggy, muggy, muggy ride

People have a lot of pride, especially when exercising. Tonight, I rode through a very muggy, humid night and had quite an enjoyable time. Close to the end of my ride, I sat on a park bench to relax (and
wipe sweat lol) and started watching other exercisers as they went by on the path.

Tonight there were a few joggers, and a lot of walkers. However, I saw no other cyclists - the second ride in a row! Strange. As I was watching the foot traffic go by, I began to notice something I probably should have before - people change in intensity, breathing patterns, posture and speed as they passed me sitting on the bench. A few folks were slumped, breathing hard, going slow - and then as they passed by they straightened up, closed their mouths and breathed through their nose as they sped up. Attempts to impress me? A stranger, sitting on a bench, next to a leaning city bike?

Then after they pass, they slump back over, slow down, and resume panting. I think they they remind me of myself, because I do the same thing when I pass people on my bike. We are hilarious, us exercisers. But don't get me wrong - I'm proud of all of us walking, running, and cycling up and down these paths. We're just a little quirky, I guess.

See you on the bike!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I'm Really Angry Tonight

But I don't know who to be angry with. This blog entry is more of a rant than an article, more of a temper tantrum than a meaningful script. I'm mad because of the health of my family members: both immediate family and extended. But I'm not mad at them, as much as I'm just generally upset at the circumstances.

We, as a family, are experiencing deteriorating health. Yet every single person that is having health problems is an expert in his or her own right. They know their disease or issue, they know what causes it, they know the drugs they take or want to take, they know what diet they should be on, they know they should exercise, and they can defend against any verbal attack against the treatments and regimens they are receiving. I don't want to argue with them, because a lot of times they have more "facts" than I do loaded up in their six-shooter. But (pardon the expression) it just pisses me off that even with the knowledge they seem to possess, they never get any better.

I take it personally, because I don't want to be attending the funerals of these beloved family members. But some of them are almost a decade younger than I and are, in all relevant ways, elderly before their time.

So what should I do? Start lecturing them every time I see them about aerobics and healthier eating? It won't work. They're already experts. And that's not sarcasm there, it's really true - they are experts.

On the diseases that are killing them.

On the surface this rant may seem arrogant, and it may look like I'm "looking down my nose" at them, but that's not the case. I'm worried, and don't know what to do.

I think I'll just go take a bike ride.

The (Female) Self Image

Editor's Note: I found a blog written by a young lady who had, with her husband, toured the West Coast of the US on her bicycle. In this blog I found the following gem where she commits to herself to never be critical of the appearance of her body again. Her blog (called Live Inspired) can be found here. We (both guys and gals) can learn a lot from Liz Mandell's experience:

before i started the pacific coast bike tour, i considered committing to never complaining about my body again after we completed the journey. (the operative word here is considered.) well that idea flew out of my head, instead being occupied with finding lunch, eating snacks, avoiding glass, camping, and oh yeah...cycling. it was like my conscious mind avoided this idea because i wasn't sure i had the determination to make such a huge commitment. thankfully it wasn't lost, just undercover germinating.

about halfway through the tour, i hesitantly tried the commitment on for size. i said to myself, "i commit to never complaining about my body again." i remember i was cycling and had to say this over and over until i could feel some semblance of naturalness, yet i still felt discomfort in my body. i was grateful for the space to explore what it would feel like to make this commitment, and grateful to drop it. it was clear i wasn't fully ready.

it wasn't until the last few miles before hitting mexico, as i filled up with a soup of emotions, that it became crystal clear i deeply desired to make this commitment. so i did. it was simply a whisper of a commitment i hope would change my life, one choice at a time.

i couldn't see anymore how i could complain about an exquisite machine that carried me from one country to another on a bicycle and (i hope) will one day create, carry, and deliver a new life into this world. but it wasn't just that my body (and yours) can do absolutely amazing things...more than anything, it had become clear that i didn't want to spend anymore time and energy on trying to change my body, on nitpicking my flesh, on rejecting myself. it wasn't worth it. cool thing about this decision? momastery just wrote a piece about how our lives are our masterpieces, not our bodies. i love that she called out this truth because women (and men!) need to believe it SO badly.

anyway, to start my journey, i started by saying: i loved my body, it does really amazing things, it's beautiful and i was grateful for it. and now when i feel tempted to complain, i just say a quiet, "thank you" or "you're cute" and move on from fixating on nothing. 

i commit to never complaining about my body again.
This pic is from her blog . . . .

See you on the bike! --Mark 07/26/14

Friday, July 25, 2014

Nightriding - Is Bicycling Safer at Night?

7/25/14 254lbs, 54 pounds lost since 8/30/11
Night Spin last night

Last night was 100% ideal for a night ride. Temperature dipped into the low 90s (sounds funny, but low 90s without the sun beating down can be an awesome temperature for exercise) and the wind was very light. I wasn't the only person that thought the weather was ideal, though. The streets were full of cyclists and the park I rode by, and sat in for a while, was packed with runners and walkers.

As far as collision-risk, bicycling is safer at night. Or at least I think so. The name of the game when riding on these city streets is to see and be seen, and night riding, if done correctly, is better than daytime riding on both fronts.

Face it - Riding a bike as much as many of us do is really a game of "Dodge Car". Have you ever heard of "Dodge Ball"? You get the idea. There's texters and phone-talkers not concentrating on where they're going, people that hold the odd belief that bicycles don't belong on the streets that buzz us, etc. Riding safely means being incredibly sensitive and observant. We rate every car we see on a danger-meter. Riding at night gives us an advantage, because cars with lights on at night are more visible to us that cars in the daytime. Cars with lights on can be seen around blind corners, because of the beam of the headlight. With greater awareness of where the cars are, it's easier to plan safe moves on the bike.

For example, if I want to make a legal left turn from a 4-lane road, at night using my mirror I can glance and know where the cars, if any, are that are coming up from behind, and move into the left lane for the turn with confidence. During the daytime, what's going on behind is less clear.

Then there's the most important thing: Lighting on the bike. Ask Bonnie, and ask those people that encounter me while I'm riding: My lights, both front and rear, are bright. I am definitely not one of those "ninja" style of cyclists that ride without lighting; it is very, very clear when I ride that I can see (the road is very lit up in front of the Black Knight!) and I am seen by motorists and other cyclists.

I can tell it's safer for me at night by how motorists respond. When coming up on me from behind, they swing waaaay out into the street to avoid me, or follow from a safe distance. During the day, I don't get that type of respect. Cars in front of me never impede me. They never back out from driveways, and the always hide behind stop signs. Recently (about a month ago?) I pulled up to a stop sign on two separate occasions and opposing drivers stopped, even though they had the right-of-way, to let me go through the intersection.

Last night, as I was ending my ride, I sat on "my" park bench at Edgemere Park, and watched some other cyclists ride by. Some were lit up pretty good, while others were playing the "Bike Ninja" game. Why ride after dark on dark city streets without reflectors and lighting? I don't understand the logic, I guess.

Oh well. See you on the bike!