Heart Surgery: Done.

We have nearly reached the end of a five day journey that has felt like months. At 7:30 this morning, our brand new baby girl underwent heart surgery to repair an underdeveloped pulmonary valve in her heart. Two doctors used a catheter to navigate to the tiny valve and then a slightly less tiny balloon inflated to stretch it to a better working capacity. While this is on the lower end of heart surgeries, it is still someone going into your baby's heart. Tough to stomach. But about an hour after going under, those doctors were finished and our baby was fixed.

As of now, Roselyn lays in the bed next to me in recovery. Her heart is fine. She's now a completely healthy baby. In fact, the cardiologist told us we would be able to go home if it weren't for the anesthesia. Her heart is fixed. There's nothing wrong with her. They just like to keep an eye on someone that was put under when they only weigh six pounds. We're in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and they love her. "It's so great to have a healthy baby," they say. Those are such great words to hear after all the drama we've experienced this week.

I can't explain what the last few days have been like. Emotional. Tiring. Delirious. Joyful. Tearful. Complex. New. Shortly after the surgery and all the good news, I went outside and realized how claustrophobic I've been in that hospital. I felt like I was breathing for the first time in a while. I wanted to ride my bike. I wanted to walk outside instead of taking the shuttle. I wanted to sit on a bench and just... sit. It was kind of strange to feel that. I think all of my emotion and energy has gone towards feeling on behalf of Roselyn. That was the first moment I felt for myself. As strange as that may sound, I think it was a sign that the weight has lifted. It felt so good to broaden my concerns to include petty things like riding a bike. In the last few days, the only thing that mattered was survival. At this point, I can expand my world of concern.

What's next? One more night in a hospital. They're talking like they may even take all the monitors off tonight. But tomorrow morning we'll be loading up Roselyn and she'll get her first ride (that's not in an ambulance). We'll take her home and she'll get snuggled and cuddled by our six-year-old. She'll get kissed a thousand times by our four-year-old. And she'll get poked in the eye by our two-year-old. It will finally be normal life and our house will finally be full, as will our hearts. We've been waiting desperately to be a complete family. Tomorrow's the day.

These words are of the "family" variety. But, hey, this is family//bike//words. I'm proud to share good news with any readers. I'm a beaming father, proud to claim Bliss, Clive, Abe and now Roselyn as my little flock to shepherd. It's a blessing to belong to a family with them.

Soon enough I'll be back on the bikes. But for now, I'm just happy to have the room in my brain to dream about it.

Get out there.


Christmas Eve Ride

Well, I figured while I'm sitting here in the hospital, I may as well report my last ride. I didn't intend to write anything about this ride, since it isn't much different than my last few posts. But I've got a laptop and a lot of time on my hands, so here you go...
Still lots of water on the ground. I pretty much stayed in the granny gear the entire ride. It's not that it was tough to pedal, but all the higher gears caused me to spin out in the mud. I could slowly crank the pedals in the lowest gear to stay moving and upright.
More play with the self timer and time lapse app on the iPhone.
Hills never look steep in photos. But I had to get off the bike to make it up this one. My legs were good to pedal, but I couldn't keep my front wheel down. When I'd lean forward and put weight on the front wheel, my back tire would spin out. So I pushed.
View from the top showed neighborhoods for miles and miles.
There was a fire pit on the top, too. This didn't look like a camp-fire pit. It looked more like a let's-drink-beers-in-a-place-our-parents-will-never-find-us-fire pit.
I took this photo on my way down the previously mentioned hill. It wasn't a wise choice. The mud and one-handed steering were a bit more squirrelly than I had expected. I stayed upright, though!
I ended with my ritual cup of coffee. I park near a little stream that runs into the larger creek. It's a great place to sit and sip at the end of a ride.
I used my Detours Coffee Bag for the first time, too. It kept the mud and water off of my coffee thermos, snacks and gloves. Big thanks to Jason for the Christmas gift. This thing works much better than just strapping junk to my rack.

I'm guessing this ride may have been my last for at least a week or so. Who knows, though. Angie was trying to convince me to bring my bike to the hospital so I could get some rides in.

Get out there.


Welcome to the Family, Roselyn

Well, at 5:13pm, Angie and I had an unsuspected Christmas present in our arms. Roselyn (pronounced Roz-ah-lyn) was born. That's right, we had a Christmas baby, the only one for the whole day at the hospital.

Angie is a champ. She's so strong and incredibly patient. We stayed at the house as long as possible with the assistance of our fantastic doula. When she gave us the word that we needed to head to the hospital, things got exciting. Long story short... well, short story short, I guess, I drove to the hospital, dropped Angie and doula Julie at the door, and by the time I got up to the room Angie was pushing. From my driveway to the moment Roselyn was in our arms was only 23 minutes. Whew! That's fast.

Angie and baby are doing great. As I type, Angie just said, "Man, my foot really hurts from when Abe (our two year old) dropped that toy on it last night." Seriously? You just pushed a baby out of your body and you're thinking about your foot? She's a tough lady.

We're happy with our little Christmas baby. We're blessed to have four awesome kids. Most of the posts you see over the next two weeks will be at random. I'll keep checking and will get a ride in here and there, but my priorities will certainly shift for a bit!

Get out there.


Merrell Review

A year and a half ago I won a pair of Merrell shoes on Twitter. You can't beat a free pair of shoes! But I really didn't wear them a whole lot until recently. I wasn't a big fan of the look of them for some reason. And I'm incredibly partial to my Salomons. But the Salomons are getting so worn out they they lack enough tread on dirt rides. Enter: the Merrells. These things are great on the mountain bike. They stick to the pedals really well and when I do have to get off the bike, the tread is plenty aggressive to climb and walk in thick mud.
They're waterproof, sturdy and feel great on the bike.. I'd highly recommend them as a riding shoe. I've put tons of miles on them in the last few months.

Get out there.

Secret Santa

When I walked in my office the other day, I had a wrapped gift on my desk with a little gold nugget inside. Although this looks like a bag of coffee, it's actually a dry bag with two straps that attaches to your bike frame. Super cool!

Detours makes The Coffee Bag as a "tribute to Seattle's favorite brewed beverage." Their website says, "Throw in your lunch and use the two-point attach system to secure the bag just about anywhere on the bike – under the seat, on top of your your rack, or even in your water bottle cage! Or just use it as a dray bag to toss in a pannier. Just like there are a million ways to order your favorite coffee drink, there are a million ways to use your favorite Coffee Bag!"
Here's a photo of the straps and packaging. You can see on the package that you could strap this thing anywhere on your bike. It's really a fun design that allows you to keep important stuff dry without having to carry a bulky pannier. Later in the day I learned that, my buddy, Jason was actually my Secret Santa. Way to go, Jason. You've found a product that meshes my love of coffee with my love of bikes. This thing is perfect for bike, boat and everything else. Thanks, man!

I'd never heard of Detours, but I'll keep an eye on their stuff. This is a simple, yet useful product that I got pretty excited about.

Get out there.

More Dirt

I realize that all of my posts for the last two weeks have been of the MTB variety. I'm not sure why I get into cycling moods like this. For some reason, I'm not as interested in posting about a commute these days. But riding these trails gets me more energized recently. Yesterday, after a morning of rain, I headed out again.
We did get a good amount of rain, so the double track I had ridden just two days earlier looked like this. It did make things a bit more interesting. I wasn't able to get much speed. So any workout I got came from climbing.
Since my previous routes were pretty gummed up with mud, I looked for some new places to ride.
I stumbled upon a dirt bike track. There were huge tire tread marks, revealing that this was no bicycle. Then I found several dirt mounds used for jumping.
As I made my way around the loop, I eventually rode up on some houses. Soon enough I saw a little trail leading back to this fence. Apparently, this family is serious enough about their riding that they've built quite the trail system right out of their back yard. Pretty cool for the kid that lives here. Honestly, I have no idea if I was on the park's property or if it was private property. I'm getting the vibe that no one knows or cares back here. There's a whole lot going on in a whole lot of wooded land.
I eventually made my way back to the creek. I had brought some coffee to end my ride with a little refreshment.

 I found a little rock to sit on while I enjoyed 12 ounces of hot goodness.
A year ago, I would have said this little park was pretty lame. Honestly, if you stay within the limited boundaries of what you see, it is only about 30 minutes of riding. But recently, I've been discovering more and more beauty and opportunity on two wheels. And, to be honest, I just love how this stuff is available within city limits. You could look at the first three photos in this post and not be able to tell where in the world I was. I kind of get that feeling when I'm riding the Troll on dirt.

With the baby due any minute, I'm a little more tethered geographically. I don't want to take off in the kayak and have no cell reception. I can't leave for a long ride on the Cross Check. But being able to feel remote has it's advantages. And that feeling sure does put me in a better mood.

Get out there.


Exploratory Dirt Time

Yesterday was an unexpected day off, so I used the opportunity to jump on the Troll and ride some more trails before I take the knobbies off. Once again, I headed to Veteran's Park. It's close enough to my house that it's lack of trails is beat out by it's convenience. Yesterday, though, I made an effort to seek out some new stuff. I was glad I did. It turned out to be more than I expected.
The first little off-shoot trail turned out to be nothing. I went out with a goal of finding something new. Although this little deer trail was new, it was boring. It went on and on into a field. I followed it for about 100 yards before I got bored and turned back to the main trail. I kept my chin up and decided to keep looking.
Eventually I found miles of double track with lots of side trails to explore. This hill was a bit daunting with all the mud. I was in my granny gear, just sliding from back and forth with each pedal stroke. It was tough to get traction but I slowly made my way to the top. When I descended sloppy hills like this, it was a wild ride. My front tire would slide out from under me and I'd have to work hard to stay upright. Somehow, I managed to keep the rubber down for the entire ride.
The mud wasn't miserable by any means. It seemed to only be on the very top of the ground surface. I've had trips out here when I would sink deep into the ground and it wasn't ridable. This stuff just made things interesting, not impossible.
I found an old barn that was still in use. I guess I was on someone's property. There aren't any markings that tell you when you leave Public Park and enter Private Property. I would imagine that these land owners get a lot of trespassing for that reason. I didn't see anyone around though. It was an erie system of single track and double track. I would guess there are lots of people that come out here for no good reasons. It's so close to suburbia but remote enough to stay unseen.
This basketball goal was literally in the middle of nowhere. Someone would have had to walk hundreds of yards or ride a four-wheeler out here to play. It was quite odd.
From the ghosts of mountain bikers passed. I'm just assuming this guy was trespassing like me and his wheel was shot with a shotgun. This tire tread is the only evidence :)

I was very pleased with this exploratory trip. Veteran's Park is great, but small. There's nothing technical out there for interesting riding. It's just a couple miles of trails. From what I found today, I could get in decent mileage on dirt without doubling back over and over again. It'll be fun to keep these trails in the rolodex of riding options.

Get out there.


On My Wishlist

I'm incredibly grateful for all the gear I have. I'm blessed with a wife that supports my passion for riding, paddling and being outside. And I've had available resources to purchase the necessary gear. I would never complain. There is one thing that I continue to have a desire for. Alpaca makes a an incredible pack raft called the Yukon Yak. It's a raft that inflates with a portable system that would allow me to strap it to the bike, ride out to water and inflate it for some paddling.

When you watch this video, you can easily see how this boat could be useful for an adventurer. In the last year, I've done a lot of paddling and have needed a whitewater option on several occasions. This boat, with the addition of the Spray Deck, would be the best of all worlds. Portable. Durable. Whitewater. Touring. Everything.

I could pack it on the Troll and head out for a dirt, road and water adventure... all in one trip. Being that the baby is due any minute, and I already have several mouths to feed, I won't be getting an Alpaca raft any time soon... and I'm totally okay with that. I'm not entitled to the resources and gear I currently have. But I do enjoying pining over such a boat. A boy can dream.

Get out there.


Early Morning Mud

It seems that I've got the bug to ride more dirt again. It was beneficial this morning since I needed my car at work for some errands. I threw the bike on top and drove to the local park. I was able to get some riding in without my normal commute, yet still have my car for work stuff.
The trails were really wet and sloppy. I rode for about ten minutes and realized it wasn't going to be fast paced. I decided I'd take it slow and steady and head back to the car to get my coffee thermos. When it's this wet out, you spend more time flailing around than enjoying the trails... if you push it. I grabbed my coffee and headed back out for a casual ride. Taking it slow allowed me to enjoy being outside (in slightly warmer temps, too) and just take in the scenery.
I stopped by the creek for a while and enjoyed a couple cups of coffee. It's so nice to sit, watch the water rush by and breathe in the fresh air. It's such a great way to start the day... especially when I wasn't able to do my normal commute.

Get out there.


Chili Trail Time

My incredibly awesome wife pulled together some of my buddies for some last minute mountain biking before the baby comes. She wanted to make sure that I got in a solid day of man-time before I get covered in baby powder and tiny pink dresses. Needless to say, she is the best wife ever.

Despite the chili temps, we were able to get three other guys that were willing to take on the scenes at Capitol View Park's mountain biking trails. So early Saturday morning, we loaded up the Subaru and headed out.

The ground was frozen solid when we started riding. With temps around 20 degrees, I had anticipated the change in how my body would react. But I never considered how it would change the condition of the terrain. Honestly, it was pretty nice to have such a hard surface to ride on. It sured up the ground contact with the tire rubber. As the sun rose and heated things up a bit, everything melted and got sloppier. But that just added to the fun of our second pass through all the trails.
Here's Jeff half-way through the Sink Hole. This is a great point of interest at Cap View. I could spend an hour here testing various speeds and the different points of entry and exit. Jeff rides an old rigid Giant MTB. It's one of those older bikes that performs flawlessly. I love how a twenty year old bike can do that.
This is Mike riding a borrowed bike for the trip. He'd never really ridden trails specifically maintained for cycling. He was loving it, though. Hats off to a guy who will make his first trip in such cold temps. I think he only came because I promised him a cup of coffee, though.
And here's Justin working his gangsta lean as he rides this log. He's on his Kona Dew with knobby tires. It's technically a 700c hybrid, but will do the duty of a 29er at paces like we were riding.
We didn't make many stops. Right here, we were admiring the Kentucky River that passes by the park. But if you stood still for too long, you'd get cold. A normal day at Cap View will allow you to make all the runs a couple times. Our longest stop was between runs at the car. It was hard to get going after sitting for a while. The cold was a certain deterrent. But I'm glad I've got guys in my life that will do stuff like this even though it doesn't feel logical. We had a great time and it was certainly worth the layering.

Get out there.


Long Road Ahead

During my morning rides, I use my mental energy to reflect and pray on what's happening in my life. That is some of the most valuable time in each of my days. Today's reflection was an important one. We're two weeks away from the due date of our fourth child. I couldn't be more excited about how God has blessed me with these kids. I can't believe that I'll have one more running around soon.

I love my kids. I love my life with my kids. Nothing on this planet brings me more joy than having Angie as my wife and these little ones laughing at my side.

As I look into the next couple weeks, I realize I've got a long road ahead. My life is about to change drastically and I'm totally okay with that. How do I deal with all those stresses in life? Well, I have a faith in an amazing God. But I also believe that He's blessed me with two legs and a garage full of bikes. These rides are so therapeutic. They bring a lot of peace in that time of solitude. As my long road takes on some new challenges, I'm glad I've got this bicycle to help me cope. In the smallest of ways, it makes a big difference.

Get out there.


Here it Comes

Today was the first consistently cold ride of the season. For the last couple weeks, I've been shedding layers as I pedaled. Not today. It was just cold enough that I stayed pretty chilled throughout the entire ride. I never got uncomfortable. But I never got toasty, either.

I love these rides that wake you up. I love how the cold air lets you know that you're lungs are in your chest. Here comes the consistent cold. I'm ready for it.

Get out there.


Fishing Ride

Today I took the Troll out for a ride to the creek. It's about a 35 minute ride to a nice little fishing spot in a remote area. I decided I'd strap my pole to the rack and see what fun I could come up with.
The creek was up quite a bit. It made it harder to find a good place to cast in. Most of the little trails along the water were actually under water.
The Troll and I eventually made our way down. Lots of bushwhacking was necessary, but we made it.
Angie was taking the kids to spend the night with her parents. That gave me plenty of time to walk along the bank and try to catch something. Did I? Nope. But I just love being out there anyway.
The ride was nice. I found a bunch of goats on the way back. There's always interesting animals on random farms in the country. This guy had probably 35 goats walking around his front yard.

All in all, it was a great couple hours. With weather in my favor, I'm glad it worked out.

Get out there.


Headlight Woes

This is the time of year that my headlights get pulled out in full force. The issue is, I'm down to one headlight. I used to have three, one for each bike. Now I'm up to four bikes and down to one light. What happened? Well, I lost one. That sucks. The other one broke. The one that broke was my nicest and brightest. It was a CatEye HL-EL450 that I paid full price for last year. I hit a bump on a ride it and flew off and shattered. I've got an email into CatEye to see if I'm covered by a warranty. They want me to mail the light in to look at it. Here's hoping I get one back in working condition. I don't have an extra 50 bucks to drop on a light right now... with a baby due in three weeks!

Until then, I'll be swapping my headlight and wearing my headlamp from my camping gear. It works great, but I like to have the headlamp and a headlight, especially in the nighttime rain (like the photo above). Let's hope CatEye pulls through for me!

Get out there.


Still Soggy

We've had three days of rain in a row. That means the Redline 925 has gotten the call all week. That's okay with me. I love the single speed. Something about it speaks peace into my ears as I pedal. Perhaps it's the simplicity. I think my mind may rest a little more when I never think about shifting. Either way, it makes me okay with this wet, cold weather.

Get out there.


Thanksgiving Exploration

I'm really enjoying having the Troll. It's become a great bike to grab when I don't know exactly what to expect. That's exactly what I did on Thanksgiving day.
My first idea was to hit up the local railroad tracks. There's a rail that runs from my little town all the way near work. I used to jog on the gravel occasionally, I figured I could try it on a mountain bike. If riding on those bike gravel chunks worked, it was feasible that I could ride my commute on rails instead of road. That would be pretty cool.

Did it work? Nope. The gravel is so big and loose that your tire just buries itself without gaining momentum. I think it would work with the maximum float of a Pugsley. But the Troll was no match. I could try it with a super wide MTB tire eventually. Right now I'm running more narrow touring tires.
Without the ability to ride the tracks, I took the opportunity to explore streets I've never been on. I found a couple areas that are pretty run down.
Main Street just got a new makeover. The fresh asphalt was a nice change from my train track follies.
I ended with a couple runs through the local parks. Riding on an MTB is just a little more comforting than exploring on a road bike. I'm not sure if I could explain why. I just feel a bit more prepared when I'm turning corners without knowing what's on the other side. The Troll is perfect for rides like this.

Get out there.