The Pet Reduction Program

The Pet Reduction Program (a small part in a father’s parenting strategy)

Disclaimer: this article is written by a pet apathist – the author is apathetic about pets. Not everyone in the world loves pets and has deep feelings about them. I know that many pet lovers may find it difficult to deal with this concept. Pet apathy is real – and don’t write me angry letters about it. (smiley face)

I have three daughters and I love them dearly. When you are a father, you find yourself performing mathematical computations regarding the future. Some of those computations can be alarming – calculating the timespan of years when the teen-aged female hormones of three daughters might be in play, calculating the college years (and the financial savings required),  and estimating the years my daughters might be getting married (more savings for multiple weddings). Fathers perform many estimations and calculations throughout their lives.

I was performing my fatherly estimating one day when yet another calculation popped into my head – namely, the number of pets with which I might be left when the girls left for college. We had allowed the girls to have pets – a momentous parental decision. It all began with a beta fish named Freddy. It was my oldest daughter Julie’s sixth birthday and my parents-in-law gave her a beta fish. You see, I am not a pet person. I was holding out as long as possible against the crushing pressure of the inevitable “Can I have a pet?” dialogue from my children. But my in-laws trumped my fatherly authority – they hauled off and got my daughter a beta fish, a fish bowl, and some fish food. The fish quickly became known as Freddy, and thus, we began the slippery slide down the pet roller coaster. The slow slide down the pet roller coaster picked up speed when we acquired more fish and an aquarium. Then, using their allowance, my daughters bought crabs (momentum accelerating toward full speed). Then a dog. Then things really got out of hand with an unstoppable pet avalanche – the girls got gerbils, followed by a second set of gerbils, and a parakeet bird.

The small animals were tolerable, but the dog was entirely different dog. A dog is a big animal that takes a lot of time, care, and money (delaying my savings for three college educations and for three weddings). When my daughters began to ask about getting a dog, I would say, “A dog is a big responsibility. You have to be very responsible to get a dog.” I carried on with the dog-responsibility response for several months, and it seemed to stop the children in their tracks. But then, my six-year-old daughter Rachel, a persistent can-we-have-a-dog-asker, posed the following question to me – “Dad, what does it take to be responsible?” I replied, “You have to make your bed, help set the table, brush your teeth, and do other things to show us you can take care of yourself and help others. Taking care of a dog requires much work.”

So the next morning, six-year-old Rachel was up bright and early before school. She made her bed and set the table for breakfast. That girl was motivated. She said, “Dad – am I responsible now?” My reply, “Making your bed once and setting the table once is good, but you have to do that over time to show me that you are responsible.” And so it began – each day before school, her bed was made, the table was set, and her teeth were brushed after breakfast. This went on for about a month. Then Rachel asked me another question, “Dad – how long do I have to be responsible?” At that very moment, my wife Susan made intense eye contact with me  – the kind of eye contact that said, “We need to talk later.” Susan pulled me aside later and did not mince her words, “You had better come through on this dog thing. Rachel and the girls have been doing what you asked. You will be toast (as a father) if you don’t come through with a dog.” It was at that point during the we-want-a-dog onslaught that I realized I had just lost the battle. If we never got a dog, my word would mean nothing to my children. It was game over (from the we-aren’t-getting-a-dog stance). I had lost the battle.

So my wife and I researched dog breeds and agreed that a Brittany Spaniel would be the right kind of dog for our family. Brittany Spaniels were supposed to be good with children, did not shed much hair, and were purported to be energetic (a euphemism that can mean hyperactive). I bought a Brittany Spaniel puppy and surprised my daughters. They loved that puppy immediately and named him Patch. In their minds, he quickly became a family member. I am glad that they loved him, but that dog was just a dog to me. We spent thousands on that dog – veterinary fees for shots, fixing the dog, obedience training school, boarding when on vacation, pet food, pet toys, leashes, etc. One summer, he had some random malady (the dog was lethargic and wouldn’t eat).  We took the dog to the veterinary for diagnosis. Over a thousand dollars later, the veterinary determined he had some kind of allergy and needed some shots. Naaarghhh!!! I wanted to put the dog down and end my financial misery. It was just a dog, not a family member. My wife and my children felt differently – they wanted to keep the dog and treat him for allergies. I lost that battle. It was known as the “thousand dollar summer of the dog”.

My daughters with Patch the dog

My daughters with Patch (the much beloved dog).

Now, fast-forward a few years – the girls are now in their late elementary school to middle school years. I began thinking… “My daughters will be leaving home in a few years. And meanwhile, it appears that I will be left holding the bag on the pet menagerie while they waltz off to college.” Then the reality began to sink in – I would be left as the zookeeper to care for all the pets they left behind. And I didn’t want any of those pets in the first place. This would not an good thing. I needed to prevent this from happening.

A plan crept slowly into my mind. What if we allowed the pets to die off through the years and did not replace them? I began researching the average lifespan of each pet we had acquired – Brittany Spaniel dogs (14-15 years), gerbils (4-5 years), parakeets (5-10 years), and so on. Given some of the pet’s lifespans, it appeared that I might still be hung out. It was time to stop the pet madness. Thus began the “Pet Reduction Program”.

I called my daughters together to let them know of this new plan. “Girls”, I said, “I am introducing a new concept in our home. I have been doing some math – when you leave home for college, it appears that you may leave some of your pets behind. I don’t want to be left with your pets. So beginning today, we are instituting the Pet Reduction Program in the Johnson house. It is simple – no new pets, and if a pet dies – no replacement pets.” Silence followed…. I let it sink in. It did not go well. In 30 seconds I went from hero to zero (in my children’s eyes). “What?” they exclaimed, “Are you trying to kill our pets?” “Do you hate Patch?” “No new pets? Why???” If you could have seen the look in their eyes – they must have thought that I was Satan himself. Dad – the pet killer.

It was a tough couple of days in the Johnson home, but I hunkered down and stuck to my guns. Clearly, the rest of my family members were not pet apathists like me. But I wasn’t planning on taking care of the pet menagerie when my daughters left home. I am a “take it or leave it” kind of guy with regards to pets (a pet apathist), and there was no way that my children were going to leave their pets with me.

So began the Pet Reduction Program. Time passed on and pets began to pass away. We did not get any new pets or replace any pets that died. Patch, the beloved dog, passed away the summer before Lauren’s (my youngest daughter) junior year in high school. By the time Lauren left home for college, we had one animal left – a parakeet named Bongo. The parakeet lasted another two years and was the final pet to die. I was glad that my children loved their pets and I was thankful that they had positive experiences with pets. My children took great joy in their pets. But I was pleased to be finished with that phase of life.  The Johnson Pet Reduction Program was complete. Over the years, the Pet Reduction Program has grown to become a part of the Johnson family lore (starring myself as the calculatingly ruthless villain, and my children as the keepers of all that is good in the world).

Now, fast-forward several more years – my wife and I (now in our empty nest years) were in a church life group (a small community group) and were sharing parental strategies with others in the life group. I shared about the magic of my Pet Reduction Program – beginning with my general apathy regarding pets, the build up of the Johnson pet zoo, my animal lifespan calculations, the realization of an impending personal disaster, the hatching of the plan, how I communicated the plan to my children, and its completion. The Pet Reduction Program got lots of laughs, was the subject of additional  questions from the folks in the life group, served to promote a healthy discussion of pets, and became a vehicle for discussion of parenting strategies. And almost every time the group has met, someone would bring up the Pet Reduction Program. It has become so popular that the group gave it an acronym (The PRP). I am thinking of trademarking the Pet Reduction Program (PRP). Or perhaps I will write a book about parenting strategies with a chapter solely dedicated to the Pet Reduction Program.

Questions to ponder:

What (about this story) made an impression on you? Why?

Where do you stand with regards to pets (having pets and keeping pets)?

How have you taught children responsibility? What strategies and tools have you used?

Would you have done things differently? Why?

What character traits are you important to pass on to your family? Why?

Advertisements

Becoming a CASA

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is an advocate for a child who has been removed from the home by Child Protective Services (CPS). The court assigns a guardian to the child – the CASA is the “guardian ad litem” (which means guardian for this time) for the time that the child is away from his parent.

Judge Cynthia Wheless presided over my swearing-in ceremony as a CASA volunteer in July 2018.

img_0115

Judge Cynthia Wheless and Mark Johnson at the CASA swearing-in ceremony – July 2018.

When a child is removed from their home due to abuse or neglect, the court assigns the child a CASA/guardian ad litem. The CASA works with the child to understand his background, his story, and his needs. The CASA works with many parties (attorneys, the court, parents, family members, foster parents, CPS caseworkers, doctors, teachers, psychologists, counselors, and other professionals) to protect the best interests of the child. In the state of Texas, parents have rights to their children. When a child is removed from their home due to abuse or neglect, the state sues for temporary parental rights of the child. This is a civil law proceeding that can last anywhere from 6 months to years (depending on the circumstances). There may also be a related, but separate, criminal proceeding associated with the abuse or neglect.

The state always attempts to reunite a child who has been removed from his home with his family. To do this, the state works to ensure that the danger or neglect in the home is removed, addressed, and corrected – this may include activities such as drug/alcohol cessation activities for the parent(s), parenting classes, home improvements, and the like. But if the child cannot be reunited with his family in a reasonable time, the state will sue to permanently terminate parental rights. Then the child becomes available for adoption.

In Collin County, Texas, the CASA is the child’s guardian ad litem until one of three things happen…

  1. The child is reunited with his family.
  2. The child is adopted.
  3. The child ages out of the system (he becomes an adult).

There is a great need for CASA’s. I felt God leading me to become a CASA. So I applied to be a CASA in Collin County, Texas. I went through the vetting process (applications, background checks, driving records checks, criminal history checks, reference checks. and personal interviews). Once vetted by the CASA of Collin County organization, I attended a set of training sessions that covered many areas – signs of child abuse or neglect, types of abuse or neglect, intro to the Texas Family Code (law), the CPS process, the court process, the case working process, family dynamics, cultural competency, medical advocacy, educational advocacy, legal advocacy, and investigative techniques.

After vetting and training completion, I was sworn in by the judge.

I received my first case as a CASA in August 2018. Due to privacy issues, CASA’s may not share information regarding the specific child, the specifics of the case, or the specifics of family dynamics associated with the case.

Road Crash 2018

There are two types of road bike riders in the world. Those who have crashed and those who have not yet crashed. I am now in the “those who have crashed” group.

My crash happened in late April 2018. It was a beautiful day for a ride in the north Texas area. I rode with a group of 10 riders that morning. We were at the tail-end of a 53 mile ride, about 4 miles from the end of the ride, on a six lane, divided street (3 lanes in each direction). I was riding in the left-hand last position in the group of riders riding in two lines, traveling about 16-18 miles per hour. The group was getting ready to take a left turn and needed to move from the right-hand lane across to the far left-hand lane. The riders in front gave a hand signal to prepare to move lanes. Being the last rider, and so was responsible to “clear the lanes” (check for cars behind the group and signal whether the lanes were clear/safe into which the group of riders might move).

I turned around to check the lanes for cars, and that was the last thing I remember. I later learned that my front wheel made contact with the rear wheel of the rider in front of me, my front wheel quickly turned as a result of the contact, and I went down hard on the concrete. The rider who’s wheel I clipped hear heard me go down, yelled “Rider down!” and the group stopped.

I was laying on the concrete, unconscious for five minutes. It had happened so fast that I was still clipped in to my bike. A rider, who was a nurse, observed that I was breathing and that I had a pulse. Seeing my cracked helmet, he was concerned about a head/neck injury. He told the group to leave me laying there – to not move me. One of the group members call 911 and others in the group blocked traffic. Always wear a helmet – I would have had irreversible brain damage if I had not been wearing a helmet.

The next thing I remember was being in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. I became conscious after 5 minutes, and the emergency personnel began asking me diagnostic questions. I did not know my name, the date, or who was president was.

The next thing I remember was being in the emergency room at the hospital. The medical staff were assessing me and addressing the issues. I got a head CT scan and a body CT scan, but do not remember any of that.

The diagnosis – no broken bones, a concussion with no long term damage, whiplash, vertigo, and road rash (a combination of scrapes and bruising). Road rash was on my chin, left shoulder, left hip, left knee, and left ankle. This was the first time I had received road rash and it was very painful. It hurt to take a shower, to dress, and to do normal daily activities.

Since I was unconscious, the group of riders used my Road ID to get contact information for my wife. A group member called her and let her know I was on my way to the hospital. I have worn a Road ID for four year, and it was used well on that day. Always wear a helmet and a Road ID. The nurse (who was on the ride with me) went to the hospital to be with me. He was concerned about head and neck injuries, but once the CT scan came back clear, he left me with emergency room staff.

I rested (full rest) for two days. The concussion caused a sort of dark cloud to form in my mind – slow thinking and a mild depression. The dark cloud went away after about 5 days. The whiplash (stiff neck) disappeared after 3 days. The vertigo (dizzy feeling) was caused by crystals in my inner ear that shook loose when my helmet hit the concrete. After a few days, I did a set of head maneuvers that got rid of my vertigo. The road rash took a few weeks to heal.

I am thankful for the miracle of healing – God made our bodies so that they can repair themselves after a trauma. I am thankful for the riders in the group who helped me after the crash, took my bike home, and called me to follow up on me. And I am thankful for the medical staff (paramedics, nurses, and doctors) who assessed my injuries and took care of them.

I threw away my crashed helmet and got a new one. I went to the gym after a few weeks, slowly returning to light exercise. It took me about two months before I began riding again – slowly at first, then building up my endurance and fitness to ride faster. I was back to my prior fitness about four months after the crash.

Be safe out there.

Last Ride of 2017 (what I learned)

mark-biking-december-2017-edited

Took my last ride of 2017 today. It has been quite a year –  a year of new experiences and learning. I rode 7,020 miles on my bikes this year (road bike and mountain bike). Rode mostly road rides with groups, rode a few solo road rides, one road rally, and a few off-road trips on my mountain bike.

The year began with a goal of riding 5,000 miles. Then by late spring, I realized I could make 6,000 miles. So I stretched to a new 6,000 mile goal.

During the spring, I moved up to a more advanced riding group as I learned more about road biking and became more fit. I began the year riding Plano Bicycle Association’s DB2 group (Distance Builder 2). Around springtime I moved up to the PBA DB1 group (Distance Builder 1). DB1 rides a 18.5 – 19.5 mph average rolling speed and rides using a paceline formation. I learned how to ride in a paceline (a constantly rotating group of road riders who maximize their efficiency by taking measured turns leading the group and taking turns drafting off of each other). The group shares the load of the hard of leading up front. You can go much faster and much farther with a group or a team that works together. This is true outside the biking world as well.

My last daughter Lauren graduated from Baylor University in May. What a great feeling to get all your children through college – a significant life milestone.

Then summer hit – and it was a doozy!

img_8610

Riding and camping in Palo Duro Canyon.

I drove to Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo Texas and rode in the canyon with a college friend David Connel and his wife Amy. David and I had lost contact after college, but reconnected on Facebook. We saw (via Facebook posts) that each other was riding off-road, and said, “Let’s ride.” I suggested a camping and biking trip to Palo Duro Canyon. It was a wonderful trip. See trip photos and details here.

Then later in June I broke my ribs (a wave runner accident – not a biking accident). A friend and I lead a group of teenaged boys in Bible study in the youth group at our church. We took the group of 9th grade boys to my friend’s lake house for a “lake day” – a day of swimming, tubing, wave runners, eating and enjoying the summer time. I let a 14 year old boy drive me on a wave runner. We were going about 40 mph when he took a hard turn that dumped us both off the wave runner and into the water. The student skimmed across the water landing about 15 yards away. I must have hit the side of a wave, and rather than skimming across the water, I stopped immediately, crushing the left-hand side of my torso. It knocked the breath out of me. After checking to make sure the student was OK, I turned my attention to the pain in my ribs. This was not the first time I had broken my ribs –  I was familiar with the pain and knew immediately that they were broken. After recovering the wave runner, I slowly pulled myself aboard and called it a day. The student felt badly and apologized profusely. I told him I loved him and forgave him. Ministry is not always clean (and this is one example). But sharing with students about Jesus is worth so much more than any temporary pain.

I had planned on riding my first ever bike road rally the next morning. I had promised to ride the rally with a friend and really wanted to ride in it, so I dragged my broken body out of bed and rode the 60 mile rally in pain. In retrospect – not a great idea.  My wife Susan gave me the business for riding the morning after my injury. In addition, she wanted me to avoid getting hurt anymore before my daughter’s upcoming wedding. So I stopped riding in order to heal.

That rib injury put a crimp in my riding plans – broken ribs have an 8-10 week recovery – a real setback for me. I was concerned about making my annual mileage goal. So I rode a stationary bike indoors at the city of Plano recreation center – much less pain involved than riding with broken ribs on a road bike. I counted the miles logged on the stationary bike, adding it to my mileage total. It was a ten weeks before I got back on the road bike, having missed most of the summer’s biking season. I am thankful for the miracle of healing – it is a great wonder to me how God designs our bodies to heal and rejuvenate.

My youngest daughter Lauren married Ben Cork in late August. With three daughters, this was my first time to be father of the bride, and it was wonderful. Ben is everything one would want in a son-in-law – he is a believer in Christ, loves Lauren, works well with others, and is a friend to many. Ben and Lauren moved to San Jose, CA and are adjusting to their new life as newlyweds. Susan and I pray for Ben and Lauren as they make their way in the world.

Ben and Lauren wedding - August 2017

Ben and Lauren Cork (photo credit Ashlee Huff Photography)

My oldest daughter Julie moved from North Carolina back to Plano in the early fall and moved in with us for several months. She found a job as a people recruiter for a local recruiting company. It is good to have her back in the area.

I replaced my old, worn-out Bible with a new one in September. I had to admit that I was aging and, as such, ordered a large print Bible in a new translation (the ESV translation). I suffer from the 55 year old’s vision impairment that is corrected with reading glasses. So I was destined for a large print Bible. It took me several months to transfer my notes from my old Bible to the new one. Transferring my notes was a trip down memory lane, remembering many of my life’s spiritual markers, reminiscing about what God had taught me through the years and being reminded of God’s deeds and wonders. God’s word is filled with his promises and his wonders.

My mother is 86 years of age and I spend a significant part of my time during the year helping her (doing her shopping, helping her around her apartment, running her finances, taking her to doctors, ordering her medications, etc). She is becoming increasingly dependent as she ages, and so my calendar is becoming more filled with activities supporting her. If I had to do it by myself, I would do it poorly. But I have the help of sisters who keep me straight.

I discovered a bike riding group that meets on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the Plano area. I ride with them – much safer than riding alone. I ended up riding three times a week – Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This bumped up my weekly mileage to about 150 miles a week (for the weeks I was able to ride).

Riding 150 miles a week takes quite a bit of energy. So this summer I created a recipe for Mark Bars – a protein and fuel bar that helps me bike hard. It is good for athletic endeavors – easy to eat quickly (on a ride), digests well, tastes great, and provides the energy needed to ride. It took several batches to get the recipe just right – a combination of oats, nuts, coconut and other healthy ingredients. It was fun using my creativity and tweaking the recipe. I throw one in my pocket, eat it on the road and it gets me home.

IMG_8163

mark-bars-packaged

logo-mark-bars-orange

My new son Ben rides and has experience working in a bike shop. He gave me a bike tuneup for Christmas and has been super helpful, telling me about useful gear, answering my bike mechanic questions, and teaching me about bike maintenance (derailleur and gear tweaking, chain maintenance and changing, disk brake maintenance, replacing cables, etc) . This year I have learned about riding strategies, road bike gear and road bike maintenance. I am a lifelong learner and love to learn about bikes and biking.

All of my children were home for Christmas – what a blessing that they would take time from their active lives to spend it with Susan and I. We visited, ate lots of food, put together a Christmas puzzle, went to an escape room, watched some movies and shared life. Good times.

I feel blessed with a wonderful year of safe riding – no bike riding accidents. God has blessed me. What a blessing to have the health to ride. My wife Susan has always supported my biking efforts – and for that I am thankful.

What I learned this year…

  • You can go much faster and much farther with a group or a team that works together.
  • Letting teenaged boys drive you on a jet ski or wave runner is risky business. Don’t let them drive you – instead, drive them and stay in control.  🙂
  • Ministry is not always clean – it can get dirty. But the mess is worth it.
  • When working towards a goal, be flexible.  When things don’t work as anticipated, flexibility allows you to make goals despite setbacks.
  • God’s word is filled with his promises and his wonders.
  • Pray for your children – they can always use it.
  • Be a life-long learner.
  • Being thankful allows you to see God at work.

 

Best wishes for a wonderful New Year!!!

 

Palo Duro Canyon 2017


I took a trip to Palo Duro Canyon to ride off-road in June 2017. Wanted to take a week-long trip to a the Pacific Northwest, but with two daughters getting married this summer, the investment (of time and money) in a mountain biking trip was curtailed.

So I planned a short trip where I could take a car-ride, and spend less time and money. I had been to Palo Duro Canyon many years ago (short half-day, non-biking trip) with my family. So I checked out the Palo Duro Canyon State Park off-road trails on the park’s website and planned the trip.

Through the magic of Facebook, I recently re-connected with a college friend who rode mountain bikes. I met David Connel at the University of Texas at Austin. We had lost touch after college, but 33 years later re-connected on Facebook. He and his wife Amy are very active in outdoor activities (hiking, biking, skiing, camping, etc), and so I invited them to go with me to Palo Duro Canyon. David and I had not seen each other for 33 years, and I had never met Amy.

We loaded up our bikes and camping gear and drove out to Palo Duro Canyon. David and Amy drove their 4-wheel drive, extended-cab pickup truck with a bike rack on the back. We visited on the six hour drive from Plano, Texas to Palo Duro Canyon, beginning to catch up on the last 33 years of life. It was wonderful to share all the stories, joys, and sorrows of our lives.

Arriving in the mid-afternoon, at Cactus Camp, we unloaded our bikes and gear. I brought a Specialized Carve hardtail mountain bike with 29 inch wheels and disc brakes. We rode out to explore the canyon’s off-road biking trails for the first time. We rode the Lighthouse Trail, a moderate trail, hiked from the trail’s end to the park’s iconic Lighthouse rock formation, and back down the trail to our campsite. The ride was a good short ride to check out the park (about 9 miles).


After the exploratory ride, we made dinner and visited. I slept in my hammock, while David and Amy slept in the bed of their pickup truck. Went to sleep listening to the night sounds of a light breeze in the mesquite trees, crickets chirping their rhythmic song , a few raccoons rummaging through camp, and coyotes yip-yip-howling into the night. It was good to be camping in God’s creation.

The next morning we woke up to the sound morning sounds of many species of birds – doves cooing, woodpeckers tapping, wild turkeys gobbling, sparrows chirping, roadrunners, swifts, and swallows. A few wild turkeys would roam through our campsite several times over the next few days. We ate breakfast, geared up our hydration packs with water and supplies, and mounted up.

It was a warm, sunny day. We rode the Capitol Peak Trail, the Juniper Cliffside Trail, and the Juniper Riverside Trail back to our campsite. Ate lunch at our campsite. Amy stayed at camp while David and I and headed out to ride the Sunflower Trail, the Rojo Grande Trail, the Paseo del Rio Trail, the Givens Spicer Lowry Trail, and the Lighthouse Trail. We returned to camp on the Rojo Grande Trail and recovered, getting rehydrated and eating recovery food. I rode about 20 miles that day (see trail maps for details).


We changed into fresh clothes and took the truck to the outdoor amphitheater in the canyon floor. We bought tickets to the barbecue dinner and the Texas Outdoor Musical. The barbecue dinner hit the spot after a day’s ride – beef brisket, pulled pork, sausage, beans, potato salad, cole slaw, bread, peach cobbler, cherry cobbler, and other fixings. The musical was held in the outdoor amphitheater that held about 1,000 people – it comprised colorful costumes, lively dancing, singing, splendid fireworks, and drama about Texas and the local canyon. We returned to camp, showered and slept the night.

The next morning we awoke, ate breakfast, and saddled up for a hard day’s work – a ride from the canyon floor to the canyon rim. We rode the steep climb up the Rock Garden Trail to the Palo Duro Canyon Rim. The climb was filled with rock, boulders, and gravel – a rise in elevation of about 900 feet. Several places I got off and pushed the bike up the steep inclines, trail switchbacks, step ups, and rock structures. Had one fall near the top of the climb to the canyon’s rim. There was a large boulder encroaching onto the side of the thin singletrack trail along the canyon wall’s edge. My handlebars hit the boulder and I fell downhill into some bushes. I was thankful for the bushes – I landed on them (rather than on hard rock) and I was able to grab hold of them to keep me from tumbling down the steep slope of the cliffside. I extricated myself from the bushes, checked for injuries (minor abrasions on my lower legs), collected my bike and rode upward. I was glad for the cloud cover during the ride, keeping the temperature relatively cool (mid-80’s F) for most of the morning. We reached the rim about 10:30 am and rode the relatively flat Rylander Fortress Trail along the rim’s edge.


Then we headed back down the Rock Garden Trail from the canyon’s rim to the canyon floor. The ride down was technical and fun, riding both brakes to slow the descent speed, negotiating the trail’s switchbacks, step downs and rock structures. I got off the bike a few times to walk a few of the tougher obstacles.

We returned to camp, ate lunch and recovered from the morning ride. David and I rode Rojo Grande Trail, Paseo del Rio Trail, Givens Spicer Lowry Trail, Lighthouse Trail and returned to camp via the Rojo Grande Trail. I rode about 23 off-road miles that day.

We ate dinner, visited, showered and went to bed. I went to sleep thankful for good friends, grateful for the health God has given me, and amazed at all that God created at Palo Duro Canyon!

The next morning we awoke, packed up and left Palo Duro Canyon for the drive back to Plano, Texas. If you get a chance to ride Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, Texas, it is worth the trip.

 

Last Ride of 2016

john-muir-quote-mtb-bend-oregon-1000w

I rode my last ride of the year today. It was a hard road ride – got a flat at mile 12 and had a hard time keeping up with the group for the 55 mile ride.

My mileage app says I biked 4,505 miles in 2016. Most of that mileage was on mountain bike in the Dallas area. I rode my mountain bike on paved surfaces when it was too wet to ride. I bought my first road bike ever in September 2016, adding some road-biking miles to the mix.

This year my rides included…

  • climbing rides up to 5,800 feet altitude in the Bend, Oregon area
  • rides to waterfalls and and rivers
  • wild off-road rides down steep, winding descents
  • rides exploring areas of exquisite forested beauty
  • gravity ride down Haleakala volcano with my family in Maui, Hawaii
  • romps on local trails in the Dallas area,
  • rides in the sun, wind, and rain
  • group road bike rides in pace lines
  • many training rides – to get miles in and to stay fit.

mark-road-bike-2016

Looking back on the rides this year, I recognize the blessings that God has provided…

Who knows where adventure will take me in 2017 !!!

maui-bike-ride-down-halakalea-volcano-2016

My Great Big Bend, Oregon Mountain Biking Adventure

john-muir-quote-mtb-bend-oregon-1000w

Last week (July 2016) I finished a mountain biking trip in Bend, Oregon. The trip included seven days of riding, camping in a hammock, and exploring the town of Bend.

It was a spectacular trip!

I biked 277 miles, rode 18 of the trails in the Bend area (just a small fraction of the mountain biking trails in the Bend area).

The trip was filled with spectacular mountain trails, high desert landscape, challenging climbs, and thrilling descents. The entire week was a refreshing break.

Here is what I learned…

  • Bend, Oregon is one of the best places to ride in the USA. Hundreds of miles of well-marked trails and a large number of rainless days allow for a wonderful mountain biking ecosystem. In my seven days of riding, I only rode a small fraction of the vast number of trails available in the Bend area.
  • People in Oregon are kind and helpful to visitors. I always received a kind greeting and a helping hand wherever I went.
  • God gave me good health and allowed me to the encounter another small slice of the vast universe he created. I am thankful to God and acknowledge his wonder, power, and creativity. It is his world, and he allows me to live in it.

Below are my daily experiences, filled with photos, maps, and descriptions of my rides. I hope that you use my experiences to gain a perspective about Bend and that you benefit from my experience …

Day Before the Bend Mountain Biking Trip

Day One – Eugene to Bend

Day Two – Into The Wild

Day Three – Mountain Biking is Art

Day Four – Moving Day

Day Five – Dirt Paths of Life

Day Six – Marianne and Houdini

Day Seven – Easy Day

Day Eight – Last Day (Perfect Day)