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IMG_2165When I checked the weather, the data took my breath away.  Today was a scheduled bicycle ride day.  In Houston the weather for bike riding makes year-round peddling a possibility. This news, however, could toss a wrench in my day-off plans.

The temperatures were down to 45 degrees.  In Houston terms that is very chilly.  A 5 mph wind calculates into a wind chill of 42 degrees.  On a bicycle with the increased riding speed of 15mph that would feel more like 40 degrees. Brrrr!

Now, it was time to think and remember where I stored my cold weather riding clothes.  40 degrees is about my limit for comfort when it comes riding a bicycle outdoors.  Anything colder means that I have to carry an ice pick and stainless steel flask filled with hot chocolate.

My base layer was set.  All of the gaps for exposed skin were closed up.  Good socks fit into my riding shoes.

My riding jacket was ideal for this kind of weather.  Of course my long finger riding gloves were essential.  My last item, however, eluded my searching.

That is one of those rarely used items that you relished on your last cold weather ride.  But, my short term memory was no better than my long term memory on this search mission.

I looked in boxes upstairs, downstairs, garage, closets and miscellaneous containers.  There sure are a lot of miscellaneous containers around our house.  Each one is filled with really useful and valuable stuff.  One of these days I am going to sort out and organize all of it.

So, I paused to think.  Where would I have put that one last cold weather piece of clothing.  Ahah! With a quick step into the garage and a look inside my gear for motorcycle riding, I pulled out that special items, Balaclava!

No, it is not a Middle Eastern dessert.  There are no nuts or honey with this piece.  Instead, it is made from bamboo, making it tough.  It is light weight and just enough coverage to make it comfortable for my head not to freeze during a cold weather ride.

Now, I was ready.  I pushed off and settled on to my bicycle seat.  Soon I was getting into a rhythm for riding.  The exposed parts of my face felt the chilly temperatures bite into my tender skin.  But, the specialty clothes that I wore kept me very comfortable.

It was a reminder that the world that the Creator gave to us has its down sides.  But, with some great choices a careful pattern of dress could easily protect us against the elements.  Keep on enjoying His presence and the good feeling of a brisk morning ride.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

 

 

 

IMG_1426We were created to live according to a cycle of work that takes a break from the daily routine and then rests.  God designed creation to function with a Sabbath rest included in our weekly routine.  There is no legalistic basis to rigidly observe a specific day of rest any longer but the principle of a day of rest has never been rescinded in the Bible.

My calendar is typically very full.  My normal work week starts early and ends late.  A two digit-hour work day is more usual than not.

Most of my colleagues rarely see my routine.  I will pass multiple shifts in a single day.  Often when I see them, I simply flash them a smile.

My years on this earth have taught me a lot about myself.  I can actually feel the need to find a respite.  An urgency of the soul whispers that I must look for a break and get away.

Once I scheduled time-off in my calendar, I guard it.  Just committing to an appointment gives me the final measure of endurance to finish my schedule.  Then on the appointed day I am packed and off to a destination to rejuvenate my soul.

The morning of my single day of revival began long before the sun came up.  All of my gear was stowed where I could retrieve anything that I would need for my day of solitude.  At a rendezvous point, I met my guide.

Robert pointed me to my destination.  He gave me the lay of the land.  Now, I could hike and roam and explore what the Creator had left for us to enjoy.

The sunrise was glorious.  It was like coming alive after a long and arduous workout.  Relief was welcoming like releasing the barbell at the end of a rigorous training session.

Our sun lit up the woods where I wandered.  Green grass, healthy trees and a backdrop of an endless sky with crystalized clouds surrounded me like a canopy easily designed by His creative finger. A natural smile erupts on my face while I pause from my hiking and take in expanse, beauty and wonder of His creation.

If you haven’t been in the habit of working hard for six days and then resting or doing something enjoyable for a seventh, then give it a try.  After a while the rhythm of life will make you far more productive and deeply appreciative of the life you live. Really!

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_2047It has been months since I was able to move into the swimming pool without discomfort.  Getting old is no fun.  Doing it gracefully is a daily challenge.

Gingerly I held on to the hand rail and descended into the warm waters of our club lap pool.  Of course in my mind I was bound and determined to look “cool” while doing it.  I stubbornly refused to surrender to any image of “old man coming in!”

Yet, I could only cover so much.  Turning my head too much wrenched my back.  Twisting my hips too much nearly paralyzed me with pain.

OK, I’ll admit it!  I am turning into an OLDer man.  It is worth fighting to remain young in mind and give the appearance of youthful-like mobility and foster the illusion as long as possible.  Age is mostly a mental state, right?  I do not think that last composition of words came out right.

Water buoyancy is a friend to our aching bodies.  God gave us water to show us how gravity can be modulated for a brief moment.  Lifting the weight momentarily relieves the pain.

Deftly I set myself for my first voyage since the diagnosis of four herniated disks.  “Slowly” was my operative term.  Pushing off the wall gently, my gliding moves propelled me through the water.

Just like riding a bike, you never forget how to swim.  The strokes were pain free.  While it was tempting to push my rhythm, experience and terror kept the cadence deliberate and intentionally relaxed.

Lap after lap my mind was beginning to sense progress.  Treatment for my pain-riddled body had brought me back to functionality.  Now, I could fill my lungs with air, grow back some stamina and feel invigorated again.

Still I would go easy.  After several more trips to the pool I would still move deliberately and slowly.  Each time I added more laps.  Finally, I upped my time in the waters of recuperation and knocked off 48 laps.

I did that much just because getting out of the pool is so hard.  After a good swim I use the hand rail to pull me out of the waters and feel the stinging reminder of a back that can no longer to do spinning Karate kicks or double front Kung Fu snap kicks or oblique wrestling leg sweeps.

In my early youthful days I promised myself that I would not whine about aches and pains when I inevitably grew older.  So, the sounds of shrieking that you might be hearing are simply the exhaling of breath practicing a newly discovered soprano vocal range.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_2130The morning was heating up.  I got too wrapped up in other stuff, so my workout started later than I wanted.  That is a tactical blunder in a Houston summer.

When I pushed off to begin my bicycle ride, I could already feel the temperatures heating up.  If I had left and hour earlier, it would have been perfect. Now, I wondered if I should even go at all.

Pressing on, I pedaled down the road to my turnaround destination.  It was 4.5 miles away.  That is far enough to give me a rigorous workout and get me back home in time for our Saturday activities.

At the farthest point on my journey I turned around and headed for home. The morning sun had climbed high in the Eastern sky just like the Creator had designed the heaven’s to function.  It was pouring down heat rays on anyone who was trying to finish off their morning workout.

Two miles from home I approached a red light.  While I was coasting to a stop another cyclist across the street was nearing the same intersection from my right.  Yes, he was eyeing me.  I could feel it.

Quickly he turned right on the sidewalk, heading in the same direction as me.  I was still waiting for the light to turn green.  He turned back to look and see how much separation he could get between us.  Competitive guys are so simple and telegraph their intentions.

The gap between evaporated just because the technology in my ride was superior to his.  He was riding a mountain bike, big tires, heavy frame and rugged components.  The sidewalk was his path. That is where slower riders should be.

I marked his speed by matching his progress: 12 mph.  He turned his head half way to see where I was behind him.  Next, he shifted his gears, trying to find a way to pick up speed.  There was nothing left to pour into his engine.

That is when I shifted.  From 12 mph my carbon fiber Fuji accelerated to 14 mph. Again I shifted and like the wind I passed the would-be challenger.

My fingers deftly shifted once more.  The onboard bicycle computer now leaped to 16 mph.  My engine was pouring in the energy and sailing down the road.  One final shift and my faithful steed and I were cruising away at 18.5 mph.  No, I did not bother to look and see where my competitor was.  My victory shower was refreshing, invigorating and satisfying.

IMG_2785After one of my swimming workouts I was packed up and leaving through the exit gate.  I paused and contemplated the bold sign that everyone can see when they enter the pool area.  Simply, it says, “Lifeguards have ultimate authority.”

In a public pool this declaration makes perfect sense.  These well-trained and capable officials of the pool are present to protect everyone.  Their job is to insure a safe environment and make it possible for everyone to have a fun time in and around the pool.

Since many types of people from many different backgrounds will use the pool, someone has to be designated as the guardian of the rules.  Policies and procedures protect the most varied of crowds who want to enjoy the water.  The LIfeguards are to be respected and obeyed.

This is the same in life.  Someone is assigned the role to protect the safety and well-being of all people, the widest range of people.  No doubt some would suggest that the police, the firefighters, the military or even the government is there to protect us.

However, life is more than temporary security.  Who will protect us from eternity when our lives enter into that realm?  Who has the ability that reaches into the spiritual realm?

There is only one Eternal Lifeguard that will protect us.  He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  He alone is able to protect us and has ultimate authority.

IMG_2806In our community pool I not only pondered the deeper meaning of who has ultimate authority, I also laughed at the sign around the corner.  It was a duplicate sign hung at several prominent locations around the deck area.  It said, “WARNING! No Lifeguard on duty.”

I suppose that the ultimately authority is in the hands of the Lifeguard if they are present.  However, since the vast majority of times, there is no Lifeguard at that pool, then, we are on own.  We swim at our own risk.

Admittedly, the pool, which is only 5.5 feet at its deepest point, allows most adults to simply stand up in the shallow if they are in trouble.  Nevertheless, in real life our Ultimate Authority is Jesus Christ as our eternal life Lifeguard, He will always be present.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  As our Savior is our Ultimate Authority and He has the power and presence to make us safe.

Have you already trusted Him as your Savior?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

IMG_2126There are fascinating things to see while wheeling my way around Harris County.  There is no shortage of visions to make the ride interesting.   Wildlife is always a treat.

My eyes ripped from the trail.  Over to my right just a dozen feet off the trail was the unmistakable shape of a turtle shell.  It was alive and lumbering away from any human encounters.  He was in for a gentle one.

I dismounted my bicycle and parked it against a tree.  My trusty I-phone was handy and I prepared it to snap a photo.  There is something amazing about these slow-moving amphibians.  Their shape and color give them some camouflage but not enough when they are outside of the water.

He must have felt me coming.  This character did not know if I was a threat so he lowered his shell to the ground and IMG_2128retracted his feet.  His head sank into the shell too.  Nothing but God’s designed armor was left for this humanoid threat.

My I-phone preserved several shots in its digital memory.  The smile on my countenance was long-lasting.   It was just a matter of moments that I had looked away to review my photos.  When I looked up the terrapin was gone.  Scanning the landscape, this “slow” guy had managed to move away over 30 feet.  What a mover this guy is.

At the turn around point of my ride was a sight hidden behind a hedge of bushes and trees.  Locked behind a large gate and barbed wire were several structures that looked like an old western town.  There was a wooden clap board church, a general store and and two homes.  It was a historically preserved town of Barker.

IMG_2129In its heyday during the Railroad’s servicing of the cattle ranches, this was a bustling little town of over 80 people.  These fine folks of Americana actually had two churches.  No doubt one was the church that people went to for worship.  The other building was the church that they used to go to.

It was time to go home.  There were a lot of miles on the return trip.  The heat was beginning to suck out my final ounces of energy.  It was time for a rest.

On a park bench I let my muscles rest.  I was surrounded by the woods of the George H. Bush Bike and Hike Park trail.  It was scenic, beautiful and relaxing.  Time to soak it all in and revive my spirit.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_2047The weather in Texas has now passed the winter season.  The low temperatures no longer visit the 30’s.  Instead, they hover in the 70’s for a low.  It is a sign that swimming in the neighborhood outdoor pool is a welcomed activity.

When I drove into the parking lot, all was quiet.  No one else was swimming.  That has been the pattern during my visits last year.

That beats the washing machine pool environment at the YMCA in Michigan that I so often laughed about in the past.  There were regularly shared lanes with other aqua lovers.  Collisions were common.

Here the only sounds are the birds starting their morning flight.  Occasionally, I hear a vehicle drive by the activity center.  It was time to slip into the water for my season’s first swim.

Like all swimmers, I dipped my foot in to test the temperatures.  It was surprisingly pleasant.  Nothing like cold waters to wake you up in the morning.

The outdoor shower was a different story.  Rules dictate that all swimmers must shower before entering the water.  I am a respecter of rules.

No one will ever convince me that the hot water indicator on the shower faucet is actually connected to any hot water source.  It is cold!  I jump in, holler, shiver and shake.  Once I am layered I jump out and chatter my teeth.

Climbing down the steps into the pool is a welcome warm-up exercise.  Then, I fall in just to take the immersion all at once.  My goggles fit into place and the world becomes clear again.  Prescription lenses make swimming much more enjoyable.

I push-off the wall.  My aging body loves the sensation of floating without the pain aggravated by gravity.  It has been months since I have swum.  Now, like riding a bike, the motions of each stroke come alive as if they had never been dormant for a long winter.

Oddly, I feel strong.  The water is parting easily in front of me.  Each stroke comes with neither pain nor fatigue.  I am liking this sensation.

Slowly, my heart rate is increasing.  It will be sustained shortly.  My breathing is timed with each of my strokes.  The coordination between kicking and stroking does not need any concentration.  It is a habit from years of being a water dog.

The laps peel away as the sun rises in the East.  Warm rays fill the pool and the temperatures rise noticeably.  Finally, it is time to hit the shower.  It is a very good beginning to another season in the pool of Cinco Ranch.

IMG_1749It was a good day to pop out of bed.  The weather report was great.  Temperatures were in the mid 50’s, no precipitation and no wind.

Before I started in on a busy work day at my desk, I would hit the road with my two-wheel human-powered machine.  It is a Fuji road bike, designed to ride the roads and be as efficient as possible over a short period of time.   I love my bike!

I picked up the Buffalo Bayou Bike and Hike trail a couple of mile south of my home.  My last trip on this road was exploratory.  Now, I was ready to make it a planned route for a faster 20 mile tour.

Naturally, I am alert to wildlife.  Along the way the signs warning me not to feed the alligators

IMG_1753always make me smile.  There have never been any gators on the route since I have been looking for these reptiles.  The

 signs always make a great prop for a photo-op.

 

 

 

There is a long bridge on this route just before entering into George Bush Park.  It captures all of the geometry lessons that I learned in past years.  I see the triangles embedded in the structure to give it strength.Long lonely strips of pavement stretch for miles.  Whoever designed these trails did so many of us in our neighborhood a great service.  I am enjoying the exploring, the views, the expanse, the solitude of each ride I take.

 

This engineering project spans the waterway that is ready to direct any rain deluge away from our community.  It is a simple structure, nothing compared to the creation around it. Yet, in its unique way it is a marvel.

IMG_1759On and on I pedal.  Someday I should mount a computer on my bicycle.  I try to estimate my distance by time.

Roughly I must be travelling around 12 mph on an average.  That includes the stops for lights, pictures and massages that reinvigorate my circulation.  After returning home after 1 hour and 45 minutes, that calculates to 21 miles.  Hooey! No wonder I feel a little tired.

Life is busy.  Computers occupy so much of my time.  People fill in the gaps of life.  Road time restores so much balance.

I do pray during this moments.  Talking to my Heavenly Father reinvigorate me, cheers me and bolsters my confidence.  Away from busyness and swallowed up in solitude I enjoy the deepening that nourishes my soul.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

 

IMG_1656My first journey into the vast expanse of the George Bush Park raised many curiosities.  History feeds those mental questions and spawns new ones.  Rabbit trails of wonderment splash across my mind.

Harris County is my home.  Besides consuming most of Houston, my town of Katy, Texas is partially included in this geographical designation.  It is a very small sliver of Katy, nevertheless, that is where our home is.

Providentially, our home is close to this new discovery.  One of the several entrances to the park is a mere 3.2 miles from our front door step. We explored its location after a tip from someone we had met at church.

In my mind I calculated the route to this trail headway and planned to make a visit some day.  That some day was now.  Texas drivers courteously let me have a safe ride on narrow streets for a safe arrival to continue my ride.IMG_1658

Signs introduced me to many parts of this destination.  Some were informative.  Others were curiosities.

The warning sign indicating that a bridge was out at first seemed foreboding.  Have you ever imagined a horror movie with an abandoned bridge hiding ugly monsters ready to gobble up naive travelers?  This flashed in my mind momentarily.

Thoughts of turning around did skip through my decision-making cortex albeit briefly.  After all, other riders and joggers were come from and going to this same destination as I was.  At the very least I would travel on and do an assessment once I arrived at the corrupt expanse.

Maybe if I got up enough speed I could jump the canyon.  If the expanse was too great, perhaps I could descend the cavernous gully and climb up the other side?  Then, again maybe I could pause and build a new bridge with my bare hands.

IMG_1663Then a mere 1500 feet from the “out” bridge a second warning sign was posted along the trail. This time it moderated its warning.  The bridge was NOT “out” but rather designated as “weak”.

Bah!  Someone was being extra careful.  This was a situation that I would have to see for myself.  Now, my curiosity was growing large.

I rode up to the bridge.  The structure was an old concrete bridge.  It was wide enough for motorized vehicle traffic and 30 yards long.

Clearly it was more than strong enough to hold foot and bicycle traffic.  Not even slowing down to cautiously cross, I raced across without breaking stride.  It held up . . . both times!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_1650Bicyclists know that the first 20 mile ride is the portal into the world of distance riding.  Road bikes eat up miles like asphalt is going out of style.  These are the pedal power pumpers with light weight bikes, sleek clothes, stream line helmets, padded gloves, slick sun shades and matching shoes.

They move with ease through automobile traffic.  Deftly, they dodge cars, trucks and buses en route to their chosen destination.  Their power strokes from their spinning legs look like a windmill.

In my season of life I am not in their league.  But, it is a great activity.  I have been told that bikers look at the rite of passage on road riding and universally accept this 20 mile ride as a first step.

Before I left our home I made all of the fine adjustments on my mount.  I wiped my Fuji down so that it looked good.  Hey, if my workout was going to be historic, I might as well look good while doing it.

Then, I pumped up both tires to the optimum 110 psi.  Brakes were in good order.  In my seat pack, I had spare inner IMG_1663tubes, tire changing tools and a patch kit.

It was a 3.2 mile ride to the trail head of the walk and bike path located in the George H. Bush Park.  Once I entered the park, I felt the relaxation sweep over me. There was no traffic to threaten my safety.

Now, the only surroundings were trees, shrubbery and acres of grass.  Deafening sounds of vehicles were gone and the songs of birds, whistling of the wind and the simple sound of my tires rolling across the asphalt trail were the peaceful reverberations of the morning.  I was going to enjoy this ride.

Woods engulfed me as the trail wound through a collection of trees.  Ahead the terrain turned into marshlands.  A boardwalk had been built and elevated all travelers above the wet grounds below.

IMG_1666A stream muddy from the runoff from yesterday’s rains turned this slow body of water into chocolate milk.  Resting in the middle was a large Blue Heron, stealthily hunting for its breakfast.  Egrets were trying to copy this master of bill fishing.

Miles melted behind me.  I was only guessing how far I had ridden.  Then, a map on a board measured distances in the park.  Quickly, I added up distances and realized that I could actually complete a 20 mile ride.  I did.  It was great.  I have passed through the portal of long riders.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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