Making the Most

Stuck with an overnight trip from Richmond, VA to Wilmington, NC for the weekend so my wife can continue parenting her mom. The kids didn't get to see their grandma over Christmas for *reasons*, so at least they get a little bit of that today and tomorrow. But a 5 hour drive each way (with the minimum stops) in such a short time really takes a dump on the weekend.

I took my bike down with me and got in close to 27 miles around the supremely boring exurban sprawl that continues in Brunswick County, but at least the weather was mild and I had the time at all. I recognize how whiney this all sounds while my wife has it much worse, but all suffering is relative, and I just want some normal weekends in the near future. Weekends without worrying about work on Monday. Weekends without 80% of daylight hours already accounted for in the calendar by a variety of Girl Scouts or swimming or errands or...

Anyway, here's some old-web-style postscript: it’s 8:16 on a Saturday night. I'm wearing a comfy flannel. I'm listening to "Fantasies" by Rogue Wave on my headphones. Goodnight.

JRPS with the Family

James River rail bridge viewed from the Nickel Bridge in Richmond, VA

Earlier this week, in the final days of our winter break, I took my family on a hiking trip around parts of the James River Park trail system (primarily the North Bank and Buttermilk trails). It was chilly but sunny, only lightly windy, and fairly dry. My kids were really into it for the first few miles, and in my head we really only had about 4 miles tops ahead of us on our loop. But then it turned out that my lack of planning meant that we were really staring down about 6 miles of hiking from start to finish. Not only was this a bit more than the kids (and Valerie) had bargained for, but it also backed us up against a time constraint. We needed to be back at the house in time for my oldest kid to get picked up by a friend for a trip to the movie theater.

Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 miles, my wife and I agreed that I would leave the backpack with her and the kids and I would travel much faster by myself ahead to the car so I could drive back and pick them up before the end of the loop. We all made it back in time with about 25 minutes to spare, but now I'm sworn to plan out our route ahead of time before dragging everybody on an extended hike again!

See Through It

a rope swing hangs from a tree in Oregon Hill, Richmond, with foggy landscape in the background

I never seem to get a chance at photographing foggy scenes. Usually the timing is wrong for me when we get the right weather conditions, but this morning I woke up early already planning for my Saturday ride when I saw a dense fog advisory in my weather app. I loaded the camera and my travel tripod onto the bike and headed out...only to have the freehub fail on my rear wheel (this means I could spin the pedals freely without actually making the bike move 🤦‍♂️).

Thankfully I was only about a mile from my house so I didn't have to walk far with my bike. My ride for the day is kinda ruined since we have stuff going on mid-day and more rain should arrive this evening (I generally try to plan my longer weekend rides around early morning and/or after bed time for the kids so I'm not sticking my wife with all the child care). But I wasn't abandoning the glorious fog, so I took my gear in the car and drive down by the river.

Reach and Grasp

This year has been incredibly validating with respect to personal goal setting. I'm not a particularly goal-oriented person, but I have set and achieved a number of goals related to cycling in 2023. I rode 1-way on the Virginia Capital Trail back in May. I hit a metric century (100 kilometers) back in September. And this past Friday, less than 6 months after riding 1-way on the Capital Trail, I made it there and back. But that wasn't my goal! I wanted to ride 200 kilometers, about 124.27 miles, which is a significant distance in endurance cycling.

On this ride:

  • I beat my previous longest ride (the 100k)
  • I beat my previous total miles in a day (70.5 miles)
  • I hit my first imperial century (100 miles)
  • I crossed that 200km line with a final distance of 127.42 miles
  • As this weekend draws to a close I find that I'm 500 miles away from hitting 6000 total for the year, having initially set a goal of 4800 miles.

I don't really like to brag and, for most of my life (including the present), I haven't had much to brag about anyway. Considering I was essentially sedentary 18 months ago, I'm pretty damned proud of how far I’ve come! I don't know when I'll have the time (or the luck of such good weather) to ride like this again, but I'm super grateful it worked out this weekend.

Regular Day

It’s a Monday, and that’s a pretty busy day in my household this school year. Everybody shuffles off the weekend, Valerie and I each had early meetings, and the kids will have swimming this evening. That means I'll be off in the Southside with them for a few hours while Valerie changes out their warm weather/cool weather clothing at home.

Oh yeah, and it’s our 19th wedding anniversary.

We had our anniversary dinner this past Saturday, so we got a date night, sure. But it’s still a slight bummer to me that we can't make more of our actual anniversary. So it goes at this stage of life with two kids in elementary school. We talked, in fact, during our date, about what we might do for 20 years in 2024. And you know what? We may not get to do much. Westerners love our significant round numbers, but we don't have easy access to reliable family babysitting for multiple nights. That means we’ll be lucky if we even get away for a short jaunt within a few hours of Wilmington, where my mother-in-law lives.

I sure am happy to continue my marriage with Valerie and I love my kids, but I sure do look forward to when they're old enough that my wife and I can go have some more husband and wife fun on our own from time to time.

You know what, though? That’s one of the fascinating things about my extended partnership with Valerie: it’s not that the importance of the anniversary date has diminished. It is, rather, that we get to keep sharing these regular days together, year after year. With the kids, without the kids, but always with each other.

Neural Flatus: Stultifying

Most of the time these posts are about ideas or words spontaneously floating through my head. This time, however, my wife was talking to me right before bed last night about how our son seems to have lots of random thoughts floating through his head, similar to me. That seems to have been enough to jar loose a word that kept my awake after getting up to use the bathroom at 5:17 this morning.

"Stultifying" is impairing or dulling, or making one seem kind of stupid. Sort of how I feel whenever a random word floats through my head and keeps me awake, costing me sleep, and I can't quite remember what it means.

Town Creek

Poofy morning clouds rise over the trees beside Town Creek in Brunswick County, North Carolina

Found a hidden boat ramp on Town Creek in Brunswick County on my ride this morning.


I mean, dang.

Ten years ago this kid was born. The day before, my wife mixed castor oil with peanut butter, spread it on toast and ate it, in order to induce her own labor. We settled down to watch Shaun of the Dead, and contractions started within a few hours. We headed to the hospital near midnight, and after a couple hours more, Maddie was born around quarter-to-three in the morning on September 3rd.

She’s entering her Very Tween phase where Valerie and I are constantly wondering how much more surly she'll be as a teen. But she’s also seriously creative, loves to draw, and continues to amaze me with her ability to pick up nearly any new physical activity. She’s developing her own taste in music, groans at a few more of my dumb jokes, and is navigating the challenges of social complexity with her friendships at school. I love this kid, and I'm so lucky to be her dad.

Happy birthday, Maddie!

(photos used with Maddie's permission)


For the past year I’d been wearing a silicone wedding band because I’d lost enough weight that my actual ring was starting to fall off my finger. Before that time, I pretty much never took it off, but after the third random slide-off, I was afraid of losing it. But I procrastinate with so many things and my gold ring sat inert in a filing cabinet drawer for many months.

I finally took it to a local jeweler to be resized (from a 13 down to 11.5), and yesterday I got it back! I was kind of unexpectedly emotional when I put it back on since I don't even take it off to do the dishes, shower, or work on stuff with tools. It’s a small thing, but I'm happily married, and happy to have that symbol back on my hand.

Web Log, Sunday, August 28th

Family of deer in the front yard of a home by Maymont in Richmond

7:00 AM: woke up to my alarm and rain. Had I known it would rain, I’d have delayed my alarm and grabbed another hour of sleep.

8:00 AM: finally got ready for my morning ride and headed out into the humidity of a late August morning in Richmond. Saw a family of deer near Maymont. Stopped for espresso.

10:30 AM: returned home, took a break and let some of the sweat dry.

11:00 AM: Took my daughter out to the sidewalk with a new-to-her bike so she could practice shifting gears for the first time.

11:15 AM: Headed out on a lovely ride with my daughter with a stop for treats at Up All Night baker in Bellevue.

NOON: Brief lunch interlude.

12:45 PM: foolishly drove to Carytown at a super busy time with my daughter to buy a water bottle cage and bottle for her bike. Traffic was terrible (as I should have expected), eventually parked, found out there were no more of the cute PDW animal bottle cages left. Grabbed a demi-baguette from Can Can for my son before heading home.

[ Brief loafing interlude ]

3:10 PM: Headed to Movieland with the kids to take advantage of $4 movie ticket day and saw the EXCELLENT new Ninja Turtles movie. We all loved it.

5:30 PM: Headed back to the house to pick up Valerie and go to The Cask for dinner with the family. Had two of my very favorite German beers.

7:00 PM: Home just in time to catch the US Gymnastics national championships and sneak in completion of my timesheet from the past week.

9:00 PM: Published this blog post, tucked in my daughter, and gave in to the reality that I need to take care of the dishes in the kitchen before *my* bedtime.

Cliché Post About Kids Growing Up

This is the first week of school for my kids and, for my nearly 10-year-old daughter, the start of her final year of elementary school. This is only really starting to sink in for me; next August she'll get on a different bus from her brother at a later time. She'll get off the bus by herself. We’ll start letting her stay home on her own as she feels ready for it. She'll be in *middle school* for crying out loud.

Okay, maybe not actually crying out loud. Yet.

Scenes from Meandering Around Town on a Bike

An old crow that appeared to be unable to fly in my front yard

Before my ride even got started this morning I saw this poor ol' crow chilling out in my front yard. It seemed unable to fly more than a few feet, but once it realized I wasn't going to touch/hurt it, it sort of just stayed put. My wife said it seemed to have gotten away without any sign of a stray cat intervening. I hope it’s alright!

And for the second day in a row I rode my bike out to Dabney Road (light industrial/commercial area that is decidedly *not* bike friendly) because I wanted to get a shot of these old railroad tracks that trailed off into the woods. I'm pretty sure they used to connect to CSX's Acca Yard back in the day since it’s just on the other side of the road. Anyway, I saw these while rolling by on Wednesday, was stymied by overcast skies when I tried to photograph them yesterday, and finally had the light I wanted today.

Hilton Head Ride Vid


Look, I'm no bike YouTuber. I also don't have a lot of experience under my belt with the Insta360 X3, but I can tell you I probably don't care for the chest mount too much. I don't like how much sway is visible as I'm pedaling, despite shake reduction. No matter - it’s fun to have a record of what it was like rolling around the island!

Music by TimKulig from Pixabay

Farewell Hilton Head

The final few photos from my last morning ride on Hilton Head Island today. I managed to get out on the beach a little!

Savannah Time

Didn’t get any photos on my morning ride, but did manage a few snaps during our day trip to Savannah, Georgia. We didn’t see much (limited by my mother-in-law’s low mobility), but we did have a great tour of Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace/family home (she founded Girl Scouts of America), and a short respite in Wright Square. Most of the visit was spent on a tourist trolly bus (my least preferred way to explore a place).

Green Space

Calibogue Sound

Looking out on Calibogue Sound from Hilton Head Island during my morning ride today.


A whole lotta boats at the Palmetto Bay Marina on Hilton Head Island, taken from the top of the Charles E. Fraser Bridge.

Two Wildlife Encounters


After some lunch tacos, I was riding my bike past Maymont and around to Kansas Avenue when I saw first one, then two, then at least half a dozen deer ambling beside a house. There were several large-racked bucks, a few younger fellas, and at least one or two does. Once they spotted me they picked up the pace toward the woods or I’d have stopped for a photo.


On my way back from Church Hill I had rounded the corner from East Leigh Street onto North Third Street when I noticed something on my shirt just on the edge of my field of vision. I hadn't felt it, just caught a glimpse. It was a fuzzy, fairly large honey bee (definitely not a bumble bee). I was rolling at about 15 miles per hour and didn't want a sting on my belly, so I sort of gently pulled my shirt out quickly to get the bee to fly away while simultaneously putting some distance between any potential frightened sting and my flesh.

Plants and Animals

cropped album cover from the Plants and Animals album, "The Jungle"

Last night I stopped into the original downtown location of Triple Crossing Brewery to grab some suds in the middle of a bike ride. I heard a pretty awesome song on the speakers and Shazam'd it to find out who it was. The next song came on and sounded like the same band, so I checked it out and, yes, it seemed they were playing the whole album from what turned out to be Montreal indie rock outfit, Plants and Animals. Specifically, the 2020 album The Jungle was tickling my ears.

This album has just the right elements of Arcade Fire, Talking Heads, Radiohead, and miscellaneous Scandinavian electro-pop outfits. All of this combines for a sound that is at once contemporary and reminiscent, at times, of some more obscure 60s rock tunes that Wes Anderson might use on one of his soundtracks.

Rollercoaster (of Emotions)

My daughter and I stand in front of the sign reading "Dominator" - for the rollercoaster of that name at Kings Dominion theme park
Photo used with my kid's permission

CONTENT WARNING: health, body image

I recently posted about some of my health improvements. My doctor, of course, focused a lot on my losing weight for a while, but I can't keep a scale in my house; it’s bad for my mental health. I focused on healthier eating and exercise. Sure, I expected that I’d lose some weight over time as part of those behavioral changes, but I wasn't trying to lose a number. I wasn't chasing a target weight.

But I did have two goals related to losing weight.

Rollercoasters, man. I love 'em. I remember a rare vacation with my family when I was six-and-a-half years old, traveling to Williamsburg, VA (years before we’d move to the Commonwealth). We visited Busch Gardens where I was *furious* at my height preventing me from riding The Loch Ness Monster. Back home in New Jersey we lived a short distance from Six Flags Great Adventure where I longed for the day when I was tall enough to ride the classic wooden coaster, Rolling Thunder.

As a teen, I eventually travelled to Kings Dominion north of Richmond and finally enjoyed a slice of what rollercoasters had to offer. Anaconda, The Hurler (RIP), Shockwave (also RIP), Outer Limits, and especially Rebel Yell (now the less problematically-named Racer 75), running backward. I loved them all. I was fortunate that my wife also loves rollercoasters, but unfortunate that I was already starting to get a bit bigger shortly after we married.

A few years later, my wife and I spent the weekend in Williamsburg with a couple of college friends. We visited Busch Gardens and went on all sorts of rides. For the most part I had no issues until we went to ride Apollo's Chariot. This was the first coaster I encountered with a deep bucket seat, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get the restraint to lock closed. After fussing for several minutes, I had to get off the ride while my wife and friends went ahead without me.

The humiliation! The shame I felt, in front of my wife, friends, and a thousand strangers (who, let's be honest, probably didn't even notice) having to get out of the train because I was too big to ride. I wasn't getting any smaller, and that experience was so scarring that I stopped trying to ride most thrill rides, let alone rollercoasters. For *years*.

Once my daughter was a few years old, our family started visiting Busch Gardens on the regular - mostly because we had access to free lodging in Williamsburg on occasion (thanks to my mother-in-law), but also because Valerie and I both remembered loving the rides and park itself. Even when our daughter was too young for rides, my wife would still enjoy the rollercoaster in the park. I mostly just hung out with our kid. But then that kid started growing up and started to love rollercoasters, too. Here was something we both loved, but I still couldn't share it with her directly. I don't resent my wife riding with her all those times - they should be able to share this excitement, too. But this was one of many things I couldn't share with my family because of my health at the time.

The first weight/size goal I had is pretty vain, honestly. No, I don't want a "beach body" or to look good naked. But when you’re over a certain size, you clothing options kind of suck. Even if you find something from a quality and/or reputable brand, I feel like clothing designers and manufacturers sort of give up on actual structure and fit for larger body sizes. I wanted to be able to buy clothes that fit well—not because they flatter my body—but because I wanted comfortable clothing without feeling like I'm walking around in a denim pillowcase. Fine, I'm starting to find this goal fulfilled. Hooray for me, I guess.

The *second* goal, however, may sound more silly. But it really was for me to lose enough weight that I could ride rollercoasters with my daughter. I missed them enough on my own, but I wanted so badly to be able to share that with my kid that it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to get a bit smaller. And today we visited Kings Dominion for the first time this year.

Several of the marquee rides in the park have test seats now, to help avoid exactly the humiliation I felt in my 20s. Last fall I couldn't quite get some of these test seats to work for me, but I could feel and see that I was close. Today, I passed every test seat. We were at the park for nearly 6 hours (holy smokes, I'm tired), and I was able to ride old favorites that are still around, as well as some newer top-flight rollercoasters. And I rode every one of them with my daughter.

It was a spectacular day.

Slowly Running Toward Progress


I don't know a lot about Beau Miles (if I learn he’s problematic or something this post is coming down *so* fast) and I don't subscribe to his YouTube channel, but every now and then I watch one of his delightfully eccentric documentary adventures. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something about this latest video that delighted me for its full 21 minutes. Maybe it’s the way he carried out another eccentric project. Or the way he used two completely divergent activities to break up the monotony of each other over a long period of time. Enjoy.

Roll(ing While Shooting) Film

Today I watched the most recent stream/interview from The Path Less Pedaled (a favorite channel of mine) where Russ spoke with photographer and cyclist Erik Mathy. Mathy has a number of projects and professional jobs involving the cycling world, but what was most fascinating was his preference for and cycle touring with large format photography gear (and some other film goodness, mostly). Whether it’s a Travelwide or an Intrepid, with a classic or homemade lens, he’s keeping film alive while he gets from point A to B on two wheels. The perfect intersection of my two favorite hobbies!


When I was younger I always wanted to build my own computer. I'm old enough to have grown up through the full and mid-tower PC years, and the notion of building my own box fell square in the center of my nerdy interests. And this had nothing to do with gaming! I was a kid that played almost exclusively with LEGO and loved computers, so the idea of finding and choosing all the right components to make something which suited my personal needs? Irresistible.

But I didn't grow up in a house with money. Nor did I have a lot of discretionary income in college. So at best, I would pour through computer magazines and catalogs (and eventually discount component retailers online) pricing out power supplies, cases, motherboards, etc., fantasizing about a future when I could finally build my dream machine.

As I neared the end of college, my computing needs and preferences changed. I wanted to switch to Apple's macOS ecosystem, and once I could afford it after graduation, I bought my first MacBook Pro. My next machine was an iMac for better performance scanning and processing photos on a larger screen, and that was that. I’ve never become much of a gamer, and I'm not such a tinkerer that I’ve considered putting together a Hackintosh (and the potential software complications that entails), so my youthful desire to build my own computer sort of faded.

Of course now there are bikes. Yeah, I know, I don't shut up about them. But I'm finding that working on my own bike (and hopefully, someday soon, trying to build some of my own) seems to scratch that itch from the past. Trying out new components, experimenting with different setups and configurations, tailoring the ride comfort and capabilities, etc. There are so many things to learn and research and improve that I feel like I'll never run out of things to play around with. I can can build and refine bikes to suit my needs and aesthetic preferences until I'm too old to ride!

Rebuilding an Audience

As Twitter continues to fragment here in mid-2023, so many of its users continue scattering to the would-be replacement or otherwise alternative social media platforms. But I see a pretty common refrain among many folks I follow - whether on Mastodon or Bluesky. Some flavor of:

How am I going to rebuild my audience?

I get it. For journalists, writers, photographers, or other media personalities (or even folks who gained a following simply for their actual social media content) it feels like a critical problem. Where do you put your "posting energy" (I just threw up in my mouth a little...), or do you have to do 2x, or even 3x the work to reach even a fraction of your former audience? Additionally (and crucially on Bluesky lately), why put energy into rebuilding an audience somewhere that will allow the same kinds of abuse and bigotry that Twitter failed to stamp out (and readmitted under Musk)?

But like, what about a normie like me? I also want a place that doesn't tolerate abuse or bigotry, but I don't have an audience, let alone one to rebuild. I just want a stable place where I can get some form of what I got out of Twitter. Joking with my friends. Updates from local agencies/policy people. And yeah, even following a number of those folks with audience concerns.

I guess I can't have what I want unless enough of the "audience" people find what they want, and maybe that’s just another reason why the age of a few social network giants is in flux, if not falling apart.