Can’t Wait for Cruise Nights

Last fall, the Downtown Wheaton Association approached the company I am Creative Directing with a wish to do a promotional video to entice new people and families to come out on Friday nights for their summer classic car cruise nights. What they thought they wanted was a fairly simple and straightforward interview-style video with “guys and their cars.” We wanted to do something a little more interesting for the town our office calls home.

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We convinced the city association to give us some creative freedom to craft a video that would not only make them proud, but also make people want to bring out the kids on a Friday night during the summer. We took a cue from the “Pure Michigan” campaign and created an atmosphere instead of an interview. I think it does what we wanted it to do pretty well.

Oh, and we won a 2016 Addy award for it, too. Not too bad at all.

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And this one’s personal. My daughter Elise makes a cameo in this one, and the nasally voice you hear in the video belongs to me, as well. I’m looking forward to seeing the same view from our office window this Friday, as the 2016 summer cruise night season begins again.

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If you are in the area, stop by, if for nothing else than Kimmer’s homemade ice cream and the Little Popcorn Store. It’s a good time, and the cars and bikes are pretty cool, too. And you should definitely try the Butter Brickle at Kimmer’s—it’s completely kick ass.

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Take Off the Headphones

Ok, it’s time for a rant. I could probably do at least one a day, but I’ll spare everyone my whining, for the most part.

Sunday mornings for me now include getting out on the bike and taking off down Illinois’ Prairie Path, which is considered a MUT, or Multi Use Trail. This particular trail is crushed limestone, and ties together a fairly large chunk of northern Illinois. It’s regularly shared by hikers, runners, bikers and equestrians, and is also an outlet for dog walkers and family bike rides. On Sunday mornings, these trails can get relatively populated.

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Wheaton’s Herrick Lake Forest Preserve and Illinois Prairie Path

Besides the lack of common sense and simple courtesy shown on these trails (stop walking 4-wide while you gossip, and keep your dogs on a leash), I’m astounded by the lack of attention most people have to the things around them.

I guess I shouldn’t be. Most people are so caught up in themselves and have little or no concern for anyone around them in stores, on the roads or anywhere else, I should expect similar behavior on a MUT path.

Here’s my issue. We sit in front of computers, TVs and steering wheels all day, every day. We deal with lunatic children and moody co-workers. We carry stress from work, commutes, bills, pollution, noise and everything else that consumes our daily lives. And when we get an hour to get away from ALL of that, and the first thing so many people do is stuff headphones in their ears and crank their music up so loud that they can’t enjoy the silence of being outside.

I get it, you use music to get you into your happy place, and I do, too—just not on a trail. One, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to turn off the electronic world and go analog for a little while. Listen to birds. Remember those? Listen to your feet hit the ground or the fizzz of the gears on your bike. Crank up the music and block everything out, and you put yourself and those around you at risk—because you have successfully removed the next most important sense right behind sight.

My biggest problem with headphones on the trail is the fact that not only does it shut you off from the rest of the world, but it blocks out everything around you. Like me. And I’m trying to get around you on the trail that you seem to have forgotten that you’re on. Pull your dog back to you, stop the 4-wide hen clucking sessions, wrangle your kid back to you and pay attention to things that might collide with you. Like other people on the trail trying to get by while you are taking a selfie.

Do everyone a favor—pay attention on the MUT trails, get the headphones out of your ears, and get your head out of your ass.

Detox from Trimethylxanthine

I was addicted to a drug.

Not the kind of drugs you think of when someone normally talks about addiction, but the kind of drugs you get over the counter at your local grocery or convenience store. The kind of drug that gets a hold of you at your core, embeds itself in your life like a parasitic worm and destroys you from the inside-out. The kind of drug that looks innocuous at first blush, but slowly takes over until there is nothing left to do but give in to the addiction. That is, unless you can look it square in the eye and tell it to go to hell.

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It wasn’t a lot, by most standards. A little here, a little there, and before you know it, it was something that accompanied lunch, then at dinner, and sometimes even in the middle of the day at the office. Hide a little in my desk in case there was a fix needed. It was difficult to hide from my family after a while. The withdrawal I went through if I didn’t get even a little hit was excruciating and debilitating at times, and often even caused me to miss work.

It was bad.

Until I looked it square in the eye and told it to go to hell. I was done.

1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine—the most widely used psychoactive drug on the planet. More commonly known as caffeine. A drug by any other name, and a stealthy one, at that. This drug tricks your neurosystem into thinking that you are alert and awake by blocking the receptors that tell your body when it’s time to rest and recover. Like tricking the gas tank in your car into not shining the light in your face to tell you that you need to head to a gas station. When you false recover with caffeine, your body crashes even harder after it wears off, because you haven’t rested properly, and then instinctively, we head for more caffeine to fix the dragging feeling from not being rested. A vicious cycle continues, beating you senseless, and creating the addiction to the stimulant.

Directly, caffeine can also lead to insomnia, jitters and shakes, withdrawal headaches and migraines, increased blood pressure, anxiety and even worsen existing heart conditions. It’s a nasty drug that exists naturally in coffee, tea, cocoa and a handful of other herbs, but is synthetically added to SO many things it would surprise you. Do you need caffeine in Sunkist orange soda? Did you even know it was in there? Probably not.

The coffee industry in the US has become a $30 billion cash cow, with energy drinks pulling in over $27.5 billion (with RedBull a hefty $2.4 billion on its own) globally. The manufacturers say that they put the caffeine in these drinks because of public demand, but disregard the fact that they are just fueling the addict by increasing the dosage. You can now find caffeine jacked in everything from gum, jellybeans, mints, lollipops and even water.

We need it—give it to us, please, we can’t live without it.

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About 12 years ago, I suffered pretty heavily from debilitating migraine headaches. I was getting 1 or 2 a month, and was hitting them hard with Excedrin Migraine at first blush of sinus or temple pain. The worst cases would cause me to miss work for at least a day. Hours or even a whole day spent in a completely darkened room with cold towels over my face and eyes, trying to deal with the pain. I recall one headache that included such terrible vertigo that just laying down cause it to worsen to vomiting levels. Migraines are one of those things that if you don’t get them, you couldn’t possibly understand how horrendous they are. If you do, you can sympathize.

At a wedding once, while talking to one of my wife’s aunts, we were casually discussing migraines, which she also suffered. She had been dealing with them most of her life and tried everything to get rid of them. A doctor casually asked her if she drank caffeine, and when she said yes, he said, “well, don’t.”

She quit cold turkey, dealt with 2 weeks of debilitating headaches and then hadn’t had a headache in 10 years. It was a cure for her, and an eye-opening event for me, for sure. At that point, I decided to do some research about the connection between caffeine and migraines. What I found was revolting and astounding. It seemed to be a cut-and-dry solution, so I gave it up. Just stopped. Thirteen days later, my headache finally went away (yes, thirteen straight days of one single headache and a lot of Aleve).

Offduty: Caffine Drinks

That was over 10 years ago, and I stayed caffeine free for almost 2 years, before falling off the wagon. See, I hate coffee, don’t drink tea, but I absolutely LOVE Dr Pepper. It’s a guilty pleasure. I know the high fructose corn syrup is bad for me. I know the caffeine screws with my system. I know there is nothing redeemable about colas/sodas at all, but I can’t help it.

My problem is that if I don’t have at least one before 2pm, a migraine is almost a sure thing. That’s all—one single can of DP. About 45mg of caffeine. Like I said, not much compared to what most people consume on a daily basis. Pretty much nothing on the Starbucks menu. An “awake & alert” pill is usually about 200mg as is a normal strong cup of coffee. But if I didn’t get that little hit every day, I was a wreck.

I know you are thinking, seriously? That’s all? Yep, that’s all it takes to develop an addiction. Caffeine affects different people in different ways, and you can most certainly build up a tolerance to it with massive consumption over time. You probably don’t even know you are doing it.

Cans of Dr Pepper sit on a pantry shelf in New York, Tuesday

This past winter, I made a decision to change my health and change my life. It started with a change in my active level, and a return to cycling after many years away from it. I built myself a cyclocross bike and started riding indoors in January. It was hard to start, but it was worth it and I saw a noticeable change.

My next change this winter was to actively remove HFCS from my diet as much as possible. We had done it mostly as a family when we started having kids, but for me, my weakness has always been sugary carbonated beverages. Don’t get me started on HFCS. It’s horrible, and our dumbass country is one of the few in the world where it’s still legal to use. The corn growers have the gub’ment in their pockets, but that’s another soapbox for another time.

I slowly ramped down my Dr Pepper consumption over the course of a few weeks, while using quartered caffeine pills to keep the headaches at bay. I replaced the sodas with water or juice, whenever possible. At a certain point, it became almost 100% water consumption. Slowly, i started to reduce the amount of caffeine I was taking  daily to almost nothing, then stopped completely. I managed to do so without any residual migraines and pain, short of a couple of mild low-level headaches. I gave up on the Excedrin, too, as it’s main ingredient for curing a devestating headache is, you guessed it, caffeine. Not a coincidence.

So, I am now going on 9 weeks, caffeine free, so to speak. Every once in a while, I’ll indulge in a Dr Pepper or Cherry Coke when we’re eating out, but mostly it’s water for me. It wasn’t easy, but it’s been worth it. I’ve had a total of 3 in the last month.

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How? Well, one, I fall asleep immediately at night, and wake up minutes before my alarm goes off. That’s something of an oddity for me, as I have been a restless sleeper most of my life, waking up 6 or 7 times a night, without fail.

Two, cutting out HFCS sodas from my diet almost immediately shaved 8 pounds off of my slight frame. I previously felt “skinny fat” having a few more pounds than I would like to carry around my torso. When I’m 5’ 11” tall and 145 pounds, you can easily see an extra 10 pounds on my frame/face. It’s not a good feeling, either. Between riding regularly and quitting sugary carbonated beverages, I took 11 pounds off in just under 3 weeks.

I don’t miss it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I do want for a DP every once in a while, and would love for a Caffeine Free version with real sugar, but that’s not likely coming along anytime soon. Throwbacks are great (no HFCS) and the caffeine-free DPs are only available regionally across the US (don’t ask me why, Dr Pepper blames it on their local bottlers), but something that would fill my wants isn’t really an option.

Until that day comes along, I’m pretty happy drinking ice water instead.

Not My First Rodeo

A couple of people have questioned my capabilities to adequately refinish this frame in anything other than a scuff and a rattle can reshoot. I get that.

A bit of a humblebrag here, though. I’ve painted a few things before.

A few years ago, I ran a bit of a decent side business painting race helmets, and since I was 13, I have been painting R/C cars, boats and anything else I could get my hands on. I also happen to be a creative professional, and spend my life around graphics and design, so this sort of thing is something I am fairly comfortable with.

Instead of blathering on tonight, I figured I would let the portfolio do the talking.

Helmets:

R/C:

 

The Gunnar might be my first bike frame, but if it can take paint, I can paint it. Now, if I could only decide what to paint on it…

 

Fresh Canvas

The little ugly duckling just got a makeover. 
Last week I dropped off the Gunnar RockHound frame at one of our clients in hope that they could help get the 853 steel frame stripped of the years of neglect and layers of really bad paint and primer. Before I brought the frame out for a strip, I knocked the rear rack mounts off of the chain and seat stays, too. Hopefully, I wouldn’t find some hidden ferrous cancer in one of the main tubes.

This week I picked up the frame during one of my lunch breaks, and as lucky as I could hope, the frame underneath the mess was absolutely perfect. A freshly stripped satin bead blasted finish greeted me, and while my client wouldn’t take any payment for the work done, I did happen to bring a symbolic dual 6-pack of New Belgian Fat Tire Ale for their trouble.

It turned out great, and I couldn’t be happier. I have to get the unfinished steel under a coat of sealer so that it won’t rust, and once we’re there, it will be ready for whatever I decide to decorate it with. I go back and forth on what it will look like, but it’s going to be interesting, I know that.

Forks of Days Past
One of my goals with this bike is to build an old frame (circa 2000) with relatively new technology and make the thin-walled steel bike as light as I can realistically make it. Having a relatively aerodynamic physique, I am able to get away with some high-zoot lightweight parts most normal weight people wouldn’t think of using.

One of the major components of this build is the front suspension. Considering the geometry of the bike, that it’s not set up for contemporary disc brakes, and the fact that 26″ tire enthusiast mountain bikes are really not produced much anymore, it would be a challenge to find something that would work for me, and not cost $1000. The options are few that would be light, 26″ wheel based, cost effective and allow me to use V-brakes or even cantilever brakes. Good luck.

Fortunately, I found that Rock Shox made the SID for quite some time in 26″ versions with canti studs optional. And not only do they look good, but there are some that are ridiculously lightweight, too. It’s right at 1318 grams for the SID World Cup with titanium canti studs and a carbon fiber fork crown and steerer tube. Pretty awesome. They pop up on eBay in various stages of abuse, and I was lucky enough to find a 2004 model in almost perfect shape. It’s in need of a rebuild, and a setup for my weight, but I feel like I got really fortunate to find one this clean, so I couldn’t watch it pass me by. Next step is to tear it down, strip the magnesium legs to prep for matching paint and then find all of the rebuild parts I will need for a 12-year old race fork.

This build is coming along nicely, and at 1318g for the fork and 1836g for the bare frame, this bantamweight is off to a really great start. I’d really like to get this bike to be around 20-21 pounds if possible. With a 1x front drivetrain, I think it’s fairly reasonable to build, even on my budget.

Born to Ride. Sort of.

I have previously mentioned that I have a habit of bouncing around to various hobbies throughout my life. Generally, I have about 5 or 6 siren songs that eventually call me back somehow. One of the things I have dipped in and out of for the last 30 years is cycling. For most of the 90s, I recreationally raced mountain bikes and rode 5-6 days a week. I was regularly putting 3,000+ trail miles on the odometer every year, and enjoyed most of the riding, though racing wasn’t much fun to me for the most part.

Six years ago this April 24th, I fell down a flight of stairs carrying my daughter, and broke my patella (knee cap) in half, which required patella tendon reconstruction. I didn’t walk normal for almost a year after that, and I figured my cycling days were over.

My physical conditioning has gone up and down as I have got older, and recently, I decided that I was tired of being winded from simple physical exertion. I decided that I needed to be active again, if not for myself, then for my daughters.

If there is one thing about me that you should know it’s that I don’t particularly like to have things that lots of other people have. Cars, computers, clothes and bikes are no different. This generally means that buying things off the shelf at the local bike shop isn’t my idea of fun. My goal this past winter was to build a one-bike, or something that I could trail ride, gravel road bomb, commute to work, and ride indoors all winter on the trainer. The build was on.

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Serotta #FX54001 in fresh factory-applied non-stock Simply White paint.

In the middle of November, I found a factory repainted 2003 Serotta Fierte cyclocross frame on eBay and pounced on it. I paid less than 1/3rd of what the frame cost when it was new, and you couldn’t tell it wasn’t fresh off the production line. Over the next couple of months, I spent time acquiring new and used second-hand parts to build the bike up how I wanted, but as inexpensively as I could. I eventually completed the bike for about 35¢ on the dollar for what it would have been new. Not too bad. It’s a wonderful bike, and essentially brand new, and it should be a ton of fun this spring and summer.

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In early January, I got the bike on the indoor trainer and started the long journey back into riding shape. Besides my lungs suffering greatly, it also traditionally takes me about 2-3 weeks before the saddle doesn’t completely ruin my day. The long struggle to even adequate conditioning took a lot longer than it used to, but you can chalk that up to being almost twice my age when I was racing every weekend.

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The Serotta Fierte Cross in winter mode on the trainer.

I’m finally at a place now where I feel good about my cardio and my legs don’t scream anymore after a 45 minute ride. Feels good. I have cut out most of my Dr Pepper addition, too, maybe having one or two a week now instead of per day. The loss of HFCS is great, the loss of regular caffeine has been a lot more difficult. More on that later.

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First real ride outdoors in a long time, and a great one it was.

As I finished the cyclocross bike, I stumbled on to something on the Milwaukee CraigsList. A seller had a Gunnar RockHound mountain bike frame from 2000, had poorly rattle canned it, then proceeded to crash it to eventually have left it in storage for a decade. A move prompted him to try and sell it and his garage cleaning was my good luck. I picked up this little ugly duckling Reynolds 853 old school 26” wheel mountain bike for $175. The parts still on it were worth more than that on their own. Hell, just the hubs in the wheels were worth more than that, and I proved that point selling them for $195 on eBay. So one project ends and another begins, much to the chagrin of my wife.

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Basket case and spray bombed Gunnar Rock Hound. Yes, that’s a bent rear wheel.

The Gunnar is made by a small builder out of Waterford, Wisconsin—not so coincidentally a sister company of Waterford Bikes, a very direct descendent of the Schwinn family. The frame was straight and rust-free, but had an odd collection of mismatched parts bolted to it, including some really high end hubs and rare vintage cranks, plus very pedestrian parts like a cheap headset, seatpost and commuter racks. Within 24 hours of getting it home, I had it stripped down to the frame, sorting out parts that I could flip to recoup some of my initial investment. As it was, I already sold the hubs and cranks for more than double of what I paid for the whole bike, so an essentially free handmade Reynolds 853 steel frame that was $1300 15 years ago is fine with me. It should be a fun bike to restore.

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Reynolds 853 steel goodness. Stripped down and ready for rack mounts and paint removal.

I dropped off the frame today with one of our clients who does fabrication work, so they can media blast the old layers of primer and paint (4 in total) to give me a good foundation to do my own paint job. I can’t wait to see how this is going to turn out.

Driven to Distraction

The title of this blog has changed, as you may have noticed. I think it’s a bit more fitting of who I am, and I’ll get into it a little deeper with this post.

I eluded to the fact in an earlier post here that I have a fairly scattered mind. I have dealt with this my whole life, whether it’s jumping from hobby to hobby, a lack of overall focus or difficulty with simple, everyday memory tasks. If I had a dollar for every time I lost, misplaced or left my wallet behind in my life, well, I’d need a bigger wallet.

As a kid, I regularly scored very high in standardized aptitude tests, starting right off the bat in kindergarten and going all the way through my ACT and SATs. When it came to actual performance in school, the results more often proved disappointing to my parents and teachers. “Doesn’t live up to potential,” or “underachieving,” or “lazy and lacks focus,” were always found on my report cards all the way back as far as I can remember. Personality disorder? Likely, but also would have been a textbook ADD case in the 70s if it was something people were actually aware of back then. They may have even suggested medication for me if that was an option.

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I know what he’s thinking about, and it’s not math.

I didn’t like school as a kid. Didn’t like high school, either. Could have done without college, and almost self-destructed while I was there, too. I don’t think I was challenged often, and I found most classes pedantic and uninteresting. I would have always rather been somewhere else doing something else. Though, if there was a subject or instructor that interested me, it instantly showed in my performance and grades.

“That’s not how the world works, Doug. You can’t just pick the things you like to do well in,” I was told seemingly forever. “You’re smarter than this,” I heard consistently when report cards came out. “You can do better.”

It wasn’t always that easy. Sure, I could often turn it on when I needed to get by, but rarely was I ever engaged long enough for me to really shine. It frustrated me, but mostly it wore out my poor parents and teachers.

Where was I going with this?

Oh yeah, fast forward to adulthood. I figured out in my early 30s that I had long suffered with ADD, and brought it into my adult life, too. It wasn’t hard to put it all together, once I learned enough about the disorder. You don’t have to be a clinical therapist to connect the dots with me. I’m what you would call chronic, classic ADD. Textbook. A case study, as it is.

And it isn’t something you cure, either. You either get medicated, or you learn to live with it. For me, medication was NEVER an option. Spend 15 minutes researching Adderall, Concerta, Focalin or any other of the ADD drugs, and you’ll see what I mean. Well, for me anyway. See, I make a living as a Creative Director in the design and marketing world. Creative being the key word in that title. My whole world revolves around my ability for my brain to completely spend most of the time outside of the box. To mute that with drugs, just to keep ADD at bay, isn’t something I’m interested in experimenting with, and I never will be.

So what is it that makes ADD what it is? I have heard many people say it’s a crock of shit—an excuse for the lazy or unmotivated. That’s bullshit. For me, it’s a lot of different things. Mostly it’s an inability to control my thoughts in a linear way. It’s hard to describe, but if you think of linear thoughts as a superhighway straight and parallel, my roads are a bowl of spaghetti. A better description yet, my brain is always constantly working through many thoughts and ideas at the same time. Like a lottery ball tumbler—each ball is a thought. In my head, those thoughts are violently bouncing around, waiting for one to be grabbed and consumed. The problem is, that rarely are those ping pong balls held onto very long.

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Grab one. Let it go. Repeat.

The reality of ADD is it’s not something that you can cure. You can’t get rid of it. It doesn’t go away. It’s with you every day of your life. I spend each day wrestling with focus and distractions. It’s probably why I have had 31 different cars and literally dozens of different hobbies in my life, and why they generally consume me in bright, fiery bursts of time. You would be shocked if I tried to list them all off, so I won’t. As I get older, I have learned to mostly confine them to one at a time, and have been able to keep them tempered for the most part. My wife would argue that, though.

It affects me every day. I struggle with it constantly, but there are things that help me redirect my focus. One, the iPhone has been a massive help in my life. Everything from Notes to iCal to just a simple Contact phone book list that can keep track of numbers and birthdays. Without it, I wouldn’t even be able to remember my own phone number, and that’s the truth.

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Two, and these are big factors, are the ability to control my diet, sleep and exercise. Over the last 5 years, it started to become more obvious that when I lacked sleep, ate poorly or didn’t get any exercise (or worse, more than one of those factors at the same time), my ADD increases to dangerous levels. Fold in health issues like injuries or illness, and I become a powder keg, and it has historically born disastrous results.

Sleep
I have never slept well. I have historically tossed and turned regularly, waking up a half-dozen times or more per night. I am not usually comfortable, and factors usually include temperature, room darkness, ambient noise, pillow type and other crazy contributors. Bed quality has been an issue for me for many years, but that recently changed for the better, so it’s been looking up for my recharge hours.

Diet
For my whole life, I have been thin. Like drinking straw skinny. As in, I usually can’t find clothes that fit properly. I have always eaten to survive, or consumed whatever I wanted. Food was never an issue with me. Until I realized that what I ate had a massive affect on my emotional condition. I stopped eating food that came from a drive-through many years ago and cleaned up my eating habits. It’s a noticeable difference. I can easily tell when I have been eating poorly. Removing high fructose corn syrup from a majority of my diet has helped, too. Junk food drags me down, but it’s an easy trigger and when I fall off the wagon, it’s usually with junk. When I fall, it almost always begins with a bad diet choice. I also try to stay away from caffeine if at all possible. It certainly doesn’t help any of my issues.

Exercise
I spent most of my 20s riding bikes 6 days a week and skiing every weekend. I raced cars, and generally lived a fairly active lifestyle. At some point, that disappeared and I got caught in a desk-bound career. No excuse, but it was difficult for me to stay active through my 30s. When I had kids, though, it did become more important for me to show them that it’s important to lead an active lifestyle. For me, it’s a key contributing factor to maintaining my day-to-day focus. Without it, my brain clouds quickly and I have difficulty staying sharp. I ride a bike 3-4 days a week again, and it’s important to me for many reasons. Plus, it’s nice to not get winded by a flight of stairs.

It sucks. It’s a full-time job just staying on top of ADD. And I’m not always very successful. It’s been a rough last few months for me, and it has manifested in a severe lapse in focus as of late, and my performance at the office has slipped. Creatively, I’m rock solid, but when I lose my grip, it shows almost always in the details and clerical. Lately, it’s come back to bite me in the ass, and in big ways. A wake-up call, if you will, and it will get better, but it’s aways hard to have someone remind you that you fucked up.

My biggest worry is that I have passed this complicated strand of DNA down to my kids. While it’s mostly found in boys, I do see hints of it in my daughters, sometimes more than I would care to admit. My saving grace, though, is that if I know it’s there and I can understand it because I deal with it myself, I can at least make better decisions when helping my children deal with the disorder.