Ride for Veterans

Cycling and anything that keeps the wheels turning. Marine veteran remembering the time I served as well as looking to help others.

What no one tells you about turning 21 in the Marines. (Blogapalooz-hour 4)

I have just been challenged by Hype Orlando to write about what no one tells you..

To be honest at first I had a complete brain fart as to what to write about. My first instinct was going to tell others about cycling, but nothing came to mind. Instead I’ll share from my past. I spent 8 years in the Marines and I have many many stories to share that I never do.

Japan.

When the average person talks to me about deployments they have these preconceived notions about what it must have been like. I blame this on the media or movies that is fed to the general public. They want to hear about gun fights or explosions. About all the dangerous situations that Marines go through during war. This is not one of those stories.

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The first thing I usually describe to people about Japan was that I turned 21 years old in Okinawa. I remember the first part of the night, but the rest of it was retold by my friends and pieced together later. . The night started early, as soon as we felt it appropriate we left the base and headed out into a little town called Kinville. Or as many have dubbed it, “Sinville.” This place had everything to get a young Marine into some trouble if they so decided to indulge. If you didn’t like the bar you were in you could walk another 10-15 feet and be in another one.

Entrance to Kinville.

Entrance to Kinville.

Kinville knew how Marines behaved and how to exploit them a big chunk of their paychecks. The mixed drinks like jack and coke were cheap $2.00 a glass, but the beer that we were used to drinking in the states came at around $4.00 a bottle. Didn’t take long before we all switched to the cheaper option when we went out. A handful of the bars also included girls for um company? Usually sent in from the Philippines to dance around on stage and flirt with service members to drain their wallets. Ask anyone who’s been there about the taco rice and cheese dish. A great late night snack in between drinking. Actually looking back I’m not sure if the food was fantastic or if we were just drunk off our asses and didn’t care.shots-9

Anyway back to my 21st birthday. We started out taking shots and washing them down with either jack and cokes or rum. It felt great to be able to drink and not have to worry about getting caught for underage consumption. We went from bar to bar announcing to everyone that I was now legal to get hammered. Drinks started coming from all directions. Almost like a challenge to see how plastered I could become. The night became blurry as we entered an establishment known as “East Coast.” This was usually the bar most of us went to towards the end of the evening to meet up with other Marines.

East coast bar

East coast bar

I could barely stand at this point. I went up to people I’ve never met and forced my way into their conversations. I have no idea about the topics, but it was fun. Now at this bar they had a potent mix called the “Rainbow shot.” Supposedly so strong and dangerous that it had to be taken at the bar. Trying to walk around would get you into trouble and probably thrown out. They lit the shot on fire for me and said to blow it out and drink it. I can’t recall taking the shot, but I do remember blowing out the flame. Then I time traveled and woke up the next morning in my bed.

What I don’t remember. . .I did in fact take the shot. My friends cheered me on while I made a horrible face. I turned away from the bar and went back to the table of random strangers I was talking to previously in the night. Picked up someones beer from the table and chugged it. Bad move apparently because I was stumbled the best I could to the bathrooms and began to throw up. Not sure why this bar had a shower stall in the bathroom, either way that is where I decided to project all of my stomach contents. I left the bathroom and noticed the bar was still pretty packed. I couldn’t find anyone that I recognize so I headed for the stairs. That’s right this evil bar was on the second floor so getting back to the street was a challenge. Gracefully I rolled down the stairs and back onto the sidewalk.images

I met up with a couple friends and stumbled into a wall explaining what just happened at the bar. They weren’t too interested in hearing the rest of the story. Instead they wanted that last bite to eat before heading back to base. They walked behind me as we neared the front gate of base. I kept rambling about not wanting to get in trouble with the gate guards. I could barely stand, falling off the sidewalk and playing pinball with the sides of buildings. The challenge finally presented itself. I was staring across the road at the main gate to base. I let my friends know not to go across with me so they wouldn’t get in trouble with me.

By some miracle I began with one foot in front of the other across the road appearing to be completely sober and level headed. Not sure how it happened to this day. To everyone around me including the guards, nothing seemed to be wrong with me. I could have passed a field sobriety test with flying colors. I held out my military ID and waited for them to wave me through to the other side. I did it!

Once I reached the other side of the gate and was out of view of the guards I fell into a bush. Friends of mine said it took me a couple minutes to regain my motor skills enough to walk the last quarter mile to the barracks. We lived on the fourth floor of the barracks and instead of taking the elevator my brain at the time picked the stairs. If I could find the picture taken of me that night I would share it, but its been years since I’ve seen it. I almost made it! I lay there in the hallway passed out on the floor with my hand on my room keys. My room keys were inside the lock, my body lay stretched out. Thankfully someone was nice enough to see me and finished opening the door for me so I could get into my room.

The barracks...I believe it was one of those bushes in the distance...

The barracks…I believe it was one of those bushes in the distance…

I woke up the next morning afraid to move. After the black out night I thought I would have this incredible hangover. This was not the case. I must have downed enough alcohol to skip right past the hangover stage. In the fridge was some leftover taco rice and cheese that I ate all of. I never threw up that morning and was free from any headaches. Instead i was treated to the stories of last night. My friends are a bunch of asses.

A few of the Marines that got me hammered that night.

A few of the Marines that got me hammered that night.

 

 

 

 

Getting some tail, and using my fingers.

Catching the tail wind on a brief ride tonight.

There’s nothing better than riding in the same direction as the wind. Doesn’t happen too often here in Orlando either due to luck, or the great stints of weather I end up riding in. When it does though I fully appreciate the added boost. The soundtrack to tonight’s ride brought to you by DJ Swan. Good buddy of mine and always has a great mix to pedal to. You can check out some of his tracks here.

It wasn’t a very long ride tonight, I wanted to do it more for speed and intensity to check on something my body has been doing. Too many migraines this week to ignore. I’m thinking there is a connection with my blood pressure. That or I have just been around too many other people that have been pissing me off. Both are plausible.

What the hell is the matter with people?

The-Big-Lebowski-WTF-GifThe end of July has always been a fuzzy time for me in the past. This year it’s just been filled with an abundance of inner issues. Combine that with the mini interactions I have with people, you know the ones that make one want to run head first into a brick wall.

A quick example of one of those mini interactions occurred tonight. I like to call these type of people too stupid to let their brain catch up to their own dumb. I’ll try to put that in plain English or something that makes sense. Ever watch someone do something you know is going to be wrong and at the same time you can see it on their face that they know it as well? Well in these instances these people are being stupid at such great speeds that it’s damn near impossible for them to stop the current actions.

This type of driver deserves a brick through the window.

 

Not too sure why drivers pull this maneuver, but they do constantly. Speeding past a cyclist only to slam on their brakes and cut in front of them to make a right turn. I’m thankful that I have quick enough reflexes to stop myself from slamming into the side of vehicles that do this. Wouldn’t it be much easier to wait 0.5 seconds for the cyclist to pass the road you wish to turn down?

The special person that cut me off tonight received a double dose of my erect fingers. Letting them know just how appreciative I was of their driving skills.

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Now how many of you perverts read the title of this post and assumed I was talking about a girl? For shame!

I’ve been told that water keeps you alive.

Riding around Orlando.

While out exploring the Orlando area I learned a few lessons. Mostly where NOT to ride again, that cobblestone is annoying and that there needs to be more water fountains. Granted I should have used my brain and brought some spare water with me. I only encountered the, “You came to the wrong neighborhood M-er F-er” feeling a few times.

The ride itself was pretty enjoyable for the first half. Every time I came upon a road I’ve never traveled down I choose to see where it went. In doing so I ran the risk of getting lost. Which I did, several times. As you can see in the map I had made loops around two different airports before realizing I was lost.

I hated running out of water. I had cotton mouth and was growing irritated that Orlando, which is pretty pedestrian heavy has so few places for public water. Like I said though I should have packed more water for the ride so I can’t just hate the city over it.

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Once I did find a water resupply point I filled up and drank from it like I had been stuck in the damn desert for a month. The only way to describe the feeling is to compare it to old Nintendo games when your guy was down to 2 or 3 life lines and you were sure you were going to be game over. Water at least got me back to half life and I continued on my ride.

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After the ride.

I kept craving burger king during the ride. Just to keep with the healthy habits I went with subway instead. Jared would be proud! I wonder if he’s into cycling. He doesn’t come across as one. Jerk. I also poured a cookies and creme protein shake down my throat fast enough to feel sick from it afterwards. Took about half an hour before I could feel normal again.

Just for fun my body decided to have an outstanding cramp. My left hamstring locked up and hurt like hell. I thought the muscle was going to snap and leave me auditioning for a part in the life alert commercials. I’m happy to tell you that I survived it and there were pretzels and beer waiting to reward my struggle.

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Running red lights without wearing a helmet.

Settling into a new home.

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Sorry that my posts have been few and far between lately. I recently moved to a new location within Orlando and have been working on getting everything situated. Can’t wait to get out on the bike once everything settles and explore past my previous boundaries.

Not divulging my location, but I get the pleasure now of seeing all kinds of skilled drivers around Conroy and Kirkman road. The erratic driving of tourists and pissed off Floridians is outstanding. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the the thought process of those who speed up to 50mph just to pass a car and then slam on their brakes to sit in backed up traffic. Was that one extra spot worth putting yourselves and others at risk? frabz-STUPID-DRIVERS--STUPID-DRIVERS-EVERY-WHERE-154d1f

My riding skills will definitely be put to the test while maneuvering through this part of Orlando. Even walking a couple of miles crossing the roads in this area is like playing Frogger. My first stroll out and I witnessed three separate car accidents within a half hour. Even with all the visible hazards I still watch people putting their lives at risk, especially those on bicycles.

Stupid cyclist.

Not sure the reason, but many of the people that ride bikes throughout downtown Orlando decide not to wear helmets. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I witnessed one such person on the way home from work one morning. This guy on a bike pulled out into traffic without checking his surroundings. Weaving all over the road and running a red light at a busy intersection. It’s pretty sad when someone like myself who loves cycling has to silently curse about a fellow rider.

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My new location is much closer to work so my primary rides won’t be just commuting back and forth to work anymore. I’ll have the chance to ride as a hobby and take pleasure in exploring my area. I’m very paranoid about getting hit by a vehicle in this area, but I believe with time I’ll get used to it and figure out ways to get to safer roads. Cannot wait for those 40-50+ mile rides in my future. Which I need to be doing more of, because unless I get back on the hamster wheel or curb my high intake of calories I’m going to balloon up and become a couch commander.

Excited about the road ahead.

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My life always takes twists and turns as I’ve said in my ‘about me’ section. I have a path I’m on and like many trips it’s a little foggy. I know of destinations I’ll come across and goals that come to fruition. Each day bringing me closer to what I desire in life. Just like any new ride the road will be lined with speed bumps, road blocks and unexpected pot holes. As long as I stay focused and determined I believe I can accomplish whatever I actually set my mind to. Tomorrow will be my first real ride in my new neighborhood. Hopefully I’ll make a few new cyclist friends or have some new stories to share. Stay safe out there and keep pedaling!

 

What could happen on a dark night in Florida.

Riding 100 miles on a bike isn’t exactly an easy task.

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Even for individuals that commute and ride all the time. Therefore when I choose to do a century I bring with me stuff to think about. Often times I end up coming up with thoughts I didn’t know were there or wasn’t acknowledging.

Beginning the ride was nice and smooth.

I left around 2:00am and headed for the West Orange trails. This way I could ride the majority of it out of the friendly Florida sun. The way to the trail was pretty well lit up, but not when I entered it! Aside from the light on the front of my bike I rode in complete darkness. Seeing small patches of light from nearby houses through the trees. I’ve ridden down the trail several times, but remembering every curve is something I haven’t mastered yet. That being said the ride became exciting quickly! I loved every bit of it, speeding up with my tunes cranking I was free from everything. No one knew where I was nor where I was going. Other than pulling over and taking my phone out of airplane mode to submit a picture no one had the ability to contact me. If you haven’t just unplugged from the world in a while I highly recommend it. People sometimes forget to think about themselves when the world is stuck between their thumbs. Not saying to be selfish, but if you don’t take the time to listen to yourself every once in a while you’ll end up becoming the world’s pet. I put myself in danger out on this ride and at the same time had the greatest sense of freedom.
Further down the trail I went by a few houses. Passing a group of guys that looked like they could be the dudes Will Smith described that were up to no good. I decided I wouldn’t make any trouble in their neighborhood and kept on pedaling. The trail seemed to lose some more light as I entered the next town. The danger of it started to consume me as I stood up to go faster while the fear that I could lose control increased.
The next area I came across had a well lit pedestrian bridge so I took advantage of it and snapped a picture, well a selfie. Not really sure why I needed that picture, but I hadn’t taken one yet so it seemed appropriate.  20140701-082237-30157753.jpgWhen I reached the other side of the road I passed underneath the bridged and came across a homeless man in a wheelchair. He had bags tied to the side that looked like clothes and the rest of his possessions. The night was all about unexpected adventures so I stopped to talk with him. He was semi hiding behind one of the columns and appeared shocked that I pulled over by him. He asked about my bike ride and then offered to buy me a coffee at the Dunkin Donuts across the road. I declined and thanked him for the offer. I didn’t realize it until he pointed it out but I kept looking behind me. There wasn’t a reason really, but he left me with some wise words. “No point in looking behind you, the past looks the same as the first time you went by it.” I never asked that man for his name. Didn’t ask him to explain why he was under a bridge. Appreciate the talk.
After the bridge encounter I began looking inward at my own thoughts. The trail once again went black with my light leading the path. Right into a damn cobweb. Yeah a face full of it and it crossed my lips and I flailed my arms like a little girl. Immediately thought there was a spider somewhere on my body and it’s only goal in life now was to find my skin and attack it. Thankfully this didn’t happen.

I was lost.

Literally as well as in my own mind. I found my way to an unmarked dead end road, then laughed at myself when I reached it. Something I was used to doing in my life. Not realizing I was on a path to a dead end yet still heading straight for it ignoring anything that would hint at it. No use in being pissed over it so I turned around and retraced my route. Time to find a new road. 

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I came upon a sign depicting a bike route with an arrow. I choose to ignore the suggestion, took a picture of it and continued in my own direction. I’ve spent enough of my life traveling by the direction of others, I was done. I’ll be the one at the end of this trip of life, I get to decide how to end up there.
One of the benefits of riding at night, like I always do, is it’s safer. Sounds ridiculous right? During the day people are filled with distractions in their cars either texting or talking with other passengers while having full view of everything around them. At night people are more cautious and are more likely to see my blinking lights in front of them on a dark road. What isn’t safe are rouge raccoons that think it’s hilarious to dart out in front of me then stare into my bike light. This little F——r was in my direct path and looked as if it was ready to attack my soul. At the last second he bounced back into the woods leaving me wide eyed. Later on I would realize a raccoon was the least of my worries.

I somehow made it into Mount Dora.

 

I already had traveled to the left of it. This time I made a right. No idea where I was heading and I refused to pull out my phone to look at a map. A sign up ahead gave me two options. Never been to Sanford before. 22 miles wasn’t that bad considering I was about half way into the ride. 22 miles on a quiet road, in the dark, with signs warning of bear crossings is a long road to travel. Suddenly the raccoon wasn’t looking so bad huh?20140701-082144-30104089.jpg
I could tell I was almost to Sanford by the gas stations I was coming up to. Had to take a break and fix a flat tire. Sort of essential to the whole riding a bike thing. Took advantage of the stop by stretching out and loading up on peppered beef jerky. Much needed protein for my legs later on and spicy to keep me sipping water. Flat tires can teach you a lot about yourself. How you handle unexpected situations. I call them a pause button. Obviously I was meant to stop for something, up to me to find out why. This time it was just for beef jerky. :)20140701-082125-30085235.jpg

Around mile 70 or so I read a sign for Winter Springs and Oveido.

I know from looking at maps before that those are two names I didn’t want to be anywhere near while being in the 70 mile range. I was too far out. This time I did pull out my phone to figure out which direction to pedal in at least. Headed towards Maitland.
Along the way the tire I popped started losing air pressure. The side pump I had with me wasn’t living up to it’s hype and I had no other option than to stop every 5-10 miles to pump more into it. Then my back tire decided to be cute and pickup a nail. The sun was up now and I wasn’t grateful for this flat. Once again I pulled over, changed the tube out and filled it with as much air as I could get into it. To give you an idea of what I mean my tires are supposed to have 120 PSI. After checking later I figured out I rode on two of them at about 60-70 PSI. Making it difficult to pedal, but hey I was looking for a challenge right?
I knew of a couple bike shops in the approaching area that could possibly have an external air hookup outside their stores I could utilize. Damn memory lied to me. It was still hours before these shops would open up so I pedaled on. I looked for other options as the temperature went up. I anticipated seeing another cyclist especially in the Winter Park area. Someone had to have a more efficient pump with them. Nope. My only option was to continue in the direction I was heading.20140701-082109-30069682.jpg

At mile 95 I looked down at my garmin and realized I had a very clear shot at making one of my goals for this ride.

100 miles In under 6 hours! But first let’s go ahead and stick a piece of glass through my back tire. Yeah, third flat on this trip and it happened at mile 95. In the sun, with my legs begging me to just call it a day and accept defeat from the unforgiving road pricks. 20140701-081941-29981010.jpgI popped off the back tire, looked at it and started laughing at the situation. What other option did I have? Throw a tantrum about it? I changed the tire and knew that the road ahead of me was mostly uphill. Of course it was. I was running out of time and energy, had to force myself back on the bike.
I overestimated how much time I had left to complete my goal and I realized this more and more as it came closer to 6 hours. Riding on two under inflated tires, exhausted, I had to focus. Kept repeating the mantra, “shut up legs” over and over under my breath.

Mile 97 just three more to go.

Shooting pains were slicing into the sides of my legs and I don’t want to begin to describe what sitting on a rock hard seat will do to your butt after hours of hard pedaling. Mile 98, the tenths of a mile seemed to be taking forever to change on the garmin display now. 6 hours was my goal and I wasn’t going to hold myself back from achieving it! I was done setting limitations on myself, I was going to complete this strong and carry that attitude with me off the bike. Mile 99, just one more to go and under 5 minutes to get there! I finally started seeing other cyclists as I passed the West Orange trail. I refused to stop. I didn’t need them anymore. I traveled this far, dealt with a hard second half and I wasn’t going to give up. My tires were losing air about the same pace as my legs were losing strength. Mile 95.5 I stopped listening to the pain and decided it was time to break my record. I rode into Winter Garden with sweat dripping off my lips. One destination on my mind, 100 miles. 5:58:48 was my time.20140701-081914-29954406.jpg
I slammed on my breaks took out my phone and proudly took a picture of what I had done. A mile back in the other direction was a bike shop and I needed to get some real air into my tires. One small issue with my finish line is that it was still 7 miles from where I live. My body had just informed me it was time to stop. I coasted and basked in the day for the last few miles. One hell of a trip.