I’m changing Juan Sebastian’s handlebars

When: January 15 , 2022 | Where: Santa Clarita, California
Miles Cycled: 349 | Days on the Road: 26

I named my bike Juan Sebastian, after Juan Sebastian Elcano, the Basque man who captained the first ship to circumnavigate the planet, as it returned to Spain nearly 3 years after it left with 4 sister ships, and a different captain, whose name is better remembered: Ferdinand Magellan.

Magellan had been killed in the Philippines more than a year earlier, when he got involved in a war between rival local tribes. He never saw the Indian Ocean.  And, it’s likely that he never intended to complete the circumnavigation in the first place, as the expedition was only supposed to find an alternate route to the Spice Islands.

In any case, it seems like an historical injustice that Elcano, who was convicted of mutiny earlier in the expedition and stripped of his rank by Magellan, has been forgotten by most.  He, and the other 17 men from the original 270 who returned to Spain with him, accomplished what was probably the greatest navigational feat in the history of sailing.

Like Elcano — because, if I make it to the Atlantic, my name should be equally anonymous — I’ve had to make adjustments as I’ve traveled.  He dealt with fallen masts, torn mainsails, scurvy, hostile islanders, cyclones and the rival Portuguese… I’ve got super sore wrists from a handlebar set up that wasn’t made for my body.

A few days ago, shopping for parts in Ventura, in an attempt to simply raise the drop bars that Juan Sebastian came with, I realized that there isn’t actually any height at which these bars are going to be comfortable.  They’re too narrow, the brakes and shifters are in a spot that’s not natural for my hands, and there’s really only one place I can put my hands. 

So, I made the decision to go big, and replace the drop bars with with the Jones Loop H Bar.  It’s a drastic change, and I think it will have a major impact on my ride comfort.  Super wide, with all sorts of different places to put not only my hands, but extra gear, it will allow me to ride in a more upright position, which has been impossible with the drops.

It turns out not to be easy to swap out handlebars in the middle of an expedition. In addition to changing the handlebars themselves, you have to get different shifters that accommodate the different style of bar, and also work with your derailleurs. You also need different brake levers. 

And, you need someone to do the work who’s good, because this is easy to screw up.  And, you need to get that person the parts.  And, you need that to happen far enough in the future to allow the person to schedule you, and the parts to get there… and you need to figure out where to stay while someone has your primary mode of transportation in the middle of a COVID case surge.

Ultimately, that all took an entire day (not counting the 4 bike shops I visited in Carpinteria and Ventura trying to see if it was better to raise the drops).  I’ve got parts on the way to the Best Western across the street from Joel’s Bicycle Shop in Thousand Palms. Everything, including me, should hopefully get there by the 20th.

So, another 5 days and maybe 150 miles with the drops, and if I didn’t screw anything up, J.S. will have a drastically new look and interface in about a week.

Off to an RV on the shores of the dried-up Santa Clara River tonight (AirBNB).  Just 7 miles away.  There’s been brutal wind in the wrong direction here, and it’s not supposed to let up until tomorrow. 

Ramble Update – Lompoc, California

Ramble Day 20. Miles cycled: 209

Very quick update after 2 nights in Lompoc. Mostly to express some optimism. The ride from Arroyo Grande to Santa Maria was a bit of a grind. There wasn’t supposed to be headwind, but there was, and Ride with GPS sent me into another “Road Closed” sign, which caused me to have to add a couple miles near the end, when I was already tired.

Based on that, I was concerned about the ride from Santa Maria to Lompoc, which I could see had a couple of hills that are daunting for me… if not to the average rider.

When I actually got to them, I was feeling in pretty good shape. After stopping twice early on the first climb, I got a rhythm going and didn’t stop again until getting to the top.

I was a bit fatigued by the time I got to the second one, and stopped 6 times… it is a bigger hill. But, either of these was equal in elevation gain to what felt like an absolute wall between Atascadero and Morro Bay, and I managed both in probably less time than the one took me nearly a week earlier.

I got to the top of the second one, and actually said to myself that I felt “powerful.”

A longish climb tomorrow of about 1000 feet in 15 miles or so. That’s gradual enough that I’m hopeful it’ll just be a matter of slow and steady. If that proves to be manageable, it’ll give me a lot of hope for the road between Santa Clarita and Palmdale next week.

Sorry for the dry update. I’ve been messing around with organizational stuff all day, and ran out of time for a more thoughtful update.


Ramble Update – Arroyo Grande, California

Ramble Day 16. Miles cycled: 153

Coming to the end of my third night in Arroyo Grande. New Year’s Day and the following day were my first back-to-back days riding.  It was clear I needed a recovery day when I got into Arroyo, and after checking in, and looking at the state of “Lemuel’s Ramble” and other things, I decided to take two of them to catch up on other things.

The ride on New Year’s Day was a challenge.  There was about a 500 foot climb over a mile and a half within the first 5 miles of the ride.  The shoulder of the road was super narrow in spots, and the traffic was moderately heavy (or seemed so).  The need to generate enough speed not to swerve when cars were passing was exhausting for me on the steepest grades.  I stopped at least 10 times over that 1.5 miles.

But, I figured, a couple hundred yards at a time if necessary.  I knew it was pretty smooth sailing on the other side of the mountain… which it was.  Just about all downhill from the summit to Morro Bay. I got in with about an hour of daylight to spare for my first night in the tent.

I’d put off camping several times due to weather and/or lack of campgrounds.  When I got to Morro Bay State Park Campground, I couldn’t have picked a better night for the first time. 

I rolled up to the kiosk, and was given a bike-in space with no problem. The weather was beautiful (if a bit cold). I took my time setting up camp.  The tent was easy to pitch.  The Exped mattress had an issue with the one way inflation valve… but thankfully, there are two separate chambers, and only one side had the issue.

At any rate, I set camp up with relatively little pain, and was happy to find Door Dashers around to bring me some Taco Bell. The previous campers had left wood, so I lit a fire and sat there for a while before retiring early.

Sleep wasn’t fabulous. The pad and down quilt kept everything warm, but my hand, which I always sleep with outstretched (sleeping on my side), was freezing, and kept waking me up. Various efforts to keep it warm mainly led to different forms of discomfort. I haven’t been a tent camper for some time.  It’s going to take some getting used to.

I’d anticipated an easy 26.2 (an unplanned marathon) mile, relatively flat ride the following day.  In truth, I wouldn’t say it was insanely hard, but it was definitely more of a slog than I’d imagined it would be. A moderate headwind for much of it didn’t help, and “relatively flat” was fairly hilly for someone in my condition.  Tack on the fact that it was the second leg of my first back-to-back days, and very little sleep… about 7 miles from the hotel, I was on fumes.  Thankfully, it was a beautiful day, and the views from the bluff over Avila and Pismo beaches made the final few miles bearable.

The knees are holding up.  They aren’t great, and it’s still as painful to walk as it was before I left.  But the cycling doesn’t seem to be affecting them much one way or the other.  So, I’m going to go for 3 days in a row starting tomorrow with a short, 20 mile ride to Santa Maria.  Hoping to make Santa Barbara by the night of the 7th.

Stay tuned…

So I bought a bicycle in the fall and I resolved to pedal it to the other coast  

For now though… this intro.  I need to tape my knees and get the bike packed. 

Ramble Day 13. Miles cycled: 104

Welcome to Lemuel’s Ramble. I’m going to approach this in an untraditional way.

I have ADHD. I’d debated what aspect of myself to lead with, because there are other things about me that are important for me to convey.  But ADHD kept jumping to the forefront. 

Until fairly recently, I’d looked at my ADHD as just that: an aspect.  Something I deal with, but try to work around. But I’ve come to understand that, in discounting it that way, I’ve done myself a disservice.

ADHD is a fundamental difference in the structure of my thinking. It is most disruptive when I’m trying to work within frameworks that were developed by neurotypical people for neurotypical thought structures.

My creative mind doesn’t work linearly. When I create, it looks more like a jigsaw puzzle in progress. The frame is generally formed first, perhaps with little clusters of like thoughts/pieces merged together during that process. Then, ideas/pieces get built out as associations between them are discovered in multiple clusters that eventually merge with other clusters, and ultimately form a cohesive whole.

It’s often difficult to see the end result with a jigsaw if you don’t use the box top as your guide.  The way my mind works is like that too.  As when doing a jigsaw, I only have a rough idea of what the result will be.  With a jigsaw, I look at the box top before starting, and then don’t look at it again.  In creating, I have an image in my mind of how something will look when it’s finished, but the details are blurry and jumbled.

I’ve put off serious writing for many years because I always saw the process as yet another obstacle to conquer.  A way of doing things that I was going to have to force myself to adopt, because that’s just the way it’s done.

That obstacle is so formidable to me, I finally came face to face with the reality that I might never be up to the challenge of it.

So, rather than work on yet another weakness, I’m going to play to a strength. The times when I’ve been most successful in life have been the times when I’ve done things in ways that made sense to me and made other people scratch their heads. I’ll make what I make here in a way that makes sense to me. 

I’ll write a bit on this, and a bit on that… as it comes to me.  Hopefully, the individual bits will be worth your time on their own, and even more hopefully, there will be some bigger payoff as a bigger picture forms from those pieces.

My Ramble

Another aspect of me, at the moment, is that I’m fat.  Unlike ADHD, being fat is not something that is part and parcel of who I am. It is a burden I’m carrying.  A burden I need to unload if I hope to survive into my 60s (I’m in my early 50s now).

So, I bought a bicycle in the fall, and I resolved to pedal it to the other coast.  After a series of delays and setbacks that I’ll detail another time, I dipped my rear tire into the Pacific on December 20th at Moss Landing, California, and have been traveling since then.  It’s been slow going for a variety of reasons, but I am making progress.  I’m departing Atascadero, California in a couple of hours, and hoping for an easy 20 mile pedal to Morro Bay, where I’m planning to break out the camping gear for the first time. 

At any rate, while I build whatever it is I’m building here, the Ramble will be a unifying theme.  My goal is to post regular updates on where I am both in time and space and mentally/emotionally/spiritually.  I also plan to post videos to a YouTube channel.

I don’t think I’ll ever be that person or believe in that world again

Around Thanksgiving, Michelle terminated our friendship.

As I was preparing for Departure on December 17th, I heard from her. Saying that nothing between us would change, she offered to visit my campsite for another goodbye. I asked her to confirm whether, by “nothing could change,” she meant that we would continue to not be friends, and to not have contact with each other. She confirmed. My reply:

If we are to continue not being friends, Michelle, then I’m going to pass on seeing you. I also miss your companionship greatly, so tonight would only be a reminder of the place I am no longer welcome.

I want you to know, Michelle, that I love you deeply. I always will. And, as I’ve said previously, things you’ve done or haven’t done don’t have any effect on that truth. It isn’t something about which I have a choice. It just is.

You made me promise things on many occasions related to never abandoning Stephen or you… or leaving you hung out to dry… or whatever way it was phrased on a given occasion. That, whatever became of us as a couple, you would always have my friendship.

Asking someone to promise those things comes with an implied commitment to the same on your behalf. I never fathomed that, having made my solemn commitments to you, you would one day walk away from the side of those commitments that were yours to honor. The pain of discovering that I was wrong is equal to or surpasses any pain I’ve experienced in my life.

A word about what I gave. Not to remind you… I beg you not to take it that way… but to give you some understanding of where my heart is. For many years, I failed to live up to so much of what ideals I set for myself. Getting sober and getting treatment for my ADHD offered me a chance to do better.

While it was easy to be so giving as your partner, it became less so as our relationship was strained. Continuing to honor the commitments I’d made, and continuing to give fully and selflessly to you… and to Stephen… I was realizing myself as the person I always envisioned myself to be. I was doing the thing I knew with complete certainty was right, and I was deserving of a place in what I always understood to be the “good world.” That good world, as I believed it to be and difficult as it often was… made sense to me.

Having found that place… a place where I seemed to belong and where good made sense… well, my belief in all of that was shattered when you severed our friendship. I’ll survive; I don’t think I’ll ever be that person or believe in that world again.

I believed so strongly that you make and honor commitments… that you are loyal to those you love… that, while the world around us might fall apart… that those to whom you give these things will stand by you in kind.

I was wrong, and I set off now as a man without conviction about much of anything. I have a vague notion that I might find something new to believe in… but just as much conviction that the cynics and mercenaries are the true inheritors of good things in this world. I don’t have any real hope of finding much good, except maybe a career writing about all of it.

I leave now more because I can’t bear to be here any more than because of anything I hope to discover trapsing around in the wilderness.

I hope you will change your mind about my friendship one day, Michelle. If you ever do, I won’t turn you away. I hope I’ll still be someone you would want as a friend at that point.

It’s a way to tell you that they love you in a way that you will always remember.

Merry Christmas Stephen.

I know that you value keepsakes. I do too. That’s something you and I have in common.

For me, keepsakes give me a connection to good memories. Something I can look at and touch now to help me remember and to feel what it was like to be in a place, or to be doing something I enjoyed… or most importantly, to remind me of people who are or were important to me.

Keepsakes have a special value when someone gives a keepsake of their own to someone else. When someone has a keepsake that is important to them, and they give it to you, it’s a way for them to connect to you in a very personal and lasting way.

It’s a way to tell you that they love you in a way that you will always remember.

Every time you see or touch that keepsake, it should be a reminder that the person who gave it to you loves you.

You have always shown a lot of interest in my fishing lures. We talked about them last summer, and I told you that they were one of my most important keepsakes. My grandfather gave me many of the lures. My dad gave me most of the others. They gave them to me when I was about your age.

It was a way for them connect to me by sharing their love of fishing with me through the lures. When I fished with these lures, a part of me always remembered that my dad and grandfather loved me.

I’m not a kid now, and I’ve only used the lures a couple of times in the last 20 years. I’m giving my lures to you now for two reasons.

Firstly, I know you will use them. These lures were meant to be used. It was always when I was fishing with them that I felt the connection to my dad and grandfather the most.

Sitting on a shelf in the closet now, I rarely even see them to remind me. But every time I see you fishing with them, or hear about you fishing with them, or see a photo or video of you fishing with them… it will remind me of the connection I shared with my dad and grandfather…

… and that I now share with you.

I also know that giving them to a special kid in my life, who will use them to become a better fisherman is exactly what my grandfather would have wanted… and I know it will make my dad happy as well.

Secondly, and more importantly, Stephen, I’m giving these to you because you are very important to me, and I want you to always know that I love you.

Whether I’m with you or I’m far away, and no matter how much time passes between talking to or seeing each other, I want you to always know and remember that. Let these lures, that are so important to me, be your reminder.  I hope you will keep them for a very long time.


What do you worry about?

What do you worry about?

Good question.

Safety. I’ll be alone. I have mace being delivered at some point today. I just received my Road ID bracelet that paramedics can use for contacts and to access medical information on me should I have a serious accident or other medical emergency and be unable to communicate. I’ll be keeping in close touch with a handful of people so that, if something happens, someone knows at least approximately where I was when I was last seen/heard from.

Failing. I’m very worried my knees aren’t going to be up to the task. I’ve worked my PT hard, and I believe I should be okay… but getting unexpectedly sidelined for 6 weeks has me gun-shy. My concern about my health is bordering on “terrified” these days. I don’t know that I’m necessarily terrified to die; I’m terrified to die alone… and without having lived up to my expectations for my life. The number on the scale yesterday was really frightening.

Loneliness. That’s a bigger fear than just this trip. In a lot of ways, I couldn’t be any lonelier than I feel these days… I’m actually hoping that the trip, the blog/social media stuff I’ll be doing, and time to reconnect with friends… I’m hoping that the trip actually helps on that front. But, it’s a fear I always have.