Imogene Pass – What I Carried

I know it’s taken me a while to finish this story…it’s taken a while to work through much in my life that’s happened, so I’ll pick up where I left off.

July 9th, 2022 Joe and I camped on public land just outside of Silverton Colorado at a public campsite along a stream.

We were 2 weeks in to our adventure and on the morning of July 9th, I honestly was getting worn out. We had ridden out of the desert in Utah (a story all it’s own) and then put a half day of pavement to get to Colorado to come over Ophir Pass on the HARD Ouray side. The day before that, Joe and I had done Shafer’s Trail on the inside face of The Canyonlands where I thought I was going to die. ‘Going to die’ close calls were not around EVERY corner, but there were a few. Cliffs, trucks backing out of blind curves, rocks in the wrong spots.…I could have counted the times but that’s not what these trips are for.

On that morning I looked at my motorcycle tire on the bike and knew I needed to finally change it with the brand new tire I had been carrying with me the entire trip. Unfortunately that would require some time off from riding. I didn’t want to do that until I absolutely had to.

As worn as my tire was, my mind was worn too.

2 weeks of on and off-road riding, camping in a tent, and almost falling off the edge of the world were taking a toll on me. I felt it, I knew it, and I told Joe I was going to take the morning off, change the tire at our current campsite, and rest while he went riding for the day.

But I didn’t…

We packed up and decided to ride the “Million Dollar Highway” into Ouray. It’s a beautiful paved windy road that cuts through the mountains with breath taking scenery…in the morning air, high up as we were, it was a cool, crisp, sweet feel that morning. Joe and I talked on our headsets and as we approached Ouray where I said I was going to stop and spend the day changing my tire and walk around the hip little town.

But I didn’t.

I thought I would follow Joe for a while so we turned off the road, did some off-road trails and ‘minor’ passes. We stopped at an old abandoned structure and messed with our bikes for a minute, had a quick snack and a drink of water, and headed over to Imogene Pass. I thought it would be like all the other passes we had done, coming down the easy side of the pass to Telluride stopping to enjoy lunch.

But I wouldn’t.

Imogene Pass had a reputation as a pretty hard pass for big bikes as far as Colorado goes, or anywhere for that matter. I had watched a GoPro video of an adventure rider going over it and I really didn’t see the big deal…but videos are deceiving and it’s hard to get a real understanding of what riding a large bike loaded with gear feels like until you’re there.

At the base of the pass, the 4 wheel drive trail was pretty gnarly but fun. The path cuts in and out of deep puddles and rock beds and peculiar obstacles, and paying attention to every detail was pretty serious business. We passed an older mountain biker on some of the steep inclines only to have him catch back up to us a couple times as we stopped from time to time to pick our routes around/over/through things.

The ascend turns steep quickly as you get above the tree line…going up the high pitch inclines with loose ‘baby heads’ everywhere. Baby heads are rocks that are roughly the size of…you guessed it…baby heads. The rocks are loose and bigger in size making it hard to go over in a straight line on level ground, but put them all over the steep trail up and your route is ‘difficult’ to say the least. It’s physically taxing to control your ride, keep up your speed, and keep your bouncing 550 pound bike on the path.

As we’re getting toward the top, we can see the ridge line and I thought it would get easier.

It did not.

We come to a place where the climb isn’t so steep but there’s a ‘step’ ahead of us. Joe’s first and I’m following. The path splits around a big group of rocks in the middle. Joe takes the right side that climbs steeply, his tires spitting rocks out trying to maintain momentum and control. I look at the trail, and determine to the left seems a little more gentle and decide to take it.

Rounding the rock formation, I come face to face with the steepest loose rock hill I have probably ever tried to climb…it’s about a 45 degree climb of 15 feet. I knew I was screwed, but gave my bike all the gas it could take in as it struggled with the low oxygen altitude. I got about halfway up before gravity sucked the momentum out of my ride and we both fell over and slid back to the bottom.

I was frustrated and quite honestly a little pissed off. A guy in a side by side stopped to help me right my bike and I tried fruitlessly to ride the rock wall again with another failed attempt. My bike on the ground, I was alone as the Good Samaritan had left not wanting anything to do with my next attempt…I stood for a minute to catch my breath.

Half exhausted, the bike laying on the ground, I dragged the front tire over to point it back down the hill because I knew I needed to go back down to the last plateau and take another run at it following Joe’s path.

By this time I’m fatigued, out of breath, and a little angry as Joe’s head pops out at the top of my impossible rock climb.

“Whatcha doing?” He says with a smile on his face.

He was amused. I was not amused, I was frustrated.

We talk for a minute or two as I wonder if getting to the top of Imogene is worth it…but Joe points to the ridge line… we can “SEE the top of the pass…it’s right there” he says and points about 1000 yards from where we are.

There is another reason to finish this twisted trail up to the top. Once we get to the top, the downhill trail on the other side to Telluride is supposed to be very easy. So, to start down from this point could be real pain, as compared to the easy route that was just 1000 yards away.

I get on my bike, ride down the steep embankment to a flat spot where I can get turned around and point my bike back up the hill and give it hell…going RIGHT around the rock formation this time, barreling past Joe and continue the last 1000 yards to the peak, I felt victorious against the mountain and smiled at the top.

The peak of Imogene pass is pretty spectacular. Lots of rock and some snow still to be seen in July. Not much green, not much living up there…the air is thin and crisp, a bit nippy compared to the base temperature. The only signs of civilization are a couple 4×4 vehicles up there with their passengers, and a view of the mountain ridges around us.

At the flat spot where we take a minute, my heart skips a beat and my smile fades as there is a sign and barricade on the trail going down to Telluride that says “Road Closed”…our easy way down is not an option.

I get a sinking feeling.

Resting at the top, we get off our bikes and take a minute. There’s a few others up here taking in the peak…a couple in a Cherokee and a realtor from Phoenix in a Wrangler.

Of course there’s another realtor up here I thought! We shoot the shit for a few minutes about ‘the business’… but weighing on me is the descent off this beast of a trail. After 15 minutes, I’m ready to make my way down…acutely aware that my balding back tire should have been changed with the brand new one I was carrying.

When you’re going uphill, if you make a mistake on the bike, you pull in the clutch and grab the front brake and the bike comes to a complete stop VERY quickly because gravity is working with you to stop.

However…when going downhill, gravity works against you and it’s harder to stop. The more weight you carry, the harder it is.

We start down, Joe in the lead.

There are several ‘drops’ where the trail is steep and then levels off. You try to control your slide on the drop and then bring yourself to a stop on the level as you study the next drop.

We come to this rock formation and Joe goes right and it’s a STEEP drop off…and I wait at the top for him to clear the 20 foot steep section and get to the edge of the next drop.

(In hindsight, Joe says this the the exact spot I couldn’t get up on my way up…we needed to go left to the less challenging route, but we went right)

I start down the steep section with barely any movement but the bike starts to pick up speed immediately. I pump the brakes trying to crawl down it but instead of slowing the bike starts to speed up in its slide and I realize that gravity is now in control. I am along for the ride.

In the millisecond the bike starts to take off I realize I have to get the bike to stop or 1 of 2 things was going to happen. 1- I was going to run into Joe, or 2- I was going to slide off the trail into the rocks.

When something like this happens, your mind does what it does…not like you get to think about your options. I instinctively put the bike into a sideways slide down the hill…back tire to the right, front to the left. In this action I thought to myself to ride the bike down the slide instead of falling/jumping/stepping off to try to control it and keep it on the trail.

What ended up happening was that my left ankle rolled and then slid under the bike as it fell. The left crash bar ended up landing on my leg just above my ankle with a good portion of the bike weight on my lower leg. Still sliding down the embankment, the weight of the bike hammers my leg trapped between the crash-bar and the rocky trail.

Adrenaline kicked in immediately as the pain shot through my body and the bike came to rest. I tried to stand but my leg was trapped under the bike. I pulled, thinking my foot would slide out but the bike’s weight was on the boot kept me pinned.

“I’m down…and need help.” I say to Joe through the headset.

Joe ran back and helped me get the bike off my leg. I can’t put my weight on it. A dread falls on me.

I’m hurt
I’m hurt at the top of a 4 wheel drive mountain pass in Colorado.
…and this is bad in a LOT of ways.

Just as all this was happening…do you remember the older mountain biker that we passed?! He just so happened to be right there when it happened… running up he explains he’s some kind of wilderness EMT and started checking me out.

The next short period of time, he examined my already swelling ankle and leg. He didn’t think it was broken but it also wasn’t ok because I couldn’t walk on it. I shouldn’t/couldn’t ride the rest of the way down…Joe didn’t WANT to ride my bike down…and we all thought that I needed to get to an emergency room to see what kind of damage was done.

The REMAX agent from Phoenix with the Rubicon Jeep was on his way down and just happened to catch us at this time. He didn’t give it a second thought as he got me strapped into his jeep with my wallet and a quick change of clothes to head to the bottom. We pulled the key out of the ignition on my bike and left it on the kickstand on the side of the trail where she would sit by herself all night.

In the Jeep, on the way down, I felt more helpless than I’ve maybe ever felt in my life. My adventure was over, I was injured, and I had no idea on how to get my bike down from the top of the mountain, let alone get it back to Cincinnati.

It was a long painful ride down to the bottom.

Once in Ouray, my swelling and turning purple foot and ankle were examined by an EMT and then taken 45 miles north to a Montrose Urgent Care where they informed me my fibula was fractured along with the badly sprained ankle. They put me in a medical boot, gave me crutches and said see a doctor when I got back home, ‘good luck’.

I spent the next hour in the waiting area talking to people who worked at the urgent care who said to be careful where I went to spend the night. That night I got a hotel room and worked with Joe over the phone to get a plan together.

It was an awful night, but things came together slowly.

Joe found a 4×4 company owner who would ride my bike down first thing tomorrow while I found a transport to get back to Ouray in the morning to meet at the 4×4 company.

Arriving in Ouray that morning, I went to the shop and waited for them to bring my bike down. The owner had his buddy drive him up in a Can Am, unload my gear into the Can Am, and he rode it down. They finally showed and he was laughing. “That’s a HEAVY bike! Even WITHOUT all those bags it was not easy to control!”. He was a funny guy who loved riding motorcycles…but SMALLER ones.

With my bike down off the mountain, I could breathe a little easier.

As the timing turns out, we were at the tail end of our second leg of our journey and Joe and I were supposed to meet up with a group that was coming in to do some Wyoming riding…and their trailer was parked at the Cody, Wyoming airport, about 4 hours north.

After speaking with AAA, the way I saw it, I could pay them thousands to tow myself and my bike 4 hours north to meet the trailer and drop it off…or I could stuff my throbbing injured leg into my boot and ride it to meet the trailer.

To play it safe and do the ‘reasonable’ thing was to let AAA take me and the bike.

So, I made the decision that any reasonable man would do in this situation…I wanted to finish this ride, this adventure, on my terms.

So I stuffed my black and blue foot into the boot, leaving between TORRENTIAL rain storms, and headed out of Ouray down into the desert on a highway where a massive weather front chased me for the next 3 hours with high winds and temps that would be 90 one minute, 50 the next.

It was a somber ride, but I made it to the Cody, Wyoming airport, handed off my bike, and caught a flight home.

Hurting and limping (literally) home from my mountaintop (crash) experience (literally) I got back to my house and life. I came off of my adventure high to home, submerged in a numbing depression. The failed extended adventure/sabbatical, the damaged body, and now home to face the loss of a serious relationship that ended a couple months before leaving.

Several months later, my leg and heart were still both slow in healing.

4 months later I woke at 2:30 in the morning with some thoughts rolling around my head that would not stop and I decided to pay attention to them.

I kept coming back to the ‘weight’ I was carrying and the brand new tire that I had not changed. Changing my tire would have made a big difference, but what really hit home was the extra things I carried.
1 brand new spare tire: 15 pounds
2 extra super heavy tire tubes: 6 pounds
A heavy 3 man tent. The additional weight of about 5 pounds
1 full gallon of water (along with a Nalgene) : 7.5 pounds
1 quart of oil: almost 2 pounds
Heavy duty Klim jacket: 6 pounds
Teak camping table: 2 pounds
Full tanks of gas: additional 2-3 gallons at 6 lbs per gallon…potentially 12-18 lbs

The extra things I carried…I estimate just shy of 50 lbs ON THE LIGHT side of the extra weight.

Joe and i had spent a significant amount of time going over potential gear, parts, and camping supplies with the possibility of being out there a month. I had packed, eliminated gear, re-packed and packed again with regards to SPACE.

The bikes and saddle bags we carry have ‘lots’ of space. I could pack a lot of gear and even had some ‘luxury’ items like a small table, compact cot, and extra cooking fuel. When I was on smooth level road, whether asphalt or packed gravel, weight is not a concern. I’ve got a big strong bike, the extra weight is negligible…as long as the road isn’t difficult.


When it came to the extreme scenario…the extra weight that I carried is the difference between me controlling the bike… and gravity controlling the bike.

On this particular mountain pass, coming down, I had a gravity problem that my level of skill could not fix.

I had roughly a 500 pound motorcycle with about 70 pounds of gear and 225 pounds of me. The embankment with loose rocks and gravity trumped my ability to control it.

I had packed for ‘space’ and not ‘weight’ and it made all the difference.

In the dark hours of that morning, working through the extra weight, God also spoke to me about the relationship that had ended.

When our relationship was on level ground…I didn’t worry about the extra weight that we carried. It was insignificant to both of us. But when the road became an off level off-road trail…that extra weight made things tricky…but with a little extra effort and skill, we could keep things righted…most of the time.

But on my adventure trip, just like in relationships, when the conditions became extreme…the ‘extra weight’ was too much.

The things we carried were ego and expectations
The things we carried for ‘comfort’ or ‘control’
The things we carried from our childhood
The wounds from past relationships

We can and do carry weight for others…but the extra weight in those critical moments where self awareness is absolutely essential because it’s the difference between ‘make’ and ‘break’.

The fractured fibula did not heal properly and I had surgery a few weeks ago where the surgeon re-scars the fracture and then stabilizes the break with a plate and screws. Weeks following the surgery, new X-rays showed the bone is finally healing properly this time.

The heart is a little trickier…there are no plates and screws…only time, love, and acceptance…forgiveness.

I can say now, many months later…our hearts found some healing by unpacking and talking through some of our hurts…coming to peace with the pieces, working through what happens next.

You can carry a LOT of things when the road is easy…but the road to adventure life are not always easy, not always straight, not always predictable. Whether it’s life or trail, the things you carry can be life and death.

Leave behind luxury, egos, and jettison the extra weight when the trail gets tough.

Check your maps but correct for weather, attitude, and altitude.

…make sure the road down the easy side is open before you start up the hard side.

(ZERO) Lives Remaining: Shafer’s Trail

I’m sorry if you’re getting tired of my ‘adventure biking’ adventures, it’s just where I’m so far out of my comfort zone that things affect me in new ways…wake me up from the mundane and normal life that I live.

But, this is another story about, yes:
1) adventure biking
2) I did something questionable (stupid)
3) and where I thought I JUST might die

(Mom don’t read this one)

Joe and I were about 1-1/2 weeks into our journey. We went through Montana, Idaho, and were currently in Utah. It would only be a few more days that I would have my accident that fractured my fibula and turned my ankle…but it was zero days before I would do something stupid.

I had been wrestling with the thoughts that God was telling me that I was holding onto life too much, needing to trust Him in the ride. I decided to take Him up on the this and lean out over the edge a little bit. I was (un?)intentionally about to put that to the test.

Joe and I traveled through the desert and rock canyons in Utah at a temperature that was nearing 100. Traveling through the desert and red rock canyons moving towards Moab, the off-road Mecca for ATVs, dirt bikes, rock crawlers and the like we went through areas of heavy deep sand, the slickest mud I have ever encountered, and gullies with deep sludge that sucked our bikes deep into a mess….and the challenge was fun, but taxing. At one point of a long trail through muck and deep sand and a few bike dumps, we came within site of the highway only to have a 75 ft wide mud slide mess stand between us and the highway. It was a struggle, but we got on the other side of it as the heat of the day took it’s toll.

Once out of the muck, we struck pavement headed to Moab area.

As we approached Moab, we had to be deliberate as the parks were crowded and access was limited. We also wanted to spend as little time as possible on the pavement.

Of the Arches, Canyon Lands, and Moab, we started with Canyonlands. Canyonlands is near the Grand Canyon, and has much of what the Grand Canyon offers with less people, and maybe a little less depth…but it’s a close second in my opinion…the beauty (I think) is more captivating .

Joe and I ride slab (pavement) into the park, ride around and look at the spectacular views, and stop for water at one of the rest stops. It’s hot enough to soak everything you’re wearing, start riding down the road in the heat, only to be dry 30 minutes later.

Having stopped at several of the overlooks, Joe and I are talking about routes, where we want to end up today, sleep at what park or hotel…and we’re looking at the routes to the town Moab from where we were.

We COULD take slab back out to the highway, go down a ways and eventually end up at Moab…
Joe says, do you see this little line here? This line is on the inside of the canyon and winds down to a road that takes us on a shortcut to Moab. It’s called Shafer Trail.

“Wait, what?” I ask. As we stand at a viewing station, I walk a little closer to the edge, peering down at the tiny road that seems cut into the cliff.

Yeah, as we’re looking at this canyon in front of us…there’s this little rocky, steep, four wheel drive path that rides along the edge, like RIGHT ON THE EDGE of a cliff with big drops.

Joe was excited whereas my fear of heights makes me nervous just thinking about it.

I thought for a minute and asked God, can I trust you in this? Can I lean out over this cliff and be ok?

I didn’t get a ‘DON’T DO THAT’ feeling…and so… I guess I’m doing it.

We follow pavement to the turn off and start down the gravel road. It’s easy going and we head towards the canyon. Joe starts out ahead of me…we both knew he would be faster than I in doing it, so it made zero sense for him to be behind me. He’d be frustrated and I’d feel pushed. We hit it and he takes off.

As we start in, it’s a gradual drop, winding to the right of the canyon. The trail gets closer and closer to the edge as a buffer zone between the road and the cliff shrinks. As the buffer shrinks, my grip on the handlebars tightens and my mouth goes dry and my body sweats.

As I travel down the path, the buffer zone goes to only a few feet…and I’m feeling the adrenaline and my heart pounding out of my chest.

Picture this: I’m riding on a rocky 4 wheel drive path that is about 1-1/2 lanes wide with 2 clear tire tracks. I’m going ‘right’ along the canyon rim, in the right tire track. To the right side of this trail is a sheer cliff going straight up. I’m in the right tire track and then there’s the left tire track..and to the left of that could be as much as 10-15 feet…but as little in some places of just a COUPLE of feet.

(Like a ‘couple being 2 to 3 feet and then the edge of the world…the edge of eternity…the end of my life)

In some place there’s a straight drop off cliff that is several hundred feet.

Did I mention I’m not fond of heights?

I’m riding…on a rocky trail with no guard rails…with a straight drop off cliff 10 feet from me…a drop off of hundreds, maybe thousands of feet.
I’m getting anxious just thinking about it now sitting in Ohio.

We have comms with mics in our helmets to talk to each other. Joe’s on the comms and he’s excited and hyper with the rush of someone who’s EXCITED by this ride. It’s exhilarating for him and he’s LOVING it.

I’m not loving it. At one point, all I can think, all I can say is “STOP!”

I’m asking him to stop talking because I cannot get the overwhelming terrifying anxious thoughts of going over the edge out of my head. I have stepped into a ride of my worst fear…heights.

The steepness increases and I approach a switchback. A switchback is a steep section where the trail changes direction 180 degrees from it’s current path. So you need to ride your bike and do a complete turn around on the path, where, just for a few seconds, your path is towards the edge of the cliff.

I’m shaking as I make the turn, gripping the handlebars with a death grip.…the trail forward now is to the left down the edge of the canyon, making it’s way lower and winding around the edge.

You would think I would start to settle in, having a little confidence.

I did not.

I approached the next switchback and it was equally terrifying.

To the left of me, there was some kind of runoff rut for water. If you went too close to it, you could slip into it and wipe out…so you had to stay squarely in the left rut. To the right of me, there was a drop off to the trail below me on the switchback. But the thing that had me scared beyond any of this was the switchback itself.

If I were at the center of a clock, riding towards 12 noon, the trail litterally wound around a half circle to where I would be going towards 6 o’clock after going through this switchback. At about 11 until about 1:30…the edge of the trail was the cliff going up, a wall. At about 1:30, the cliff wall going up ended and the edge of my world dropped off, straight down thousands of feet straight down.

This was like a breaking point for me as I took a second to steady myself for what I needed to do. I needed to stay left as tight to the wall as possible (without going into the rut) , and then start my turn, cutting across the 180 turn as tight to the center as possible to avoid being too close to the edge. Cutting across as close to the center of the circle kept me from having to ride towards the outer edge of the trail, where the sheer drop off lay.

As I started leaning right, cutting across the top of the circle, I was on the verge of freaking out…I felt my heart beating hard, my grip crushing my hands, the bike teetered for a second, rolling across the top of the turn when I hit a rock and the front of the bike lurched left towards the cliff.

The bike lurching left, I leaning right, I realized that I was going down and didn’t know where I was in relation to the cliff.
fI screamed as I fell. Fff

I fell and for what seemed to be a small eternity. I didn’t know if I had gone over the edge of the cliff…I just knew that I was falling and everything slowed down. In that moment I thought I was going to die.

I hit the ground.

(Just to be clear, I have never been so happy to hit the ground.)

My eyes closed, my heart hurting inside my chest, I felt the rocky trail hit me and it was almost as though I wanted to grab onto it.

Joe had heard my cry and was yelling over the comms asking what happened and was I alright.

I got up on my knees afraid to see how close I was to the edge.

I was not as close to the edge as I had imagined but I still felt insanely overcome with fear. I got to my knees.

I surveyed the bike. The right handguard was broken off, my right mirror mount snapped off. There was a thick smell of gas as I could see a faint trickle coming from around the gas cap. The smell of gasoline is not uncommon when you dump your bike…but what was uncommon was the heavy leaking this time. I could see the moisture on my tank bag.

I needed to get my bike up.

I stood there a second, the edge of the world only about 10 feet from me. My heart hurt and my mind racing. I was on a 4 wheel drive trail, halfway down a steep cliff. I could see no other vehicles, I could see no other people. Joe was a long ways down from me and I realized that unless I wanted to wait on the side of this cliff for Joe to come back up or some 4 wheel drive vehicle with some good samaritans…I was going to have to put on my big boy pants and get myself off this cliff.

I started talking to myself. I’m not sure if it was out loud or just in my head…but I was like “Ok, get your shit together Tony.” “I need to get this bike upright before all my gas leaking out or leaks onto something hot and ignites” I grabbed my bike by the handlebars and rear gear rack and pulled with all my might to get it upright but it was too much for the angle on the hillside.

I grabbed the rear tire and drug it around for a better leverage angle.

Repositioned, I turned and put my back into the bike, seized the handlebar with my left, gear rack with the right and pushed with my legs in a kind of deadlift, lifting the bike up and backward with all my might towards the cliff. Through the Adrenalin…the shakes…the exertion…the bike rose and righted behind me as I pushed it to a balance point.

I rested for a moment.

“Ok Tony, get on this bike” I said to myself…turning and throwing my weight over the seat and getting back on the bike I sat in the seat my breath heaving from my lungs, sweat pouring off my face and soaking my shirt…I took a second for the oil to level inside the engine. Turning the key, the electronics cycled through and it started. “Ok, ok” I said…focusing on the path in front of me. I had to start moving again despite what I was feeling and what I wanted to do.

The bike started and I let out the clutch…and started moving again.

I felt my life was somehow shortened, somehow death had gripped me and I was not the same. I was drained and beaten as I wound down the trail to where Joe was waiting…I did not want to be on my bike any more, I did not want to ride anymore. I did not want to be on this journey anymore.

I don’t know about my life passing before my eyes, but if I had been a cat, I just blew all nine lives right then and there…all my lives, all my ‘luck’, all my remaining soul had just been cashed in. I felt like a ghost.

I reached Joe as he was at the bottom of the ‘terrifying section’ waiting for me. He was laughing and excited that I had not died…and that I had ‘conquered’ my fear…he was almost celebrating for me.

As much as I wanted to feel like I had conquered something, I was overcome with feeling of almost having gone too far..almost dying.

We stood there a few moments and as he asked me how I felt, I told him blankly, “I think I’m done.”

“Done?” He asked, “we’ve still got to get to the bottom of this trail.”

“Yeah, but I think I’m done with this trip…done with adventure riding…done with riding motorcycles.” I said. Funny thing was, if someone had been standing there and offered me $20 for my bike and gear, I would have been tempted to take it.

Shaken, exhausted, sweaty hot, and mentally damaged, I followed Joe down the rest of the trail which was extremely rocky but the 100 foot cliffs were less threatening and stopped to take a break at an overlook. I had done something so incredibly terrifying to me that I simply walked up the edge of a 200 foot cliff and stood near the edge taking in the view of the Colorado River. Prior to that day it would have terrified me…that moment, It didn’t phase me. I felt like I had already died and this cliff couldn’t hurt me. It was strange.

We wound down the last of the trail, went into Moab and had a bite to eat, talking with a guy who was enthralled with our stories, and we celebrated a good day to live through.

Because I almost died and it was still extremely hot in Moab, we got a hotel room with 2 king sized beds…a luxury well deserved that day. We cranked up the AC and I took a 20 minute shower and crawled into my own bed, passing out immediately. I slept as though dead.

I thought I would die that day.
I thought I would quit and sell my bike.
I thought I would be not afraid of heights anymore.

I was wrong on all accounts.

I did not celebrate when I came down that trail, I did not feel like I had looked death in the face.

I actually felt like something died in me. I can’t describe it but I had rode my bike through one of my most deep seated fears and had and (to me) terrifying fall on the edge of a cliff…and had to work through my deepest fear to get my bike upright and keep going. I’m sure there’s a phycologist that could give a clinical term…but all I know is that I lost something…something died in me…and I had no remaining lives…just the one I had barely managed to keep.

I can’t explain this…but I felt like a ghost.

We woke the next day, did some laundry, and then found a KTM store and bought a few parts for his bike and mine. We spent almost 2 hours in a parking garage lower level (sheltered from the desert heat) fixing what had been broken on mine and a few modifications to Joe’s so as to finish the journey.

I had said I was done…but I wasn’t and Joe knew it and once the repairs were done, without a word about me ‘quitting’ we rode out of Moab and headed east-ish on a 2 lane.

We rode that for a while to the edge of a mountain until the slab ran out and we started up a gravel 4×4 road. At the bottom it was mid-90s and maybe a 1,000 feet of elevation and the temperature cooled and the trail side became green as we wound up to 13,000 feet and 70 degrees.

Ever degree it cooled, every mile behind me, I felt more myself…but still, I was not the same.

We made our way to Colorado.

A Fist of Bondage Pt 2

“Fistful of Seeds Part 2” honestly was unintended…on my part anyway.

I had thought through and written “Fistful of Seeds” where I had written about what I considered what God was saying to me in the story of the bushmen. I felt that was done…but the second part of the video kept coming back to me…there was just something left undone, left hanging.

And then my motorcycle adventure started and I kind of forgot about it.

About a week into my trip, we had been riding every day, all day. When I say ALL DAY EVERY DAY…I mean starting shortly after breakfast until the sun had, or was about to go down. These are long days that wear you out mentally and physically.

Of the things getting the biggest workout, my hands topped the list. They felt like giant mitts of beef twice their normal size, swollen and arthritic from being used all day to hold onto the handlebars. I would wake up and my fingers were frozen in a curved way every morning like I was riding in my sleep.

A close second from the riding was my mind. At the end of every day, I was fatigued from the constant scanning, focus, and energy of keeping on task to make sure I stayed upright and alive.

On these trips, in this case specifically Idaho, there are plenty of extreme drop-offs from the edge of trails and pavement that were sometimes terrifying to me. You could be riding 2 feet from a drop off or cliff that you would not recover from going over. You would be riding on a trail and come face to face with sheep and deer that unpredictably dart into your path. You would turn a blind corner to come face to face with ATVs coming at you…or a truck that was just backing blindly out of a fishing stop outside of White Pine that you BARELY miss running into the back of it. The mental fortitude it took to keep on task of staying focused is taxing.

One day after starting early and riding well into the late afternoon, I was sharing (bitching) with Joe that I was feeling (exhausted) like I wanted to take in more scenery (rest more often). He, being younger (a couple decades I might add) was not as taxed as I was. We started talking about riding styles and control of the bike through hands as well as knees gripping the bike. My mind wandered back to the story about the baboon gripping the seed.

*In my head, I’m like why did my mind make a connection here to that video again? What was causing me to thing about this now? What did the story have to do with me holding onto my handlebars too much. In moments like this, I ask God ‘what are you telling me here?’ in some form…I ask God what the connection is.

A statement comes into my mind that tells me that I’m not having fun because I’m not trusting that things will be ok…that something bad will happen if I don’t control every pebble, every shift in weight, every rock that I miss, every ‘line’ that I take through obstacles. To control EVERYTHING is obviously an impossible task that I’ve commissioned my mind and body to do.

My mind makes another connection…one that hits me in my heart.

I’m not enjoying parts of my life lately because I’m holding onto things too tightly.
(An ‘aha’ moment is happening)

Now I’m paying attention to the connection, paying attention to what it means, because this is not a thought I would have on my own.

I start discussing with Joe my thoughts…Joe starts to think about things he’s holding onto too tightly too….so we’re having this spiritual discussion about how God is using this moment for both of us and we’re talking about what we’re holding onto too tightly in our lives.

After a while, I start talking about the monkey in the video again.

So who’s the bushman, who’s the monkey? What does the salt and water mean?

In my mind things start to unravel a little…because if I’m holding onto something too tightly..then it’s obvious to me that I’m the monkey with his hand holding on too tightly to the seeds in the termite hill. So who holds me captive? Satan seems to be an obvious answer. Water is often used as the symbol for the Holy Spirit….

Then a bigger picture begins to take focus.

Satan often traps us by enticing us to hold onto things we cannot possess…I wrote about this in part 1.

Now I’m thinking through ‘thirst’ in my life, this things that I WANT and what those things are.

I have a relationship that recently ended…now I thirst for relationship, intimacy, and affection.

I have a job that pays 100% commission…so you’re always thirsting for the next deal. And the next deal…and the next deal…

I have a nice car…that now has 223k miles…I thirst for a new ‘cool’ vehicle.

I get get just enough ‘things’ that I want…but if they’re the center of my life, they only bring more thirst.

Ok, you may follow me through what I’m about to say, you may not…but what I felt like God was showing me, was that Satan was giving me just enough intimacy, gold, and power that I thought would fulfill me…I wanted more and more…but it was empty…and like the salt on that baboon’s body, the more I thought the ‘salt’ would satisfy me, the more that salt made me thirst for something.

I know this may sound like I’m rambling…but this is how God speaks to me…things come up that my mind can’t shake and I wrestle through them, chew on them until parts are revealed or come to my understanding.

Now, God doesn’t just give me the answer as a suggestion, He often gives it to me when I’ve decided to start looking for an answer. That way the discovery of the answer knocks me on my ass. Like, If Joe just said to me “Hey Tony, stop holding onto the handlebars so tightly and by the way, do you think maybe you’re doing this in your personal life the same way?” I would have said, “Hey Joe, shut the hell up, you’re the one riding like an idiot, mind your own business!” And that would have been the end of it because I wasn’t ready to fully comprehend what I was suppose to learn.

You may say, God doesn’t speak to me. Maybe you’re expecting an audible voice booming out of the clouds?

But maybe…

Maybe there’s a song in your head that keeps repeating that won’t quit and you realize the lyrics hold a special meaning or it’s the song that brings back a memory.

Maybe somebody says something that sticks in your mind like a splinter that you can’t quick dig out.

Maybe the past won’t stay buried in your heart that won’t heal or they constantly haunt you.

I believe in those moments, God ‘speaks’ and it just doesn’t always look like the way you expect it to.

So pay attention to what’s running through your mind, what’s happening to you emotionally or physically…because you may find that you’re running through Utah on a motorcycle complaining that your hands hurt…and God’s trying to get your attention.

A Fist of Bondage Pt 1

June 2022

There was this national geographic type of video I watched as a kid…it was about how bushman in Africa found water in desert areas. If you go to YouTube, you can do a search under “How to fool a baboon into showing where to find water”.

Or you can use this link:

I know this video is very old, may be a little staged, but watch it so that this story may make a little more sense, because a few decades after I watched this as a child…God used it to speak to me.

Water in the Kalahari desert is extremely scarce but bushman in the area have learned how to find it. In this video, a bushman would chisel a hole in an giant ant mounds in sight of baboons who are (evidently) very curious animals.

They would hollow out a little hole and put seeds in the hollowed out area and then move away but watch from a distance. The baboons would get curious and stick their hands in the holes and feel the seeds. Curiously, they would grab a big fistful of seeds and go to pull their hand through the hole. The hole was smaller than their hand with a fistful of seeds and they couldn’t get their hands out of the hole.

The baboon shrieked and fought and pulled and screamed!!!! Escape would be very easy…all it had to do was release the seeds and it would be free to slip it’s hand out of the hole. But it wouldn’t release the items it had grabbed, even though the baboon didn’t even know what it was And because it wouldn’t release what it had…it was captive.

It was captive to an imaginary value of something in its hand. As they did this, the bushman, who were watching, quickly came up to the baboon and put a leash on the animal as it struggled desperately to get it’s hand out of the hole.

The rest of the video is that the bushmen put a leash of the baboons and feed it salt…which the baboon eats like candy. A short time later the baboon is dehydrated and desperate for water. The bushmen release the baboon and it IMMEDIATELY goes to a water source…leading the bushmen to water also.

I have been drawn back to this story…I remembered it, it kept coming back to me…couldn’t shake it like a song you remember as a teenager that you can’t get off your mind. You forget it at lunch only to have it back on your mind on the way home. A mental itch I couldn’t scratch over a couple days. A quick search on YouTube and I found it and watched it. As I watched it a couple times, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a message here for me. In these moments, I believe God is ‘talking to me’.

As I watched this and thought about it and let me thoughts make ties to my own life, the places where I was struggling. In this way, God was showing me I was being held captive the same way the baboon was in the video. I was being held captive by the handful of seeds that I gripped so tightly in my fist.

I find that as life goes along, we either learn that lesson…or we stay captive to that.

To this baboon it was an impossibly irresistible curiosity of what it’s touching and trying to possess.

To me and you a similar grip is the grip on
a bigger house or car…
a better job title or rank in the company…
a better wife or girlfriend….
a better salary or the corner office…
…even a relationship that wasn’t evolving to become more

By not releasing these things, we’re held captive, easy prey for manipulation, exploitation, and compromise for the things that we can only JUST touch, JUST feel, JUST BARELY get a grip on…but never possess.

And the enemy comes up casually while we struggle to pull our hand out with that gold…and puts a leash on us for
6 months?
6 years?
6 decades?

I want to be free to be living out my best life, to be unhindered by the things that hold my life captive…and then before you know it, I’m crunching numbers and envying awards but what I really want is a weekend with friends. I want to come home to family and kids…but the program doesn’t quite run right…never ends the way I want it too. I find myself fine tuning a way of life over and over…not realizing that by fine tuning it, I mean I’m gripping a handful of what I think will bring fulfillment, that maybe never could.

So I sit with my hand gripping something that really doesn’t have the value I think it does, trying to pull it out of a hole that is too small.

What is it that keeps you from freedom? What are you gripping so tightly, so urgently that you are held captive until that happens…or until you die? Are you dying while you wait for that hole to get bigger or your hand to grow smaller?

There are things that you have to let go of to move your life forward…paradigms that HAVE to shift…or you will die with your life stuck, gripping a bag of empty promises that hold you to a dirt pile.

If, by reading this story, and it’s speaking to you…and you know what you’re not letting go of…and held captive by it?
Do this quick little thing. (If you’ve read this far, take one more moment)

Close your eyes and then hold out a fist.
SEE the thing that you’re holding in your mind and squeeze your grip on this thing in your mind’s eye.
Then, when you’re ready, open your hand and turn it down releasing into God’s hands and ask Him to set you free.

‘I have come to set the captives free’. – Jesus

“Are You Finding God?”

A friend asking me if God was speaking to me on this trip…I had a moment to sit for a minute and share with anyone who wanted to hear.

I believe God is speaking to me through friends, circumstances, gentle and no-so-gentle nudges/intuitions, thoughts, and reading the Bible to name a few.  Sometimes it’s the still small voice, sometimes it’s undeniable smack you on the head with a 2×4 in every day of my life….and I try to listen to Him…and things get in the way.  

I’ll try and explain from my perspective.

Have you ever observed someone sing or play an instrument on the street or a subway stop?  Have you watched the person playing putting their heart into the moment?  Have you ever watched the crowd AROUND the performer?   Some people in the crowd are talking, some are walking by completely ignoring the moment or don’t even SEE the performer, some stop for a second and find no value, and some heckle.  But some stop and listen and find value in the moment, stopping where they were going for a few minutes to take in the intimacy of the performer playing as if it were just for them.

God speaking to us is a little like this, not that I’m trying to reduce God to a street performer…but the MOMENT of God speaking to me is a little like this.

If I tune in to this moment intentionally, I tune out the sounds, the noise, the people, the chaos, and focus.  These moments where you remove as much as possible and sit with God. 

On trips like these

I remove ‘comfort’ and ‘certainty’ and ‘playing it safe’ (which are huge for me)
I remove the worry of my next deal of real estate and the worry of making a living
I remove structure of the day and my will to form it
I add uncertainty and excitement and expectation

I add moments to take in the beauty of the creation…the flowers, the mountains, the trees, the animals, the smells of campfires and forests 
I add my interaction with my motorcycle like it’s alive as we do our dance
I add in moments of conversations on the comm devices as we talk and laugh and carry on
I add in exploration or new trails and abandon houses and mining structures

And in those moments, new thoughts, new emotions, new desires….”renewal” comes to me.

In the renewal I see God playing and speaking to me and giving me things to ponder about how my life is ‘going’ and what I should be thinking and doing and taking in.

In adventure biking, things do not always go as planned….matter of fact they often do not.  

We wreck, we break things, trails abruptly end, we turn around, we have unexpected detours, and weather and heat can be punishing.  We can choose to see those things as obstacles…or we can see those as opportunities.  Opportunities to grow, to lay down our schedule and planned routes, lay down our pride and egos and ask for help….see the moment of challenge as a moment for growth.

These trips are a lot like life.  We plan, we strive, we move and adjust.  We can see each of those moments as random and chaotic….or we can see them as custom experiences to grow, to stretch us…a designer showing me what I’m capable of, what I was intricately and deliberately created to be.  A father who has good things for me.

Next time you see that moment where the unexpected catches you off guard, take it in as though God had moved heaven and earth for you to be there at that specific time and place to hear that music whether on a subway platform in NYC or a field of Beargrass flowers on a trail in the middle of the the Bitterroot Mountains and thank Him for it.  

When you’re put in a place where you have to see and experience things differently, that’s when you’ll see and experience things differently.  

Man Camp, Fall 2021

I am part of Crossroads Church and we have this thing called Man Camp. It’s for men, it’s out camping, working, playing, and spending time around men, being men.

I don’t always agree with everything I see out there…don’t necessarily agree with what I hear. But…I see things there that lead me to know that I need to continue to be part of it…not only for me, but for the other men that God pours into using me.

At Man Camp, I’m part of what we call MASH…basically the prayer team. Being on MASH, I see and hear things as men come to the prayer tent.

Some come to confess or lay burdens down,
Some need wounds tended to.
Some come to be set free.
Some ask for renewal.

And some…
some come to fight.

I heard a prayer this last weekend that was one of the most incredible honest prayers I have ever heard…maybe ever. A man in the MASH tent said a few things in his prayer mostly questions to a God he felt was indifferent, confusing, and distant. He had challenged God to a fight in the past…Terry and I suggested a better challenge might be to challenge God to show up. He didn’t object and we talked more about that.

He asked me what he should say and I suggested that he be honest with God and use his own words. They came out raw and honest…and in his ‘prayer’ came a few words that stood out to me:

“God, if you’re wanting to communicate with me, you’re going to have to step up your game.”

I started laughing on the outside and inside I was celebrating…because I know God will show up in an unexpected way for this man. How do I know? If I’m honest, even being on MASH, I too have this same prayer sometimes…because I want God to show up too.

In this man’s prayer, in that moment, I knew God was listening to this one honest, heartfelt, and raw moment in this man’s own words. His pain and confusion and need laid out before the God he needed to hear from.

In Mark 9.24 a man with a need comes to Jesus and challenges him in a desperate way, saying

‘if” Jesus could help.
”If?” Jesus asks back incredulously.
”I want to believe…help me in my unbelief.” Cries the man in the story.

I believe this is a prayer that we all struggle with sometimes…and that’s ok.

Jesus didn’t chastise the man who asked for a miracle, he challenged him back…and then did something that would cause the man to have to come to grips with his faith as he watched Jesus perform a miracle.

I think God’s big enough and gentle enough to hear us when our faith is not enough…when our questions are too big for hearts…when we wrestle with Him for an answer.

I think God likes a fighter…so bring your big boy pants and get in the ring with Him.

He’s going to meet you there.

High Water

I like to Adventure Ride with my buddies.

We ride these big dual sport bikes with knobby tires and all of our gear strapped on them. It’s an adventure that we enjoy for the stories, the challenge, and the time around the fire. After picking up someone’s bike all day, there’s usually nothing sacred. In this evening time, we’re often unloading our hearts and minds…we talk about our lives, talk as friends, and try out our latest jokes on each other.

On this last trip, it had rained extensively and we knew we would have to be careful with what we got into. In Kentucky, the ridges and hills can be punishing when it’s DRY, let alone with record flooding rains that had washed out roads and deposited layers on mud on some trails. You have to be careful because sometimes you get into things that you’re not going to get out of.

On this particular trip after couple good days of riding, a storm was rolling in on the last night we were there. We knew it was coming, we knew it was going to be very wet but we were all in to see this trip through to the end, so we camped in the storm the last night we were there at Turkeyfoot Campground.

Saturday night the rain set in and it was pretty crazy…lightening, wind, and rain hit us most of the night. By morning my tent was wet, I was curled in a ball on my sleeping pad to stay out of the streams of water running through the tent. The friendly gurgling stream we had camped just above was now a raging river.

It was one of those mornings where you wake in the rain, get dressed in the rain, eat a quick wet breakfast, and pack all of your wet gear on a wet bike. It’s not fun when it’s happening and I don’t ‘enjoy’ those moments, they suck and you’re not happy but it comes with the territory.

We were packed and geared up and started the ride out of the campground. Coming out, the dry stream bed we crossed to get into this campground was now a fast moving stream about 30’ wide with an unknown depth. We turned the other direction to the road that led up the hill which was another way out of this without having to cross the river that blocked our way.

I was shaking the grogginess out of my head…I had taken a sleeping aid that night but it had not worked. I was pretty dehydrated from a long day or riding yesterday and between that and the rain and thunder…I hadn’t gotten but a few hours of sleep.

We wound up the road, picked our way across a few washout spots when word came over the intercoms. “The roads don’t connect. This is a dead end”


Where we thought two roads came together to allow us a way out, was not that at all. There was a gap between the two roads…the ridge we were on did not come together with the ridge and other road.

We turned around.

Coming back down, we came to a what used to be a stream that was now a river. We were trapped in the campground with no other way out…except across that river.

We were weighing out our options that included camping until the water went down which could be a few hours or a few days….


Could we ride the motorcycles through?
Could we walk them?
Could we tow them?

We didn’t have answers and debated our options.

A Jeep came up. He had been in the campground with us and was also trapped. We had a quick discussion with them and they decided to go through the water. They edged their way in and then just went for it. They made it and in going across we could see how deep the water was..just above knee deep. One of the guys wandered into the water. Carefully and cautiously he made it across but fought hard to keep his balance.

The Jeep couple offered to help…and soon the decision was made to use a chain to the Jeep to pull a bike across…with a rider on it. The rest of the guys would steady the bike and keep it upright.

In my mind this was a bit of insanity. If you lost your footing, you’d surely be swept quickly downstream and into the actual larger, more raging river that our smaller river connected to.

Terry was the first to go. The Jeep’s chain was attached to a ratchet strap, attached to the forks of the bike. We all grabbed the bike to steady it as well as ourselves. The jeep edged up and the chain went taught and pulled us and the bike into deeper water. It was heart stopping as I wondered if the bike would get washed over or if someone would stumble or trip. I wrestled with fear as each step I took, the water tried to wash away my footing. But slowly, half step by half step, we got into the deepest section, and then we were on the uphill side…we all breathed a sigh of relief.

We had to do this 6 more times. Had we gotten lucky on the first one?

The walk back across the river was nerve wracking as we all steadied ourselves and slowly made our way back.

Next closest bike was going to go. That was me.

As I got on top of the bike and the chain was hooked up, you might think that I had seen Terry go and so it should make it easy for me. But it wasn’t. Fear was tearing away at me from the inside…and I worked to keep my act together.

As the slack in the line brought the rope taught and my bike moved forward with men all around me holding it up into the stream, into the deep water that fought to push me downstream, fought to push the bike over, my heart raced and adrenalin pumped through my body. I felt the bike moving forward from the chain but also left because of the current was pushing the bike.

We moved as a group and at one point the water was pulling my front tire, steering me left. I might have had a panic moment…Peter grabbed the bar and pushed it back towards the other side, straight ahead.

We emerged on the other side and I breathed a sigh of relief. We unhooked the bike, and I fired it right up. I was alive and my bike had not taken in water into the intake.

We would all get to the other side alive and bikes firing up.
We would all laugh and celebrate and thank our new best friends with a Jeep.
We would all be thankful and appreciate life a little more.

In a weird way, I am thankful for those moments that I think I’m going to die but don’t. They scare the hell out of me and wake me a little.

I’m not going to go looking for them, because that might not be the right approach. But what i am saying this that there are some things that take us out of our comfort zone, out of our daily grind. Like a record caught in a groove, those experiences bump the needle, kicking it out of repetition, down a couple millimeters to a new position.

Some times it’s a life altering experience that causes us to rethink things.

I’ll be honest, if it was up to me…we probably would have gone back to the campsite and hung out for a few hours to see what the level of water would have done before making any risky moves. Our opportunity with the Jeep would have been gone and our options a bit more limited.


I was in the company of men who took chances and my lot was cast with them…and I would not be left behind. They say that your closest 5 friends define who you are…who you will be. In moments like this one, it has never been more clear to me.

In the moments up to the decision, there were discussions about the pros and cons of going through the high water. My instincts are often to weigh out risk versus reward. There were others that wanted the risk, almost wanted the story to tell, to lean out over the edge and see what would happen. I don’t always like the part of myself that doesn’t want to take the risk, but I was glad that I was around others who were in it with me.

In moments like this, the company you keep can define forward movement or being left behind, moving as a unit or isolation and being left behind. It can define life or death.

Now, to be clear, I’m not sure what we did was smart. It wasn’t. (really, it wasn’t) The video of us crossing the river could well have ended up on YouTube under ‘motorcycle morons try to cross raging river’….but it didn’t. We chose to cross, we chose to take the risk, we chose to work together and it was a great story we’re going to tell over and over at future campouts with embellishments and laughter.

But in this story “WE” is massively important. Even though our obstacle was a voluntary choice, we all know that life is filled with raging rivers where crossing is not optional…but just like our river, failure could be lethal.

You could be facing a raging river like divorce, violence, cancer, death in your family or death in your soul. Rivers like those do not give you an option and you MUST cross to the other side.

In this life, we all know it’s not IF, but WHEN those storms will come.

When that storm comes..and when the river rises, make sure that you have surrounded yourself with others who will walk you through it, not because they’re idiots, but because working together in the face of adversity, you find that the bonds of brotherhood will not fail you.

Two different April 4th

April 4th, 2020

It is only weeks into the ‘stay at home’ here in Ohio. I remember the last day at the office…that Friday when the order came down from the state. I was at the office staying later because I had a closing at 4pm.

The state mandate to shut down all offices. I sat at a computer by the window at the back exit our of our office building. I sit there all the time because I can see people coming and going, I can see the sky and the highway and life going on out there. That Friday I watched as people filed out usually one at a time taking boxes of office supplies and notes and their plants and personal things, saying goodbyes to others, and driving off.

It was surreal…like being at a dorm in college as everyone left for the school year and going home. I stood at my office like the last kid in the dorm, wondering WHEN I would see the old gang again…IF I would ever see the old gang again.

I left and thought to myself about what I needed. I had stored up food for several days. Trying to eat healthy and fresh food, I had NO pantry whatsoever…so I went out and bought a ton of food… and had a pantry. So what else did I need? Party supplies. I hate to admit, but I was thinking to myself, if I’m going to be stuck at home, working from home…alone…I was going to need some drinks. That night I had a few drinks to numb out all that was going through my mind, which was on complete overload…and being at home all alone…I had no one to process it with.

So the next day, I woke up. Hungover (…or coming down with the virus?), I sobered up quickly that this would not be an acceptable way to deal with the end of the world.

Being single, being paranoid about getting a life ending virus, I sequestered myself…not hanging out with friends, not wanting to be around people, I found that I was not acting like others who were still going to bars, getting together with friends….I was really avoiding all contact with others…and after a week of that, I realized a few things.

The first thing I realized was that I could take a chance and die physically…or I could 100% know that my heart was going to die. The seclusion, paranoia, and lack of human input was quickly taking a toll. I finally accepted the invitation of a good friend and his wife to go to their house and hung out in the backyard around a fire pit, upwind from them. It was life giving even in the paranoia.

The second thing I realized was that anything that took me EVEN THE SMALLEST degree off course had to go. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I was having a couple drinks every other night watching tv. It was throwing my sleep patterns off, I was waking in the middle of the night, and there were several mornings that my stomach was sour…and in a haze. I dumped out a box of wine and a couple of bottles in the liquor cabinet.

The third thing that had to go was the obsessive news monitoring. I had been watching this story in late December/Early January when this story started breaking on the news. I watched and watched and knew very early that this was something that we might have to reckon with. The constant updates and press conferences (how does Trump and DeWine get ANYTHING AT DONE?), the different countries and how Italy and Iran death tolls were rolling out. I was obsessing about curves and looking for the inflection points…the hope that things were slowing. I started to write a story early this week and the US death toll was 3000….now as I write this on April 4th, just 6 days later, the death toll stands about 7,000. Yesterday alone, the death mark hit 1,000 people in a single day.

And it’s only beginning.

I have to distance my heart from this a little. I cannot take the numbers in.

The fourth thing was that I needed to rest my body and rest my mind AND rest my soul with spending time with God throughout the day. Sometimes that was laying on the couch and putting my heart out there for Him to hear it. Sometimes it was to ask Him into the tears that flowed. Sometimes, and most often, it was to ask Him to give me some rest and to fall asleep, in the middle of the day, for 15 minutes…free from reality.

The fifth thing I did, was to have an imaginary cat that’s actually a possum. Maybe it’s the need to have an imaginary funny furry friend that I think through what he would do, this onry salty version of myself, and what he gets into or craziness he creates…so that every single day…I have to think through funny, imaginative stories. I have to think of laughter and mischief and malice that makes me laugh…maybe help the world laugh.

Dated April 4th 2020


Strange coincidence, I pulled out this story today and read through it for the first time probably since being written….and stopped dead on the date that was written in the first part of this…April 4th 2020.

Exactly 1 year later to the exact date. No lie.
Weird coincidence? Yes.
God Coincidence? Uh, YEAH.

I have written very little since then. It would be over another month before I would meet Staci Jo, the girl I’ve been dating ever since…and the short 365 days seems like 10 years now for so many of us.

We were so divided before the election…and I remember how strongly I wanted it to be over…thinking we could heal and United would be part of our name again.

Strange how 1 year makes.

1 year ago, we had just started in the foothills of the enormous mountain ahead of us, now we are on the downhill slide of this epidemic.
1 year ago we had just reached 7,000 dead, now we’re at over 554,700 deaths.
We were divided over Joe and Donald…now we’re divided over…well…everything.

When I (we) started this…we did not know how we were going to cope, to deal with the deconstruction of our lives. Work, kids, community, church, school, our Friday nights, our favorite teams, our parents and grandparents…everything was deconstructed and we did the best we could. We didn’t know how things would be normal…until now when so much of ‘normal’ is thrown out the window….that it’s the new normal.

Now comes the hard part.

Normal is trying to come back…like a bad drug habit or an old girlfriend who wouldn’t lose our number.

It was interesting to me that I often spoke to people about the struggles in the heights of covid and I began to see a ‘through thread’…a little white spiritual thread that so many people had been dealing with.

It occurred to me that covid was bringing a lot of things to the surface. Addictions to alcohol, addictions to avoidance with ourselves and our spouses. It was bringing to the surface the things we thought about ourselves, the things we thought about our lives and our better halves. Those things we couldn’t hide anymore, the things we couldn’t anesthetize or conceal from people close to us. We slowed down so much that we were forced to look in the mirror and see who were REALLY were…who we had become or not become. We couldn’t ‘Friday night drinks’ our way out of dealing with it and we couldn’t burry it in our work or our kids performance.

And the long overdue hangover caused me to take a good hard look at who I was, how I was living my life, and what I was carrying…my ego, my baggage, my hopes and dreams for the future…my failures and struggles.


As I put together a strategy for survival one year ago today…so a strategy of mine needs to be addressed again. How do I survive as ‘normal life’ tries to push in? As my calendar begins to fill and office hours and deadlines and rush hours become part of the world again…where do I choose a new path as the road opens up to lead me back to where I was before? Do I even want to be there?

When I left my home town of Lebanon Ohio and went to Ohio State…a change had happened in my life and I could no longer go back to Lebanon and cruise Columbus avenue, no longer go hang out in Kings. I had changed and the life that had been like a favorite Friday haunt was no longer fitting me…it was like trying to wear a high school letter jacket once you moved on from high school.

So too, covid has changed ‘normal’ so that some of us can’t wait to go back to the exact way it used to be…and that might be a good thing.

From time to time in our lives, we put old garments in a box and ship them off.

Maybe it’s time to evaluate our lives in the same way.

Who brings us life and who drags us down?
What are we giving our time to? What is a good use of that time?
What is stealing from our days, our joy, our life?
What is life giving? What brings us joy? What FILLS you?

About a year ago I poured out an alcohol stash…today maybe it’s Netflix.
About a year ago I cut all people out of my life…today I add back who I build into and who builds into me.
About a year ago I let ‘fear’ take a front seat….today i rebuke that liar.

Let our world be better after all this.

Choose carefully how to reconstruct your new ‘normal’.

Message In A Bottle

It was Ohio State Michigan weekend in the fall of last year, 2019. Me and a couple of friends, Andre and Dwane, decided to meet up and watch the big game at O’Bryan’s Bar in O’Bryanville. We got there early, found seats at the bar, and were ordering food and a couple drinks…it was before the game and the shenanigans started up and we’re talking about life and work and catching up for a while. 

We each have a shark tank in front of us and we’ve had one or two drinks but we’re not complete idiots (yet) because the game’s not really started but enough that we’re letting our guard down.

At some point we’re talking about life and it turns out that both guys were shortly turning 40. In discussing ‘age’ one doesn’t realize that I’m a few years ahead of him. He asked me what I took as a sincere question…and it’s rattled around in my head since then.

He asks me what the best advice I could give someone that was just turning 40…what advice would I give myself if I could go back 10 years?

Now, he’s in the same place I was back then (and still am) single, figuring things out, and looking for the right things in life.

I’m not sure what I told him that day…but boy do I wish I could go back and give myself some advice. Would I listen? Would I comprehend what was being said and the weight of those words? I don’t know what would change, I don’t know if I could take my own advice back then…but I could’ve used some guidance back a few years…back at 40, back at 30, back at any age.

At a certain point in your life, you’ve had your life shattered a few times, you’ve been part of big heartbreaks, and you’ve probably almost died a few times. You’ve had jobs and careers that you’ve failed at, friends that died too soon, and you’ve got wisdom from doing a lot of dumb things. You’ve realized that you’ve made good on some investments…and some that you absolutely missed like Apple, Amazon, Google, Netflix….and at some point, you realize life’s about experiences instead of things. 

So, where would I give advice, and what would that be? 

I’ve had several ‘normal’ months and 1-1/2 COVID ‘shelter in place’ months to think about it…I have put down my thoughts not only for him…but for me…

Everything to me starts with learning to be at peace with who you are and where you are in life.

Recognize that there are some things that you are absolutely great at. Be humble at those things because someday you could, and probably will, lose those things. 

Recognize that there are some things that you are horrible at, accept it. It doesn’t take away from you to have shortcomings but being at peace with them gives you an inner strength and humility to get help in those areas and gives you a humanity that people will see and appreciate. 

There are some habits that you are going to have to stop before they become addictions. Simple recreational things that you use to let off steam or have fun with will become more and more damaging to your health and your sanity as time goes along. 

When it comes to friends, surround yourself with excellence and those who love you enough to tell you the truth (in love)…even if it hurts you. Seek out and enlist those who sharpen each other, support and encourage each other, fight and die for each other. 

On the subject of friends, there are some lifetime friends who have been with you through the highest and lowest moments of life. You may someday need to go in new directions where your paths are not the same. Growth requires change…but people don’t like change. If it comes time to outgrow someone, do it with grace…never burn the bridge that you may need to cross back over someday.

At some point in your life, you will need to evaluate what you are mentally carrying around in life. I carried heartbreaks and betrayal for years, grief for dead friends, and guilt and shame for things done long ago. We are weighed down because we are not at peace with them and they will continue to influence our lives until we get help. Get that help early and often to get those weights off your soul. 

Women are your greatest asset…or your greatest liability. Don’t get this one wrong. 
Choose someone who is kind and generous
Choose someone who gives 100%
Choose someone who grows, and loves, and is at peace with who she is.
Choose someone who forgives 
Choose someone you want to grow old with

Realize that being a boy and being a man are very different things. Manhood is about realizing that you’re often putting way more into things than you are getting things out. Being a man means putting in time and effort and work into others that may never fully grasp your work, your input, your effort. But that’s being a man and that’s what the world, your wife, your children, and everyone who is a part of your life needs. Put another way, the world needs men that will plant trees that they know they will never live long enough to sit in the shade of. 

Speaking of manhood…it took me a long time to step into responsibilities. Growing up, we did a lot of work and when I got old enough, I shirked as much responsibility as I could so that I didn’t have to put in any extra work or have any extra responsibilities. In doing that I robbed myself of the blessing that takes place when you step into ‘responsibility’ and leadership. There are blessings and perks and benefits that come with those roles that you can never get without putting in the time and effort.

Along with being a man, take ownership of your life and your shit. Life is hard, it doesn’t matter who you are…it’s downright brutal at times. You will sometimes have very good reasons to play the blame game, to play the victim. Know that doing this is never going to serve you, never going to be an excuse, and will always keep you at an underachieving lower level. Playing the victim robs you of the power to rise up and the power to change.

You can acknowledge barriers, trials, and faults, but you should always be where you are IN SPITE of obstacles and barriers…never because of them.

My last and greatest advice is about God. 
He designed and formed you while you were in the womb. 
He numbered your days. 
He sets your feet on a path with purpose before you were born. 
To seek to know Him is the greatest thing that you can do and the single most impactful thing you can do in, and for, your life. Period.

These are the words I wish that I could express that day…these are the words that I wish I could do a better job of living out today and tomorrow, let alone yesterday. These are the things that weigh on my heart…my life.

Over the next couple of hours, the three of us would have a couple more drinks and laughs and celebrated a win for the team that most of us were rooting for.

It wasn’t all about seriousness that day as we celebrated something more important, which was friendship.

At halftime, we went out onto the 2nd floor patio. And looked across the street. On the roof of the neighboring building, there were a LOT of plastic sharks that people had thrown across the street below, onto the rooftop of that building. 

We were going to throw our sharks across the street onto that roof, but decided, that since we were 3 athletes, that we should make it more challenging. So, we decided to throw the sharks with our much weaker left arms. 

Watching your friends TRY to throw a plaster shark across the street has got to be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. We looked ridiculous…and we laughed until tears came out of my eyes.

Which reminds me. 
Learn to find humor in everything because laughter really is the best medicine.


It’s Easter, 2020. The world as we know it is on pause. Most of the US population is “sheltered in place”, most of us working from home or out of work. Most of our lives, our livelihoods, our family connections are on pause…on hold.

To many people, our lives are filled with discomfort. We either can’t get a moment by ourselves…or in my case…I can’t get a moment WITH someone. Being single, living alone, by myself has become a very hard place to be.

There are awful, terrible things happening in the world right now. People are dying by the thousands. Today, as I start writing this, 2,000 people in the US die a day…the total stands at 20,000. By the time this is all over, it depresses me to think of what the tally will be.

We all are inundated with the news and tolls of death, of infection, of loss, of tragedy every waking moment by the news on tv, cable, and internet. I do not wish to belabor, nor will I trivialize that loss. What we are all going through is real, it’s uncomfortable, it’s hard to grasp…it’s hard.

In the time….in this pause…in this pain… there is a gift for some of us.
Let me say that again…there is a gift.

A pause…a moment without time.

I feel like I was watching this fast paced movie called “American life”, caught up in this crazy, non-stop, nauseating, soul stealing, exhausting, sleep depriving, credit card maxing, junk closet filling movie that was our lives….and it was like someone hit ‘pause’ during the gun fight-car chase in the middle of a Fast and Furious movie…. and the silence was deafening to me. It was so empty I couldn’t breathe…I couldn’t take the silence…I had (have) trouble with the loneliness, the silence, the stillness. It suffocates me at times.

Here’s the thing about this sudden ‘pause’. You are forced to stop, to look at your world without distractions, without consumerism, without the running, the errands, the boys nights out, the play dates, the ‘let’s grab a beer’, the travel, the night out plans…

And I am in a world that is so still, so quiet…that the silence overwhelms me.
…and I hate it.

I hate this silence. I cannot sit in it because it’s so empty….and yet, this is a gift.

I am face to face with the world I have created and formed for myself.

I am face to face with the world that I have built around me, we all are face to face with the world we have built around ourselves.

We are face to face with our children and the way that they are behaving, they way that they are learning, the way they are treating their teachers.

We are face to face with our communities. Are they encouraging and loving us? Are they building us up? Are they ghosting us in our time of need? Are they soul stealing or giving? Are they giving us life or silence?

We are face to face with our screen time addictions, our alcohol, and internet addictions. Are we leaning into numbing and distancing or… are we feeling the reality that bites at us like a razor cutting into flesh? Are we allowing ourselves to feel this?

Speaking of pain…we’re all feeling it. We’re all being confronted with our pain of many different masks…but the truth is most of us are face to face with the world we live in…the one we live in without the distractions, without the consumerism, without the striving, or materialism, and this world is actually life giving….or it is suffocatingly empty.

But this is Easter. and we celebrate Christ risen from the dead.

There was a time between the death of Jesus and His triumph over death, when He rose again.


If…there is a place of death in you…a place where you, in this time of COVID-19 where you are grieving a part of your life that has died, that is dead, a place in your heart or in your life that you are having trouble holding onto hope that there is more, that there are good days ahead…that you will live again, that you will laugh again….then there is hope…then there is faith.

A lot of our lives have been stripped bare…a lot of our lives slipped through our hands like the wind…a lot of our lives are like sand castles on the shores of an incoming tide…and we are struggling with what we see, what we are feeling, what are experiencing…some of us, like me, are mourning the death of parts of our lives that actually were always dead…we just didn’t know it.

Then I ask you to pray with me on something very simple.

“Bring me new life Lord…just as you rose from the dead… bring life to the deadness in my life.”

Very, very soon, the pause will be over. The world will try to tell you that it’s all over and they will ask you to get back on the treadmill and to make up for lost time, for lost revenue, for lost opportunities. Those ‘powers’ will tell you to go out and buy like never before with new deals, new financing, new low payments, zero down payments and 90 days same as cash…for new junk we don’t need. Those ‘powers’ will push your kids to make up lost days at school, lost grades and tests.

The world wants to kick off a party again and try to get champagne in your hand and have you try to forget this all happened and to go back to what you were doing before.

Very soon, this will be over. Did you learn anything? Did you use this time wisely?

Did you learn what fills your soul? Did you learn what was empty, what was stealing ‘life’ from your life?

Some day, a long time from now…your children, your nieces and nephews, the next generation will ask you…what did you do? What were you thinking? What did you do “sitting at home”?

I will honestly say that I reevaluated my life and found it wanting of change and direction.
I will honestly say that I found myself wanting more out of life.
I will honestly say that I asked God for help in changing, rebuilding, my ‘world’.
I will honestly say that I made up a story about a goofy guy that kidnapped a possum and called it his “cat” because I desperately needed to think of funny things that this guy and his “cat” would do to pass the time… and try to bring laughter to others.

A little ways down the road, someone will ask me what I saw during this time…the answer is, for me, that I saw my life…and having taken away all the distractions…saw that my life a little more clear…and in that, I saw that it needed change.