Recent Articles

My John Dingell Story

| February 10, 2019 | 0 Comments

John Dingell Speaking on the Floor

I was a relatively new legislative assistant on Capitol Hill in 1984 when my most exciting experience to date was about to occur.  I was going to get to go onto the House floor for the first time to staff Congressman Barney Frank who was offering an amendment to a major piece of environmental legislation, the Superfund reauthorization bill.  Barney had agreed to offer an amendment on behalf of the environmental community to increase the legal liability of polluters for their bad acts.  It was a perennial amendment that environmentalists supported and was usually voted down for reasons unimportant to this story.

It was relatively early in Barney’s congressional career, a period during which he generally didn’t rely heavily on staff.  Because he was so smart and such a skilled legislator, the role of staff was simply to supply him basic information, not advise him on strategy or tactics.  Thus, he didn’t think it would matter much that he was going to the House Floor with an amendment staffed by a guy who only a few years before was stocking shelves in a supermarket.  Boy, was he wrong. Continue Reading

The Simple Way

| August 29, 2018 | 0 Comments

Fuller Center riders enter the offices of The Simple Way.

At the start of each day on the Fuller Center Cross Country Bike Adventure, we have a “circle up,” where we get basic information about the ride ahead and, sometimes but not always, information about where we will be staying, which is almost always a church.  As we get to the end of the ride, my senses are heightened.  I begin take in the neighborhood to get some idea what the next 12 to 15 hours will be like.  I generally hope we will be near a commercial area where the basic needs are within walking distance, particularly things like IPA beer and ice cream.  You know, the staples.  I will also be interested in learning about the accommodations.  Will this be a big church with lots of room for our sleeping pads?  Or will we be tightly packed?  Will it have a lot of electrical outlets for all our rechargeable electronics, bike lights, smart phones, Apple watch, bike speaker, supplemental batteries, etc.  Will it have air conditioning?  How many bathrooms?  In-house showers or will we be shuttling offsite (and will the showers have hot water)?  A kitchen?  Will there be a welcoming committee of church members who can tell us about the town?  Will they be serving food?  Or will we just be handed the key and told to lock up when we leave?

The fact is that, after riding 70 plus miles on a bike, the answer to these questions are mostly academic.  It’s nice when we have a lot of creature comforts, but mainly what I want at that point is to stop riding a bike. Everything else is gravy.   For me, the exception is cold showers.  I HATE cold showers.  Every ride I’ve been on has had one or two.  It’s almost enough to keep me from coming back.  Almost. Continue Reading

Rozzie’s First Kill

| May 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

While I was working on installing the new fence at the Cape, Rozzie was laying out on the lawn playing with a toy. I didn’t pay much attention and assumed she was fine. Hearing the squeaking of the toy told me she was content. For some reason, I walked over to her to give her a pat and discovered that she didn’t have a toy. She had a baby bunny, about 4 inches in size. It was the bunny that was squeaking. I was horrified and shooed Rozzie away. The bunny was still alive and walked slowly toward the house, looking for some place to hide. She stopped behind one of the fence sections. I checked on her periodically as she sat there motionless. At one point, I checked and she was gone. I’m telling myself that she was fine. But….

Later in the day, Charlie hit a baby bunny with the weed whacker. He then had to put the bunny out of its misery. We don’t know if it was the same bunny. Apparently, we had disturbed a nest of rabbits when we ripped up the old fence.

Probably going to have nightmares tonight.

65th Birthday

| May 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

Rita arranged a birthday party for my 65th birthday. A good time was had by all. Very nice comments, particularly by Luke. I’m blessed with a wonderful group of friends.

This I Believe

| November 1, 2017 | 0 Comments

I believe the Russians tipped the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump.  I didn’t, at first.  But the more we know about the massive intervention they conducted through social media and the Wikileaks dump, the more obvious it is that it was sufficient to turn 80,000 votes spread over three states to give Trump the electoral college win.  I also believe the Comey letter tipped the election to Donald Trump.  And I believe that the fact that the Democrats nominated the quintessential establishment candidate in an anti-establishment election tipped the election.  And, yes, I believe the Clinton campaign strategy, which neglected Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin in the closing days of the election, gave it to Trump.

It is possible to believe all these things at the same time.  Flip any one of those variables and the Democrats win.  In a close election, everything matters.  However, only one of those variables has consequences for the future, the Russians intervention.  Frankly, I suspect that the Russians did not set out to elect Donald Trump, but rather to simply disrupt American democracy and weaken President Hillary Clinton.  They may have been as surprised as the rest of us the day after the election.  There were reports of celebrations in Moscow, but events since then may have tempered their euphoria.  Some in the Kremlin may wonder whether they overshot.  It’s nice to have a puppet, but maybe an incompetent puppet is more trouble than he’s worth.

But here’s the thing.  Whether the Russian ultimately conclude they overshot in their election meddling is up to us.  Will we, as a nation, respond in a way that will deny the Russians what, at this point, seems like the greatest intelligence triumph in human history, actually electing the President of the United States?  The answer to that question is in the hands of Special Counsel Bob Mueller and the Republican leadership of the Congress.  Mueller needs to build a rock-solid case that denies the Republicans the ability to rationalize away the reality of the Trump collusion in the Russian meddling.  And the Republicans will need to stop protecting Trump and take affirmative steps to impose accountability into the system.

So far, Mueller is doing his part.  The Republicans? Not so much.

A Graceful Finish

| July 1, 2017 | 0 Comments
Connor tries to fix Anna's bike

Connor tries to fix Anna’s bike

The last day of the Fuller Center West Coast Bike Adventure offered an example of selflessness that helped define for me the overall experience of doing this ride.

First, it should be understood that, in addition to supporting the mission of housing for the poor that animates the Fuller Center, people on the ride bring different personal goals to this adventure. For instance, some people are dedicated to ride every mile on their bike. Others are willing to ride the support van for some segments, for physical or mechanical reasons. There is no pressure to ride every mile, not by the Center and not by the other riders. It’s a purely personal goal.

Here’s what happened.

Anna Lea Little rode every mile on this trip, over mountains, through craggy bike trails, into and out of

Ann Coleman getting Anna started

Ann Coleman getting Anna started

canyons, in 100 degree sun and 50 degree rain. On our last day, as she began the climb up the biggest hill of the day at Torry Pine, her derailleur broke in a way that couldn’t be fixed. She was 18 miles away from the finish after riding more than 1,600 miles over the course of a month. Our young leader, Connor Ciment, tried diligently to get the bike fixed, even trying to turn Anna’s bike from a 22 speed into a one speed. Nothing worked. Anna was devastated.

First Good Samaritan helps with the climb

First Good Samaritan helps with the climb

Not to be deterred, the group working on the problem came up with a solution that preserved Anna’s goal. Anna got on her chain-less bike, Ann Coleman held her up and ran along side her to get her up to speed and Connor put his hand on Anna’s back and began to push her up the hill. It was tough going.  Even Connor acknowledged, he was struggling.

Then, an added bit of grace occurred when two other bikers encountered the scene and offered to help. Essentially, they formed a flying wedge, with one pushing Connor and one pushing Anna to get them over the hill at Torry Pine. Connor continued to push Anna for seven miles to the next rest stop, where they did, in fact, turn Anna’s bike into a one-speed. And she rode the rest of the way, which still included some pretty big hills. She achieved her goal and we all got the most inspirational story of the trip.

Connor, Anna and the chainless bike

Connor, Anna and the chainless bike

The Best Shower….Ever!

| June 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

Now, THAT’S a shower!

It is difficult to overstate the importance of showers at the end of a day of riding. Fuller riders rely primarily on donated shower facilities in the cities and towns where we stay. Sometimes this is a local Y, sometimes a nearby school and sometimes the churches have shower facilities onsite. Occasionally, the church community enlists its members to offer their homes. On this trip, particularly in Washington Oregon, we used campgrounds. A couple of times, we ended up with only cold showers. Those were memorable and not in a good way.

Today, I and my fellow rider Lauryn Kostopoulos scored big time. The United Methodist Church of Vista

Patricia, me, Lauryn and Victor

Patricia, me, Lauryn and Victor

enlisted its community to open their homes to the riders for showers. Lauryn and I were among the last out and traveled to the home of Victor and Patricia. He’s a retired conservationist and she’s an amateur genealogist, a very cool couple. They also appear to appreciate good showers because their shower had about 8 nozzles, up, down and sideways. It was the best shower of the trip, maybe the best shower facility I’ve used this year. Nice that it came at the end of the ride.

The Great Escape

| June 30, 2017 | 0 Comments
The view I first encountered from the bike path

The view I first encountered from the bike path

This is why they call it an “adventure.” Today, we confronted a challenge when the bike path we were on stopped abruptly at Camp Pendleton. Apparently, there were some maneuvers and they closed the path. I was toward the back of the pack, so can take no credit for the ingenuity of the faster riders in coming up with a solution.

We had to move our route to I-5, an eight lane highway that the bike path was designed to avoid. The riders at the front of the pack found a gate in the chain-linked fence that divided the bike path from the highway, which gave us access to the highway. However, in addition to the chain linked fence, they had to carry the bikes through heavy underbrush, across railroad tracks and then through a barbed wire fence. I came by later after the system was in place and it worked pretty smoothly, although I did get caught in the barbed wire.

Crossing the tracks, underbrush and barbed-wire fence

Crossing the tracks, underbrush and barbed-wire fence

In tradition of mutual support that is part of the ethic of the Fuller Center, all the riders waited on the highway until everyone got through. We then had to ride 10 miles along I-5, with cars and trucks constantly roaring by, before we were able to return to our more civilized riding off the highway.

Whitey’s Place

| June 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
Whitey hid in plain sight at this apartment building

Whitey hid in plain sight at this apartment building

I found time to stop by Whitey Buler’s “hideaway” in Santa Monica.  It took a little research to find it, since the owners changed the name of the apartment building from the Princess Eugenia to the Barbas Apartments.  And I did have to backtrack a bit, which annoyed my fellow rider, a young woman who had never heard of Whitey Bulgar.  But it was worth it.

If you want to hear a hilarious story told by the manager of the Princess Eugenia about when the FBI came calling, check out the episode of the Moth Radio Hour where he tells what it was like.


Best Biking Songs

| June 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

Music was enormously influential in helping me complete the West Cost bike ride.  I had a bluetooth speaker mounted on my handlebars that played music from my IPhone.  I learned the power of a good song at the right time in one of the early days’ rides when I was riding – typically – at the back of the pack and we were beginning to climb a hill.  Just then Bruce Springsteen Thunder Road started to play and I cranked up the volume.  It was like the afterburners kicked in.  I began to pedal furiously.  I caught up and eventually passed a group of more seasoned riders up the hill.  It was exhilarating.

Of course, going forward, I had to use this device carefully.  I couldn’t keep going back to the same few songs as they would lose their power over time.  But this discovery helped me clear some pretty big hills.

These were my “go to” songs when I had a big climb in front of me:

  • Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen
  • Jungleland – Bruce Springsteen
  • Sympathy for the Devil – Rolling Stones (Live version)
  • Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue – Duke Ellington (Live at Newport)
  • Casa Loma Stomp – Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra
  • Maniac’s Ball – Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra
  • White Jazz – Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra
  • Dawn – The Four Seasons
  • Walking Blues – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
  • The Love I Lost – Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

On one occasion, Bruce also helped with a downhill ride.  The good news about climbing hills is that there is often a long downhill ride on the other side.  Once in Oregon, I got to the top of about a 2 mile climb and, as I began to descend, the Springsteen song came on coincidentally that has the refrain, “I’m goin’ down, down, down.  I’m goin’ down, down, down…”  This added to the euphoria and racking up some distance without pedaling.

Finally, I couldn’t get Willie Nelson out of my head when I finally got my new bike and was “On the Road Again.”