I used to come to the Rose Café every morning. For a scone and a cup of coffee and a table all my own. I’d prop open my laptop and the creative juices would begin to flow. I did some of my best writing at the Rose. There are certain comforting fixtures: the man who cleans the tables who provides a ready smile; another who works the parking lot wearing a brimmed sun hat and an easy laugh. Every day I would greet these men like friends. And then I stopped going. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was just a routine whose time had ended. I also got a job for a couple years, and the life of lazy mornings and creative cultivation went on pause.

SconeAndCoffeeToday I came back. I have needed to write again. I have needed lazy mornings. And I have especially needed creative cultivation. Everything about the Rose is both new and old. New outdoor patio. New succulents. New paint. New bathrooms! Same old staff though, now much more gray to my surprise. But today, even after all these years away, the men smiled at me and greeted me as if I hadn’t missed a day. Well, now THAT is like coming home.

The Buddhists have this saying, “beginner’s mind,” which is an attitude of openness, a lack of preconceptions. I am embracing the concept fully today. And, as a close associate of beginner’s mind, I have beginner’s legs. Because after several months of waiting for the early morning temperatures to stay above 55 degrees, I have once again pulled my bike out of the garage and started all over. Several months of not riding takes its toll. I have an extra EIGHT pounds I put on over the winter, which is eight more pounds I have to drag up San Vicente Boulevard with legs that have gone a bit flaccid and lungs that launch their protest. San Vicente is the perfect training road, not just a discovery of mine but of every other cyclist on the Westside. We turn out in droves, decked out in our finest polyester kits, and attack the road, which rises steadily at a 3 to 4 percent grade—what we like to call a “false flat.” There are only two lights, at 7th and 26th, then a loop around the golf course with a short 12% grade at the end, and back down San Vicente to do it all again two more times for a nice 30-mile workout.

In my prime, I start at the ocean at about 15 mph and hold steady to the first light at 7th street. Over the course of the next ten blocks, I like to increase slowly to 17 mph or so. At 18th, I reach 18; 19 and 19th; 20 and 20th; and from 20th street to the light at 26th, I put the hammer down and hit whatever speed I can. If I’m in a groove, it’s 24. Otherwise, I feel good about 22 or 23. My heart rate hits max, my legs burn, my lungs pump and my sense of accomplishment soars.

With beginner’s legs and a sense of openness, I’m lucky to hit 16 mph and hold that for any real length of time. But the good news in starting over, I suppose, is that progress is steady and visible. And I take myself back to the fundamentals: pedal work, cadence, smooth strokes, patience. Yesterday, on day two of spring training, I got swallowed up by the peloton, and after drafting in the middle of the pack for a few blocks at a paltry 15 mph, I had to let myself loose. So I jumped on my pedals to try to outpace the guys (who were just finishing their long morning ride and had no desire to match me), and I actually hit 19 mph for about a block. And that seemed like a @*#%! miracle.

So I start again, with the blog writing, with the cycling, with the weight loss, with my unencumbered thoughts at the Rose Café. I also just got an iPad. Holy moley! I didn’t even know I needed it, and now there’s a whole new world to discover. And my sweet dog Grace just celebrated her first birthday. She was the star of her therapy dog training class, and she is now in proud possession of a cool red service vest, which is the key that unlocks the doors of public places. We are discovering this new phenomenon together—so far, Lincoln Hardware, Staples, Rite Aid and the post office. Every day brings a new location and a new opportunity to be on our very best behavior.

There’s a whole, amazing world out there. Let’s get to it!