Monday, February 2, 2015

Bicycling Saved My Life--Part 2

What, may you ask, am I doing riding in Florida?

It is similar to the question my mother asked when she found out I’d ridden across the highway. It sounds like the punchline to a joke—because I wanted to get to the other side. Because I needed to see what was there. It’s what kept me riding way past exhaustion, sometimes into dusk, trying to get home before catching it from my parents.

I am 56 years old. Why do I do this? Because bicycling saved my life.

I was a solitary child. I can’t tell you why to this either. I simply had a very hard time making friends. And, I can tell you, there were quite a few people I wouldn’t be friends with even if they asked me. I found most people my age disappointing. They didn’t read, or if they did, not the same books as me. I read a lot. When I wasn’t cycling I could be found reading books by the bushel. Again, a solitary activity. If I couldn’t make friends, then I’d at least make peace with myself. Find comfort and solace in my own company. I spent many, many hours on my bike exploring the backroads of Ohio. When there were backroads. Before Walmarts and Olive Gardens took over the intersections and developments sprung up. Before suburban sprawl got out of control. There was so much history in these little villages and many small town in Ohio used to support liberal arts colleges. When college was education and not commerce.

How do I explain this need, to be on the move? A restlessness, dissatisfaction, perhaps hope. That somewhere out there things will be different. Not exactly greener on the other side. Hope and faith are a large part of what motivates me. Pushing up a hill—there is the hope that at the top I’ll find a downhill or at least respite from the climb.

With cycling one can see the results of their labor. After riding 30 miles you are 30 miles further along (unless you do a loop). It is 30 miles of breathing in fresh air, of seeing other runners and cyclists along the path, of happening upon a movie shoot or someone in a hot dog costume giving out coupons. There is a literalness, of being in the moment that connects me to life.

Riding a bike saved my life. As a teenager, I needed to be able to break out of the conformity and ho-hum of my life. There was absolutely no one in my family I could relate to. Their values were not my values. Which is okay, but very isolating. On top of that I hated school and didn’t fit in there either. I wasn’t smart enough to be a geek or ambitious enough to be on the drill squad, or talented enough to be on a sports team. Nor was I a freak or rowdy. I basically went to church, read a lot of books, and was nuts about biking.

Thus, I am going to Florida to ride from Jacksonville to Key West from Jan. 31 – February 10th.
training in the ice and snow

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