I love bicycling. It’s been a huge part of my life. It’s the one thing I could always count on to make me feel okay; from my first green Schwinn Stingray® with the white banana seat, to the 3 bikes I’m lucky enough to own now. There have been a few others over the years, including a rust-colored 10-speed Schwinn Varsity® I probably put 5000 miles on growing up before it was stolen after college, and a couple of mountain bikes I rode the wheels off – literally.
It’s the same feeling now as I had on that Stingray 50 years ago – freedom. Going fast and seeing new things, riding to new places; getting lost and finding my way back. On my own, out of reach from everything that threatens to drag me under in everyday life. The wheels spin and my mind calms, dialed in on the road in front of me. Nothing else exists for the hours I’m out there, putting mile after mile under my saddle.
My lungs scream for air, my heart beats out of my chest, my thighs burn, and my soul soars – so happy to feel the wind in my face, to smell the trees and the water as I fly down the trail along the lake. Whatever happened at work, or at home; whatever demon is chasing me that day I ride off my wheel within the first 5 minutes.
Cycling has gotten me through depression, bad relationships, bankruptcy, loved ones’ illnesses and deaths, bad times at work, the loss of a business – everything life has thrown at me. Through it all, I saddled up and rode my way through…that is, of course, if those things happened between April and October.
Because I live above the 45th parallel. Because Winter here starts around Halloween and sticks around until at least Easter, and it doesn’t kid around. Lots of snow, ice, serious cold. Today is the first day of Spring, right? Well, last night it was 16° F, and during the day today it got up to 30-something, but the wind was wicked – straight out of the northwest, so the wind child was in the lower 20s. Actual Spring for us is a couple of months away.
I’m not particularly wimpy, but I have a pretty firm 50° rule. Encountering 50° F at 20 mph is fairly unpleasant. Even with all the cold-weather cycling gear I have – and believe me I have it all – it’s cold, and for me, being too cold overrides the joy of the ride pretty quickly. Actually, the real deal-breaker is that I have asthma, and my lungs just won’t let me ride in cold temps.
So 6 months out of the year, I don’t get to do the thing that saves me, that gets me through, that sends my soul soaring. This is troublesome, in that I’m forced to find other ways to cope. In the past what I did mostly in the winter was eat too much and drink too much, both of which are poor substitutes for the soul-soaring feeling being on the bike gives me, but they do a pretty good job of at least getting those endorphins stirring,
They also did a pretty good job of driving my cholesterol and blood pressure through the roof as I got older. The older I got, the more weight I gained in the winter, and riding all summer was not enough to take it off as in my younger days. Ack. So that had to stop.
I’m happy to say I’ve gotten my weight and the cholesterol and blood pressure under control. Took a while, but I got there, and it’s now an on-going change of lifestyle thing. It’s good, but honestly, eating an apple is not as good for holding stress and aggravation at bay as a nice big piece of chocolate cake or a donut. Ditto beer.
So here I am – all stressed up and nowhere to go. What’s a girl to do?
Hurry up Spring!