Sometimes the decisions you make alter the direction of your life forever. We make decisions every day. Most of the time we do this without thinking and these decision don’t dramatically affect the course of our lives. At other times, the decisions are huge and they change everything: whether or not to marry, to stay in a marriage or relationship, to take or refuse a job, to move from one location to another. When we are younger, especially if we happen to be making decent money and we don’t have children, reversing the impact of any decision is much easier. As we age, we may gain seniority in jobs, making it more difficult to relocate because doing so means taking a significant pay cut and/or losing some job security. When children become part of the family, their security, well-being, and safety, among other things, must be considered.
I’ve always wanted to live in a city. Not just the suburbs, but right in the city where you walked to the corner grocery, picked up the Met from down the corner, and really had no need for a car except when you were leaving town. I made some decisions early in life which, I think, may make my dream of ever living in a city an impossibility. At least, it may be impossible until I’m too old to be able to negotiate a move and adjusting to a new lifestyle. Now that I have children and a decent job with a level of stability, the likelihood that I will ever relocate, to a city or anywhere, is next to none. In these circumstances, it is easy for the adventurous spirit to feel a bit stuck.
Sometimes, even when we make decisions that take us away from our dreams, we still make pretty good decisions though we might not realize this at the time. Sometimes, our dreams and goals change or we add other dreams and goals into the mix. We then realize how our earlier decisions, which seem to be taking us away from what we wanted actually brought us closer to where we really wanted to be anyway.
The cost of living in a city, almost any city these days, is much higher than living where I currently live. Moving would mean a job change, loss of income and job stability, all factors I’m not thrilled about encountering. Health care services available in my area are outstanding and, for the most part, it is exceptionally convenient to get around almost anywhere by bike which is something I’m committed to doing as much as possible for as long as I possibly can. It’s a far greener and less expensive mode of travel. Quite frankly, I’m also a bit unhappy with the costs of vehicles and gas. Riding my bike is my way of protesting all of this excess damage to our environment. Plus, each mile I ride makes me stronger. I’m getting in shape. I’m training for old age which isn’t for cowards. The bike helps me get around, and combines my workout with my travel and entertainment, thus saving me time. I could definitely still ride in a city and I’m no stranger to that. The convenience of cycling here, though I don’t live in a city per se, makes me feel just a little less stuck in life.
Way back in the day, I did live in a city and I did live near a city. This city experience was short-lived and I’ve never gotten the city bug out of my system. Choices I made took me away from that life. Results of those choices keep me away now. Sometimes it makes me sad to think that as I age the likelihood that I may never realize my dream of being immersed in city life. There are days, and quite a few of them, where I don’t feel the least bit despondent about this. Yesterday was one of those days.
Southern Oregon, in my opinion, has perfect weather all year round. Winters are mild and snow rarely ever falls on the valley floor so riding year round is not only possible for the fair weather rider it is enjoyable if you have the right gear. If you like snow, there’s entry to experience most years just about 40 minutes away.
It rains in the winter and spring, like most places in western Oregon, but just when we are all just about ready to be sick of the rain, the sun emerges and bathes us in golden 80-degree brilliance which is perfect cycling weather no matter what time of day.
Throughout the year, there are only a few “too hot” days and not that many “too cold” days. Most of the time it is Goldilocks weather around here: just right. For a noob cyclist healing up after radiation treatments, who is about to reach that fateful half century date on the calendar, and who is working on getting shape via bike there really is no better place to be. Sure, it’s not the big city, but I think I’m okay with that. The decisions I made back in the day which took me away from city life and the ones I’m making these days which keep me here are turning out just right.
The first weekend in April was a three day weekend for me due to a school reduction day. It was also projected to be very nice weather so Saturday morning the SO and I were rolling out by 10:30. I had a plan in mind. I wanted to try to ride a hundred miles in three days. I wasn’t entirely sure we were going to be able to make it. After all, we hadn’t really ridden for a few weeks since my last surgery and I have a way of biting off way more than I can chew.
We rolled out. I’d made arrangements for us to meet up with the Southern Oregon Velo Club for our first group ride ever. The plan was that we would meet up with the Slo-Mo group (average pace of 9-12 mph) at 1:30 that afternoon. I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to learn to ride in a group without the worry of us getting dropped from the ride for being too slow. The problem was that the scheduled ride was not going to be long enough for us. So, the plan was that we’d just ride south toward Ashland on The Greenway watching our time in order to time our arrival back at Bear Creek Park (a large centrally located park in the area) in time to meet up with the other Velo Club members.
It turned out that this was a great plan. We rode on the greenway to Exit 19, at a nice leisurely pace. It was, after all, my first lengthy ride since my last surgery. Two weeks out of the saddle is too long. Once we got to Exit 19 we figured we should turn around if we wanted to make it back in time to meet up with the club members. We made it back in plenty of time and enjoyed a nice ride with some other cyclists. The pace this group rides is just a little slow for us, but it was a great opportunity to meet some other cyclists in the valley. After all, we’d only been club members for almost a year, but hadn’t ever done anything with the club. It was time.
Halfway through the ride, everyone stopped at the Bad Ass Coffee Company at the downtown location. We stopped along with the rest and had some refreshments. Instead of heading back to the starting point with the rest of the club members, we decided to head on back toward home. We had our 40 miles in for the day and were feeling great.
The next day we put in 37 miles, again, on the greenway. On Monday, my son joined us for a shorter, but brisker ride of 27.63 miles. My son took the pull home in some pretty strong headwinds. That was really fun. We clocked an average pace for the ride back of 16 to 17 mph. We were sore, but happy. 100 miles in three days. If I can keep up that pace throughout the summer, we should really be able to stack some mileage on.
Unfortunately, the rest of April wasn’t nearly as glorious as this one weekend was. We ended up riding 205 miles in April. Not bad for only being able to ride on weekends and for also starting radiation treatments. It is an improvement over March’s 129.59 miles. I’m definitely anticipating a better month in May.
I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a brief couple of years in the early ’90’s. During that time I fell in love with the Southwest and with Byrd Baylor’s books, The Way To Start A Day, being one of my favorites. This last weekend, due to school budget cuts, ended up being a three-day weekend. Since we had Monday off and since rain was forecast for later that afternoon, the Significant Other and I decided to try something new. We avoided the ease and predictability our beloved greenway and ventured forth on the open road. It was an excellent choice for so many reasons. I’ve documented our ride in words and pictures, with Baylor’s book as my inspiration. I’m calling this The Way To Start A Week.
The way to start a week
is to get up early on Monday morning while others sleep,
and greet the sunrise with a smile and a cup of coffee; cream, no sugar.
Revel in in the cloudless blue of the early morning sky,
feel the chill March morning air,
inhale the fresh scent of dew and cedars.
Give thanks for being alive and having the ability to enjoy it.
Take your time dressing, but not too much time, the day awaits.
Find your favorite bike shorts and
slip on the Bontrager tights that were well worth
the hundred bucks you spent on them.
Slip into the cold weather gear given to you by a friend
since she saved you hundreds
and extended your riding season significantly.
Fill the water bottle,
grab the camera,
select the playlist,
and with your favorite riding buddy, find a road you haven’t traveled before.
As you ride, be glad that you can.
Even if it is cold. Even if it is hard, with the cold air biting through your
Balaclava, freezing your nasal passages and numbing your fingertips through gloves.
After about a mile stop,
take some pictures,
and take off the first outer layer.
Things heat up fast on two wheels.
After about 4 miles, stop for more pictures, a water break and to take more pictures. You’re in no hurry.
Decide to head to a historical old town.
It isn’t far now.
You’re over halfway there and feeling good.
The hills that you could climb a year ago are nothing to you now
You’re stronger and less fearful.
The occasional car whizzing by no longer intimidates you.
You can do this.
And you enjoy it.
select a place to enjoy a leisurely lunch while gazing out the window at passersby.
Laugh and enjoy the fact that you have overcome
caring about how you look in public places when
wearing padded pants
and sporting helmet hair, though you still quickly check
the rear view mirror of the nearest car to make sure
you don’t have bugs in your teeth.
During your meal, you laugh and smile,
enjoying delicious sandwiches with thirst-quenching beverages.
The miles make them taste all the better.
You observe the retired ladies, dressed up for lunch…
they must be in their 70’s or 80’s.
You think of your grandmother, who always dressed up
It’s not a given, but you’re on the right path.and you hope you live long enough to do the same.
so you decide to live life…
to the fullest of your ability and today is part of that plan.
On the way home, you skip the easy road,
and you opt for the one ahead
that sports a rather long hill.
You take it.
You make it. And you’re not even riding your fastest bike.
A year ago, you had to walk up stuff less daunting than this.
Not this time.
You feel the burn…
you inhale each breath and
experience the pounding of your heart
Nothing feels better.
You’re healthier than you were.
You’re happier than ever.
You are your own person.
At the top, you celebrate this realization.
You take in the valley you call home.
The rest of the ride is almost entirely
You’re riding in the right gear,
no matter what the road
and it is an exhilarating adventure.
This, you whisper to yourself as you ride up to your home,
is not just how you start a week…
It’s how you live a life.
I’m a great one for setting goals and New Year’s Resolutions are no exception. Back in the day, I’d write them down making sure they were measurable and achievable. Most of the time, back in the day, I was able to realize all these goals I so dutifully recorded. Things sure have changed. Oh, I still set goals, alright, but with each passing year, the goals seem more difficult to achieve. I’m lucky if I can set one priority a year and make it happen.
In 2010, I made it my goal to purchase my bike. I achieved that goal.
In 2011, it was my goal to put a thousand miles on my bike. I didn’t meet this goal until February of 2012, but I got close. That was good enough.
This year, my priority, is losing 50 pounds by my 50th birthday, which is in June. My mantra has been “50 Less By 50.”
Well, it was my priority, until, the first week of January.
Sometimes life has a way of circumventing the most noble objectives.
In brief, my life was clicking along just great. In December, I was called back to have further images taken after a routine mammogram revealed some areas of concern. On January 6, I found myself lying prone while I endured what I now know is a stereo-tactic needle biopsy. On Valentine’s Day, I was in the hospital for a wire-isolated lumpectomy, the results of which revealed ductile carcinoma in situ, or DCIS…cancer. At the time of writing, I’m awaiting an additional surgery which will likely be followed up with radiation.
No free boob job.
I’m not contagious.
My overriding emotion these days?
This is really messing with my 50 Less By 50 plan.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. My overriding emotion is gratitude. You see, cancer, in particular breast cancer, is not the death sentence it used to be. Even so, cancer, really is no laughing matter. I know this. I know people who’ve suffered and died from some form of cancer. I have immediate family members who have suffered through cancer. It is not a pretty nor is it humorous and were it not myself involved, I’d definitely refrain from the gallows humor. I’ll go off on how early detection is critical, and how women should absolutely make sure they keep up on their exams at a later time, but right now I’d just like to take a moment to be grateful.
Cancer caught me by surprise, and as any potentially life-threatening disease will do, it has forced me to re-prioritize my life. Yes, I still have my 50 Less By 50 Plan as a priority, but somehow it just isn’t the most important thing these days. In the last three months, I’ve learned a great deal about breast cancer and some of the approaches we now have available to treat and cure it. That I live in a day and age when I can benefit from so much research and the medical advancements made just in my lifetime, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the many, many things I am grateful for.
As I take the next step in this interesting journey through 2012, each day I find myself revising my New Year’s Resolutions. 50 Less By 50 is still a priority, in fact, even more so since exercise and healthy eating reduce one’s risks. But, if I don’t quite make it by my birthday, or if I just need to allow myself some time to rest, I’m going to give myself permission to do it.
Two days after my surgery, I was on my bike. Of course, it was inside on a trainer. I made it two miles, in just under 10 minutes before I just couldn’t go any further. Two days before my surgery, I’d completed a ride that logged me almost 40 miles for the week. Yeah. This thing is really messing with my workout plans and my riding goals.
I just have to let that be alright for now.
I am going to make it.
Shift happens. For some it happens sooner, rather than later. For me, now that I’m nearing that dreaded half-century birthday, shift is happening now. It’s been over a month since I’ve done any real riding. I just stepped on the scale and I haven’t gained any weight. Not gaining weight is most likely due to returning to work where I am on my feet nearly all day and also to moving into a beautiful spacious town-home, which means stairs…often…daily; at least when I am home. The lack of riding has been due to simultaneously moving and heading back-to-school (as the teacher, not as a student). The additional complications of figuring out new routes and daily routines ate up most of the ride time early in the month and the last ten days, stress, poor diet, and lack of riding got to me. I did that which I rarely do; I got sick the first time a child sneezed in my direction.
So, fortunately, I’ve not gained pounds, but things are beginning to shift. It’s not a good look. You know it’s a problem when the way you see yourself in your minds eye resembles a bad Jabba The Hut graphic, and your clothes don’t fit.
So, as soon as I’m able again (yes, I’m writing this from my sickbed) I plan to schedule in my rides. I plan to make a date with myself every day after school to get at least an hour of riding in. I’m noting it here as a commitment to myself and my own health. I’m happier and less stressed when I can roll out each day.
Sadly, when I get on my bike, I tend to be a bit of an addict; wanting to go further, and then just a little bit further, and then just one more mile. Next thing I know, three hours can slip by and I’ve covered 30 miles. This is not unlike the alcoholic who keeps telling herself, “I’ll quit after one more drink,” and yet they never do. In both cases, this is not a healthy approach. For me and cycling, it is unhealthy because I get myself into the mode of thinking I need to be on my bike for long periods of time. So, I pass up opportunities to ride, when shorter time frames are all that is available. This relegates me to riding only on weekends. Riding only on weekends does not improve my fitness level. The whole situation really boils down to me making excuses.
I need to stop it.
Sometimes, being sick slows you down and gives you forced time to think and get perspective.
How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? ~Dr. Seuss
Where has the time gone? Only moments ago I was reflecting on the end of the year and the looking forward to the possibilities that reside in every new year. It is now mid-year. The days will soon begin getting shorter, the nights longer, and while summer begins, the year is steadily marching toward December. But wait, there’s more
I used to take it black; pure, untainted, full strength, undiluted. I began this habit back in college; back in those days of choosing and learning to choose. Back then I chose my daily schedule, I chose my purchases, I chose my food, my friends, my fun. Like my coffee, I chose life pure, untainted, full strength, undiluted. But wait, there’s more