Don’t you love those books or movies where the story begins in the middle or at the end, but you don’t find out about it till the last chapter of the book or the final moments of the movie? This story is kind of like that. I’m starting at the beginning, but it is also the middle of a bigger story and the end of another story altogether.
In 2010, I happened to be in Portland, Oregon for the 4th of July. This city is the setting for both the beginning of my story and the continuation of it. But in 2010, over 40 years of my story had transpired and I was, as I always seem to be, in limbo.
I was in Portland to meet two members of my family I’d lost contact with for over 30 years and to enjoy the 4th of July with the guy I was dating at the time. He was a really great guy, or so I thought, until a few weeks later I received that proverbial Dear Jane email. I mention him only because dating him, brought me to realize some very important things. Things I wish I’d grabbed hold of decades ago. The important part of this Portland story is what was happening inside me the entire time I was celebrating the 4th, dating the Great Guy, and reconnecting with long lost family members.
Dating at any time of life is a tenuous and risky adventure. It is even more so, the older you get when you add each person’s backgrounds and histories to the experience. Things can get complicated and negotiating the twists and turns and detours can be interesting, frustrating, depressing and downright disgusting. In the four years since my divorce, I’d dated enough. I’d had enough of those adventures. I was nearly done. While walking around the city along the waterfront, I began to ponder some things. I remember that somewhere in the midst of my reverie, the thought, crystal clear as top shelf gin on ice, came to me:
“You don’t need a relationship to make that happen. You’re perfectly capable of doing that yourself, on your own, if you really want it.”
I know. It took me far, far too long to learn the very thing my mother told me all my growing up years.
It finally connected for me that July in Portland, Oregon…along the waterfront…with cyclists whizzing by on wheels, their lives in gear, while I walked at such a frustratingly slow pace. Kind of an analogy of my life to this point, as I think of it now. It was then that I began thinking the critical questions, “What do I want to do with what’s left of my life?”, “What’s important to me?”, and the really basic question, “What do I like to do?” Simple really. Silly really, that I had for so many years had men determining my interests for me. Had I spent those 20-something years getting to know me, I might have had been better at choosing a compatible mate. Sigh. We all have regrets. That I let others chart my course for so many years is one of mine. Things changed forever for me in July 2010.
Upon asking myself the question, the answer bobbed to the surface of my thinking almost instantaneously,
“I want to ride along this waterfront on my own bike, more than once. I want to cycle Portland. I want to bring my youngest daughter if I can. I’m not sure I’ll be able to bring the other kids, but if I can, I want that too. I want to cycle and photograph and write about the places I ride.”
Not a big dream, really, but for one who was living on a cash only basis, with non-existent discretionary spending funds, and four children, the idea of getting a decent bike (read price tag of $500-$900 plus needed accessories like tire liners, thorn resistant tubes, helmets, water bottles and racks), seemed absolutely impossible. Looking back, it seems crazy that it even happened, but it did. I happened to have a friend who worked in a bike shop in my home town. Before you know it, I am getting fitted for a bike, researching various kinds (cruiser, road, mountain bike, hybrid) putting payments down on a 60-day plan and early in September, just two months after my inspirational 4th of July, I rode my beautiful Ariel home.
It gets better. That following Christmas, I purchased my youngest daughter her own Specialized bike, plus needed accessories. The following summer, my son joined our cycling group. We spend our summer days riding almost all day long. I spend all but about two months of the year trying to get in at least a hundred miles a week.
Dream complete. Or is it only beginning?
At the time of this writing, it is just two weeks shy of being just one year from that fateful 4th of July. I’ve already made reservations to go up to Portland again to see my long lost family members. (That part of the story turned out wonderfully well.) This time, I’ll have my youngest daughter and our two bikes in tow.
These days, life isn’t perfect, but it’s rolling along, up hills and down, with headwinds sometimes, gravel at others, and idiots blocking the bike path with their own bikes instead of pulling to the side…as idiots will do. It’s painful, at times, to be back in the saddle with far more weight and far less endurance and strength than I had when I was riding in my twenties. Learning to deal with bugs in your teeth and helmet hair is tough enough but figuring out the bike technology which has advanced significantly in the last quarter century is another thing altogether. It would be nice if I could just figure out the gears.
Yet again, another metaphor for life, because isn’t that how it rolls much of the time?
This blog is my record of the events, observations, challenges, and celebrations I experience and reflect on as I log the miles on Ariel, change my lifestyle, get fit with my kids, and anyone else who will join me. This is truly my life in gear.