Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Five People You Meet Biking

I've been reading Mitch Albom's book The Five People You Meet in Heaven which made me think of this blog post.  There are five people you meet in biking.  And you kind of learn something from each one.

"Good for You!"
One day on my ride, an older gentleman (he was probably 60, so not THAT much older than me) slowed to ride beside me on a hill.  We chatted for a few minutes (me breathlessly), and he said he had been biking twenty miles a day to keep from having to use insulin.   He said he rode from Sandstone Ranch all the way to the airport, which is the complete run of the greenway.  I bike less than that, starting several miles down-trail from Sandstone Ranch, and never having ridden to the airport.  I told him I was a new biker, and that I was still struggling but getting better.  He said I could do it and to keep going, then he rode off.

I decided that day that I should ride all the way to the airport, and add some miles to my ride.  I had never taken that part of the trail, so this would be an adventure.  It meandered around between two farm fields and eventually ended at the airport.  Well, our excuse for an airport, anyway.  We see nothing but prop planes, and there is no control tower or radar tower.  The heaviest users of the airport are the two skydiving places that are housed in opposite hangars.  Anyway, as I huffed and puffed the last quarter mile or so of the greenway, I encountered the gentleman again, who had already made it to the airport and was heading back.

"Good for you!" he shouted as he passed, a big smile on his face.  I smiled back.  It made my day.

"Do I know you?"
One day I was riding to my favorite little coffee shop, to do some writing with my friends.  This ride takes me about a mile and a half, maybe a bit more, and I must stop and cross a pretty busy street.  I always use the pedestrian light and sidewalks at this intersection.  So I'm waiting at the intersection, minding my own business, when a guy comes past me on a bike.  He stops and asks if he knows me.  I look confused, but smile and say, "no, I don't think so."  He presses this issue a bit, and I'm friendly, because I'm happy and I'm on my bike.  That happens a lot.  Finally, he says "are you married?"

Yes.  Yes I am.

"Oh," he says.  "I was going to ask if I could take you to breakfast."

My town is full of plenty of people you don't want to get close to, including the drunks and recovering drunks that have lost their right to drive and are relegated to getting around town on a bicycle.  Some of them are also living in halfway houses or regulated housing and hanging onto life and sanity by their toenails.  He was one of those.  But he had a nice smile, and I take a compliment when I can, and I said, "I appreciate the offer" just as the light turned green in my favor.  He rode off down the street and I crossed to the other side, with a smile.

"Did you just ride down here from Estes?"

I rode to the bike shop from my house, intending to get some air in my tires before taking off on a short ride around town.  I was wearing one of my favorite t-shirts.  On the front it says "Estes Park, Colorado" and on the back is the logo above, "Got Oxygen?"  I wear this shirt a lot when I'm biking because it's loose and fits over my yoga capri's well, yet covers by hips when I'm standing.  Plus I like the snarky thing on the back.  Being a still relatively new Coloradan (it's only been about 17 months) I understand being out of breath in our thin air.  I'm much better than I was the first few months, but still, I can have my breathless times. 

So I'm in the bike shop, and this gentleman points at my shirt as I'm walking my bike to the back part of the shop for air and says, "Did you just ride down from Estes Park?"

Blink. Blink.

My little town is at about 5000 feet.  Estes Park is over 7500 feet.  I couldn't have ridden my bike up there, much less down.  But just the idea that someone thought I could ride that far, that much up hill, was sort of a surprise.  Here I am, fat old me, and someone thinks I can do that.

"No," I laughed at him.  "Maybe someday."

Not in a million years.  Or at least, that's what I'm telling myself at the moment.  

"Hey, Fatty!"

This doesn't happen often, but it does happen.  Sometimes it isn't said, it's whistled.  Or it's a look, a scowl.  As if I didn't belong out there biking, my fat butt out for everyone to see.  In my younger years, such a thing would have left me in tears, and thinking angry words all the way back to my car. Worse, it would have kept me from riding ever again.

I'm not a child anymore, and I'm also not riding to impress anyone but myself.  I'm riding to save my life.  To extend my life.  To keep me from developing health problems that fat people tend to get.  Yes, I'm fat.  I may always be fat.  But I have no excuse for not being in shape, for not trying, for not doing what I can do to keep myself from being the fatty who dies young. 

If someone is offended by me riding my bike in public, I can't help them.  I really can't.  I don't even have the energy or time to feel sorry for them.  I'm not doing what I do for them.  I'm doing it for me.

"Wow.  Nice Bike!"


The guy at the bike shop sold me exactly what I needed.  The frame is sturdy, the seat and handlebars adjustable in height for my long legs, the seat substantial, and the tires fat.  The bike is easy to ride, easy to pedal, easy to shift, easy to enjoy.  It is a very very nice bike. :)

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