Fear and Loathing on The Bike Trail

Grandpa here hasn’t posted a blog since April and no one seems too upset about that. Me either. Riding a bike in my advanced years seems to be a less important topic lately as the country is on the verge of voting for (if not electing) a madman, and we here in Orlando have been dealing with the proximity of pure evil after the murders at the Pulse Nightclub last weekend. Some of the stupidest people I know are actually talking about the virtue of owning a handgun (honestly, I wouldn’t feel comfortable handing these people a book of matches, much less a Glock); while people whose advice and consent I formerly valued are now extolling the virtues of building a wall across the Mexican border.

The stories of an old fart riding a bike seem to be a luxury that no one, including me, is all that concerned about at the moment as everything that I once considered to be true and good is now under assault (I once gave people the benefit of the doubt that they would eventually come to the right conclusion; now I’m not so sure about that. We have been dumbed down). Terror and cynicism rule the land and I think we’d elect Hunter S. Thompson president if he were running (and hadn’t killed himself with one of his guns).

Fear and loathing indeed.

Only, riding has been my saving grace. The value of getting on a bike and pedaling away, away, away until you are tired enough to come back is worth a million minutes of therapy. Headed out on the bike the mind is full of conflicting emotions and thoughts that all seem to bubble up at one time, competing with each other for attention. But as you pedal on and think about the direction of the wind, keeping a good cadence, your breath, and avoiding pick up trucks your mind gets quiet. The brain is an amazing thing and during the peace and quiet of my rides the level of relaxed concentration allows my brain to sort itself out and come back home with a new attitude of peace (or at least tolerance).

My body, on the other hand, has not been cooperating. In my quest to become invincible, my plan to lift weights until I was monstrous has failed dramatically and I’ve wasted about 1/2 a year of training. First, I must have lifted too much weight too fast with my legs and I began to have sever knee pain, especially when my leg is folded, as in sitting down at a play, a ballgame, or a long drive. I thought I might have overdone it in my quads, and, sure enough, I found an article in a cycling magazine that specifically warned cyclists against doing 4 of the leg exercises that my former personal trainer recommended.

After a month or so of stretching, foam rolling, and lighter riding, I decided to return to the gym and focus only on upper body work.  Well, here’s something I forgot, you should allow for your time off and lift lower amounts of weight after some time away from the gym. After my very first pull on the back row machine I felt a pain in my lower back that was unlike anything I’d ever felt before. I really feel empathy now for folks with chronic back pain, I was in constant pain for a few more weeks. I was hobbling around like an old boxer: but at least I could still ride.

Yup.

Then I crashed, over the handlebars and landing hard on my left shoulder. I thought I might have broken my collarbone for a while, but I didn’t. I crashed because  I rode straight-on into a curb stone, I missed the ramp for a bike trail/ sidewalk that I obviously thought was a lot wider. Now my left knee (my self diagnosis thinks it is arthritic), and left shoulder hurt, pretty much all the time.

Am I still riding? You bet, my single speed steel bike took the crash like a champion and I have been getting much stronger as I have ridden exclusively with one gear since April. My legs are more defined and more powerful than ever and I’ve come to realize just how much I was coasting and downshifting on my expensive road bike.

I looked it up and the good news is that even if I have to get that knee replaced I can still ride, so I’m pushing on through the Florida summer, riding 5 times a week and praising God for the gift of air conditioning when I get home. Knee pain and shoulder soreness beat sitting on the couch, and riding away my anxieties seems to be a better plan than watching the 24 hour news and giving in to the fear.

I’ll keep you posted on my summer riding, this weekend I’m headed to the beach to ride A1A.

Namaste,

Rick

P.S. Gay, straight, Latino or not, the recent massacre in Orlando deeply affected everyone with a soul (and not in a self congratulatory kind of way). The Pulse nightclub shooting was not a terrorist act, except for the fact that this crazy and evil person happened to name terrorist organizations during his killing spree. No: this narcissistic, sexually confused mass of over compensation and testosterone wasn’t trained or sent by Isis. He was merely a madman who was able to buy automatic weapons easily, making his rage more efficient and impersonal. I think we should strive to avoid giving overly testosterone influenced narcissistic masses of over compensation weapons, whether they be automatic or nuclear.

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