Why I Love Bike Paths…

Since the closest bike path to me is 35 miles, I do a lot of road riding straight from my driveway though cars fly up and down my country road like it’s the Autobahn.  While the roads out here are fairly straight, there are many hills near my house which when you are not a light person, are a bit of a struggle.  Cue in the wind and I’m usually always struggling on the road while feeling like giving up at any moment.  While I suppose it is making me a stronger rider, I don’t enjoy the ride as much and so it becomes a chore to even get my bike down off the rack and push it out of the garage. 

A shady and wooded path


Lately, I have been trying to reach my weekly mileage goal by peicing together 4-5 shorter rides where I used to do two longer bike path rides a week.  This adds to the ‘chore’ feeling of riding.  I’m simply meeting a goal and am not really enjoying my ride.  Plus the I’m gearing up 4-5 days a week rather than a few.  Though some cycling enthusiasts will say you should ride most days of the week, I’m not feeling like I’m getting anywhere fitness-wise.  Plus, I would like to do more walking or hiking, maybe put in a swim at the lake.  I’m not sure my knees are up to daily riding, I seem to do better riding several times a week for longer stints than fighting hills for 4-5 rides.  

A run along the river


Today, I had an early morning appointment to get the oil changed in my truck 10 miles away from the closest trail so I tossed my bike in.  I figured, I’m that close, might as well ride the path.  The heat across the country has been oppressing, and even though it was only 845 a.m., the temperature was a very humid 84 degrees.  I chose the shadiest section of trail and started at the closest parking lot.  Though the parking lot was in the sun and I was sweating before I even clipped into the pedals, I felt that I was already looking forward to the ride.  When I ride down my driveway, I am not usually excited to ride, but I feel more like it’s a forced march.  

A small lake tucked away


As I crossed the road and passed the dry creek bed, I slipped into the shady wooded area in some of my favorite trail sections.  Instantly, I am in my happy place.  I love the dappled shade, the twist and curve of the path, the river running near, the older couple who say good morning as they ride by, the little dog who sits and waits for me to pass, the black wrought iron benches placed at scenic spots, the downtown buildings, the different bridges I cross, the cemetary that reminds me that life is short, the white mansion that sits on the hill, the small quiet lake, the city parks, the mother pushing two young children in a double stroller with a third child strapped to her chest, the lady jogging who gives me a pained smile, the barefoot fisherman, purple lupine, dame’s rocket, Queen Anne’s lace and the miles that seem to pass without my notice.  Okay that is a huge run-on sentence, but that is just a few things I loved from today’s 22-mile ride.  

An iron bridge that trains once traversed


While I rode today, I wondered why have I been killing myself on more frequent, shorter road rides.  Why not just put in two longer rides on the bike path even if I do have to drive an hour round trip or longer?  If it means I enjoy cycling more, then shouldn’t I do that as much as possible?  Fill in with road rides when I need to.   When I am out riding on the road, I am worried about cars hitting me, fighting harsh pavement conditions, big hills, no shade and really not a lot of to engage my senses.  Miles and miles of crop fields broken up by the occassional home or farm.  

A field of wildflowers


I worry about dogs chasing me or weird strangers slowing down and abducting me while I ride out in the middle of nowhere.  I carry dog spray (pepper spray that shoots far) more for people than dogs.  Not that you don’t run into the occassional weirdo on the bike path. There have been moments when my spider senses go into hyper drive but usually there are people around moreso than riding in the country.

The river view from a recently opened secrion of trail


Not that you can’t have an accident on a bike path.  You still should wear a helmet and pay attention.  I’ve had two bad accidents on a path.  The first one was an ambulance ride and a concussion because I wasn’t paying attention (didn’t I just warn about that!).  My front tire had slipped off the pavement causing me to go end over appetite crashing head first into the pavement (why you wear a helmet).  The EMTs had to drive back in a pickup truck becuase there was no way to get an ambulance to me.  That was certainly an expensive mistake.

A white mansion tucked behind the trees


The second time was hitting a suicidal racoon that darted out of the woods.  Hitting him was like hitting a brick wall which again sent me head over heels and to the ER to later find I had a separated shoulder.  So, while cars are usually no an issue unless you are crossing roads, you still have to be really careful and alert.  

Canal view


That aside, I am a big advocate for bike paths and bike lanes.  They help keep us safe from vehicles though they aren’t bullet-proof.  The paths normally wind through interesting scenery and take you to places you may not normally see from a car.  It gives you the opportunity to interact, even if it’s just a quick hello, with other cyclists and exercises of all walks of life and ages.  They provide normally a fairly flat surface to ride or walk or run.  They help us get or stay fit.  Bottom line is that bike paths are a great asset to every community.

Ch..ch…Change…

Most of us are especially as we get older, resistant to change as we tend to get set into what is comfortable.  We have worked all these years to reach this certain point, what is the point of shaking things up?  Well, I found out though it is really hard when you are set in you ways, dug deep into the trench of “how it is going to be”, that maybe the light of day no longer reaches you or makes you happy.

As mentioned in previous posts my husband basically had to drag me kicking and screaming out to look at new homes.  He was intuitive enough to know that fifteen years of memories including a really bad marriage before him was haunting me and my daughters as well.  After losing my mom the year before, everywhere I looked was reminder of my mom, my ex husband, my lost step kids.  I couldn’t even garden without ending up in tears over some memory of my mom.  Or coming across something the kids gave me.

My first holiday, Thanksgiving, in our new house has come and gone.  We celebrated early inviting our “parents” to join us for a small dinner.  My husband’s parents and my aunt and uncle who never had kids and have somewhat adopted me at least in spirit.  Even though we ate on the table my grandfather made for my mom, used her china and serving dishes from both my mother and my grandmother, now all deceased, I didn’t feel hollow and empty but happy.  I was able to embrace their memories like a warm, soft blanket of love that was wrapped around me and feel their spirits among us.  My aunt and uncle were telling stories of my mom and my grandparents making it feel as they were still alive there with us.

Without the old memories haunting me, I was able to enjoy my first holiday in years.  I would not have been able to do that in my old house.  Creating new fresh memories, without the stain of old hurts and events swirling around bringing me down.  Granted there will be bad times upcoming in my life because it is inevitable and I can’t move every time there is one but sometimes there comes a point that everything stops working and you are miserable.  You can’t even force it anymore or fake it.  It’s time for a change.  In my case, it was purging my life of truckloads of possessions I didn’t realize I was hoarding and moving into a home in the country with more room and no neighbors looking in my windows.

There is a moment when you have to unearth yourself from your deep furrow of your life’s routines and come back out to look around, see what else life has to offer.  I am so much happier living outside the city limits in a home that fits our needs better.  I could have gotten stuck on the financial benefits of staying where we were but eventually I had to face the truth, I wasn’t happy in my home anymore.  It wasn’t working, we needed more room, we were all miserable in it’s cramped spaces.  Giving away truckloads of material possession I had no possible use for was therapeutic and not living in clutter is freeing.

Now I am looking forward to Christmas, I am actually contemplating going and picking out a live tree today rather than waiting for them to go on clearance the day before Christmas Eve.  Even my husband was looking at me like I have grown a second head because he isn’t used to me being in the mood for the holidays.  Except this year I have decided I am going to celebrate my holidays exactly the way I want them, I am done with feeling obligated because it always just makes me miserable.  Cooking and cleaning for people who don’t appreciate it, help clean up or offer to take the burden next year.  Great, thanks for coming over, eating, packing up half the left overs, and now please go sit on the couch while I carry your dishes  to the dishwasher.  I got it, don’t you worry. I’ve only been cooking and cleaning for days.  No I am done with those days.  I am making a change, I am doing what makes me happy and not apologizing for it.

Now I’m going to see what else I can shake up in my life, maybe nothing as major as a move but it never hurts to come back into the light and open your eyes to the possibilities and the writing on the wall.

Father’s Day for the Dysfunctional Family

Today is Father’s Day, the day where dads receive ties (not so much now) and get to blissfully barbecue.  They are admired by their spouses/ partners and their children.  They are the dads who play video games, teach sports, cook, clean, chauffeur, reluctantly discipline, have the hard talks, teach defense, work hard, fix things, fix more things (or call someone to fix them), drink beer (or wine) but who are always there for their kids.  Or so the ideals and greeting cards want you to believe.  And I know there are a lot of dads out there that fit that bill, probably the majority of fathers do.  Oh, they aren’t perfect, just like Mom’s, they mess up once in a while but it is a mistake and not a pattern.

I’ve mentioned before I grew up in a very dysfunctional, alcoholic home.  By the time I was 12, my parents had divorced and my father had migrated back to Missouri.  I was relieved though saddened, that he was no longer part of my life then.  From then on, it was my mom, my sister and I.  My relationship with my father was to say the least dysfunctional.  He has also been gone since early June 2002.  For the most part, my life has been without a father there for me.  I know that kids grown up without one all the time.  They may have lost theirs early on to an accident or illness, it is very tragic.  However, I had one for years and well, I was never much on his radar, he was fighting his own demons.

I did have my maternal grandfather as an example.  He was more “dad-like” than my father.  My uncles.  I had Dad role models.  Though none of them lived close by.  We would see them occasionally.  Am I worse off not having a strong father figure?  One that was caring and involved in my life?  Who honestly knows.  I made poor choice in men however until later in life.  Was I seeking someone who was emotionally unavailable to mimic the relationship I had with my father?  Probably.  Would I have picked someone better for me if I had grown up in a more “normal” home?  I have no idea.  Maybe or maybe not.  Children of intact homes get divorced all the time, so that really can’t be determined.

Then there is my children’s father.  MIA as usual.  We divorced when our youngest daughter was 2 almost 3 after a year of separation.  For awhile, until I remarried 6 years later, there was every other weekend though for them it wasn’t joyous.  He had gone on some new religious tear, the one that doesn’t allow Harry Potter or trick or treating.  His new wife didn’t appreciate the girls invading her space and referred to them as ‘guests”.  The pair seemed determined to tear down their self-esteem so they could feel better about themselves.  Then when I remarried the 2nd time, their dad decided to move to South Carolina.  The girls felt rejected and unwanted.  He moved back for awhile but they never reconnected even remotely.  Then he returned to South Carolina where he has stayed.  He never calls, messages, texts, IM’s or even likes their stuff on FaceBook.  He didn’t bother to show for our youngest’s high school graduation even though the date had been set for several years, they were vacationing in Myrtle Beach.  His priorities are quite evident to all.

I feel bad about picking someone like him to marry.  I have amazing daughters but I feel bad that their father is so self-centered.  But is it all bad?   Maybe not.  They are very fierce, very independent and very outspoken girls.  I used the adversity of their father trying to preach to them and tell them how they were wrong for drawing dragons, that women could not be preachers and all that other rot he wanted to impart on them, to stand up for themselves, to be themselves and to never be afraid of authority.  If he had been the perfect dad, we had stayed together and everything been like it is portrayed in the movies, would they be the amazing women they are today?  I can’t answer that either but when I watch one of them stick up for someone else who is not able to or too shy to do it, I think maybe it was meant to be this way.

They haven’t clung to boyfriends or rushed to get married.  My youngest the other day has a serious boyfriend and she was talking about how he wants to live in a city when he graduates college.  She looks at me and says Mom, I told him that if we are together, I am not living in a city.  He is just going to have to compromise to be with me.  I smiled at her and said yes, it’s about compromise. She continued on about possiblites of living near a city so they could both have some of what they want.  Compromise is great, but what I loved most about that was she isn’t like me at that age.  I moved to the city to be with the boy because it is what he wanted.  I was miserable and ended up depressed.   I ignored my needs to be loved.   She isn’t willing to do this and she expects nothing less than compromise out of both of them.

Now my daughters are not without a “dad”.  Their stepfather of seven years is here every day for them.  He grills and fixes things, he helps to provide a good living for all of us, he watches over them even though they don’t realize he does.  And he loves them very much and has always quietly looked out for them and their needs.  He is the example I wanted them to have of how a man should treat the people they love.  What it is like to be with someone or have someone in your life who unlike their biological father, puts them first at times rather than puts themselves first at all times.  So their biological dad may be MIA, but the dad that chose them and their mother is here every single day because he wants to be, not because he has to be.  He has no blood relation to any of them.

Dads come in many shapes and sizes.  Your biological father may have been MIA in your life for whatever reason.  The hardest is when they choose to not be part of your life or have an addiction/ mental illness (such as mine) that makes it impossible for them to be a father.  But “Fathers” come in many different ways.  Grandparents, Uncles, a stepfather, an older brother or cousin, a family friend.   Sometimes you just can’t get hung up on blood and you have to embrace the men who willingly step into that patriarchal role out of choice and out of love.

My Dad may be gone for 13 years now but I can remember some good times, some good memories.  Enough time has passed that I can understand that he hadn’t willingly rejected me, that he struggled with something bigger than himself.  I can be upset with my children’s biological father for making choices that ensured he was not part of their lives but I have decided that is simply his loss, and maybe their gain as they were never happy around his judgments.  That I was brought together with a man who loves all four of us and takes care of us without us ever having to ask.  We are really blessed to have him in our lives.

Happy Father’s Day, to all the myriad of types of ‘Dads’ out there.  Go grill something, drink a beer, watch some sports, and pretend you like the gifts we got you.  You’re freaking awesome!