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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 7-29-22 – I’ve Got a Bike You Can Ride It if You Like

I've got a bike, you can ride it if you like It's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good

– Syd Barrett & Susumu Hirasawa

A few readers may immediately see the arcane reference to Pink Floyd and the 1967 song of the same title as this post, written by lyricists Syd Barrett & Susumu Hirasawa. I could not resist it. Yes, in my youth I was a Floyd aficionado, read into it what you will. For those unfamiliar with early Pink Floyd music, I have linked the song. Syd was brilliant; may he rest in peace. His radiance lost, far too early as Shine On You Crazy Diamond, the tribute song the band wrote for their former lead singer edifies. It is their finest work in my estimation. It resonates with me very differently than at age 14. I have lost a lot of crazy diamonds over the years. But I digress. I have a new bike. It is part of my self-care plan, one that has required a lot of extra focus after the long COVID siege. I know I am not alone in that.

A bike is freedom and for me, it always has been. My first bike was a mid-70s wonder in all the regalia of that time. I had a purple banana seat. It looked a lot like this one which can be yours for $69. I thought about that bike when I did a podcast last winter with Phil and Sandy Valentine of CCAR and Phil asked me about growing up and what I did for fun, and all these really good memories came back. His bike had the chopper forks, which would have made him one of the cool kids on the block. I can recall recontouring the far reaches of my neighborhood on my bicycle in the “me decade.”

I have always loved exploring, the excitement of learning what is over the next hill has always been a driving force in my life. As addiction neuroscientist (in open recovery) Dr. Judith Grisel examines in this article, exploration as a human trait has benefits, but these same drives can be hijacked by substance use, particularly in young people. This makes sense to me given my understanding of addiction and recovery. Syd Barret was a fellow explorer as were many I have lost; I am grateful my story has not ended as theirs did. They shine on with me in spirit as I ride along.

One of my favorite bike stories was when I had this 18 speed Fuji. I would race around my town. I used to draft tractor trailers, which entails getting right behind the bumper of a big truck and being pulled along by the suction of air behind it. One day, I was drafting a truck at speed, passing cars and smoking a cigarette (grateful I have been tobacco free since 1990) and I looked over and made eye contact with my father driving one of those cars. He looked to see what nut of a kid was behind the truck, saw me, and realized it was his progeny. Grateful I survived all that.

I got into recovery at age 21. I suspect I made this change to avoid those same streets. Walking was a huge part of my early recovery. Riding around the streets became less appealing. I had nowhere to go but I was avoiding the streets, so I would walk for miles along the local rivers and canals. In recovery, I also got into bird watching and spending time in nature. Ten years ago, Julie got me a trail bike for riding those canal paths. I carried coffee, binoculars, and a camera. My favorite place to ride was the Lehigh Gorge, it is such a peaceful place.

Recently I started looking at the pedal assist e-bikes and thinking about how this could increase my range and allow me to spend more time out in the woods. I did some research and bought the lowest cost, decent quality e-bike I could afford. In a nod to common sense that come with surviving youth and an increased awareness of mortality, I also bought a helmet which I even wear (yes I do, Julie)! They were delivered last week, this week I took some vacation time and used it to explore some trails and dirt roads up in the Delaware Water Gap, The Lehigh Gap, and Hickory Run State Park that I had not been on before. It has been pretty amazing week and I am enjoying my new ride immensely.

This week, I slowed down and spent time on the many trails in my area. Grateful that we have hundreds of miles of bike trails relatively close to where I live. What have I seen this last week on my bike? Nature in all of its glory. I saw Bald Eagles, Nashville Warblers and heard Barred Owls. It was rejuvenating. I had a conversation recently with a person who described our parks and natural places as the most effective mental health wellness resource we have. Having peddled a lot over the last week, I can add that it is also pretty good for physical health as well. I am grateful for my health.

A bike is still freedom to me. That continuity across my life is pretty cool. I still want to see what is around the next bend or over the next hill. The world is still worth exploring with the eyes of a child no matter our physical age. I am grateful that the part of me that is inquisitive is still a major drive in my current era of life. I still see a lot of opportunities to take in new sights, experience new places and learn about new things. A bike is somewhat symbolic of the dynamic of exploring the world I have the gift to live in. Grateful for recovery without which I do not think I would be alive. Grateful to be healthy enough to ride a bike. Grateful I get to experience the world unimpaired. Grateful for new trails to explore.

What are you grateful for today?

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