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Posts Tagged ‘Cycling’


The condo is in disarray, the van is partially packed and in a couple days we’ll be waving goodbye to our favorite city on the east coast. Summer in Boston has been both energizing and over-stimulating, an odd combination of paradoxical states to exist in one body. But for me, both are very real.

harvard-square-coverWalking around MIT and visiting their museums, hibernating in the Harvard Coop and shopping the Square, walking on the Esplanade while Bella swims in the river and chases squirrels, attending concerts and shows by world class performers – and being able to go everywhere on public transportation – all very energizing experiences. MITThere’s an intellectual aliveness in this city, the home of a couple hundred colleges and universities – including ivy leaguers. And athleticism is everywhere and represented by all age groups. It’s flat out invigorating to be in a city where intellect and fitness interact so organically.

New England is a diverse vacation spot too. 90 minutes from Boston you can be on Cape Cod and an hour’s ferry takes you to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. Then, of course, rural Maine is right up the road and pastoral Vermont is just a couple hour’s drive. GingerbreadHousesNew Hampshire, close by too. I had the opportunity to spend a week on the Cape and take a short trip to a friend’s sheep farm in Vermont that offered million dollar views of rolling hills for miles in all directions. VermontI love this part of the country for all those reasons.

I’m also exhausted from the experience. City life is loud, busy, fast and relentless. We were staying at the intersection of two very busy throughways in town, and in front of a bustling expressway. Those are also reasons why it’s so easy to get around town. But the non-stop cacophony of traffic, horns, sirens is trying on the nerves and my patience level was tested to the max each day by cyclists who think they’re above traffic laws and buses speeding past cars and just assuming the lanes belong to them. BostonTrafficStraying from a walking path by a foot or so might cause a rear end collision from a roller skater, runner and cyclist in a real hurry to go somewhere but who doesn’t think it’s necessary to alert anyone he’s about to whiz past. And this was during the “off” summer season. Imagine the craziness when kids come back to school, soon.

Once upon a time, this lifestyle was my lifestyle and Boston was home for a few years. It felt perfectly normal then to be part of the hustle bustle of this busy town. But somehow, as my system has adapted to warmer seasons, so too has my need for peace and quietude. Since living in a heavily wooded community in a much smaller southern city – or as I call it, a town – I seem to thrive on living life more slowly. I’m happier, more content and, frankly, feel more at home. So while Boston offered a really fun summer, it’s time now to come home and resume a life that’s a bit more ratcheted down.

HouseSpring

Maybe age has something to do with it, though many active folks my age in Boston thrive on the go, go, go. I think my go, go, go years are behind me. After a very fortunate, fulfilling and successful career, I’ve retired. And now it feels time to live life a little smaller. A bit more pensively, experiencing adventure in a slower, richer way.

So – bye bye Boston, for now, anyway. My husband keeps devising ways to spend more summers here – maybe we will, maybe we won’t. But I do know that living here for good is likely not in my cards. And I love this city. That would be my paradox

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maybe it’s my age. There’s no way I’d bike in heavy traffic without a helmet and casually meander out of my bike lane into one filled with cars. Oops, a horn on my tail, sorry mister, I’ll casually wander back. I look at those kids (and kids they are) and shake my head.   Their parents would plotz if they saw them.   If any of you are somewhat familiar with the Mass Ave Bridge or Beacon Street or Comm Ave you’d know what I’m talking about. Boston drivers are a mess unto themselves. cycling2Put a 20 year old on a bike cruising in from of them and that cycler is lucky he or she doesn’t go flying ass over teakettle. Maybe some do; I don’t know the injury rate – death rate – of those cyclers on city streets. I know that 35+ years ago my husband was one of those casualties, landing him in the hospital with a concussion and lots of cuts and bruises. He was lucky; except for about 5 years later when he needed a tumor removed near his brain stem which docs think may have been caused by head trauma. He doesn’t ride bikes anymore and I only ride safe greenways that are far away from speeding traffic.

It seems that everyone on Boston streets is a dare devil, even in the evenings. When I walk my dog at 9pm there are kids on bikes, also no helmets, no lights and no regard for traffic laws. Hit me if you dare. Or maybe they think they’re invincible. Even at 20 I had a healthy respect for safety and my mortality. At my university in Pittsburgh I walked everywhere, maybe because of all the hills but also because it just felt safer. This city is teeming with colleges and thousands of students, even in the summer. I can’t imagine what it’s like during the school year. Maybe they keep the hospital row ERs in business. Drive down Longwood & Brookline Avenues and you run into Mass General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s, Beth Israel, Children’s Hospital and the medical buildings associated with them. Those are big Harvard hospitals and streets are packed with people going every which way they please. Cars are incidental. And bike lanes are in the middle of the street packed with cyclists who also pass the cars! And nobody seems shocked, except for me. Am I the country bumpkin?

esplaade&bikesI walk Bella down at the Esplanade where there are long stretches of grass on either side of paved asphalt paths filled with skate boarders, cyclers, baby strollers and roller bladers – everyone weaving in and around those of us walking. On the dirt path by the river we have to move out of the way of dirt bikers racing each other. Nobody even calls out when they whiz by. Luckily she’s adjusting and doesn’t seem fazed. Maybe that’s because I pull her out of their way. We have to abide by traffic and safety rules; they don’t.EsplanadePeople

Boston is a great biker town; it’s flat and you can get anywhere. You can also rent a bike at many street corners if you don’t have one of your own. Pick it up at Beacon at Mass Ave and drop it off in Brookline for class. It’s a great system and a novel entrepreneurial venture that’s hugely popular here.

bikeRentalsIn the next day or two I’ll get on my bike too. But I’ll be riding the asphalt path next to The Charles River, safely away from traffic, with my helmet nestled on my head. I’ll likely make it to Harvard Square for a visit to the Coop for coffee and book perusing and then continue on the Cambridge side along Memorial Drive, again on the asphalt path. Call me an old fogy. And alive.

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just relax. take it all in. and live life unti...

Image by Casey David via Flick

“just relax. take it all in. and live life until you burst at the seams.”  Casey Taylor

Life’s perspective changes on a bicycle, especially after age 50 as I rediscover the joys of pedaling. It used to be my transportation as a kid, a way to  see girlfriends who lived near by, or to the dreaded piano lessons (after a quick stop at the grocery to snatch the Tastykake 3 pack of chocolate cupcakes.  They were my favorite and eased the pain of an hour of scales at Mrs. Heston’s house).  I also rode my bike to the community pool down the street to see if the cute boy I adored was there that day.

A typical Mobil gas station. This one is locat...

Image via Wikipedia

But all that seemed to stop when I got my license because then I could drive to all those places (except the pool, now the cute boy I adored worked at the gas station a couple miles away).

These days I experience freedom on my bike and I feel youthful and vibrant. The rides are no longer destination oriented, they’re experiential and offer a slice of life in the slower lane.  There’s plenty to see by moving more slowly; just like the freedom of the road offered by RV travel (which we also do) pedaling along greenways and through parks is like entering a world on the other side of a key hole.  Just step through the door, out of the to-do list mode and into the to-be-here mode instead.

There are wildflowers growing, creatures scurrying and children playing, each to their individual rhythms.

It’s a world that exists whether I ride by or not. And that’s what’s so magical about discovering it by bike.  Pedaling through the keyhole and landing here makes me realize there are hosts of other worlds just waiting to be explored. They’re invisible to cars and to planes.  But when life slows down they pop into view.

I started riding a bike, regularly, a little more than a year ago when I borrowed my sister-in-law’s up in Boston last summer.  It’s the perfect town; all thruways accommodate cyclists.  There are bike lanes on all the roads and a pathway that stretches along the Charles River on both the Boston and Cambridge sides. Because the area is flat just about everywhere, it’s a rider’s paradise.  Taking my bike out was as easy as going out the back door and down the Mass Ave bridge ramp onto the esplanade.  I was hooked.

A summer day on the Charles River Esplanade, B...

Image via Wikipedia

In Tennessee I hook the bike to the back of my car and then take off to a number of greenways nearby.  And those I discovered because I had to find places to ride, away from the roads and steep hills in my neighborhood.  It offers a wonderful form of exercise and opportunities to be with friends.  Knoxville looks like a completely different city from the seat of a bicycle.

But the best part of all?

All of it.  Riding my bike makes me happy.  Seeing people and creatures live life reminds me what living is all about.  That we all have a finite number of years in this human form, and  one shot at it.  I don’t want to “wish I had.”  I want to do.

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