It’s All Downhill from Here with No Hill in Sight

My birthday was three weeks ago.  I’m 38 now. Another year closer to 40. Birthdays have never been a big deal for me in the way of celebration. It fell on Easter so I just kind of ignored that I woke up to it. And then I had to go get my license renewed the next day. Updating the information on it was an eye opener, especially when the lady took my height and weight. I should have lied.

And then there’s my 20th year high school reunion this year which I’m helping to plan. It didn’t help that a fellow committee member recently mentioned “middle age” on Facebook a few days ago.  So, that got me to thinking…is that really where I am now?  Was I already there before at 36 or 37, or have I just arrived? And is the only way out to move over the hill?  What’s next for me?

Though I’d like to admit it is completely unrelated to this middle age rant, it’s probably not and there’s some deep underlying metaphor slapping me in the face right now.  I went biking on Saturday.  It was a sudden decision, and it helped that the weather was absolutely gorgeous outside. Not too hot. Nice breeze. Mid 70s maybe.  One of those decisions that can easily be overlooked and substituted with a television or book and a comfy sofa, but I made up my mind to just do it (no Nike pun intended).

Now you probably wonder why this was such a hard decision to make?  Well, I haven’t ridden a bicycle in at least 14 or 15 years!  I’ve lived in St. Louis since late 2001 and I know I haven’t done it since I’ve lived here. I bought a bike the last two years or so that I lived in Memphis and frequently rode it to the park and back from my house.  I remember selling that bike to a friend before I moved. So, yeah, it’s probably been close to 15 years.

Now, I had a brand new bike that had been sitting in my basement for two years. Yep…two years, and it was free!  Did I mention brand new too?  Even had a helmet for two years too. I practically got winded just lugging it up the basement stairs and into the kitchen to wipe the dust off it.  And then, I had to take it through the house and load it in my SUV.  Didn’t spend as much effort deciding what to wear thanks to a plethora of gym clothes and workout wear I have that doesn’t get used much.  I packed a cinch bag with my wallet, cell phone, and a bottled tea.

I stopped at the gas station to fill up and to put air in the tires, and then had to drive several more miles to the trail. My point is I had lots of time to think about my decision and turn back. But I didn’t.  I kept going. I chose a trail that was basically flat for several miles. Though I didn’t expect to make it that far.  Parking in a nearby lot, I put the helmet on and threw my keys in the cinch bag. I put the cinch bag on my back and then got the bike out. The lot was a bit rocky and there were a lot of people around. Too many to see me fall on my ass if I chose to get on the bike right away. So, I walked the bike across the lot and over to the trail…more time to change my mind, but I didn’t.

Once I reached the trail, I knew it was now or never.

I got on that bike and I started pedaling, and though I half expected to be shaky or to fall over right away, I didn’t.  Bicycling is truly something you just never forget.  It was as if I’d never stopped and had been doing it for years.  Suddenly, with a breeze in my face, I was just doing it. And I felt exhilarated.  So much that I think I smiled and laughed out loud. It was an epiphany, that climactic moment in the movie where a really good song comes on and everything changes for the lead character.  Like the “You Make My Dreams” musical number in 500 Days of Summer! Yeah, it was totally that.

Once I adjusted the speed and resistance of the bike to my liking, I was off.  Forrest Gump Voice: “I wassss bi-king!”  I rode a good distance before turning around and heading back. I thought about my dad for a moment, who at 73 recently fell and broke his pelvic bone and is currently recovering in a senior center. He taught me to ride a bike. It was one thing he never would let me give up on.  I remember how determined he was. He made me do it, and I did.  And I’m so happy he did. Something so simple, and yet here I was enjoying it once again.

I passed the point where I started and though my legs hurt a bit and my butt was sore, I wanted to keep going.  I reached a park bench along the trail and decided to stop and check my phone for the time and to enjoy my tea.  I’d been biking for an hour already!  So, I decided to stop there and head back while I was close, but not before I noticed the placard on the bench.  It had been dedicated in someone’s memory.  And beneath their names it said: Live in the Moment.  That seemed very appropriate.  So I took my phone back out and snapped a photo to remember this very moment.  Then, I headed back to my car, took the helmet off, loaded the bike, and decided to drive the route to see how far I’d biked.  It was 5 miles!!

Yeah, you might think big deal. Shannon got his slightly overweight ass on a bike after 14 years and biked 5 miles. And yep, that’s exactly what I did. But to think about how many days had gone by that I could have been doing this all along really got me to thinking. Remember I said that bike had been in the basement for two years!  It’s kind of like treating yourself to a blizzard at the DQ after not having one for a few years because you’ve been dieting. Or maybe your splurged and bought yourself a new pair of shoes, ladies. Whatever makes you happy and gives you so much elation after having not done it in a long time, that’s what this was for me.

I was proud of myself. And that’s saying a lot, because I tend to beat myself up quite a bit. No one made me do this but me, and I’m glad I made myself do it. I think the only thing that could have been better is having my dad on a bike right beside me. But now that I think about it, he never rode a bike with me before.  He ran along side me, with his hand on my shoulder holding me up, offering support. So maybe he was there in some way, and I was just too distracted by my happiness to see him.  He was the happiness. Last time I saw him a few weeks ago, he was giving a wheel chair a good workout up and down the hallway of the senior center! I heard he was up walking again some last week. I love ya, dad.

So, by now you might ask, am I going to do it again?

You bet I am!


  1. You’ve inspired me, Shannon. 🙂 I used to love riding a bike, but I haven’t done it in 3-4 years, at least. Time to dig it out of the garage and air up the tires!

    • Glad to have inspired you, Melinda. Had I only known how great it made me feel, I would have done it much sooner. I’d forgotten that feeling from all those years before. It was nice to experience it again.

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