Friday, March 11, 2016

Compared to the Bicycle

My friend and internist, Dr. Roy, has promised to take me on his annual cycling tour if I get in shape. I am sure he thinks it’s good motivation for me to shed a few unhealthy pounds. What he doesn’t realize is that I long ago discovered I can eat and cycle at the same time.

Based upon Roy’s commitment, I dusted off the bike and went to work. Last Saturday morning I dragged myself out of bed, strapped on my shoes and hit the road. Thinking of my early cycling career, when every ounce added precious time, I left the socks in the drawer and put the shoes directly on my bare feet. I briefly thought about shaving my legs to make myself more aerodynamic, but decided that would take too long. Shaving a few cookies from my diet would surely be more effective.

It was about 7:00 a.m. when I finally got things in order, the sun was climbing but the air was cool. I rode west from Bluff, towards Monument Valley. As I turned to make the return trip, the sunlit cliffs reminded me why I love this naturally walled village nestled in the San Juan River drainage. The sandstone bluffs, for which the community is named, were glowing a misty pink, and the various formations faded into shades of gray as they receded into the distance. I searched the eastern horizon for Sleeping Ute Mountain and finally noticed his nose protruding just above the southeastern cliffs. The valley was coming alive.
Bluff Utah

My bicycle is about 8 years old, which makes it a dinosaur in terms of modern bicycling technology. In its time it was a marvel of cycling engineering, but times have changed. The tires are worn and the tubes tend to lose a little air. I carefully watched the wheels to ensure they were remaining inflated and began to consider the parallels between the old bicycle and me. That started me thinking about how I tend to lose a little air myself, which is, at times, embarrassing.

When I first moved back to San Juan County, the trading post was still under construction so I lived in Blanding. Every day I rode to Bluff with a bicycle in back of the truck. After working all day with the building contractor, digging trenches and pounding nails, I climbed on the bike and ride to Blanding. The bike and I worked in tandem, like a well oiled machine. We would make the 25-mile trip in just over an hour. The bicycle was tuned to perfection, and my legs like pistons.

The business, family and a daughter distracted me over the next few years. Then one day I was diagnosed with a terrible illness - the dreaded furniture disease. The tire around my waist began to inflate, and Duke, who is a renowned expert in this field, pointed it out to me. Of course I knew all along I was manifesting symptoms. I attempted to hide it and slow the effects with protein concoctions and low-cal foods, but nothing worked. For a time I considered wearing moo moos, but couldn’t find patterns or tones to compliment my skin.

In the more progressive medical texts, furniture disease is described as the condition where, “One’s chest falls into one’s drawers”. As in my case, onset generally begins in the early to mid thirties, and serious disfigurement can occur. Once trim bodies begin to sag, and physical performance declines in direct proportion to the droop. Cycling efficiency declines, and it becomes hard to work the pedals. Actually, the down stroke is fairly easy; it’s the upstroke, which requires lifting all those extra pounds that can be difficult. Balance is greatly affected, accumulating cellulite results in a less aerodynamic configuration and airflow is interrupted.

So there I was, wrestling the old bike back into our small community. A slight grinding of the gears reminded me how I often wear on the residents of this town. A little lubricant may be in order. As I pedaled up to the house, I realized the bike and I were lucky to be functioning at current levels. Neither the tires nor I had lost any air. This was a relief, because the pump doesn’t perform the way it once did either.

With warm regards Steve Simpson.

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