Not commuting, but a nice little race, done with my bride to be, Mary Piper

Training? For training’s sake?   Left to my own devices, with that being my sole motivation, I wouldn’t have fared much better than your average middle-aged mom or dad, hanging the delicates out to dry on the clothes rack on February 1st. The clothes rack, resembling an exercycle, was bought for December 25th, then had some forgotten oath sworn to on January 1st, did it’s job very well, for drying clothes. 

Finding a way for your movement to fulfill something helpful or enjoyable, right now, at this time, is your most potent weapon!

This takes a little ingenuity, but you might be surprised in the number of things that you can come up with. Small things, silly things, they’re all good. Don’t pass them up for the big effort sometime in the future; same advice goes for restrooms, as you get older. This is a story of… well, it’s a story.

I lived eight miles from work. It usually took at least fifteen minutes to drive and twenty-five to thirty minutes to bike.

As I’m pedaling along, on one of my first forays into bike commuting, I start justifying its benefits. Dang we’re good at that! ‘I’m getting a half hour workout, for the cost of only ten to fifteen minutes.’ I would tell myself, continuing with, ‘And then, then the car! Wow those things are expensive to run!’ While pedaling along, I really start gettin’ into the math. ‘ Let’s see, sixteen miles round trip costs this much in gas; the van costs this much to buy, and lasts this amount of miles, insurance costs this much (I’ve only ever carried liability, and it was like $160, twice a year, and I was going to buy it anyway, but I’m really getting into my granola and Birkenstocks now!) And… just because I only carry liability insurance, I could wreck and ruin my investment… Yah, I need to figure that in, even though my only accident was decades ago, at age 16, but people are crazy now! The meter in my head just keeps on dingin’. 

“And then! Each dollar that I save, is worth way more than a dollar… because I would have to pay taxes on that dollar, at a rate equal to the top of my bracket, plus, 6% to the state. Oh, I mustn’t forget Social Security, at 7.65%, but, the employer must also pay 7.65%, effectively doubling that, except, it’s even a bit more than double, because your half of the tax bill, the company has already paid tax on, taxing that portion twice!”  Now I’m really giving it to ‘The Man’, with every push on the pedals! 

Now what were we talking about?… Oh yah, bicycle commuting is great (so is Social Security, by the way). While doing all of this math, it might of slipped my mind that one of my many bikes retailed for almost $7,000, but those were the very uppity bikes and were rarely pressed into commuter work.

But seriously, though everything also has its difficulties and drawbacks, there were some other niceties: The old lady crossing guard at the grade school along my route, always cheerfully saying good morning, would put a smile on my face. The old, slender black man, walking from the bus stop towards the rich houses with horses out front, seemingly jumping straight out of a Harper Lee novel, it was a pleasure to say, “good morning Sir!” He would smile and say “good morning” back, while never raising his head. The horses themselves, munching on the grass, were pretty to look at, but they never said hi.

Of course, whether a commute is done by car, bike, or on the back of an ass, it gets boring, after a while, done day after day. I found myself daydreaming along, going slower and slower, until some old dude would blow by me. Invariably, this malicious act would trigger the parts of my genetic coding designed to encourage me to show off for the females, in the hopes that the one of my fancy would say “Yes! That’s the mate that will best provide for the successful rearing of our children… the force that he applies to that pedal, his confidence in every rotation!” Hence, I would say to myself, ‘Self, there is some crap up, with which I shall not put!’

As I say this flippantly, it worked! The female of my fancy did notice, though during races, not while commuting. Perhaps there might have been a few additional attributes that each of us admired in each other, but this is the story I’m tellin’.

Once you commit yourself to the habit of taking the car off the table, getting it out of your mind, it gets much easier. But beware – there are a surprising amount of sand traps. No matter how much you explain, normal humans will think that you must be doing this because of some need to atone for past sins; self-flagellation, to put in Biblical terms. Some will think that you must have been hitting the casinos a bit hard and are too proud to ask for gas money. They will offer compassionate sabbaticals from the punishments owed to whatever demons put you in this predicament’; “Oh come on, it’s not that far out of my way, and it’s dark and cold out”, while being absolutely convinced that you’re just being too nice to put them out.

My mother lived at my place of work, as my father had built our stained-glass studio onto the back of our home in the 1960’s. “Take our car. We’re not going anywhere tonight”, she would lovingly say every dark winter evening. I worried her so, between stock car racing, motorcycle racing, and now this! And every dark winter evening, I would have to say, “Mom, I own a car.”

After getting more fit, I traded in my bicycle for running shoes many days. I was still sent off with a  “Take our car, we’re not going anywhere tonight”, on the days that I ran home in a ‘light’ summer thunderstorm. My mother and I had slightly different views on the relative risks of thunderstorms. Every mile or two, I would have to stop and answer my flip phone, while crouching over it, as I carefully removed it from the zip lock baggie, and say, “Hi mom… No, I haven’t been hit by lightning yet… No, you don’t need to come and get me… Ok… I will, when I get home.” It only occurs to me now that I should have made THAT, my answering machine message. Oh well, probably better this way.

A lesson learned: with a reasonably long run, after morning coffee, a wise man or woman would stash a roll of TP up in the bridge girders at a little creek that the road crossed, just to be safe. A risk to be aware of with this stroke of brilliance; a family of mice saying, “it’s awfully nice of those big two-legged things to put out such nice bedding for us. They must be feeling guilty for putting out that cheese holder that made a lot of noise, and made Uncle Fred go all buggy eyed…. Ooh… AHAH!  That must have been the sin that I was being compelled to atone for, the wrong that I was meant to right. I just didn’t know it at the time!



After moving to Lake St. Louis, my bicycle commute route jumped up to 72 miles, round trip. It was a nice little ride, with a good section of it using a beautiful part of the Katy trail and the Duckett Creek Greenway. I quickly found that two-way commutes were not only pretty hard, but were blurring the line between hobby and profession, something that I had been struggling not to do.

The problem was solved with only the slightest amount of ingenuity. I worked in Kirkwood and Mary worked in downtown Clayton. I would simply ride in with her, she would pull off Interstate 64 on an easy exit with a roundabout, I would jump out of her car (yes, she did stop), grab my bike off the back, fold up the rack and give two knocks on the back window to say, “I’m done, off you go, love you and have a nice day.” (I’m not sure that you can fit all of that into just two knocks, that’s six words per knock, if you take out the contraction, but that’s what I meant).

That ritual only helped to make for a nice time in our lives.