60 Years of Bicycling/Reading

When men live long enough, we’re drawn to acquire things and experiences that eluded us when we were younger forms of ourselves: cars, motorcycles, and in extreme cases younger women, a cluster of behaviors that might be filed under the “midlife crisis” drawer.

I’m an example of this.

In the 1990s I purchased not one but two brand new BMW motorcycles. I had a decent job, paid off the loans, and enjoyed years of long distance motorcycle travel. In 1996 I squeezed all my gear on a spanking new white R1100GS and proceeded to spend six glorious (mostly) weeks spanning some 13,500 miles of adventure/camping, traveling from Maine to Alaska where my motorcycling mentor Alan and I explored every possible road, gravel or paved that we could find in that spectacular state. In 2007 my motorcycle infatuation phase faded after I completed my first thru-hike, of the Appalachian Trail. Simply put, I no longer experienced any satisfaction in putting in weeks of exploration while sitting atop an engine, even one as powerful and well suited for adventure as those BMWs. Eventually, my fleet of motorcycles dwindled from an all time high of 5 down to just one-a nearly antique Kawasaki KLR 650 that still has less than 13,000 miles on it, with most of those miles coming from tours of Labrador, where in 1993 Alan and I were the first motorcyclists to ride the “ Labrador Highway” from Churchill Falls to Goose Bay.
As far cars, I’ve never spent much on them, other than buying a new Dodge Caravan when they first came out in the 1980s. After the head gasket failed on the engine after the car passed out of warrantee, I’ve moved to used, practical vehicles, mostly high mileage diesel VW’s. I now run a 2005 VW Golf turbodiesel(224,000 miles). I mostly drive a 2006 Honda Element that I bought with 180,000 miles on the odometer that is now up to 227,000 and doing just fine.

Luckily, I had the fortune of marrying the right woman. Marcia and I had our 47th anniversary his past May. She still has my heart, and is also my best friend. I’m not about to trade her in for a newer model.

A couple of days ago, I hopped on my 1986 Diamondback Apex bicycle and rode the 20 miles back and forth to the Camden Library where I picked up a book that I requested through inter-library loan.

1986 bike fine for 2019. Library transport.

After I read the book I added it to my list of books read in 2019. So far, I’ve read 33 books toward my goal of 40 for the calendar year. And then it hit me that this behavior of mine- riding my bike to the library, and recording my reads has been one that I’ve engaged in for more than 60 years !
The house that I grew up in was a mile from the Somerset Village Library. My mom let me ride my bike there and back from the time I was 7 years old. Early one June morning in 1958 I spotted the Summer Reading program announced on the wall near the main desk. It was a pasteboard that had names of kids aligned on the left side and then little boxes for dates under a line of digits that went from 1 to 20 books running across the top of the page. I was thrilled to be invited by the librarian to join the program, and slowly the blocks next to my name began to fill, mostly with Hardy Boys mysteries and books about dinosaurs. As a young boy it was immensely satisfying to me to plug into his program, one that has become a a lifelong habit.

My reading lists are now virtual, thanks to Goodreads,  where books I want to read, books that I am reading, and books that I have already read are listed.

After 60 years, I’m still pumped to ride my bike to the library, check out books, and enter data about books I read or plan to read.

Don’t need no new motorcycles, cars, or women- no, no, no !

Are You Ready To Be Challenged?

I’m at camp here the day after a very celebratory Fourth of July fireworks display last night on the shore of Hobbs Pond, Hope, Maine.

We’re at camp!

Holidays are for recreating, backing off, and celebrating an major cultural event. To me, the Fourth of July represents a celebration of freedom.

Our national day for embracing freedom is now past for 2019. I am the grandchild of immigrants from Poland, and that my presence here has only been possible due to the decades of hard work that have been put in by my grandparents, parents, and now my own family to achieve what we have.

I own a home and a tiny a camp in Maine, a couple of cars, four bikes, and an old motorcycle. Everything is finally paid for. it’s taken me 69 years to do it.

As much as I want an easy and expansive life, a little voice inside my chest whispers to me, “Don’t make it too easy.”. I’m not sure how the little commentator got in there, whether it is my Polish suffering gene, or my Catholic roots, but it is there and it is something I don’t need to return to therapy to obliterate. Today’s Daily Stoic message is just what I need to hear right now.

From today’s DailyStoic.com:

It’s very easy to get comfortable. To build up your life exactly how you want it to be. Minimize inconveniences and hand off the stuff you don’t like to do. To find what you enjoy, where you enjoy it, and never leave. 

A velvet rut, is what it’s called. It’s nice, but the comfort tricks you into thinking that you’re not stuck. 

The Stoics knew that this was a kind of death. That as soon as we stop growing, we start dying. Or at least, we become more vulnerable to the swings of Fate and Fortune. Seneca talked over and over again about the importance of adversity, of not only embracing the struggle life throws at us but actively seeking out that difficulty, so you can be stronger and better and more prepared. A person who has never been challenged, he said, who always gets their way, is a tragic figure. They have no idea what they are capable of. They are not even close to fulfilling their potential. 

So that leaves you with something to think about today: Are you challenging yourself? Do the choices you make push you or do they help you atrophy? Are you in a velvet rut?

Be honest. And then challenge yourself to do better.

New Book!

I’ve set aside time this summer to plunk away at my new book. While I’d prefer to head over to my hut to hunker down and go at it, I have too much that has been neglected in my life to go that route. I’m intending to average 10 hours a week, writing two hours early in the morning before the day’s responsibilities unfurl. Any work that skips a day will be made up on the weekend. I can be a disciplined workhorse when I need to be ! I may be floating some stuff over this blog from time to time. 16.5 pages down so far.