How My Bicycle Saved My Life
In the 1980s I had a wife and three little kids to support and a high-pressure job at the Legislature. I was also chronically allergic to dust and all kinds of pollen. A trace of cigarette smoke would burn my eyes so much I couldn’t see. I’d sneeze all the time and my nose would run continuously while I was dealing with sensitive personnel matters and making management decisions. For years I got allergy shots once a week and took heavy doses of antihistamines. I functioned at about 60%, when I wasn’t laid up with bronchial infections or pneumonia. At the end of every workday, I was zonked.
I read that cardiovascular exercise was the key to better health. I laughed. I use all my energy to battle allergies, and I’m supposed to exercise with that energy instead? Besides, every minute was already committed. I was desperate, though. My colds turned into bronchial infections or pneumonia two or three times a year. I was tired of antihistamines, shots, burning eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and all the rest.
I tried running for a while, but when my hip joints started to ache, I gave it up. Then I remembered how much I liked biking as a boy. I heard about bicycle commuting. I thought, “Hey! It takes me an hour to bus from Mill Woods to the Legislature every morning and another hour to bus back. If I can bike to work in an hour, I’m not losing any time, and I can save on gas and parking too.”
The first time I biked the16 kilometre one-way trip I had two objectives: get there alive and get there in an hour. That first day my legs ached so much I could hardly stand up. After a couple of months, I stopped the allergy shots. I still took antihistamines in the summer and fall, but I had more energy than I’d had since I was a teenager.
In 1991 I put over 5,000 kilometers on my bike. In 1995 I wondered if biking a hundred kilometers might be easier than my standard 32 kms and a full day’s work. It was. I read about the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club’s (bikeclub.ca) annual Jasper to Banff bike ride, and that became my next goal. In 2003 I joined the club. I did the MS 150 from Leduc to Camrose, the Banff-Jasper, and 10 days along the Oregon coast with seven other people. It was great exercise and a lot of fun too. In the wake of my marriage breakup, the social contact was exactly what I needed to jump start my new life.
My bike is still my primary vehicle. Living in McCauley, I don’t need to bike very far to get where I’m going. I bike up and down and through the valley for fun. And a big part of helping raise two grandchildren is getting them out on their bikes, teaching them the rules of the road, and showing them how much fun it is to get anywhere by bike. In return, they and my bike help me stay young and alive.