Old Man on a Bike

My e-bike, Burley trailer, and me.

After a year’s delay from the pandemic, I am back to going to an”all bicycling” lifestyle mode, selling my truck (F150), which is my only vehicles other than my bicycles. Ironically, the pandemic has actually worked in my favor in terms of the truck sales: Kelly Blue Book now puts it $6,000-$7,000 higher in value because of the shortage of used trucks and in microchips for building new cars/trucks, and the demand is high.

I had decided on going to an all-bicycle lifestyle on my way back from my last trip to the Chihuahuan Desert of Big Bend National Park in far southwest Texas in 2019. This, I felt, was my last trip out here now that both of my parents had passed. The main reason I had the truck was for these trips, and my thoughts of building a tiny house RV for it to pull. I had since decided that I liked where I was living, in my almost tiny house in the small town of Liberty, SC, and near my children, grandchildren, and great grandson, not to mention almost 46 years of relationships in the area. A great social support system.

On that last trip, I had visited my parents’ graves. For 50+ years and while they were alive, I had been making the trip back to Texas to visit them once or twice a year, sometimes more. This was a trip of goodbyes, a trip of endings, a trip of new directions/transitions: Austin, Tx and the University of Texas; Mary’s Cafe in Strawn,Tx, for the world’s best chicken fried steak; Desdemona, Tx, where my parents grew up, lived for their last 30 years, and are buried; Johnny’s BBQ in Odessa, Tx, best BBQ in Texas and the city in which I grew up; and on out to Big Bend. A trip marking my transition to a hermit lifestyle of solitude, simplicity, self-reliance, greater serenity, and greater eco- or nature-harmony; and to being single for nearly the first time in my adult life. It resonates well with my “reduce, repair, reuse, repurpose, recycle, and rot (compost)” mantra.

Always a bicycle enthusiast, even in my Harley years, and now living in a small SC town where I was within a mile or less bicycle ride from my doctor’s and dentist’s offices, a major grocery store, my pharmacy, a liquor store, downtown shops and stores, a hardware store, and more, my youngest daughter and her family just down at the other end of the block, my son working for the city and only a short bike ride away, and my oldest daughter just seven miles away, I was in a great situation for transitioning to a bicycle only lifestyle. Plus, as I have gotten older, walking and hiking have become more uncomfortable because of arthritis in my hips. Bicycling doesn’t bother it though.

This is not to say there are some challenges ahead taking this new path in my life. For example, my small town doesn’t have any bicycle lanes. In that regard, it is not exactly “bicycle friendly.” However, there are ample side streets that allow me to navigate around the two busy highway streets that go through the town–for the most part. And drivers are usually pretty considerate and courteous to me. I always try to ride over to the side of the road so cars and pass. There will always be an occasional knucklehead though. I take as many reasonable safety precautions as I can. This includes a really cool back-looking radar that works with my iPhone to let me know of approaching cars, how close they are, and how many.

There is no public transportation locally. I have to ride into Central, four miles, and four tough hills away, to catch the CatBus system. Also, the local highways, until you get into Central, are narrow two-lanes that have little-to-zero shoulders. Where they do have slight shoulders, the shoulders are set off by rumble strips that shake a bicycle and rider to pieces, so that you are left with only a 12″ ridding/wiggle room on a bicycle. Not enough. Uber is iffy, and you can’t count on getting to an appointment on time in another city using them. I figured out ways around many of these issues, but not all. To get my two large dogs to the vet, I will have to borrow my son’s truck, which, granted is just uptown about 3/4 miles. So in this bicycle lifestyle will be an adventure. I am going to have to be creative and rely on my children and their vehicles, or grandkids, occasionally.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love my truck. It is really is a nice truck. It has all kinds of features that I like. However, over the weekend when I got a notice about my monthly insurance payment for it, and it came to about one month’s income over a year that I am now bringing in. That pushed me over the top!I I sat down and calculated the other expenses associated with the truck. Even though I paid off the truck, it has a chunk of my savings tied up in it. Wow, scary! So, a huge reason for doing this is financial! But, even without the financial motivation, I want to do this.

A bicycling lifestyle is my contribution to climate change, lowering air pollution, using less oil and gas. Plus, it is great for my health, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. I have a wonderful ten-mile ride I go on that winds through the countryside around here is low on traffic. Bicycling allows you to really experience nature and her wonders, not to mention the ups and downs. Love the downs (downhills, that is). The ups, not so much.

I approach this adventure with both trepidation and excitement. There is a lot of anxiety coming up about it. Am I really up to this at 73? I hate riding in poor or bad weather: too hot, too cold, rain, high wind, etc. I am going to have to toughen up in my attitude. You know, “Quit whining and start pedaling, old man!” At the same time it appeals to my Bohemian sense of adventure. It is my part to helping climate change and pollution. It unhooks me hugely from all the financial and liability hooks of driving a automobile, insurance, maintenance, car payments, repairs, gasoline prices!, etc. There is a sense of independence with this from many of our culture’s shackles even as there are inconveniences. And, it is so psychologically and physically healthy, provided, of course, I don’t get hit by a car or have an accidents.

Wish me well. Gassho.