Since the theme for this blog site is overcoming obstacles to get on the bike, coming up with a
good summertime story was difficult because summer is the easiest time of the year to hop on a bike and ride off into the sunset. My preferred ride on a hot summer day is to hop on my bike, ride to some body of water, jump in and play for a bit. Once I hit the water, the relief I feel from the heat, stress, sticky sweat, and city soot is euphoric. A friend told me he used to ride his bike directly into the lake as a kid. Haven’t done it yet but it’s on my bucket list.
All that summer bike fun made it hard to sit down at the laptop and write about obstacles, such as learning to ride, lack of paved roads and the availability of bikes.
The title of this post is taken from the song “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. Porgy and Bess is an opera by composer George Gershwin that tells the story of a disabled black street-beggar living in the slums of Charleston. The opera begins with a young mother singing a lullaby to her baby as the working men play a game of craps on the streets of Charleston.
When you read the title, “Summertime and the livin’ is easy,” I’m sure that some version of the song came to mind. Whether Ella Fitzgerald, All Green, Norah Jones, Fantasia, Janis Joplin, or Willie Nelson, this song is a jazz standard and pervasive in our culture. Soothing and familiar, the song lulls us into a summer stupor so that we can forget our worries.
In researching this song, I realized that I never really understood the lyrics or its history. The title came to me from the Sublime version. A bit of a departure from the original, but still sad and melancholy. Initially, I was going to do a quick post on the carefree spirit of summer and how biking is so easy. But after my research, I realized that the sound of this 1997 track had tricked me into thinking that my 20s were full of sunny carefree ganja-filled summers.
When I look back on 1997, the summer of Sublime, I realized that it was a shit year for me. I was broke, malnourished, underweight, anemic, asthmatic (the blunts didn’t help), and a college dropout; I had a hyperactive thyroid, horrible acne; and was stuck in an abusive relationship. It’s funny how a song can recall a fond fleeting feeling of such a horrible time in my life.
During my last doctor’s visit 20 years later, I came back with a clean bill of health. Asthma free, healthy weight and thyroid, and absence of all the other shit that can go south post forty. My doctor commented that riding my bike on a daily basis had a big impact on my health. She also credited quitting smoking and eating well. You know, the usual.
It’s not easy
The reality and responsibilities of life does not go away just because the sun’s out. If anything, summer is harder with all of the social obligations (picnics, BBQs, weddings, camping, traveling, outdoor movies, music festivals, farmer’s markets, wakeboarding, surfing, paddleboarding, yachts, cycle saloons, day drinking, smiling, skydiving, swings, homemade blackberry pie, crafting the perfect watermelon cocktail). And the pressure to participate is amplified by social media. Summer is exhausting and my bike is an excellent break.
It’s not easy and I enjoy a certain amount of privilege that gave me the opportunity to pedal my way to work within a week of making the decision. My primary hurdle was mental. Many don’t have the money for a bike, or paved roads, or live a reasonable distance to work to ride.
My hope for this blog it that will help breakdown that mental block by providing helpful info, inspiration, and referrals on how to procure the much needed gear. For my next post, I’m developing a referral page that will have my favorite online shops for bike friendly apparel, great and affordable bikes, and helpful podcasts and articles. What’s keeping you from riding?