Leaner, Greener, And Enjoying More Scener……y

My tease for this week’s column is actually a column from the past.   I originally wrote this in January of 2010, and posted it in February of 2010.  In order to apply better context to my upcoming column on the life of a bicycle commuter, please take time to read (or re-read) the column below.  I will follow this up with an update to my bicycle lifestyle this Sunday, September 26.  Please check back then.  Thank you very much.  rc


Set Up

For 10 years I have lived and worked in a town of 3,000 people, Bonsall, California.  Lacking in people, Bonsall also lacks in services, though there is a small grocery, and a few shops of little consequence.  The neighboring town, Fallbrook, claims 35,000 persons, and many more services.  The distance between the center of Fallbrook and the center of Bonsall is roughly 8 miles. 

Two small towns in San Diego’s rural North County, 8 miles apart, and a fitness trainer who lived in one town, but frequented the other to exploit its retail services and fulfill all of his consumer needs.  He is me.  One would think a man in good physical condition, who spends hours each month on a stationary bike, would live this life of traveling between 2 close towns, by way of a kinetic bike.  However, the eight mile ride from Bonsall into Fallbrook is uphill at an average 21% grade.  Though the ride home would be fun and easy, 8 miles at a 21% grade is not a formula for a quick trip to the store for toothpaste.  Thus, I owned a Jeep, to more easily make the regular journeys into Fallbrook for shoes, chicken salads, sundries, hardware, and office supplies.  I had always maintained though, that if I ever lived and worked in Fallbrook, I would give away my car, and exclusively depend on a bike for my transportation. It would be the right thing to do, and for many obvious reasons.

Put Up Or Shut Up

I’m now engaged to a woman who lives in Fallbrook, and I am also now living with her.  As well, I have moved my business into Fallbrook – my perceived bicycle community.  My fiancé has two daughters, one who just turned sixteen years old.  Like all 16-year olds, she would immediately need a car to get her to and from school, to her athletic practices, events, and to the mall.  I had a Jeep that I swore I would no longer need or use should I live in Fallbrook. In these separate transitions of two different lives, our circumstances would become supremely correlated – I gave her my Jeep.  Several days later I bought a bicycle to get me around town, and to and from work each day.

An epic steed! Goodbye old friend, I already miss you...

One might expect that, me being me, I would have bought an expensive road bike, or hybrid bike that could be used for touring, racing, or general out of doors exercise.  But, me also being me, I found a sweet little beach-cruiser at Wal-Mart – Pee Wee Herman style.  It’s apple-red, has 7 speeds, very good handbrakes, and big fat tires that will not easily succumb to the thorns, broken glass, and various debris of the semi-rural roads I now transcend daily.  Best of all, there is a nice cargo rack over the shiny chrome rear fender, on which I can carry my gym bag, groceries, odds and ends, and even the laundry hamper from my gym.

Pee Wee Herman Got Nothin' On Me...

Wake Up, Shape Up, And Look Up

It’s been four weeks since I began commuting across town at 6:00am, and returning after dark – 2.2 miles each way.  Four weeks since I began riding into town to do errands, buy groceries, go to the bank, grab lunch, etc.  I especially enjoy riding through the double doors of the grocery, and parking my shiny red bike beside the express lane of Major Market, for all to admire while I collect my meats and veggies.  Four weeks of not buying gas, not paying for automobile insurance, and not having to wait for the A-hole in front of me to move when the light turns green – I just go around her.  It has also been four weeks of putting fewer emissions into the air, and burning a few thousand extra calories each week – which offsets my proportionately increased use of salad dressings and coffee creamer; low grade fuel I know.

I have enjoyed every moment on my bike these past 4 weeks.  I find solace in peddling briskly as I look more freely around, to better observe the nuances of my community.  I see more faces, hear more voices, breathe more scents, and take in much more of my surroundings.  I look forward to the rides, and never dread them, even the ones in the rain.  This has been a transition I relish – and one which also enables me to enjoy a little extra relish, on an occasional hotdog I can now get away with, as well as some salad dressing and creamer.

For those who may read this and be so inspired to make a similar change, I do offer one bit of advice; the very best time to make such a transition – from car to bike, is not at the onset of the worst El Nino of the past ten years – but even riding in the rain has been a fun experience.  It’s a good thing Wal-Mart also sells rain ponchos large enough to cover my handlebars, my body, and my nifty cargo rack.  Be well.  rc


Please check back this Sunday for my update on the many things which have transpired in this, the Year Of Biking Dangerously.  Oh, and there is this amazing song, brought to you by the genius of Paul Weller,


30 responses

  1. I don’t know if you could sell a Midwestern girl like me to ditch her car, but you might convince me to walk or bike when I am running to the corner store. I do, however, insist that my children walk or ride their bikes to friends homes that are within a reasonable distance. When I was a child that is what my parents expected of us-and incidentally, there weren’t as many obese children back in the day!

  2. Karen: Agreed the purple ice-plant, and palm trees in these pictures should be an indication to the reader that I live in a region where this is possible year round 🙂

    I also agree that children should log as much bike time as possible, and that seems to be a dying state of life. Kids now have motorized scooters, and moms with SUVs who will drive them everywhere — even down the street, so I applaud you for directing yours to walk and ride within reason. Thanks for dropping in!

  3. If I moved to Lake Arrowhead I could do exactly that! Get by without a car! Bank, movie theater, market, starbucks, library, rite aid and a few good taverns…all within walking distance…rain, sleet or snow. now i just need a job!

    good for you.

  4. Addendum: There is somewhat of an impish and immature feeling, at the age 40-something, each time bat my foot up against the kickstand with more sophisticated, car driving adults looking on. I’m trying to get over that.

  5. My mother’s friend just visited from the Netherlands,
    she got around town by riding her daughters bicycle.
    To the post office, shopping to major market, went to the bank, ran all sorts of errands. To her it’s a way of life, and a way to get out and really meet folks. She can’t believe how fast passed it is here in the states. Especially So. Cal. she noticed neighbors don’t even say hello to each other. They drive to work and home,pull into the garage go into their homes and rarely engage any conversations to one another.
    Roy your article gave me flashbacks when I lived in europe 30 yrs. ago they were so far ahead of the game,they were already bringing their own sacks to the grocery store, and everyone got around on a bike.
    Roy, Dude like the ‘ole Queen song !
    ” I want to ride my Bicycle “

  6. Roy,
    It is a small thing, but when we are in our house in SLO (admittedly, we puts lots of miles on a car getting there). we NEVER get in the car. We live downtown and everything you could want is within a wonderfully beautiful walk of a mile to three miles. Since SLO takes their parking meters very seriously, we love the fact that our trips to town with our canvas bags are worry free and we never need quarters. One day if we live there full time, we will definitely jettison one of our two cars and live a very simple life, one I so enjoy. Unfortunately, where we live in Fallbrook makes for dangerous bike riding! Good for you, though! See you soon, Connie

  7. Brian: Never knew you lived in Europe. When Chelsea was in the Netherlands for a few weeks 2 years ago, she too rode everywhere on a bike, just like your Mom’s freind. The “greatest country on Earth” still has much to learn. Miss you Bruthuh — oh, but we live in the same town 😉

    Connie: I know it seems unlikely now — real estate market and all, but I envision a day when SLO is your primary domicile. Then, you will be walking most of the time. Could happen…

  8. I may be the only one who zero’d in on the “I’m engaged” part of your story!!! Congratulations and God Blessings to you my friend….

    On another note, I actually walk to work occasionally in (good weather)..It really does feel good on those days…e

  9. Loved reading all of this, Roy! You may have read my column on my beach cruiser bike, “Desperado.” That was the name already on the bike, and seemed more than appropo. I just came back from a short ride on that old friend! When I think back to the Wright brothers, and their early involvement with both flying and bicycles, I feel an even greater connective linkage between all us wild and crazy, yet well dressed, guys 🙂

  10. Eva: Thank you! “in good weather”? Unless its raining, come on, it’s Fallbrook, ITS ALWAYS GOOD WEATHER. That said, I know you get your runs, walks, and activities in!!!

    My Man Dr. J: Yes, bicycles and airoplanes… I see the link. I must have missed your column on the beach cruiser, so can you throw a brother a link of a different kind…? Would love to read it.

  11. CRAP! All i thought when I first started reading this was … THE RAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are a much braver person than I!!!! I love the sound of it but For one, I hate bike riding.. the lifecycle, a real bike… it does not matter. PLus around here, with the traffic.. NOT! BUT, I applaud you for that put up or shut up! Great admiration for that! Me, I think I will stick to the gym! 🙂

    Congrats on the engagement!

  12. Oops, sorry for the typos. I corrected but the cut & paste did not work. I have been having major computer issues today so that is why it has taken me so long to get over here PLUS did not get to reading all the other blogs I like to read. Dang fancy computers! 🙂

  13. Dear Roy,
    Enjoyed reading your recent article. Yes! So many more benefits in riding a bike than hoping in a car to go here and there.
    It brought back memories of my childhood in NYC when a neighboring friend got a bike for Christmas. It was like seeing a Rolls Royce for the first time. Of course, we all claimed a share of ownership and had lots of fun riding a bike for the first time; thanks to our friend’s kindness in sharing it with us.
    Later, my brother won a bike, having bought a raffle ticket at a school function. It looked very much like yours, but only one speed. The other speeds were in our legs and determination.
    You may have inspired me to buy a bike. My only problem would be the traffic congestion caused by me on my way from Dana Point to Capozzolis’ Pizzeria in Oceanside.
    Lots of love to you and your lady friend.
    “It’s Love That Really Matters.”
    Charlie Capozzoli
    God Bless

  14. Charlie: Thank you for the reflective comments. It is truly a shame that kids today don’t appreciate or use the bike as much kids from previous genrations. I can easily picture you though, on Interstate 5, peddling down the coast from Dana Point to O-Side. You could be a trend setter. Cheers my friend!

  15. My first thought was, “but what about snowstorms?”. And then I realized… California.

    And then I saw the Jeep pic… palm tree in background.

    Eh, it’s time to sleep off this brain fart I’m having. Happy biking! (my bike is rusted)

    PS: 16-year-old girls can be vicious. Good luck with that, too. muwahahahaha!

  16. Great song. Got my morning started off on the right note. 🙂

    I love the bike. Some how I pictured you riding a road bike like a Carbon or something. What a great surprise to see you are making the treck in real style.

    I bought an el-cheapo Huffy Hybrid this summer and my favorite part of it (besides the fact the gears work unlike my old bike) is the luggage rack on the back.

  17. Owned a bike a year back in previous home where there were neighborhoods and a park to ride to and in.

    Can’t wait for the permanent move to Florida so I can ride without fear of being run over by a good-ol-boy on the backroad who’s just guzzled a 12-pack or by the 60/mph road-rager that roams Hwy 158.

    Plus the weather will be more like your CA. Here in NC it’s on the downhill to nor’easters:(

  18. Looking forward to Sunday’s column!

    I also love my bicycle. “Harriette” is a beautiful cruiser bike with wide tires. The only problem with her is that she’s not a winter bike AT ALL. Winter biking is a really big thing in my city, but it’s very dangerous, and you’ve really got to get your bike properly outfitted for the weather. It gets so cold and the streets get so covered in snow that I just don’t bother biking in the winter.

    …so I walk instead! I don’t want to ever own a car. I prefer getting around on my own two feet instead. My work is an hour and 20 minutes walk away from my house, and it’s a lovely way to spend the morning. Although, I must admit that I DO usually get a ride home in the evening from my boss. The walk isn’t quite so appealing at the end of the day when I’m tired and hungry 🙂

  19. I have no excuses except my laziness.
    I don’t mind rains and for most of the year it does not even rain here much. I could probably manage neighborhood hills (I used to bike them pretty well). The summer heat is practically gone.
    Guess what, I don’t even need to go to Walmart. I have a bike and tomorrow I am riding it.

  20. Ewa: I can’t believe the paragraph I just read; after all you have been through, still face, and still do……

    You live an amazing life, in (near) a great place to be active. I read your blog with envy, and absolute respect!!! True.

  21. Pingback: Kike On A Bike, Me Like… « Roy Cohen's Contemplative Fitness

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