We purposely located Happy Doc within a short distance of where we live, knowing that having a long car commute dramatically decreases quality of life, and hoping that I would bike to work on a regular basis. In the first year of our clinic, I biked to work a handful of times, but the hills were daunting and the sweat profuse. I found myself driving the 3 miles to clinic on a regular basis, which was particularly inefficient since the two of us have only one car. Buying a second vehicle and paying for its insurance, repairs, and gas seemed kind of ridiculous when we live a 15 minute bike ride away from clinic, so I had to figure out a way to make this biking thing work.
Last summer I purchased an electric bike. Have you heard of those? A small electric motor assists the rider as she goes up hills. Suddenly I could bike to work and arrive non-plussed, no change of clothes necessary. Zooming up and down the hills of South Salem was FUN! And don't we all get satisfaction if we are able to easily glide past the other bikers slowly trudging uphill? Chumps!
Unfortunately, the electric bike technology doesn't seem reliable yet, at least not in the United States. In the 4 months that I rode my electric bike to work, it broke down 4 times. After the fourth non-fix, I finally decided to return my toy. Bike commuting had become comfortable, though, and provided me with the fresh air and relaxation I came to look forward to each day. Perhaps I could tackle those big hills again with a regular bike?
Last weekend I picked up my new bike from South Salem Cycleworks (practically neighbors to the clinic), and set off! I spent the weekend putting all the finishing touches on - my pannier bags with the Happy Doc logo, my lights and reflectors, my soccer ball bell. Sunday night I had a wonderfully light, playful dream, in which I was effortlessly riding my bike up and down the hills, exhilarated by the wind in my face, the scenery swooshing by. In my dream I finished my ride and was then recounting it, play by play, to my mom, telling her all about my awesome bike skills. I woke up excited Monday morning and eagerly packed up, headed off to work, and...yikes! Those hills are HUGE, and man is there a difference between an electric bike and an entirely powered-by-Lara bike. I was huffing and puffing the whole way, arrived to work with my lungs bursting, my cheeks hot and burning. It wasn't quite the dream come true.
Still, I am committed to biking to work. Biking this route three days a week will eventually result in stronger legs, better cardiac and lung capacity, and I know the mental benefits are substantial. In years past when I've biked to work I've noticed I'm much more excited to do other kinds of exercise. Plus, studies show patients are more likely to follow their doctor's advice about healthy habits if they see evidence of their doctor doing the same. The presence of my bike helmet in clinic sparks regular conversations about exercise and fitness, and I appreciate your encouraging remarks to "keep it up!" I feel more confident recommending a healthy diet and regular physical activity to all of you when I know I am following my own advice.
Michael over at South Salem Cycleworks clued me in to an annual Salem tradition called the Monster Cookie Ride - a 63 mile bike ride from Salem to Champoeg Park and back, held every April since 1977. He claims the ride is relatively easy and "even kids do it." I am skeptical, having never ridden more than perhaps 15 miles in a day, but I signed up for it because hey, why not? And what ride could fit me better than one that includes cookie stations every 15 miles? So now I have two months to prepare for this, and I invite all of you, dear patients, and community members to join me on Sunday, April 26. I'll be riding to Champoeg that day...and maybe back again, we'll see. :)