Parallels between the bike and me
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a few months ago I decided to get back in shape.
That crisis seemed a good reason for me to also shed a few unwanted pounds.
Unfortunately, I started to look a little like Mr. Potato Head, just not as handsome. Mrs. Potato Head began to take notice.
One of the many complications, however, is I long ago discovered I can eat and cycle at the same time, so things are more complex than they appear.
Based upon my latest commitment, I dusted off the old road bike and started working on my conditioning.
On one recent evening, I strapped on the cycling shoes and hit the road. Reflecting back to the early days of my cycling career, when every ounce cost precious time, I left the socks out of the equation and put the shoes directly on my bare feet.
I briefly thought of shaving my legs to be more aerodynamic, but decided that would take too long. Shaving a few cookies or doughnuts from my diet would surely be more effective.
It was about 6:30 p.m. when I finally got everything in order and hit the pavement. The sun was getting low on the horizon and the air was cool. I rode west from Bluff towards Monument Valley.
As I turned to make the return trip, the sunlit cliffs reminded me why I love this naturally-walled village in the San Juan River Valley. The sandstone bluffs, for which the community is named, were glowing a misty pink, and various formations faded into shades of gray and black as they receded into the distance.
I searched the eastern horizon for the Sleeping Ute and noticed his nose protruding above the southeastern cliffs. The valley was “lit up.”
My bicycle is over 10 years old, which makes it a veritable dinosaur in terms of modern technology. In its time, it was a marvel of transportation engineering – but things change.
Heading east, I began to consider the parallels between the old bicycle and me. I started thinking about the tires, and how we both tend to lose a little air, which at times can be inconvenient.
When I first moved back to San Juan County, Twin Rocks Trading Post was under construction, so I lived in Blanding. Every day my father and I drove to Bluff with the bicycle in back of his truck.
After working all day with Jim Foy, the building contractor, digging trenches, building walls, and pounding nails, I would climb on the bike and ride north to Blanding.
The bike and I were a well-oiled machine, working in perfect harmony – “Hozho,” as the Navajo people like to say. I would make the 25-mile, 2,000-foot climb in just over an hour. The bicycle was tuned to perfection, and my legs worked like pistons, pumping the pedals up and down.
Family, the business, and a new daughter distracted me over the next few years, and the bike gathered dust. Then one day I was diagnosed with a terrible illness – the dreaded furniture disease. My father, William “Duke” Simpson, first recognized the symptoms.
That tire around my waist began to inflate, and Duke, a renowned expert in furniture disease, pointed it out to me. Of course, I suspected it all along, but was in denial. I attempted to hide the malady, and stay its effects with protein concoctions, but nothing worked.
For a time, I considered wearing moo moos, but couldn’t find patterns or shades that complimented my skin color. Bluff was, and still is, devoid of adequate retail clothing options, and Cortez, CO and Farmington, NM are a substantial drive. You couldn’t order moo moos on the Internet, which did not yet exist.
In the more progressive medical texts, furniture disease is described as the condition where “[o]ne’s chest falls into one’s drawers.” As in my case, the onset generally begins in the mid thirties.
Serious disfigurement can occur. Once trim bodies begin to sag, and cycling performance drops in direct proportion to the sagging. It becomes hard to work the pedals with all that weight pushing down on your thighs.
Actually, the down stroke is fairly easy, it’s the upstroke, which requires lifting all those extra pounds, that can be difficult. Balance is also greatly affected.
My ever-evolving shape manifested in a less aerodynamic configuration and interrupted airflow, resulting in significantly less performance.
So there I was all those years later, wrestling the bike back into this beautiful little community.
Coming into town, the slight grinding of the bicycle’s gears reminded me how I often wear on the residents of this small town. A little lubricant may be in order. As I pedaled up to the trading post, I realized the old bike and I were lucky to be functioning at current levels.
Neither the tires nor I lost any air, which is a relief since the bicycle pump doesn’t perform the way it once did. All in all, things are not as bad as they could be, pandemic and all.