by D.J. Wilson –
“Seek the wisdom of the ages, but look at the world through the eyes of a child.”
One of the greatest gifts about being a child is finding joy in simple, everyday activities. As a kid, friends and I would pedal to the local ice cream parlor to indulge in colossal soft-serve ice cream cones. Our bikes were delightfully customized with bright colors. Mine had a banana seat, upright tassel-ended handle bars, a sturdy plastic basket and shiny silver bell. After a growth-spurt, my father took me to a bicycle shop, where I graduated to a 10-speed. I learned to shift gears and aptly use the hand-brakes. When teen years hit, my pals and I rode further to the waterfront to watch the ferries dock. In those “helmetless” days, we relished the cool summer breeze off the bay as we cycled the roads near the stone jetty. It was a bonus to have fast bikes to make it home before the figurative dinner bell rang.
The proud day finally arrived when I got my driver’s license. Reflecting back, it was a rather sad end to time spent with my bicycle. When I left for college, the bike was stored in the garage, rusting behind the shadows of the lawn mower and hidden beneath garden tools. By the time I got married and left home, it was further neglected, gathering dust and losing air from its tires. My bike riding years blurred into faded memories, until the day when my cycling skills would be retested and my recollections came flooding back.
Reading from a list of fun things to do on vacation, I apprehensively agreed to a family day of biking in Maine. We piled in the car and headed to the local bike shop in beautiful downtown Bar Harbor. My kids excitedly cheered as our fleet of bikes appeared. I hid my nervousness behind a big smile, wondering all the while if I would remember how to balance on wheels. As I mounted the bicycle, I jokingly reminded myself that this was not the Tour de France. I stuck my feet on the pedals and as I spun the wheels I began to move. I regained confidence on the tranquil gravel and dirt carriage paths which looped through the forest. The winding trails of Acadia created the perfect setting to cycle in nature, evident as we spotted an owl perched in an evergreen. We journeyed past a scenic lake and cascading waterfall. We rode up and down hills rich in wildflowers and rocks covered in emerald green moss. When we tired, we found respite beneath the cool shaded trees of the forest. In a sense, I returned to being a child for the day, absorbing the sights and sounds around me and enjoying the exuberance of the ride.
Bike riding is an enjoyable activity for active adults. Seniors, such as Former President George W. Bush, enjoy cycling for sport. Since leaving the White House, he began hosting an annual Warrior 100K, a three-day mountain bike ride to which he invites military veterans, many of whom were wounded in service. Bush enjoys riding at the front of the pack to proudly honor these brave American Heroes. While Bush is an avid rider, many of us share his cycling enthusiasm on a less intense physical level. Tour companies now offer seniors a choice of bicycling trips for pleasure, presenting an innovative way to travel and experience the great outdoors.
Vacationers may select from a list of dream destinations, domestic or international. From winding country roads of our own State of Georgia to lavender lined paths in rural France, the choices are endless. Custom designed bike trips geared toward the specific needs of folks age 60 and up provide a safer way for seniors to ride. The tour company supplies top of the line riding vehicles and takes numerous steps to ensure that the bikes are tailored to fit the riders. Electric assist bikes are wonderful for people who wish to go farther with greater ease, helping to lessen the effort.
Folks are given the option to bike as little or as much they wish and everyone sets their own pace. Riders may travel whatever distance they choose, with guide service and van transport available at any time they wish to stop. Flexibility is a bonus, as tired riders or non-bicyclists have the option to shuttle parts of any route or choose a different activity. There are no worries over reservations, as lodging and arrangements are planned as part of the travel package. Once cyclers arrive at their overnight destination, the bags are in the room waiting and they can enjoy a fresh shower and delicious meal. Many of the hotels are carefully hand-selected by the tour staff, heightening the experience.
A rewarding cycling vacation offers a chance to discover the world from a new perspective, much as we did when we were young. If you’re in able physical condition, don’t let age deter you from what makes you happy. Instead, opt for safe and novel ways to make the most of life. Let the image of the rusty bike of my childhood serve as a reminder that it’s best to keep our passions alive.