I want to start cycling to work a few days a week this summer. It’s only 17 miles (“only” italicized to point out the difference between the way normal people think and the way we die-hard cyclists do). Last summer before starting this job, I did a test ride and it took me just over an hour. Perfect! My commute to work in Colorado was 20 miles which took about an hour and a half, but I had a heavier bike (I’m sure I am a much better cyclist now and could do it in an hour and twenty).
The route to work would consist of going into and back out of the valley–my favorite! I have multiple choices for the climb out to Brecksville: the 4-mile long Snowville Road; the much harder Columbia with cut-off to Dewey and then the last few bumps of Snowville; and, if I want an extra hill, I can take Boston Mills east down (it has a climb in the middle). Then, of course, for the homeward stretch, I have a plethora of choices: Highland Road to the bike path; Boston Mills east to the bike path; 303 (smelly with all the traffic, but a wide enough berm); Truxell; or Quick.
If I did this route just twice a week, I’m pretty sure my hill climbing would improve manifold. I might even lose weight if I stopped eating sugar every day. It would be a great benefit in many ways. I’d come to work with my blood flowing freely through my veins, my heart pounding gleefully from good, hard work. A morning workout to fully wake me up. I loved it when I commuted to work in Colorado. It was a great start and end to a day of work.
The problem with riding to work here is that, unlike my office in Colorado, there are no showers at the office. You can imagine how sweaty and hot I will be after climbing Snowville or Columbia. Additionally, unlike the place I worked in Twinsburg, all the bathrooms here are multiple with stalls. In Twinsburg, there were private bathrooms I could lock myself in so that I could sink scrub myself half-dressed. I also used to wash my hair in the sink, but since the private bathrooms were handicap accessible, the sink bowls were wide. Again, the sinks in my current office’s bathrooms are small. There’s no way I could wash my hair in them.
So I guess what I’d have to do here is just scrub the underarms, apply deodorant, wash the face, and put my hair up. I’m thinking if I showered before I started riding, it would be better than not showering even though I’m going to just sweat atop of my newly clean body. It’s better than nothing. I figure as long as I don’t smell, my coworkers will be okay with my cycling to work. Though, admittedly, this office is a bit dressier than any of the other places I’ve worked.
This, of course, brings me to ponder how unhealthy the lifestyle of the Midwest is. In Colorado, most businesses had showers because if people weren’t cycling to work, they were cycling or running during lunch. Health was built into the lifestyle of Colorado. Businesses encouraged people to healthy lifestyles, paying for gym memberships and providing in-house facilities. To not be into any outdoor activities was the oddity in Colorado. Whenever I told people I was commuting 20 miles to work, instead of astonished gasps, I was asked blandly why I wasn’t commuting every day by bike instead of just two or three times a week. During my commute, I would regularly see the same people. It was great. I still laugh about the time that I was stopped at a light with another cyclist (a good looking older gentleman, in fact) who turned to me and said with a smile, “Commute here often?”
I just wish Ohioans would incorporate health into their lifestyle. Instead, when we build bike lanes on roads in the city, people bitch. A few months ago, Bob Dyer of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote a scathing article mocking new bike lanes in downtown Akron and I was astonished and disappointed in my fellow Ohioans–motorists–who wrote quite angry replies of disgust for this concept, even making suggestions that it was okay to hit cyclists if they wanted to be on the same roads as cars. Why? Why all this anger and resentment at people who are 1) striving to maintain a healthy lifestyle and 2) contributing to fuel conservation by riding a non-motorized vehicle? I just don’t get it. These are ideas were inherent to the Colorado consciousness. Coloradoans are both healthy and concerned about the environment. It was paradise for people like me.
Now before you all start telling me to go back to Colorado and not let the door of Ohio hit me on the ass on the way out, I currently have no plans to move. I’m quite satisfied (mostly) with my environment right now for the most part. Do I intend to stay here the rest of my life? I don’t know. But right now I feel it’s the right place to be. And, instead of pining away for the paradise I lost in moving back, I’m trying to come up with constructive ways to improve my world in Ohio. How do I do that? What can I do to encourage the kind of attitude the population has out west? I’m trying to be an advocate for cycling, raise people’s awareness of the health benefits of cycling and exercise in general. I want to educate people. Just because we have this lazy Midwestern attitude does not mean we should just leave it as is. We can evolve too.
Anyway, I guess for now I have to deal with the fact that my office does not have showers. Maybe I should just not bother to wash up at all and the fact that I smell in the office will encourage the owners of the company to add a shower to our building. My luck, this would backfire, and I’d get the old chat about cleanliness from HR. Still, it’s a tempting thought. I have to admit that I will miss the wonderful feeling of a shower first thing after the ride into work. That was the best part of my morning after the commute to work in Colorado… and after the shower, the cup of coffee and granola bar I munched as I began my working day.
I’ve started to think about what else I need to do in order to properly commute to work by bike. I will have to stock my salad fixings and yogurt in the company refrigerator for my lunch since there are no places to grab food close enough to work and I don’t want to have to carry the extra weight of my lunch every day. I can stash pretzels in my desk. I gotta have an extra set of toiletries–my foundation makeup, deodorant, soap, a towel, hair spray, etc. I think I can carry my work clothes in either a backpack or the trunk pack. The point is to pack light. Especially with all those hills I gotta climb on the way into work.
I think I can do this. It will be a little bit of a hassle. I hope no one minds my bike sitting in my cube. There’s only two of us in this little island of cubes at my office. No one would notice my bike unless they came into this area. Of course, we have no bike rack at the office (another thing available at most Colorado businesses) and I don’t think I’d use it anyway because I’m always paranoid with people messing with my bike even if they can’t steal it because it’s chained up. I was never able to use the bike rack in Colorado either. There’s a huge difference between leaving your bike locked on a bike rack for a few hours as opposed to eight.
The office has coffee, granola bars for free. I’m set.
I remember how good it felt to leave home on my bike with the early morning sun lighting the world orange around me. For this commute, I would have to leave at probably 7am at the latest; I’d probably shoot for 6:45am for some extra cleanup time once I get to the office. The roads are clearer at this time of day so the ride in will be more peaceful than the ride home. I look forward to that feeling of freedom before getting into the eight-hour lockup of work.