Velma Jane Rawson – A Life of Lovingkindness

IMG_1260On Tuesday, August 4, 2015, at precisely 1:25pm, my mother’s heart beat for the last time.  A few weeks later, at her Celebration of Life event at Riverbend Church in Austin, I was fortunate to be able to reflect for a few moments on her beautiful life to those family and friends in attendance.  What follows are my remarks:

Velma. Velma Jane. Velma Conklin. Velma Rawson. Mrs. Rawson. Mommy. Mother. Maus. M. Aunt Velma.

These are but a few of the many names that my mother answered to.  But the name she most cherished, and the name we all knew her by over the last 35 years of her life was simply, “Mam”.  If you knew my mother, I don’t have to tell you how lucky you were.  If you didn’t know her, or didn’t know her well, I want to give you an insider’s perspective of the way in which she lived.  And the best way I can convey that is to describe what I believe are her three most endearing characteristics.  My qualifications are based on 53 years of experiencing the near-constant imprints she made on me, given that I saw or spoke to her almost every day of my life.

The first characteristic I would attribute to my mother would be Humility.  Over the years, I have come to realize that humility is a wonderful descriptor of my mother.  I read one time that a humble person’s a happy person.  Humble persons can find joy in their life, regardless of what life holds, and simply enjoy what God has called them to do.  That was my mother.  Perenially behind the scenes, she never sought the spotlight.  In fact, she hated the spotlight and would avoid it like the plague.  For example, not many people outside of our family know that my mother was a nationally ranked long-distance runner during her middle-aged years. In fact, she won her division of the very first Capitol 10K way back in 1978.

This humility, however, did not apply to the stories she loved to tell.  She was all too happy to convey her life narrative, and she was very adept at it.  My earliest memories were made whole with spellbinding stories.  Stories, for example, about a neighboring farm owned by a catholic family, the Casper’s, who she theorized were working to bear 20 offspring apparently in order to earn a free trip to the Vatican to see the Pope.  I heard about my mother’s Uncle Amos, who was famous for evading an angry Steele county sheriff in the dead of winter, driving through corn fields using only the tip of his index finger to defrost the window during blinding snow, and then pressing his eye against the small hole in the windshield to navigate his way so as not to damage the money crop.  I heard about the miraculous family doctor “Doc” Ertel who would make house calls any time of the day or night and fix virtually any ailment that might raise its ugly head. Apparently, Doc Ertel was much more than a country doctor, having advanced degrees in cardiology, orthopedics, neurosurgery, internal medicine and of course obstetrics.  I surmised this, because according to my mother, there wasn’t an ailment he couldn’t fix in a well-lit farmhouse kitchen.  And how could I forget about Hilltop District 82, the one room schoolhouse that educated my mother in ways that modern-day schools can only dream about. That little school gave her the confidence to leave the only home she had ever known at the ripe old age of 18 to serve her country in the United Stated Navy; it gave her the educational foundation to start a lasting career in nursing, and it gave her the necessary grammar tools to redline my masters thesis decades later in my own graduate school!  Yes, these stories, which conveyed my mother’s humble beginnings, were a central part of my upbringing.

James 4:6 states that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  It’s no wonder my mother had Grace to spare.

The second characteristic I would attribute to my mother is her Lovingkindness.  I don’t remember a day in my 53 years that my mother didn’t display love to me.  The kind of love that envelopes you, immerses you, and embraces you.  In fact, there was even evidence of this love before my earliest memories.  I recently came across an article and picture in an old scrapbook, published by the Fort Worth Star Telegram way back in 1966; the article was about a regional skating competition in the Metroplex.  And I quote the article:  “The tots were about as graceful as a herd of day-old colts.  But they won the hearts of the crowd with their mighty efforts at the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.  First on the floor was Brian Rawson of Austin, a blonde tot hardly old enough to walk.  During the course of his number he fell repeatedly but kept grinning through it all.  He finally finished his number, bowed, then rushed off the floor at top speed directly into his mother’s arms, where he dissolved in tears”.  My mother embraced me many times over her life, and wiped away many of my tears.

Her lovingkindness wasn’t reserved for family, as was evidenced by the nicknames she gave folks whose names she couldn’t quite recall.  Names like Stinky (a runner on the Hike/Bike trail), Slewfoot (my mother’s main running competition for many years), Chrome Dome (a neighbor without much hair), and Walker Texas Ranger and Coffee Mate (friends of our three sons).  She was fond of them all, and they her.

The third, and in my opinion, the most endearing characteristic of my mother was her Servant Spirit.   It is said that true servants focus on others, not themselves.  It’s not that they think less of themselves, but they think about themselves less.  Everyone who knows my mother knows this to be true of her. Everyone around her also knows that her servant spirit was the catalyst for all of us gaining weight because of her relentless passion to serve three meals a day, provide homemade snacks on the hour pretty much every hour, and craft probably the most famous Sweet Iced Tea in Texas, replete with half a pound of Imperial Pure Cane Sugar in every half-gallon.

She recently gave me an example of her servant spirit, and a lifetime memory.  Two years ago, as I began a bicycling journey around the perimeter of the United States, my mother and father provided SAG support on the first leg of the trip, from Austin to Phoenix.  I have vivid memories of her waiting on me around every bend of my journey with a cold drink to quench my thirst, a healthy snack to give me strength, an embrace to encourage me, and a pat on my rear-end to comfort me.

Yes, this was my mother, the pride of Ellendale Minnesota, the girl who served her country, the woman whose actions shaped countless lives, and most importantly the mother who cradled my heart from it’s first beat to her last.  Velma. Jane. Conklin. Rawson.  Thank you Heavenly Father for giving us the miracle we called “Mam”.  Welcome Home my beautiful mother, Welcome Home.

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PedalBIG on the BIG Island of Hawaii

Just returned from a family trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, as well as the Hawaiian island of Kauai.  My bride had planned this trip for the three boys and I for pure “R&R”, so I went having committed to them that I would not spend time alone on the bicycle, but instead  simply enjoy family time, the panoramas, the beaches, and the ocean that is Hawaii.  I obliged without hesitation.

Over the years, Hawaii has become our favorite vacation spot.  We have spent a fair amount of time on the islands Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, with the latter being our go-to paradise.  This particular trip was unique in that we spent the first half of the vacation on the Big Island, which was our inaugural visit to this unique place.  While I kept my promise to stay off the bike, I spent five days in reconnaissance mode for my next trip to this island, which will most certainly be accompanied by Surly Pearl.

I was impressed by the sheer number of cyclists on the roads on the drier West side of the Island, in and around Kona.  This side of the island is famous not only for the wonderful Kona coffee, but for the annual Ironman World Championships.  The running and cycling courses both take place on the epic Kona Coast, where black lava fields dominate the landscape and heavy crosswinds make even driving sometimes hazardous.  Every morning, I witnessed plenty of cyclists, most on road-bikes, some on touring rigs, making their way up and down the rugged coastline.

View of the lava flows into the Pacific from our helicopter ride
View of the lava flows into the Pacific from our helicopter ride

What is unique about this island, which is about the size of the state of Connecticut, is it’s geographic diversity.  On a ride around the island (which could be done on a series of state highways around the full perimeter), a fortunate cyclist would be exposed to incredible mountain ranges, some of which are close to 14,000 ft above sea level, jungles, warm beaches, lava flows from active volcanoes, cool highlands, and quaint Hawaiian villages.  And views!  It seems that every corner of the island is replete with views that cannot be replicated.

One of the many spectacular views of the rugged Hawaii coastline
One of the many spectacular views of the rugged Hawaii coastline

A Big Island perimeter ride would cover approximately 250 miles and present the hearty rider with an immense amount of climbing.  I would estimate that the route would take five or six days to complete, which would also give one ample time to gasp at the panoramas (and at the high altitude in certain areas).  Not surprisingly, National Geographic classifies this route as one of it’s “Drives of a Lifetime“, a series which details 500 of the world’s most spectacular trips.  While this narrative assumes travel by car, after having viewed this route through the lens of a cyclist, I firmly believe it applies to cyclists as well.

For those that don’t want the logistics of a full-blown cycling tour, there are plenty of road bike rental companies offering daily rides in and around this unique place.  For me, it should be no surprise that I’m adding this perimeter route to my cycle touring bucket list.

Mahalo and Aloha!

It’s All Good.

 

Natural Humility – Out of the Mouth of Babes

“Humility is the ability to give up your pride and still retain your dignity.” — Vanna Bonta

Last weekend I was given an unintended lesson in the art of natural humility.  I say natural because for many of us, we sometimes have to work at being humble.  We all know humility as simply the quality of being modest and respectful, and I recently witnessed it in it’s most natural form.  Here’s a quick recap of the story:

Justin (we call him J.R.), my middle son, 18-years old and a senior in High School, played in his last Varsity soccer match over the weekend, and quite possibly the last competitive match of his career.  J.R. has been playing soccer literally since he could walk.  He has been immersed in the “beautiful game”, at a highly competitive level, practically his entire life.  This year, J.R. made the decision to pursue higher education at the University of Texas (who doesn’t field a Division One Soccer Team) over the ability to play out-of-state and/or small school soccer at the collegiate level.  So, he knew this would be the last time he suited up in his school’s colors.

Preparations for the last match had been intense and emotion-filled.  As a three-year varsity starter on defense, J.R. is an anchor on the team and a stalwart presence on the back-line.  I cannot remember a time in the last few years that J.R. has been substituted during a critical game situation. Not only was it the last game for the graduating senior class, but the game was to be played against a rival team in first place in the district standings.

His team came out totally focused, energized and built a commanding lead.  It was clear that J.R. and his teammates were emotional about this game, and were playing easily their most inspired game of the season.  Midway through the second half of this intense game, I heard the head coach beckon J.R. to the bench.  A substitute player, a young man I had not seen on the field up to this point in the season, took J.R.’s place on the defense.  J.R. bowed his head, strolled off the field for what was to be the last time, and took his place unceremoniously on the end of the bench.  Not to the applause of cheering fans or throngs of well-wishers.  Not to beaming parents and doting grandparents.  Instead, to silence.  Most of us wondering why he had been called out of the game when he deserved the glory of every remaining minute, like those of our other fine graduating seniors.

After the game, as the fans, parents, and girlfriends waited on their hero’s return to our side of the field, I saw J.R. walking with a confidence and satisfaction that clearly I had not expected.  When he climbed up in the stands, he was immediately approached by the mother of the young man that had been substituted in his place.  The mother was clearly emotional, tears of joy, and she thanked J.R. in what was complete and heartfelt sincerity.  After we had left the field, the stadium lights no longer shining on J.R.’s soccer career, I asked my son what many had been wondering over the last 30 minutes — why had he been substituted at such a critical period?  His response was resolute.  “Dad“, he said, “You see, the other young man has not played this season, and he was beginning to question his own abilities.  He is committed to this team, he practices hard, and he loves the game of soccer.  He deserved to play in this game.  So, at halftime I asked the coach to substitute him in for me, regardless of the game situation.  Simply put, he deserved to play, and I made sure he did“.

Fifteen years of soccer, a thousand games, thousands of practices, blood, sweat, mud, freezing rain, broken bones, trips to the ER, and a lifetime of memories.  It all came down to this…. a young man, wise beyond his years, sacrificing his one, final shining moment for a teammate in need.

Later that night, in the privacy of our own thoughts, J.R.’s mother and I cried a few tears.  Not because our son’s playing career ended.  But because of the way it ended.

Well played, son.  Well played.

J.R. in his early soccer years
J.R. in his early soccer years

Author’s Note: Obviously, not everything in these writings relates to cycling, and this post is evidence of that.  In PedalBIG, sometimes I’ll simply post about things that inspire me.

J.R. and Dad at the last game
J.R. and Dad at the last game
J.R. and his little brother Will
J.R. and his little brother Will

New St. Patrick’s Day Tradition – Cycling

May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.  — Irish Blessing

As an American of Irish descent, I am very familiar with the traditions usually associated with St. Patrick’s Day.  St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity.  Today, St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. is associated with wearing green, participating in parades, watching soccer, listening to Celtic music, and of course, consuming (lots of) Irish beer.

St Patricks Day Friends 1This year, three of my buddies and I decided to infuse a new and improved tradition to the old Irish holiday: fitness.  Specifically, cycling fitness.  So, armed only with our commuting bikes, we departed at 8:30 a.m. on our First Annual St. Patrick’s Day Ride for the Irish (aka Looking For Any Excuse To Ride Our Bikes).  We elected to do an “urban assault” ride into downtown Austin, knowing that our trek would not only take us into the heart of various St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but also into the remnants of the last weekend of SXSW (South By Southwest), Austin’s premier music festival, which occurs every Spring.

St Patricks Day Friends 2By the end of the day, the final tally included four different downtown Irish venues, crowds of interesting people, green everywhere, outstanding music, and a few urban miles on our bikes.  The day had it’s traditional moments for sure, but spending it with good friends on top of our bikes is a new tradition I hope we can repeat.

 

Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks!

St. Patricks Day Friends 3
Jeremy, Phil, Brian, and Jim

 

 

Red-Letter Ride: Dam Loop “Lite”

Location
Area
West of Austin, Texas in the Highland Lakes area
Distance
35 Miles
Major Roadways
FM 2244, FM 620, RR 2222, River Place Road, City Park Road, Loop 360
Route
Click this Cyclemeter link for detailed information on the route.

Description
Many in central Texas widely consider this to be the quintessential Austin bicycle ride.  It has it all: magnificent vistas, breathtaking views, beautiful neighborhoods, the Highland Lake chain, and lots of …… hills.  Two landmarks make this ride a memorable one.  The first is the Mansfield Dam.  Built in 1937 with the active support of a freshman U.S. Congressman named Lyndon Baines Johnson and approved by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the dam rises 278 high and measures over 7,000 feet long and separates Lake Travis from Lake Austin.  The second is the Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360.  This incredible arch-bridge over the Colorado River is only the second bridge of it’s design in the world.  The bridge is constructed so that no part of the structure touches the water.  The route, which is a loop, starts and ends at the intersection of Loop 360 and FM 2244 in far West Austin.  While a substantial portion of this route is on heavily-traveled roadways, wide shoulders are the norm.  Hills are also the norm.  Don’t be fooled by the relatively short distance of 35 miles; the effort expended on the hills (over 2100 feet of ascents) make up for the low miles, and then some!  There are six hills worth noting.  The first is a long, steady climb after crossing the Mansfield Dam.  Hills 2 through 5 are all in the River Place neighborhood, and while most are short, they are very steep.  The last hill, a long one, is on Loop 360 between the Pennybacker Bridge and FM 2244.  A couple of quick notes about this route.  First, I choose to pass through the River Place neighborhood as opposed to riding on FM 2222.  The neighborhood route is longer and hillier, but it is much safer than the heavily-traveled FM 2222.  Secondly, don’t be fooled by the name of this ride: “Dam Loop Lite“.  It is anything but “Lite“, and I only named it this since there are longer Dam Loops that I’ll detail later.

Ratings
Hills:       4
Traffic:    3
Scenery: 2
Characteristic: 4

Ratings Legend
Hills: (1) – Flat (2) – Some Rolling (3) – Rolling (4) – Hilly (5) – Brutal
Traffic: (1) – Almost None (2) – Very Little (3) – Some (4) – Heavy (5) – Brutal
Scenery: (1) – Spectacular (2) – Beautiful (3) – Nice (4) – OK (5) – So-So
Characteristic: (1) – Remote (2) – Rural (3) – Mixed (4) – Suburban (5) – Urban

Pictures/Video

Wind, Weather, and Widgets

“Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn’t have to experience it.” — Max Frisch

How true this statement.

On a typical bicycle commute morning, the very first thing I do upon waking up is to check the upcoming day’s weather forecast on my iPhone’s weather app. Hour-by-hour temperature and rain forecasts are the focus of my attention, giving me a pretty good sense of how to dress for the morning and afternoon ride. I generally don’t pay much attention to other esoteric weather stats. You know what I’m talking about: UV Index, Visibility, Dew Point, and the like (who really tracks that stuff). Unfortunately, I also don’t normally focus on wind direction or wind speed either, knowing that there’s really nothing I can do about it even if I’m aware of it. As a former runner, all I know is that I’ve always hated the wind. But I expect that lack of focus will change after last Monday’s commute. This from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Monday, February 25, 2013:

“A strong low pressure center and cold front moved through South Central Texas on
Monday, February 25, 2013. Very strong north winds behind the cold front spread across
the region during the late morning through early evening hours. Wind gusts from near 50
to near 60 MPH were reported across much of south central Texas. There were reports of
widespread damage along the Interstate 35 corridor along with several wildfires.”

The morning commute was uneventful. Breezy and chilly, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary for Austin in February. By mid-afternoon, I noticed the wind whipping the trees outside my office, and by close-of-business, I could hear the wind howling through seams in my closed office window. The normal 1 hour and 20 minute afternoon commute ended up taking 2 and a half hours, and it probably ranks as one of the worst bike commutes I’ve ever experienced. I literally pushed my bike over two bridges because of some ridiculous wind gusts, large buildings downtown created a wind tunnel effect that created extraordinary cross-winds, and I spent most of the ride dodging limbs and debris in the roadway. The panniers and racks on my normally stable tank-of-a-bike seemed to serve as sails, causing what ultimately was to be an overall miserable experience. All in all, and after reflection, I tried to think of a one word description to summarize the ride home: It sucked and it was a little dangerous. Eight words, I know, but you get the point.

I am a technologist by profession, so I am immersed in technology most of my waking moments. So to be honest, one of the main attractions of cycling for me is the simplicity of the machine itself; the ability to power myself from Point A to Point B, devoid of all technology if I choose. I love the freedom of disengaging from the technology to simply pedal. But I am also cognizant (now more so) of the necessity of technology for even the most “un-technical” of things (i.e. riding a bike in the wind). So if you see me on a weekday morning around 6am in my driveway, geeking out with the latest weather gadget on my smart-phone, you’ll know why. And if you want to help ensure your own safety, at least as it relates to surviving inclement weather on your bike, you might want to consider doing the same thing.

Red-Letter Ride: 5-Mile Dam on the Blanco River

Old Stagecoach Road
View on Old Stagecoach Road, near Blanco River

Location
Area
Southwest of Austin, Texas at the edge of the Hill Country
Distance
50 Miles
Major Roadways
Brodie Lane, FM 1626, FM 2770, Old Stagecoach Road
Route
Click this Cyclemeter link for detailed information on the route.

Description
If you want a relaxing, relatively flat ride, but you also want a small taste of the Texas Hill Country, this ride is for you.  The route, which is an out-and-back ride, starts and ends at Bowie High School in far South Austin.  Cyclists start out using bike lanes through the Shady Hollow neighborhood, and then very quickly transition into a more countryside-type setting. Cyclists will pass through the historic downtown Buda, Texas en route to FM 2770, which passes by the Hays High School stadium.  FM 2770 finally transitions to Old Stagecoach Road, a beautiful section of roadway leading gently downhill to the halfway point at the 5-mile Dam Park on the classic Blanco River.  After a quick break to enjoy the park, you can backtrack your way the approximate 25 miles back to Bowie High School.

Ratings
Hills:       2
Traffic:    3
Scenery: 3
Characteristic: 3

Pictures/Video

Bowie High School
Bowie High School
Downtown Buda, Tx.
Downtown Buda, Tx.
Hays High School Stadium
Hays High School Stadium

 

Kyle Water Tower
Kyle Water Tower
5-Mile Dam Park, Blanco River
5-Mile Dam Park, Blanco River

Ratings Legend
Hills: (1) – Flat (2) – Some Rolling (3) – Rolling (4) – Hilly (5) – Brutal
Traffic: (1) – Almost None (2) – Very Little (3) – Some (4) – Heavy (5) – Brutal
Scenery: (1) – Spectacular (2) – Beautiful (3) – Nice (4) – OK (5) – So-So
Characteristic: (1) – Remote (2) – Rural (3) – Mixed (4) – Suburban (5) – Urban

(Re)Discovering D.C.

“Washington isn’t a city, it’s an abstraction” — Dylan Thomas

I have travelled to Washington D.C. countless times over the years, predominantly for business, but also for pleasure.  I love the District.  As a career public servant, it really is a Camelot of sorts; an extraordinary, vibrant, and sometimes solemn city.  Many times I’ve strolled around the national monuments, toured the Capitol, I’ve spent countless hours enthralled at the Smithsonian, wandered through the National Archives, and honored our nation’s heroes at Arlington Cemetery.

On my trip there last week, I tried something I’ve never done.  I rode a bike.  The weather was gorgeous, my meetings came to a close, and my flight home was hours away.  So, I had the perfect opportunity to fully engage the city on two wheels.

Capital BikeShare Rack
Capital BikeShare Rack

I found a BikeShare station close to my downtown hotel, so I rented a bike for the afternoon.  For those not familiar with Capital BikeShare, it’s a great program.  In 2008, D.C. became the first jurisdiction in North America to launch a bikesharing system.  Today, Capital BikeShare is considered a regional transportation provider with over 1670 bikes and 175+ stations.

Capital BikeShare D.C. Map
Capital BikeShare D.C. Map

Ironically,  I also noticed that the city just opened a number of “Cycle Tracks” on some of the more heavily-travelled downtown roadways, so I was anxious to try those out as well.  A cycle track is an exclusive bike facility that is physically separated from cars and is not associated with the sidewalk.  Cycle tracks are usually one-way, and they are usually separated from traffic with some sort of very noticeable delineator poles.

I had a great 15+ mile ride around “L” Street, Pennsylvania, Constitution, and Dupont Circle.  The cycle tracks, which were only on certain roads, were wonderful. They seemed very well designed, and the number of locals using them actually astonished me.  Most of the other downtown streets that didn’t have official cycle tracks were, however, clearly marked with bike lanes.  The traffic, as always, was very heavy, but I found most drivers familiar with bicycles and most (not all) gave wide enough berth to make me feel at least marginally safe.

D.C. "L Street" Cycle Track
D.C. “L Street” Cycle Track

Washington D.C. is a city built for multi-modal transportation, and bicycles seem to be widely accepted as a realistic, if not necessary mode in the downtown area.  The bicycle commuters, many of which used the bikeshare program, were mostly professionals in professional-attire.  So, at least from my perspective, they are using bikes as a clear mode of transportation, in a city famous for snarled traffic.  One cool thing I did see was an SUV on the side of the road helping a cyclist repair his bike.  A sign on the side of the SUV read “Mobile Bicycle Service”, so it’s probably safe to assume that there is enough bicycle commuter-related demand to substantiate a dedicated mobile repair service.  Pretty neat!

Mobile D.C. Bicycle Service
Mobile D.C. Bicycle Service

Anyway, a great new way to see an old stomping ground.  For anyone contemplating seeing the District this way, I’d highly recommend it.  Having said this, I am an urban-oriented rider and used to riding close to heavy traffic, so my perspective may be a bit skewed.

Happy Cycling.

 

 

P.S.  After my ride, I did sit down to a pint of Port City Porter at Maddy’s Tap Room on 13th Street.  An American Porter that, while somewhat average, was also pretty easy on the palette.

A Case for Commuting: Happiness

A previous post chronicled the Top Ten Reasons Why I Endure Foothills, Fools, and Fahrenheit to Commute By Bike.  The following post is part of a continuing series on making a case for commuting.

“Doubly happy, however, is the man whom lofty mountain tops are within reach, for the lights that shine there illumine all that lies below.” — John Muir
Bicycle commuting is fun — it’s therapeutic for the spirit and makes me happy.I get that “happiness” is hard to define and probably even harder to realize.  But if you subscribe to the idea that happiness is synonymous with contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment, then I can make the case that for me, bicycle commuting makes me happy.  Interestingly, I’m not exactly sure why.  I know there are countless reasons why it’s the right thing to do, but when I ride it simply makes me happy.In a totally unscientific way, I decided to go out to my favorite commuting BLOG, Bike Forums, to ask other commuters the simple question:  Does commuting make you happy, and if so, why?  What I got were 61 responses in two days, the vast majority of which confirmed my own predisposition that bicycle commuting makes people happy.  The responses were varied:

“I’m addicted to riding. I feel bad if I don’t.”
“It makes me feel good, and young, Driving has the exact opposite effect.”
“It makes me feel  good about myself”
“Endorphins”
“Addiction is a strong word, but it might apply here.”
“I need my ‘alone time’ everyday to think about stuff (or think about nothing) without interruption”
“Riding kicks ass”
“Dunno if I’m exactly happy.  More like alive, as opposed to my usual state of animated corpsehood”
“It has become essential to my mental well-being”
“The feeling is the same as when I was a little kid”
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.  Simple as that.  Everything else — exercise, earth stewardship, saving money — is gravy”.

Strong words from folks who bicycle commute under tougher conditions than me!

Over on BikePortland.org, a recent headline caught my eye: Bike Commuters are Happiest.  Seems as though Oliver Smith, a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University recently conducted a research project titled, Commute Well-being Among Bicycle, Transit, and Car Users in Portland, Oregon.  In early 2012, he surveyed 828 people across a variety of commute modes including bicycling, walking, express bus, light rail, carpooling, local bus, and driving alone.  What Smith discovered was that the happiest commuters are those who bike and walk under their own power.  Least happy, not surprisingly, were those commuters who drove alone.

So, if you’re like me and sometimes find solace and power in numbers, then my #1 case for commuting, that it makes me happy, is well documented.  If however, you need to experience things for yourself before you fully embrace it, then I challenge you to take the bicycle commuting plunge for a month, and like me, I’m betting you’ll be hooked.

Happy Pedaling!