Monday, January 3

On Being Outside

Tonight after I got home my wife commented that she liked the way I smelled. I smelled like outside. I've always valued my time spent outside and I especially like being outside when the weather is less than ideal. I've especially relished riding in the snow and cold the past few days. I had actually planned on getting up early on New Year's Day to ride before dawn, but I ultimately wussed out.

Its truly odd to me that as I'm on the cusp of my 38th year on this planet I am just now embracing commuting by bike (and riding for fun) in winter conditions. I've always prided myself in my willingness to venture out of doors into the rain, snow, fog, cold, heat and wind.

Being a husband, a father and a provider has limited my time outside. It's a fair trade for me. I want family life and I try to incorporate as much outdoor recreation as possible in our family activities. This past weekend was strained for me, as I wrestled with the prospect of being confined indoors with the Stir Crazies. I'm not going to say it was too cold to take my kids outside, but it was daunting to consider some outdoor activity and destination which would be appropriate given the low temps.

Commuting by bike has helped me to allay some of my frustration at not getting to spend much time outside. I prefer to see new places and do new things, as opposed to pacing back and forth on the same path each and every day, but even rolling past the same scenery on a daily basis I am getting to spend quality time outside.

And whenever possible I try to do some exploring, jumping over to another street, taking a new route home or even a detour on a day when I ride the mountain bike. I find myself antsy for summer again, with long days and the myriad possibilities between my house and my work.

I'm glad I've been riding to work in the snowy weather. I need the exposure and the connection with the great outdoors. I used to be that guy, the one who dreamed about living in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere with no phone, no TV and nothing but limitless wilderness out my back door.

I am very happy in my domestic life. I have two amazing kids and the best wife in the whole world, and I love sharing my love of the outdoors with them. I hope I can convey a respect and appreciation for living outdoors to my kids and I really think I am.

I took the kids bike-packing this past fall and I already have plans for some bike trips in just a few short months. I love planning adventures that incorporate the bike because of the potential to cover so much ground, to go places in a shorter period of time that you'd be able to go carrying a pack on your back. And I am by no means dissing backpacking as a respectable activity. I've backpacked many, many miles.

I hate beating a dead horse, but to paraphrase Ben Sollee, the bicycle is a beautiful limitation and I love it because of that. I could dream of packing my things onto an ATV and hauling a cooler and all the creature comforts that go with it into the wilderness, but I prefer a quieter, simpler and more noble means of transport to take me into the worlds of my dreams.

I've always preferred human powered transportation over recreational machines. Kayak over motor boat. Skis over snowmobile. Bike over motorcycle or ATV. Hiking over four wheeling. And now commuter bike over car. There's something about the noise of a motor that just rubs me the wrong way.

Maybe it goes back to my sensitivity to sensory input. Maybe its related to my lower middle class upbringing that didn't provide opportunities to participate in powered recreation. Maybe its just the way I'm wired. Regardless, I prefer to smell like outside over "new car smell" or gas fumes any day.

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