I grew up in the South, y'all. As such, I was locked into a lifestyle and a culture that, back in my youth, virtually excluded helthy excercise from an adult man's life.
Oh, sure, if you worked manual labor you might stay fit, but even ditch diggers can grow fat on a diet consisting of beer and fried. Just fried...no need to modify that, in the Confederacy.
So, as I grew older, and left the bicycle behind, I also grew bigger around. By the time I was in my mid-20s, I had settled into carrying about 225 pounds around on my 5'10" frame. I was not happy, nor was I comfortable.
When I saw a book about mountain biking, a light bulb went off in my head. Hurt like hell, but it illuminated the idea of getting one of those cool bikes that looked so much like a motorcycle, and riding around on it to burn off some of the lethargy and avoirdupois.
So, I got a mountain bike, and started riding it around Memphis. I remember how amazed my wife and our friends were when I rode 15 miles in one day. Hell, I was pretty stunned, myself.
Soon after, Val and I moved to Columbus, Ohio. I like Columbus, in great part because it was the first place I ever lived that had anything resembling a "bike culture". At least, I wasn't looked upon as a freak because I rode a push-bike past college-age.
Eventually, I fell in love with actually riding off-road on my mountain bike. Then, one fateful vacation later, Val and I pulled up stakes and moved out here to Colorado. That was when the bicycle was instrumental in a huge change in my life.
The amount of riding I had done while living in Central Ohio had "slimmed" me down to about 190 pounds. Within a year of moving out here, I was tipping the scales at 150 pounds, and I had never felt better. It's sad, but I hit my physical peak about 15 years late, according to statistics.
I no longer weigh 150. I am, right this minute, closing in on 180, but I have plans to remedy that. And, those plans involve bicycles.
As many stories as I have told about suffering through disastrous rides, or painful injury, you have to keep in mind that I honestly believe bicycles saved my life. I figure I would have had a heart attack, or worse, by now if I hadn't fallen in love with an activity which not only thrills me, but also strengthens me and makes me healthier.
I saw pictures of my 30-year high school reunion, and I was stunned at what some of the skinny kids look like, now.
There, but for the grace of bike...