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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Preparing for Retirement

Posted by Eugénie | December 11th, 2006 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Personal Reflection, Who We Are

old lady bike mientjes.jpg

The first time I went to Italy I made a promise that I’m hell bent to keep. “I’m coming back here,â€? I told myself then, “to grow old and die.â€?

It wasn’t for the food, or the architecture, or the beautiful people in their beautiful clothes. It was for one reason: I’d never seen so many old women”well into their seventies and eighties”cruising the streets on bicycles.

“Now that is how to be alive,â€? I remember thinking. “Why don’t old people ride bikes like this back home?”

Of course that was the blissfully ignorant, Euro-centric college student in me wondering those things, but the image has stuck, and today, at 29, as I am fast becoming a city-bound workaholic, I cling to that vision more than ever. It speaks to me”bellows at me, really”as a reminder that it’s never too late to get outside.

I thought about this the other weekend as I ran my way down the Double Dipsea. The Dipsea’s a popular trail run amongst the masochists of the Bay Area. It starts at Stinson Beach and climbs and drops into Mill Valley, at which point the sane would stop running, and the rest turn around and head back to Stinson, covering, by the end, fourteen miles of hilly terrain and roughly 4,500 vertical feet.

“My life depends on moments like this,â€? I remember thinking on the run. It felt good. At the end I hurt. I was starving, and a little delirious. “Perfect,â€? I thought. “This is why I’m alive.â€?

But not every day is this way.

Usually I work. A lot. As a result I have, in the past seven months, become the weekend warrior that I, as the mountain girl of yore, used to so easily scorn. I see why old folks around here don’t ride bikes. It’s because we work too much when we’re young, and when work gets us down, we fold. We get tired. We sit inside. The world goes by. And there goes the bicycle opportunity, just like that.

Or that’s one way of looking at it, anyway.

I thought about this again today when I woke up and didn’t go skiing. A head full of snot, a chest burning with what felt like croup, and a grandmother who’d just passed away, kept me from heading to Mt. Hood with friends. It was a perfect opportunity to pout. I have two days each week to get outside. Every second counts. If I’m not out there, I’m dead, right?

But I went for a walk in Forest Park instead. I was with my family. It was bitterly cold, the sky was clear, we were swimming in mud, rosy-cheeked and smiling. Thinking about my grandmother took me fast to the octogenarians of Italy, which took me to my friends on Mt. Hood, whom I could all but see anyway, the view was so crisp. And I didn’t feel envy. I felt fine.

It’s not the burliness with which we get out that matters, it’s whether we’re getting out at all. That’s what those wise old women are telling me. “Get out while you can,” they say, and the silent, unspoken coda, as illustrated by a vintage Bianchi whisking over cobble stone streets, is that you always can.

5 Responses to “Preparing for Retirement”

  • December 11, 2006 at 12:45 pm | Ben Moon says

    Well said Eugenie!

    I have been trying so hard to change my view only being ‘core’ when I get outside, and instead just walking out my door, drawing in a deep breath of fresh air, and taking for a walk with my dog down by the river.

    “Just go” has become my new motto. When a friend calls to go out for a quick bouldering session or ride, I go… in spite of the weeks worth of work piling up in the office. The work certainly is not going anywhere, and that should not hold me back from going anywhere myself!

    Yesterday I went out to Smith Rock to climb with 3 friends, in spite of a
    dreary forecast of wet, cloudy, and freezing cold. I was miserable for the first hour, then I realized how happy I was just to be outside. After my attitude adjustment, the air suddenly felt warmer, the sky did clear, and I had one of the better days out climbing that I have had in quite some time. As a bald eagle circled lazily overhead, I had to laugh at the thought that I almost stayed in the office on a weekend to “get some work done”.

    Thanks for the eloquent reminder to just hop and the bike, tie up the running shoes, grab the climbing pack, call the dog, go for a stroll downtown… Just go.

    See you out there.

  • December 14, 2006 at 7:31 pm | Catherine Taylor says

    A thought or two on getting outside and backing away from the hard core from the heart of Mexico
    Here in the historic center of the beautiful old city of Morelia, there is only walking. Running, or even walking fast, is precluded by the crazy traffic and always crowded narrow sidewalks. At the end of an evening’s walk, we are enchanted by the kindness of the people, the stone buildings, and the crazy mix of new and old here, but we are also nearly blind and mute from the automotive exhaust we have inhaled. How is it that we take for granted the clean air and space we enjoy in North America?
    A bit desperate for that age-defying exercise, we find a gym the size of a single car garage packed with rusted old equipment, and a Pilates studio you must reach via a spiral stairway through a small hole in the ceiling. We hear that walking paths can be found outside the city, but the agency that makes the topographical maps is on strike “until mañana”.
    Mostly, we are exercising our minds and working on mental and emotional flexibility. Outside? The comfort zone, the city, the country, the century. It seems like it still boils down to just getting outside.
    Yes, See you out there!

  • December 19, 2006 at 2:40 pm | Sean says

    Great post Eugenie. I agree about Italy… there is something about the pace of life there that is unforgettable.

  • December 24, 2006 at 12:24 pm | David Stewart says

    I have never been to Italy, but your post makes me want to go. The Piazza’s in Italy are reported to be an amazing contribution to public life and provide space for communities to gather. Italian Piazzas are one of the inspirations for the City Repair Project which has brought some beautiful art and gathering places throughout Portland.

    Also, a good reminder about biking into old age. With the coming construction juggernaut in Portland and re-do of the bus mall, I think bike will be the only way to get around for the next couple of years and after that I hope to make it just an everyday part of life.

  • January 9, 2007 at 4:20 pm | Tahni says

    I’ll be there with you Eugenie. We can go on long (okay maybe not so long) bike rides in Italy when we are eighty . But only if I can have a basket in the front of my bike.

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