How it began...

The Idea:

When I was 18, years old, my dad had a heart attack.  After surviving that heart attack and the open heart surgery that followed shortly thereafter, Dad permanently changed the lives of me, my brother and my sister by giving us a book.  It was by a guy named Dr. Kenneth Cooper, and the title of the book was Aerobics.  The year was 1977.

In 1977, nobody knew what the term “aerobic exercise” meant.  It was commonly accepted that exercise was probably good for you, but there were few experts on exactly WHAT type of exercise or how much. I even remember speaking to a heart doctor who told me that there was no conclusive proof that exercise did anything good for your heart! Lifting weights was considered just as good for you as running a mile. Some thought it was even better because it made you LOOK good.
Trying to look good as a cowboy.

The problem with lifting weights was I stunk at lifting weights.  It hurt and did nothing to make my 5’11’” 140 pound frame look ANYTHING like Arnold Schwarzenager.  So when this book told me that I DIDN'T have to lift weights to get in shape, I became interested. In addition, you didn't have to be picked for a team, which I never was.  Your eye hand coordination did not have to be anything special and mine wasn't.  You simply had to move your feet and arms long enough and in a strenuous enough way that it elevated your heart rate and breathing for a relatively brief period of time (20 minutes or so). Hey, I could do that! Skinny, uncoordinated me could do everything Cooper talked about in his long as I wasn't chewing gum at the same time.

Nerd Nirvana (I LOVE trains.)
This was non-athletic nerd nirvana.  I could do something called “exercise” without getting hit in the head with a ball, laughed at for dropping a ball, or humiliated by having the ball taken away from me!  I didn’t even need a ball, or court or anyone else  in order to do this “exercise”.  But it was going to make me fit! I would never get the varsity football jacket or the cute cheerleader that seemed to come with the jacket.  But I would outlive the guys who wore those jackets and get to date their widows, because MY form of exercise was adding years to my life, while the weight lifting linebackers were adding bulky muscle mass that would over tax their hearts in their later sedentary years!

Sounded good to me. So I started running. Remember, this was the seventies; although Cooper had collected stats on how good running is for your heart, no major data had been accumulated on just how damaging running can be to the rest of your body. I jumped in immediately with both feet, and almost immediately gave both the ankles attached to those feet a lifetime set of shinsplints. I needed a different form of exercise.

Cooper's book listed four types of aerobic exercise: walking, running, swimming and cycling Walking was too slow. Running was too painful. Swimming was fun, but extremely limited as to WHERE you could do it. This left cycling. 

I bought a bike from an avid cyclist named Steve who owns a shop in Plainville, CT.
Steve, who today looks exactly the same as he did in 1977, is an awesome salesman. He helps you find exactly what you need rather than something HE wants you to have. With his guidance, I bought a Raleigh Supercourse that had bar end shifters.

I fell in love immediately. It was fun, almost painless, and something that I could do for hours without getting bored. It took you to interesting places while making you healthier. This was a perfect fit. I seemed to be BORN to cycle!

37 years later, I still feel exactly the same way about cycling.(And, I got the cute cheerleader.) There's much more that eventually led to me riding from Portland to Portland, but that's for a later post.


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