Before we went to Canada (one of the best holidays of my life, by the way: I loved it in a way that I didn’t like California, although I did enjoy staying in Washington), I had made up my mind to try and change around some working days. my husband goes away for work a lot; something that I don’t enjoy because it is never on a regular schedule and it can be for weeks at a time. I didn’t marry him to NOT live with him so I guess ‘don’t enjoy’ can actually be translated as ‘pisses me off majorly’. If anybody is going away in our relationship, I want it to be me because that is the way that I’ve always done it.
But this stupid love thing requires sacrifices and what with me working workends and those being the only time he wasn’t working, IF he was at home, it got old, fast and it became obvious that one of us needed to change hours so that we could spend leisure time together routinely. My job is more flexible than his because I am employed as a casual worker (basically means that I have the right to say I don’t want to/can’t work certain hours and they can’t do jackshit but my boss is amazing and would try to accommodate me anyway because she recognises the value I bring to the company). Anyway, I have pretty much stopped working weekends except when they request me and I will always say yes if I don’t have anything else prior booked. It is not a regular thing anymore although it still seems I work full time hours.
Having got these hard earned weekends, I don’t want to waste them and I am trying to make the effort to get out more. This means accepting the social occasions but also planning for weekends away. I love, love, love camping and luckily the husband likes it too so we are planning for a few trips away. I also have been trying to organise a few day trips with both of us, where we go hiking. Husband isn’t quite so keen on this but is very long suffering.
Last weekend I dragged him for a 20.2 (yes, the .2 counts) km walk down the Bibbulumun Track. For those who remember, last year just after my father died, I threw on a pack and headed solo down the start of the track – a 600 plus km walking wilderness trail. I did about eight days before I ran out of time but it was the most cathartic thing and I would gladly have walked on. The whole trail takes six to eight weeks to complete and I am determined that I will section walk it. So, last weekend, I was trying to finish off a bit so that I could start fresh: there is limited car access for trail drop offs and I plan to walk and overnight three days, solo, soon when the husband is away but it would feel like cheating if I didn’t do every bit of it. The plan was to walk between two of the huts and then back again to where we had left our car and it was a (longish) day trip.
As the husband put it, the first 15 km were fun. But I hadn’t done any long distance walking since, well, last year and neither had he. We were exhausted by the time we got back to the car and every step was a slow plod. I got blisters. Luckily, on both feet so I couldn’t limp to favour one side or the other. There were blisters on the backs of my heels and even on the soles of my feet from the pressure. It was probably just as well to do a shakedown because this coming weekend we are doing a ten hour rogaine.
That involves a lot of markers scattered around a central area and you are given map co-ordinates and you have to tag them. People work in teams and are fiercely competitive and the setting is untamed bush. You walk lots and it tests your map reading skills and your strategic planning. Some are easier to get – terrain is open and not steep – but they are all hard to spot being literally saucer sized markers affixed to a tree. You can walk within a couple of metres and not spot them. The last Rogaine I did, we picked off the easy ones first, failed to find the later ones and walked twenty kms, the last five with me whining in the dark. Oh, yes, in the dark. People go throughout the night and RUN to find these things. I was a baby and retired to our tent to drink port and complain about my feet, whilst it pelted down with rain outside. We didn’t quite come last but it was a bit shaming to have families with toddlers come before us in the points allocation.
My husband does them because the SES volunteer unit he serves in likes them to practice their map reading skills and will pay for it; I do them because the misguided fellow likes my company, even in those ultimate whinging making conditions (it just seems so pointless, walking in circles to collect things). So, we are doing it this week and I have set a firm proviso that the circle of collection should only be ten kms outside the start, based on the fact that 20kms appears to be too much for sad sacks like ourselves.
We are not fit. I am not fit. But I have started to change this. I now ride my bike to work, at least three times a week. That doesn’t sound so impressive until you take note of the facts that work is 22km away and takes almost an hour to ride there and that I live at the top of a plateau that rises 350 metres from the coastal plain below. That home hill is so steep you have to take breaks whilst walking up it. Also, my whole day now takes around twelve hours as a result and I have to ride home in the dark, along a route where street lights don’t really exist.
I have been planning this for ages and I knew the hill would be the sticking point so I asked my husband to put together an electric bike for me. He obtained the necessary parts and fitted it to my dad’s old bike, over a period of months; once the bike was completed I was determined I would use it. The motor helps me up the hill; it doesn’t cruise up and you still pedal your guts out the whole way. Apart from the hill I don’t use the motor because it feels like cheating but it is hard enough anyway. I’ve only been doing it for two weeks but in that time I’ve ridden in the rain twice.
I have to say, I don’t feel better for it and I don’t at all like it. But that isn’t a reason not to do it. I am trying to cut our household down to one car and the only way I can do that is assure my husband he can have the car and I will ride everywhere. If I say it, I had better mean it and I do mean it.
Somebody asked me the other day if I didn’t find the ride boring. I thought about it. Boring? Not really: there are heaps of things to distract me.
Firstly, the whole ‘trying not to die by the car of incompetent motorists’ focuses the mind wonderfully. I have POW level of lights on the bike; I’ve wrapped it in reflective tape; I wear a green and red fluoro vest for visibility. No matter: visibility is apparently an attitude of mind to drivers and I practice defensive cycling with a vigour that keeps me frisky.
Temperature. I am sweaty and then I am cold and then I am wet. I carry a change of clothes with me and give myself a whore’s bath, with wet wipes, when I get to the bus depot (a yard: no showering or toilet facilities).
Vision. I try to go as fast and hard as I can and at night time that can be a problem. I can’t see very well, even given my bike lights, on the unlighted roadways. Lot of potholes and edges and bumps to try and throw me off the bike when going at speed. Also, gnats and dirt thrown up by passing cars get in my eyes. I’ve started to wear clear safety glasses at night and these help a little.
Dogs. They like to bark at me, if confined, and follow me if not. They are difficult to deter. My Dad used to cycle everywhere and when I was a teenager I remember him getting so annoyed at the number of canines trying to bite him that he modified an electric cattle prod to fit on his bike as the ultimate deterrent!
So, no, not boring at all. The 44km round trip I find really tiring and I am hoping it will get easier soon. But in the meantime, merely not liking it, being wet or uncomfortable or scared: none of these are reasons not to do it. I also hope that hard physical exercise will help me be more relaxed with dealing with arsehole passengers: a sort of diversionary channelling of the rage energy. My sister asked me the other day if I got any of those ‘endomorphines‘ at all when riding and I said, “Not so far. I can assure you that if that was the reward for this, I would be riding a fuck of a lot more!’
It just seems to be making me more bad-tempered in the short term. I have to be a lot more organised (laundry, meal, work items) the night before and I get home at end of day almost too exhausted to snarl out a greeting to those that love me. Plus, my bum hurts. I find that the ultimate betrayal. You would think this padding should count when it gets to the nitty gritty or what the hell is it for? Obviously, the phrase ‘sitting on your arse’ is not universally a euphemism for being lazy.