This is Life...

I ride a bicycle to work. It takes the same time as the train which, sadly, says more about the state of public transport than my fitness. I've been relearning the minutiae of the roads; things I had forgotten. I don't know if Inuit people really have 27 different words for snow, but cyclists have nearly as many for bitumen.

Some bitumen is a delight to ride, other bitumen hurts. I'm not talking pot-holes here, but the actual makeup of the surface. There is even a difference in the quality of the paint they use for marking the white lines! I ride an extra 2 miles down Salisbury Highway each morning and evening, to avoid the Parafield Airport bike path. I do it in less time, and my wrists are not numb at the end. That bike path is the roughest bitumen in the whole 18 miles!

Then there's glass. If you ever wondered where all the glass from accidents goes, I can tell you. It goes into the bike lanes! I'd forgotten how much there is. I've learned again to look out for glass, gravel sprays, twigs that will bring you down as you circle a roundabout, and perfectly placed utility covers; they put them in the bike lanes too.

I think about the width of lanes; something that was no concern until recently. I can tell you where each of the four hills are between our house and the local shopping centre. My son gave me a strange look after I imparted that gem. Like me, he hadn't realised it's not dead flat at all!

In a car you might think there are only two hills between our house and the city; nothing like the reality! In the car, you might notice a difference in road surfaces once or twice. You don't notice the gravel and glass, or worry about the quality of the railway crossings. As for head winds, who cares?

Driving a car is like the unexamined life. We motor along, mostly unaware of all the little changes that go on. We travel too fast to notice a lot of the scenery. Intriguing back streets and footpaths of life, remain invisible forever.

I like letting my wife drive the car. It means I can watch what's going on around us. If I drive, I am too busy watching where we are going to enjoy the trip. How much do we get busy in life, and having to concentrate on keeping it all going, and so miss what is going past us?

The car just carries us along. Biking is different. Riding in to Adelaide is a whole different experience. You dead-leg it down Goodman Road in the dark, as the body warms up. By Kettering Road you can really push along. There's time to ease off in the backstreet short cut across to Salisbury Highway, and then a mad dash down into the rail underpass, to help the climb out to the Waterloo Corner lights. That beautiful new bitumen allows a flat-out sprint down Salisbury Highway to McCartney Street, and there's a little rest as you walk through the pedestrian maze at Greenfields Station. Riding is more about the journey, cars are about the destination.

An examined life gains its richness by paying attention to the journey. For sure, we are still aiming to get somewhere, but life becomes more than achieving a goal. Life itself becomes good, and richer. In the TV show "Life" Ted Early asks a convict whether he thinks about real life outside. The man says "This is life."

My daughter says, "On yer bike, Dad!"  I'm finding it good advice!

Andrew Prior

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