So Long For Now, Eeyore

Many Thursdays you’ll find me riding my mountain bike on a bike path following a couple of Veterans on hand cycles and recumbent trikes. It’s not convenient, and it’s smack in the middle of the only day of the week I get to hang out with my husband. But I honestly love it, and here’s why: the benefit of the ride to these Veterans is startlingly obvious.

One fellow in particular, is a regular. I shouldn’t have favorites but he is my favorite. At the start of every ride, he is like Eyeore. (You know, the mopey, sarcastic donkey from Winne-the-Pooh?)

I’ll cheerily ask how things are going, and he’ll invariably reply with, eh…..things are ok, shrug. He’ll barely crack a smile and his shoulders will sag, even though the sun is shining and it’s relatively warm. (VA policy: if the temperature dips below 50 degrees, the ride is canceled.)

But then we set out….and like clockwork, twenty minutes into our leisurely trail ride, he usually finally chuckles at one of my goofy anecdotes or observations. That’s how I view my role as “coach” with this crew – entertainer. I’ll keep chattering about light-hearted things until the happy neurotransmitters start doing their work.

Well, I also give cornering advice, which goes largely ignored. But I keep offering it anyway just in case today’s a super good day. And I holler encouraging things when they want to give up on pedaling over the bridges that circumvent the freeways.

By the end of the hour, “Eeyore” is gone. This guy, who was so bummed not so long ago, is now the one providing the entertainment. He’s telling me stories, and animating them with gestures. And he’s laughing!

In theory we’re training. For what? No one can ever say. That sort of commitment is tough enough for most people, and in this group committing to a goal much less showing up consistently for training is further complicated by, you know, evictions, therapy appointments, mandatory furloughs of the people who bring the bikes, and, well, the emotional baggage that comes with post-traumatic stress.

Which is why I keep showing up – often with no guarantee that any of them will actually show. Because on the days when they do, I get to see – in dramatic fashion – the awesome life-giving power of a bike ride on a sunny day.

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