Lessons From My Bike

Posted by: Kara

It is hard to believe that this summer is coming to a close. Our week in Brockton has been full of joy: Reverend Montjane opened the Pearl Street United Methodist Church to us, we hosted a successful Climate Emergency Meeting and Green Forum during which community members discussed ways to plan a 10/10/10 event, and we attended a wonderful service at the nearby Temple Beth Emunah.

As I think back on this summer, I realize I have come to relish our long bike rides from town to town. I was not a cyclist before this trip. If you had told me two months ago that I could bike 100 miles in two days, I would have told you that you were crazy. If you had told me that for 50 of those 100 miles I would be pulling a 60-pound trailer, I would not have believed you. But that’s exactly what my teammates and I did.

I have started to draw many parallels between the challenges of a bike ride and the challenges we all face in our daily lives. Here are some of the most key lessons that biking has taught me.

Lesson 1: The key to overcoming any obstacle is to take it one step—one pedal—at a time.

Lesson 2: Prepare. Flat tires only stop you if you don’t have the right patch kits.

Lesson 3: Challenges—like hills—seem the most daunting when you are far away and fearful. They become significantly less steep the closer you get and the more momentum you build up.

Lesson 4: Bring friends. Not only will they provide you with laughs, but you can switch trailers with them when you get too tired and worn out.

Friends. Quite helpful.

Lesson 5: Exercise. It clears your mind. And endorphins are pretty great.

Lesson 6: Do not be afraid to ask strangers for help. We are all human; strangers have a propensity to become friends faster than you may think.

Lesson 7: Sing songs. (Preferably, but not necessarily, in key.)

Lesson 8: Stay close to nature—choose a breeze over an electric fan, your own legs over a motor.

Lesson 9: Whenever possible, bring food.

Lesson 10: The greatest uphills also provide the greatest downhill thrills.

The challenges I face on my bike are not that different from the ones I face in my “real life.” I can use the same strategies to tackle any obstacle: for example, write a research paper, patch a broken relationship or, as the Leadership Campaign has been doing, move Massachusetts toward 100% clean electricity by 2020. Campaigns, like long bike rides, go through peaks and valleys—periods when morale is high and when it is low, when the going is easy and when it is tough. With a dash of creativity, friends, and some fun, we can all reach the peak of the hill. And then enjoy the ride down.

Enjoying the breathtaking view from the summit on Route 2. And getting ready for the ride downhill!

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3 Responses to Lessons From My Bike

  1. blissparsons says:

    This is so awesome, Kara! I never thought of our long bike rides as campaigns before. So true. See you soon!

  2. marlamarcum says:

    Well said, Kara! I appreciated the invitation to think about challenges, mistakes, accidents, and life’s other snags as “flat tires” that can “only stop you if you don’t have the right patch kits.” We often use the metaphor of the “tool kit” to refer to the skills we have developed. I think the “patch kit” metaphor is a better image for much of the work we do as organizers. We work hard to plan campaigns, build relationships, and develop strategies and tactics… These pro-active skills are all part of our “tool boxes.”

    But anybody who has done this sort of work knows that we have to be prepared for the unexpected, for glitches, for mistakes. No matter how well we plan, we need to be able to react to the way things actually happen and how others respond. That’s when we find out whether we have the right patch kit… or, if we don’t have the right tools for the job, whether we can figure out how to make a patch from what we DO have (I’m thinking here – literally – of Caroline and Katie’s brilliant trailer tire patch when they were seriously on their own with a gaping hole in side wall of the tire itself… Without a doubt, those skills are transferrable!).

    Three cheers for “patch kits”!

    • Thanks, Marla! Glad you got so much out of this post. As we bike from town to town, I really have been thinking about how much the challenges of biking mirror the obstacles we try to tackle during our weeks in each town. I appreciate what you said about the beauty of patch kits. They are extremely helpful…three cheers indeed!

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